History, Hope and Politics: London Before the Olympics

I’m back at Sticky Fingers restaurant in London on a gray, drizzling Sunday afternoon, visiting this site of our family’s youth, sitting in a red leather booth with a dark wood table, wooden blinds over the windows, rock and roll rhythms from the sound system, and Rolling Stones memorabilia covering every inch of wall space. This spot is down the road from where we lived in London in the 1990’s and where I used to sit writing most afternoons before my children joined me on their way home from school. I return here almost every time I visit London.

Today the booths are filled with other parents and children chattering and eating hamburgers and fries and salads on this bank holiday weekend. The management has changed; they no longer know me, but they are still accommodating, letting me sit in a booth with good light, working as long as I like.

Outside Sticky Fingers, London is preparing for this summer’s Olympic Games with new construction dotting the landscape. One of my other favorite restaurants I went to visit has been demolished and is now a construction site for a new hotel, with men working frantically in the hope of opening by July. In the City of London itself a hotly contested election has just concluded for the Mayor who will preside over the Olympic Games with the incumbent conservative winning, barely.

Across the Channel today, the French are voting on who will govern France, though the Olympics have no influence there. After all France lost the Olympic bid as any Brit will remind you. The political tuning fork of Europe is vibrating this spring between the conservative and socialist paths of governance. (By Sunday evening it was clear the Socialists and anti-austerity electorate had won in France and in Greece though it wasn’t clear how the economic realities would square with the political will or how the European monetary Union might calibrate.)

In the theaters of London which tourists come to see, a third of the dramas focus on World War I or World War II as the historic reference point when the nations of Europe broke into conflict.

However, in the present, London is concentrating on the summer games as it anticipates the world’s nations and athletes gathering, independent of political and economic differences. For two weeks in late July and August London will showcase competition in its most elegant, accomplished and constructive form in the XXX Olympic Games. What happens after that…well, that will be another story.

(At Sticky Fingers I finally yield my double booth and move to a quieter section in the rear where my table no longer vibrates to the music and the children, but I remain at home in my little corner of London, grateful that for now it abides.)



  1. Ciel Lagumen on May 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Yes indeed History, Hope and Politics surrounds London before the Olympic and hope that grandeur of the Olympic is never diminish. I love London!!! enjoy your visit in your old neighborhood.

  2. Gail Osherenko on May 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Yes indeed. London is getting ready. We were there for the Planet Under Pressure Conference at the end of March in the area that has a huge new conference center (investors from Dubai I think) and lots of new restaurants etc. This is reviving the old port area along the river Thames which is now too narrow for the ships used today to move goods. They’ve left the cranes as a sort of historic preservation move I guess. They are rather odd decor but it does preserve the character and reminder of the area in another era. On the other hand, there was precious little greenery (few trees), so we couldn’t wait to go into London and take in a little of London’s charm and a bit of theater. I was blogging from the Planet Under Pressure conference for Pacific Standard – http://www.psmag.com/environment/entering-a-dangerous-epoch-the-anthropocene-40645/
    Check it out.

    • Joanne on May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      Excellent article, Gail! Thanks for sharing. Joanne

  3. […] and civilians alike – who were killed in World War I, the "War (that was supposed) to End All Wars".The Armistice Day is one of thirteen holidays observed in France. It is celebrated every year on Nov…Day? On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., the two opposing forces of World War I – the Allies and […]

  4. Maryann Macdonald on May 8, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I have happy memories of lunches at Sticky Fingers with you, Joanne.

  5. Chiara Macconi on June 23, 2012 at 3:12 am

    thanks Joanne
    for sharing these interesting notes…an eagle’s view enriched by memories. Yes, it’s a time when lots of people,and writers go back to memories, the two wars in UK, the civil war in Spain, personal diaries…it’s not because those were happy times in comparison with the actual ones, are we making peace in some way with our past? or are we looking at heroism in times of lack of it? many other questions are possible, of course. If I look at italian novels nowadays, apart from kitchen recipes and flowers, there are a lot centred on nostalgia of childhood, relationships with father or mother. Interesting, isn’t it?

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