September 30, 2017

Giffard Hotel, Worcester

Giffard Hotel, Worcester

Landing for the first time in my life at Lagos Airport, the customs officer asked me whether I had brought any presents.

“I don’t know anyone in Nigeria,” I said.

“For me,” he replied.

I gave him a small amount of money with a laugh at my own naïveté and sailed through customs far quicker than if he had followed customs procedure to the letter. Better, often, a corrupt official than a pedantic one.

But we in Britain have specialized in legalized corruption, a genre invented, no doubt unintentionally, by Mrs. Thatcher and bought to the acme of perfection by Mr. Blair. This is the kind of corruption in which you pretend that publicly funded entities (which you also proliferate in the guise of supposed charities and other front organizations) are businesses, run by businessmen who then are free to award themselves enormous salaries as a just reward for their commercial acuity. Acuity they have, of course, but it is not commercial. Rather it is bureaucratic; and in a sense they deserve their large salaries because it is so tedious to ascend a bureaucracy. They have made great sacrifices and endured what must have seemed to them like geological epochs of boredom, unless they have been parachuted in from another more interesting but less lucrative career. They have learned a strange new language, vocabulary, and syntax. By the time they have attended a million meetings, ranging from the urgent to the very urgent, they must feel that they deserve a vast salary and (more important still) pension. And yet, in some small corner of their desiccated beings, they know that they are, in effect, thieves, which is why so many of them cannot look you in the eye and why so many of them are pedantic in obedience to regulation. Money is the only balm to their wounded souls, and they work hard in order to disguise from themselves the atmosphere of generalized corruption of which they both take advantage and have helped to create.

There is an element of sour grapes in what I write. Apart from the manager of the Giffard Hotel (now being demolished, incidentally, though to be replaced by something just as bad, though bad in a slightly different way), no one has ever thought me worth bribing.     

And I bet the food was no good at the Giffard in any case.


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