The Spectator, 3 March 2012: He who would see England’s future should be separated for a while from the better parts of London and sent (literally, not metaphorically) to Coventry. There, amid the hideous and dilapidating buildings of a failed modernism, he will see precincts with half the shops boarded up, where youths in hoodies skateboard all day along the walkways, the prematurely aged, fat and crippled unemployed occupy themselves in the search for cheap imported junk in such shops as remain open, and the lurkers, muggers and dealers wait for nightfall.
I stayed four nights in Coventry, in a hotel whose nearest architectural equivalent was the hotel in which I had once stayed in Makhachkala, in ex-Soviet Dagestan. At reception, there were three notices:
SAFE KEYS ARE NOT HELD ON THE PREMISES OVERNIGHT
IMPORTANT NOTICE: NO CASH IS KEPT ON THESE PREMISES OVERNIGHT
THE HOTEL DOES NOT ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY ITEMS LEFT IN THE HOTEL
Thus encouraged, and in need of a drink, I went to the bar called Rogues. At the entrance was another notice: no hoodies or tracksuits. no shorts or baseball caps.
Someone had applied the theories of Lombroso to modes of dress, no doubt correctly.
In the bar, a large screen relayed football and loudspeakers pop music. This meant that anyone who wanted to make himself heard — and there were plenty who did — had to shout. There is nothing quite like shouting to reveal the banality of what is being said.