Mordor.

Nicholas Shaxon, in his fantastic book Treasure Islands, calls the City of London the centre of a spider’s web.

I call the it Mordor.

The Square Mile is, to me, the heart of darkness, the epicentre of evil, the source of a great deal of the evil in the world. It represents greed, usury, capitalism. It represents financial crises and cosy cuddles with Conservatives.

Mordor has always been fitting.

Until a few weeks ago, I had not in adult life set foot in Mordor, save to change Tube at Bank. I have now been there twice.

One visit was for protest purposes; the other a quest for food, intoxicated.

Dragons guard the City. As I passed the heraldries, a deep sense of unease settled in. The air felt thicker, somehow; my body heavier.

Perhaps I was thinking too much of Mordor.

I was Samwise the brave. I pressed on.

When I visited to protest, megaphone courage lessened the disquiet.

Nothing feels real in the City.

I ate with friends in a place that was indistinguishable from a stage set. A shop named THE PEN SHOP squatted opposite us. It did not appear to sell pens. We were indoors but outdoors, an arcade made to resemble a street. A staircase led to nowhere. A simulacrum of a pub bustled with identically-suited patrons, murmuring and guffawing rhythmically. A jogger ran past. She was indoors but outdoors.

The people in the City do not feel human.

There is a sense of hostility; that they would look at a group clad in Doc Martens and bobbly woolly tights and know that Something Was Afoot.

One friend, a man, spoke of a time he walked through the City dressed in a suit. There was a sharp contrast to travelling in his usual attire; each City-working man he passed squared up to him in a show of dominance.

In casual clothes, we faced quiet malevolence. It never rose beyond this, even when causing a spectacle with a megaphone and banner.

All the while, I worried we would be Noticed, that Something Would Happen. It never did. Muted threat. Perhaps they are still too English to make a scene.

Passing out of the City once again, I exhaled, long and hard.

Like Samwise and Frodo, I am glad to tell the story of my adventures in Mordor.

I do not wish to return.

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3 responses to “Mordor.

  • James

    Ah, it’s not so bad, once you get used to it..

    And by “get used to it”, I really mean “work out how to interact with the natives as little as possible”.

    Step one is to arrive early. Very early. I find that leaving the house at 5:30am and getting into work before 7am means that I only cross paths with a handful of City Orcs, which definitely helps. It also helps that those I do come across, I tend to be in the process of nearly running over on my Boris Bike, on account of how they have very little road safety awareness. Few of them understand how intersections work, and that just because the light is red for traffic in one direction, doesn’t mean they can cross while they still have a little red man. As a group, this evolutionary trait means they lack long term viability..

    Step two is to leave early. Like 4:30pm. That’s before the Spearmint Rhino Courtesy Cars have turned up to ferry people off to their after-work entertainment (I saw such a car last Thursday and thought of your protest). I always feel like I’m getting dirty looks off people for leaving while there’s still daylight outside, which I can only assume is down to some sort of jealousy relating to the fact that daylight causes many City workers to shrivel and die. How that ends up being my fault, I don’t know..

    Third, pop up to Brick Lane from time to time. Being irritated by posing hipsters takes your mind off being irritated by arrogant suits.

    Finally, have sympathy for me – I had to move here from Soho (conveniently located for Top Shop Oxford Street), and it’s all been rather distressing :o(

  • Matt Moran

    It’s not *all* about usury & such nastinesses. That does go on, but there are also companies which run savings schemes for grannies to have something to go on a cruise with their elderly mates & whatnot. I used to maintain a unit trust admin system, which was basically for that kind of thing. It’s the commodities market that’s truly evil: African coffee farmers work extra hard all year & get a bumper crop in. The commodities market ensures they actually make less money for doing so. That’s messed up.

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