Extracts from Foreign Logics
town centre, one can amble on foot into the Netherlands, and
Belgium is a short bicycle ride away. It is common for residents
to shop in Belgian supermarkets, with their different and
cheaper range of foods, and my guide book recommends popping
over the border to load up with Dutch cheeses.
We English-speakers together represent hundreds of years of
British foreign policy; we are living repercussions of Britain's
"Cape to Cairo" policy of African colonisation and
slave trade profiteering, remnants and results of English
gentlemen and undesirables sent to New Worlds and Antipodes.
Our "Belgian" dinner is in the twentieth-century
French style, unidentifiable meats disguised with various
president's most statesmanlike portrait stares out from every
bus shelter in the city, some overpinned with a competing
protest announcement: assemble at 12 noon in Willy-Brandt-Platz.
The American president's impending arrival closes the entire
heart of the town, clogs roads for 60 miles with converging
security police, compels security services to seal tight every
manhole leading to every drain leaking towards the town centre.
This must be how presidents always travel, with hundreds to
prepare for and undo the effects of their every move. He sweeps
in, sweeps out, moderately damaging the local economy and
leaving only local newspaper stories and a few souvenir posters.
Away from home, when he is revered, it is for his individual
vision; when he is despised, the loathing is directed towards
his embodiment of the American nation. Dozens of day-trip
US secret servicemen sitting around the Market Square gorge
themselves on penne arabiata and pizza.
No doubt truckloads of heavy duty solvents are on the way,
and overalled workers preparing to unglue the drains.
hamburger, which I feel ashamed to have chosen. I am an inadequate
a shop in O- Street which sells party decorations. Its doorway
is a popular hang-out for pink-faced men with paper bags.
On this particular day, the window display consists of pink
elephants sliding back and forth in front of a sea of pink
tinsel. The old man in the doorway is killing himself laughing.
He cannot believe it.
'They're really there.' I am trying to be helpful, imagining
that swooping pink pachyderms might disturb an inebriated
The man appears to look at me, but does not respond to my
revelation. He continues to laugh, to rock to and fro more
or less in rhythm with the movement of the mechanised elephants,
to clutch his bottle of methylated spirits.
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