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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, March 13, 2008
    Kingdom Come
     
    The passers-by were too busy with their shopping to notice me. They seemed prosperous and content, confidently strolling around a town that was entirely composed of shops and small department stores. Even the health centre had redesigned itself as a retail space, its window filled with blood-pressure kits and fitness DVDs. The streets were brightly lit, cheerful and cleanly swept, so unlike the inner London I knew. Whatever the name of this town, there were no drifting newspapers and chewing-gum pavements, no citizenry of the cardboard box. This was a place where it was impossible to borrow a book, attend a concert, say a prayer, consult a parish record or give to charity. In short, the town was an end state of consumerism. I liked it, and felt a certain pride that I had helped to set its values. History and tradition, the slow death by suffocation of an older Britain, played no part in its people's lives. They lived in an eternal retail present, where the deepest moral decisions concerned the purchase of a refrigerator or washing machine. But at least these Thames Valley natives with their airport culture would never start a war.
    Oh, what a highly developed sense of irony has J.G. Ballard. The compelling opening pages of Kingdom Come (a novel about a possibly not-entirely-guilty gunman opening fire in an M25 Metro-Centre) promise a great deal more. I suspect that if I'd read this whilst on my walk then the walk - and the book which followed - would have turned out quite differently.