In all memory there is a degree of fallenness; we are all exiles from our own pasts, just as, on looking up from a book, we discover anew our banishment from the bright worlds of imagination and fantasy. A cross-channel ferry, with its overfilled ashtrays and vomiting children, is as good a place as any to reflect on the angel who stands with a flaming sword in front of the gateway to all our yesterdays.
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It gave her a sudden sense that it was now her turn to grow old, to find the world changing, sliding away from the old ways of being and behaving, so that you were gradually a stranger to the place you lived in. The woman priest with jogging clothes and a BlackBerry gave Mary a glimpse of what life must have been like for her mother as she grew older.
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But the thing which had made him fall for her, fall properly, was the way she seemed so calm and so quiet and so sad. Surrounded by noisy bankers showing off, and their variously pushy or beady or anxious or competitive wives, she seemed to be from somewhere else; a place where people carried their own burdens; a grander and realer and more honourable place. Roger didn't know that Matya spent a lot of that evening thinking about home, but he could tell that she was thinking about something, and it was that other thing which, for him, did it.
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And now here was Arabella, making him feel worse. Maybe that was what she always did; maybe she always made him feel worse, and he'd never really noticed before. Maybe what seemed like the ordinary rough-and-tumble of marriage, combined with hard work and London, was something simpler: the fact that added to any equation, Arabella made it worse.
No, Roger had not seen the funny side. But there had been a moment when, after looking at his watch, he had thought: I can remember when Christmas morning would start at about half past ten with a glass of Buck's Fizz in bed. Now it begins at half past five, with a test of my fine motor skills and ability to read Korean.
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That was the main thing wrong with Mrs. Kamal. She spent such an extraordinary amount of mental energy feeling irritated that it was impossible not to feel irritated in turn. It was oxygen to her, this low-grade dissatisfaction, shading into anger; this sense that things weren't being done correctly, that everything from the traffic noise at night to the temperature of the hot water in the morning to the progress of Mohammed's potty training to the fact that Fatima wasn't being taught to read Urdu, only English, to the fact that Rohinka served only two dishes at dinner the night of her arrival to the cost of the car insurance for the VW Sharan to the fact that Shahid didn't have a 'proper job' and seemed to have no intention of getting one, let alone a wife, to the unfriendliness of London, the fact that it was an 'impossible city, ' to the ostentatious way she complained about missing Lahore, especially at dinner time, giving meaningful, sad, reproachful looks at the food Rohinka had cooked.
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We fight for autonomy over so many areas of our lives - for decency and democracy and freedom, for suffrage, for the right to have some say over our lives, some control - and then in the central question of what we are to do with our days, with our working lives, we give all that freedom away in return for a pay cheque. And are content to be bored and obedient, resentful and uninvolved and tired. This is such a standard, universally accepted feature of the modern world - that we will dislike and be bored by our work - that we have forgotten to notice that it doesn't make any sense.
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On the opposite wall was a Damien Hirst spot painting, bought by Arabella after a decent bonus season. Roger's considered view of the painting, looking at it from aesthetic, art-historical, interior-design, and psychological points of view, was that it had cost forty-seven thousand pounds, plus VAT.
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The idea of luxury, even the word "luxury, " was important to Arabella. Luxury meant something that was by definition overpriced, but was so nice, so lovely, in itself that you did not mind, in fact was so lovely that the expensiveness became part of the point, part of the distinction between the people who could not afford a thing and the select few who not only could, but also understood the desirability of paying so much for it. Arabella knew that there were thoughtlessly rich people who could afford everything; she didn't see herself as one of them but instead as one of an elite who both knew what money meant and could afford the things they wanted; and the knowledge of what money meant gave the drama of high prices a special piquancy. She loved expensive things because she knew what their expensiveness meant. She had a complete understanding of the signifiers.
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Petunia only ever went to the doctor reluctantly, and her motive in doing so was always the same: she did it in order to feel less anxious about things. The doctor was supposed to make the worry go away; she did quite enough worrying without actually having something to worry about. When she came out feeling no less anxious, as this time, something had gone wrong. The basic contract had been broken.
He had a simple maxim for all competitive or adversarial situations: work out what the other party least wants you to do, and then do it. Relieving your feelings was fun, but the best course of action was to make things as difficult as possible for the person trying to make things difficult for you.
The white policeman was a man who gave an impression of heaviness. It wasn't that he was fat, but he sagged as if with a moral or psychic burden; his shoulders sagged, his eyes sagged, his suit sagged and he sat sagged in his chair, as if his disappointments with the world were bearing down on him. He made it clear that Shahid was one of these disappointments.
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It has been a masterful fight-back by the big banks. We the paying public can't do anything much except admit defeat and settle back for the next set of bills. In the meantime, perhaps, we should try and think of a name for the new economic system, which certainly isn't capitalism ... The most accurate term would probably be "bankocracy".
It can be a way of knowledge, a path, an inspiration, a Tao, an ordering, a memory, a fantasy, a seduction, a prayer, a summoning, an incantation murmured under the breath as the torchlights sink lower and the forest looms taller and the wolves howl louder and the fire prepares for its submission to the encroaching dark.
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Hospitality is central to the restaurant business, yet it's a hard idea to define precisely. Mostly, it involves being nice to people and making them feel welcome. You notice it when it's there, and you particularly notice it when it isn't. A single significant lapse in this area can be your dominant impression of an entire meal.
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We can all instinctively understand the idea of life insurance; most of us will feel an instinctive repugnance at the thought of the viatical industry, or 'dead peasants insurance.' As market thinking penetrated the life insurance industry, a moral line was crossed, and the application of market ideas was taken too far.
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Nobody in the developing world is going to take, as an answer to their aspirations, the developed world's reply: 'Sorry, you can't; we've already used it all up.' To earn the right to look the developing world in the eye and start this conversation, we need a reassessment of how we live and what we want.
It doesn't thrill me to bits that the state has to use the tools of electronic surveillance to keep us safe, but it seems clear to me that it does, and that our right to privacy needs to be qualified, just as our other rights are qualified, in the interest of general security and the common good.