Different Worlds

The LRB Xmas party was pretty good fun, as usual. I always feel at home there, amongst the Metropolitan Lefty intellectuals; much more so than at the Literary Review ‘Bad Sex Awards’ party, held just before, at the Army and Navy Club, surrounded by pictures of heroic massacres (a.k.a. ‘battles’), and peopled mainly, it seems, by the upper-classes, celebrities, and the literary set. It’s odd how much the two tribes differ. I’d have expected there to be more overlap. Again, it was fun (the ‘bad sex’ bits read from the prizewinning novels), but I didn’t feel comfortable. As one gets older one leaves off exploring new and exotic environments, as I used to delight in doing, and reverts to type. I realised at the LRB ‘do’ that I should really live in Islington. Most of the others there seemed to. Impossible now, of course, with London house prices as they are.

I was even less comfortable at that Swedish lawyers’ event, which I reported on earlier (https://bernardjporter.com/2016/11/25/the-swedish-lawyers/), and thought at the time had gone OK, but I now realise didn’t. My talk was obviously not what they wanted, but never having been in or anywhere near the mind of a besuited conservative Swedish lawyer before I still have no idea what that might have been. I’ve received no thanks for my talk, only for ‘making the journey’; and they demanded I produce receipts for all my (very modest) travel expenses. I don’t have them all – for taxis, for example. I thought they might recompense me for other ‘expenses’ too, like the four days’ profitable writing time I took out to prepare and travel for the talk – I should have been working on my LRB piece: 800 quid! – but no sign of that yet. And I always thought that lawyers were well-heeled! It was explained to me afterwards that this wasn’t in my (verbal) ‘contract’ with them. That illustrates the difference between our two worlds. Academics don’t ask for fees or expenses up front – asking is too mercenary for their elevated calling – but they quite like to get something for their efforts, contract or no. Next time I’ll remember to negotiate beforehand. And get it in writing.

My expenses haven’t come through yet. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.* In which case I apologise to my hosts. But I still don’t think I could ever feel relaxed in their world. It’s not a national –  Swedish/British – thing, but professional. It’s our callings in life that mainly define our ‘identities’. I can get on perfectly well with Stockholm’s equivalent of our Islington set. (Enskedegruppen? Kajsa – to the left in the photo below – will correct me.) And I’m sure Sweden’s lawyers would have plenty in common with ours.

*No. The bare minimum. 20/12.

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2 Responses to Different Worlds

  1. Pingback: My Italian Job | Porter’s Pensées

  2. This fits with my impression – or prejudice – gained anecdotally and reading Knausgaard, that Sweden possesses quite strong Volkisch tendencies, an underlying sense of Sweden for the Swedes and woe to the outsider. Of course, this is emerging as the disturbing main narrative from the UK, through to the US and right across Europe.

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