The street outside Graeme Greene’s Hotel Sevilla is quiet, but as the dramatic Prado opens up beyond, suddenly the sheer scale of this paradox strikes me: Havana is truly a world city.
Columbus sighted Cuba in 1492 and landed here two years later. The island has been a prize for empires ever since. Spanish, British and American armies all fought for this land.
Cuba’s history and her population embrace that diversity. Cubans of every shade and colour fill the streets.
And whether descended from white Europeans, African slaves or indigenous peoples, they’re all simply Cubans.
By rights, Havana should be the hub of Latin America, entrancing and captivating in her charm, passion and style as nowhere on Earth.
Lightning strikes — maybe once, maybe twice
And it lights up the night
Fleetwood Mac – May 1982
The lights dim, the cymbals beat, and the guitar begins.
Right from the word go, there’s an energy about this — a foot-stamping, driving rhythm from front left of the stage. It defines Monday Morning, the opening song, and it runs all through the show.
And the truth is that I’ve listened to Fleetwood Mac for two decades and more, but it never struck me until now.
Lindsey Buckingham is a rock star. There’s just no doubt about it.
My kids know Fleetwood Mac mainly from Guitar Hero, which features the iconic solo from Go Your Own Way. And suddenly that seems appropriate, for Guitar Hero is exactly what he is.
Things have been slow around here, for a little while now, and in more ways than one.
I’ve had less time for running, and less still for writing. I’ve been unfit, distracted and slow.
And yet — there’s been real progress, too, hidden not far beneath the surface.
Our 95,000 visitors this year may have found only 22 new posts to read, but it’s been a momentous year of change, both in London and abroad.
The great crash formed the backdrop to the year, but it was in America that destiny was decided.
A changing political landscape marked the 2008 US election and the new opportunities that brings, for America and the whole world beyond.
Posted in 2009, Cuba, economics, geology, history, London, music, peak oil, politics, Shakespeare Country, Spain, Surrey and Sussex
I love this city tonight
I love this city always
It bears its teeth like a light
And spits me out after days
Snow Patrol — October 2008
A Northern Irish band playing London — on the night before St Patrick’s Day. It really has been been quite a week.
In Snow Patrol’s home town of Belfast, as in Omagh all those years ago, an outbreak of mindless violence has lent passion to the public desire for peace. Shootings carried out by dissident republicans of the ‘Real IRA’ and designed to break the peace process have proved to have the opposite effect.
A police car and a screaming siren
Pneumatic drill and ripped-up concrete
– The Jam: That’s Entertainment, 1981
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cos it’s the one we’ll never know
– The Jam: A Town Called Malice, 1982
Gritty urban realism. Recession.
That’s how it was then, and this is how it sounded. The Jam captured the mood of Britain at the start of the eighties. The loss of hope and the mindlessly brutal banality of an existence with no glimpse of economic rescue or absolution.
Ville de lumière
J’ai besoin de toi
Gold – September 1986
The City of Light lies at her knees. It’s eight o’clock on an autumn Friday, and the streets of Paris are grid-locked. Frozen.
Emerging up the ramp and out of the Earth at the Gare du Nord, there’s chaos all around us. Sporadic, half-hearted toots echo from the crossing streets, but it makes no difference.
As a vision of Nicolas Sarkozy’s France, it’s dark and disappointing.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. A family celebration in Burgundy had called us here, and we’d tried to do it properly. Ecologically.
To take the train from London, bundle an exciting metro ride across the city to the Gare de Lyon and board a southbound TGV. To travel serenely, and greenly, across the evening and arrive in Dijon as sharp as mustard.
So much for plans and good intentions.
When the worrying starts to hurt
And the world feels like graves of dirt
Just close your eyes until
You can imagine this place – yeah
Our secret space, at will
Snow Patrol – May 2006
New job. New town. New colleagues. New commute.
Less time to write. More time to worry.
It’s a sunny week in early June, when Epsom hosts the Derby. The biggest event in the flat-racing calendar. The original article, the horse race founded by Lord Derby, after which so many imitations are named, all around the globe.
A few weeks have passed, and it may be summer at last, but here in Epsom a new and unfamiliar mould is pressing all around me. The sun is high outside, and today I need to escape the stuffy office, the grim shopping mall and the choking traffic, and to remind myself of who I am. Just for an hour, I need to run.
On this day, of all days, I turn my back on the ladies in posh hats and the dusty punters with their champagne-soaked shoes and shredded betting tickets. I head out of Epsom the other way.