Thursday, August 24, 2006

The latest...

Now BA says they're not letting any instruments into any cabins, but they're saying it's BAA's fault (=British Airports Authority, which is being widely blamed for the security chaos last week). It seems that everywhere else in Europe is fine...just here... A violin soloist friend tells me that her various colleagues are taking Eurostar to Paris & flying from there. A report in yesterday's Independent said that the Musicians' Union is going to do its best but can't do anything much at the moment because Parliament is in recess (=sun-tanning in Rome while the fiddles burn...?).

SO: our holiday is off, we lose £400 (neither BA nor travel insurance can't be bothered with musicians needing to take their instruments) and I suspect that in fact we're getting off relatively lightly. There are musicians around who stand to lose a hell of a lot more in earnings if they have to factor in extra travel time and cost to get out of Britain before they can get anywhere else. I'm seriously wondering whether two years from now, I'll want to carry on living in this country.

The best thing about London - a crazy, mismanaged, exorbitant place - is that it is a hub of world cultural activity at the highest level. It's immensely multicultural and cosmopolitan, musicians and other creative types gravitate here from all corners of the globe and our friends include people from Italy, France, Canada, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the US, Uganda, South Africa, Edinburgh, Finland, Hungary, Ireland and Denmark, to name but a few. If we are now going to turn into a xenophobic, paranoic, protectionist little island - as the USA appears to be doing its best to become - and our musician friends are forced to base themselves elsewhere, as may yet happen if this bloody mess is here to stay, then I just won't want to be here any more.

Of course everyone is delighted and relieved that this latest terrorism plot was caught in time: the security services did a fantastic job, the airports et al may have been in a mess but have probably done OK, realistically, given the circumstances. Of course all those cabin baggage restrictions are supposed to be for passengers' safety. But this degree of inflexibility is not reasonable. That's what's so frightening. Excessive, unreasoned, ignorant, knee-jerk reactions.

It would be very easy to say that the latest foiled terror plot was a result of Blair's support for Bush's insane policies in the Middle East - quite possibly it is. (I didn't vote for Blair, by the way, & wouldn't have touched Bush with a barge-pole.) That's too simplistic an explanation, but there's no doubt that this hasn't helped. Normally, I'm reasonably proud to be British, thanks to our amazing literary tradition, but frankly, at this moment, I am positively ashamed of it, something I never felt even in the darkest days of Thatcher.