Britain Observed. A Russian's View by V. V. Ovchinnikov

By V. V. Ovchinnikov

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The English avoid such conversations for the same reasons they avoid talking to their friends about their work or the amount of money they spend. Drawing attention to a love affair — whether one's own or someone else's — is frowned upon in London in the same way as boasting about a new car or asking someone how much he earns. The English regard intimate relationships, both within and beyond the family, as belonging to the sacred realm of private life. The Japanese, the Italians, and many other nations think of the family as a harbour from which a man sets out on voyages of his own, and to which he returns during the storms of life.

Once inside the home their traditional domestic code with its dogma of ritualised behaviour, comes into force. Yet when the Englishman crosses his doorstep he com­ pletely rids himself not only of his daily cares, but of all forms of external constraint. Within his own four walls he is free to behave as he likes, to do anything he chooses, however odd, provided simply that his bouts of eccentricity do not disturb his neighbours. I once talked to a London journalist, who had lived for many years in the States, about the English ability to regard the home as a completely separate world, and yet at the same time to respect the domestic life of others.

It is now not unusual for a property owner to find it more profitable to keep a plot of land or even a newly-built house unoccupied for a time and watch its value grow by almost a third every year, rather than to pay tax on the rent it would bring. T o r a time' is, moreover, an extremely flexible concept. As far as the hundreds of thousands of square feet of living and office space in London's thirty-five storey Centre Point are concerned, for example, it has amounted to a whole decade. London has many historical monuments.

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