Date: July 18, 2016

Moral ambiguity and coffee in London, with Laura Canning

I didn’t plan or expect to meet Laura this time when I was in London, infact I didn’t plan my second trip to London within a week 17250363anyway. Considering what is happening in the political circles in UK (and broadly, Europe) planning seemed to me an exercise in futility.  So when I met her in the holga-ish Cafe Nero in Buckingham Palace road after two whole days of covering the coronation of the new UK PM, I was distinctly under-dressed as a classic political correspondent with shabby army green t-shirt, jacket, scarf and jeans, increasingly aware of the uncomfortable dark moist growing patch near my armpit. Thankfully I had deospray in my laptop bag, as the person who greeted me with a copy of her first published novel was in a proper burgundy dress, smelling fresh and soinding Oirish; capable of giving a seven hour Sun-dried man enough complex for the rest of the day. We proceeded, appropriately in my opinion, to talk about her novel and lead character Lisa (a working class, domestically abused, societally neglected early teen, on her way to drugs, larceny, prostitution and “freedom”), on a day Britain had her second Conservative female Prime Minister.

Her debut novel “Taste the Bright Lights” (which I read in the next twenty four hours on my way back to Nottingham) is contemporary urban drama, tracing fourteen year old Lisa “growing up” in Northern Ireland. Imagine Chetan Bhagat’s early writing, meeting “This is England”, just more gritty, grimy, and grainy…a jarring experience, like watching a slow quaint mutiny unfolding, being shot in sepia lens. It shares occasional debut novel characteristics, like overuse of certain typical urban colloquial words, and it’s not an easy read, and not only because of the sheer powerful narrative force, but because of the moral ambiguity that reigns within.

It is in spirit of that moral ambiguity, I asked Laura these questions for Bombs and Dollars, published below unaltered and unabridged.

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What difference a year makes…

So, I posted this on FB today.

When Churchill had a dinner with Sir William Harcourt, just prior to the First World war, in the course of the conversation, Churchill asked him, what is going to happen. Sir Harcourt replied, “My dear Winston, the experiences of a long life has convinced me, that nothing ever happens.”

When Churchill retired after Second World war, Churchill wrote about this dinner and said, “since that moment, as it seems to me, nothing has ever ceased happening” .

It started with this meme I made, a year back, jokingly, somewhat drunk, back in Kolkata. Ukraine

After almost five years in New Zealand, and on my way to UK to start my research. In a comparatively saner world, with just a funny little war about to start in Europe (and that’s not my PhD I’m talking about, although the subject is related) which now seems like aeons away. People were laughing about it, and everyone thought it won’t last long. It’s Europe after all, post-modern and liberal. Wars, interventions, annexations, refugees and nationalist civil strife in Europe are history.

To rephrase Churchill, reflecting upon Europe in the last few months, “nothing has ever ceased happening” since then.


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