Everyone knows what a xenophobe is. It is someone who is unduly fearful of foreigners. As one English movie character nicely put it, when accused of racism towards the French, “I am not racist. Racism comes from ignorance. I am xenophobic. Xenophobia comes from knowledge”.
I can’t say that I like or dislike foreign nations. I appreciate their differences from each other. I don’t necessarily like those differences. So, I am neither a xenophile nor a xenophobe. I am in between the two.
Take the British, who see themselves as the creators, guardians and maintenance crew of human civilization.
UFO enthusiasts believe this role, in fact, belongs to Aliens, who – once in about a thousand years – are turning away from their Earth-monitoring gadgets to talk about human progress with the customary verdict, ‘Erm… I don’t think they are ready for contact yet” ending the debate.
Perhaps, this is why many other nations believe the English are Aliens. It is alien to react with “very interesting” meaning “this is clearly nonsense”. It is very alien to congratulate each other on a sunny day with the sunny day, and lament about rain on – no surprise here – a rainy day.
The English love for traditions is an obvious side-effect of their assumed civilization-guardian role. The more time one spends in the UK, the more contagious this affection for things regularly repeating for hundreds of years becomes.
I love respect for traditions, and I respect love of traditions. The next-tier side-effects of this traditionalism is attention to detail. I’ve gone through photos taken on my last visit to London, to realise I am gradually descending into details I wouldn’t give a second glance before.
I was photographing bricks, suddenly finding a lot of charm and history in their worn-out shapes and colours:
I was enjoying reflections of historic buildings in modern glass frames, and how past and present were getting all mixed up, with the new stuff not replacing the old, but complementing it:
I was standing in front of an abandoned market, contemplating the need to preserve its beauty, and being acutely aware of the friendly construction worker urging cyclists to stop cycling or face the consequences:
I was thrilled by the contrast detail of two red garbage containers in Camden Road. I mean, being awed by garbage accessories is not exactly normal in the parts of the world I come from.
I was enchanted by street posts no one actually need nowadays (except to commemorate a 800-year tradition), and I felt a bit disappointed that the paint-job was sloppy:
In a few days of leading a non-touristic life, I was turning into a traditionalist Brit. I guess I’d vote Tory, were I allowed to vote.
Tradition is also a sign of quality. This dental surgeon has not been sued out of existence since Sherlock Holmes’ times. Must be a good family of dental surgeons, I guess.
The problem is that I am not a conservative Brit, and love for detail that’s blossoming inside me can’t help me back in Moscow, where it is not just useless, but rather… a cause for depression.
On my last day in London, I realised I started a conversation with, “It’s such a relief there’s no rain today”.
I hope there’s a cure for this somewhere.