When I first arrived in London, fresh from teaching at a French school and a freezing SARS ridden Toronto of 2003 I couldn’t make sense of the UK. In Plymouth – where I started – yobs tossed stones at busses, pensioners soaked up Guinness in smoky pubs, sailors argued on street corners, louts ruled the tube and CCTV camera’s caught it all. As a man of dubious employment, I was struck by a nervous feeling: had I made the right decision to come when I was beginning to make a small name for myself in Toronto? Was I smart to arrive on these shores with the hope of making enough as a labourer to send money to a girlfriend I had been separated from by three years and several thousand miles? The answer came from my father – a Londoner – after all. He said after quaffing a pint of Flowers at a pub called The Ship: “Think of Britain as a giant man o war; the people of London are a structured society of sailors from the Admiral down to the rats.” Looking around myself I felt marooned. But I stayed.
So when I got this book The Golden Spruce at an event at the Canadian High Commission in Grosvenor Square, I was skeptical. I’ve been here long enough to get a job (at a church charity), get let go (be made redundant, innit?) get another job slotting books in shelves at the London School of Economics. I’ve been here and there in the poetry scene. I've met some good poets, bad comics. I’ve got married and make my way around the square mile pretty good. I’ve read A.A. Gill’s The Angry Island and understood it enough to know that the English are a clever but resentful and competitive lot. According to the informed folk I’ve chatted with around photocopiers: Canada has Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Pierre Trudeau… and what else? What could a Canadian book about a single anemic tree on the west coast of Canada have to add to world literature?
***FULL BOOK REVIEW***HERE