Nicholas Shaxon, in his fantastic book Treasure Islands, calls the City of London the centre of a spider’s web.
I call the it Mordor.
The Square Mile is, to me, the heart of darkness, the epicentre of evil, the source of a great deal of the evil in the world. It represents greed, usury, capitalism. It represents financial crises and cosy cuddles with Conservatives.
Mordor has always been fitting.
Until a few weeks ago, I had not in adult life set foot in Mordor, save to change Tube at Bank. I have now been there twice.
One visit was for protest purposes; the other a quest for food, intoxicated.
Dragons guard the City. As I passed the heraldries, a deep sense of unease settled in. The air felt thicker, somehow; my body heavier.
Perhaps I was thinking too much of Mordor.
I was Samwise the brave. I pressed on.
When I visited to protest, megaphone courage lessened the disquiet.
Nothing feels real in the City.
I ate with friends in a place that was indistinguishable from a stage set. A shop named THE PEN SHOP squatted opposite us. It did not appear to sell pens. We were indoors but outdoors, an arcade made to resemble a street. A staircase led to nowhere. A simulacrum of a pub bustled with identically-suited patrons, murmuring and guffawing rhythmically. A jogger ran past. She was indoors but outdoors.
The people in the City do not feel human.
There is a sense of hostility; that they would look at a group clad in Doc Martens and bobbly woolly tights and know that Something Was Afoot.
One friend, a man, spoke of a time he walked through the City dressed in a suit. There was a sharp contrast to travelling in his usual attire; each City-working man he passed squared up to him in a show of dominance.
In casual clothes, we faced quiet malevolence. It never rose beyond this, even when causing a spectacle with a megaphone and banner.
All the while, I worried we would be Noticed, that Something Would Happen. It never did. Muted threat. Perhaps they are still too English to make a scene.
Passing out of the City once again, I exhaled, long and hard.
Like Samwise and Frodo, I am glad to tell the story of my adventures in Mordor.
I do not wish to return.