A London icon betrays itself A while ago an out-of-town friend visiting me at Carter's Castle suggested we go down to take a look at the Tower of London. (We share an historical interest, he being an erstwhile Oxford historian.) I must admit that I had fallen into the Londoner's trap of never visiting our local places of interest until an out-of-towner came and forced me to do it.
Anyhow, I said "yes" and off we went. At some point after the visit, we sat down for a coffee nearby. He pointed up at Tower Bridge and said, "Just think, that was built in the late 1870's. Eleven thousand tons of steel and the very last word in bridge technology, and all concealed inside a casing of medieval stonework. It's actually got gargoyles on it, for chrissakes!"
I didn't immediately see what he was driving at, so he persisted. He asked me to cast my mind back a few decades earlier and consider Brunel and all the other great engineers who transformed Britain. "You wouldn't have caught Brunel or any of that crowd putting gargoyles on stuff." It was true. I had been led to wonder what had happened to turn a future-forging, forward-looking culture into one obsessed with its own past. Had Britain just lost cultural thrust and reached inevitable middle age?