When I moved to London back in 2012, I never could have imagined that I would still be here, seven years later. It had never been my ambition to live in here. As a teenager, I wanted to live in the North partly, I think, because I liked a lot of Northern bands, but mostly because I’d spent some time there and thought it seemed like a friendly part of the country. London, by contrast, always struck me as distinctly unfriendly. I grew up associating it with avaricious types, desperately trying to climb the rat pile of ambition, and as a place where excessive greed and deprivation exists side-by-side. If my girlfriend hadn’t found work there I probably would have stayed where I was, in Leeds. But having spent six months on the dole while living in a damp flat on the edge of the city I was only too happy to try to make a go of it somewhere else.
Football, I’ve long maintained, is a package sport: to enjoy it you have to tolerate everything that comes with it—the constant advertising, corruption, hooliganism, tribalism, racism, offensively inane punditry. As a child I enjoyed football largely, I suspect, because I was not particularly aware of these things. It was only as I got older, when my knowledge of the game developed beyond what was happening on the pitch, that I began to lose interest in following it.
A Dragon Apparent and Golden Earth established Norman Lewis as a writer of uncommonly well-written prose, who, as Cyril Connolly noted, had a remarkable gift for making even a lorry seem interesting. Both books, published in impressively short succession, were lavished with superlatives from the critics of the time. Yet neither sold especially well, and Lewis’s next few travel books followed with surprising infrequency. He completed one more in the 1950s (a collection of essays), then just two others throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, when much of his creative energy was invested in the writing of his far more lucrative novels.