The SohoistIssue 15

Freedom Fighters

Mr. Blarney is not wearing socks. It is liberating, but concerning – where will it end? Is this what freedom is? He is in the United States of America – taking the air of New England as the Old is in retrograde – he is exploring the site of the first Brexit. This is a joke he has been told by several Bostonians now. They holler it at him with their wide dental As. They interrupt him as he parks the car in Harvard Yard. When they talk it is as if they are trying to catch thrown peanuts.

The truly distinctive bean-town accent is less in evidence in New England as you’d hope – the ‘Boston Brahmin’ twang belongs only in the throats of those too inbred to function: the Mayflower pollen. They tend to summer with the lesser Kennedys in the Vineyard, and as Mr. Blarney doesn’t associate with bootleggers he doesn’t brush with them. However, if there is a seat of American aristocracy it is here. As the rhyme goes:


So here’s to good old Boston
Home of the bean and the cod
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots
And the Cabots talk only to God


J L Blarney is not At Home, and so is not at home. He is abroad and it is too hot to wear socks. Given this, you should not expect de Tocqueville. This column will be akin to when a beloved TV sitcom gets adapted for the pictures. Plot is to be sacrificed for vista.

Blarney is currently and at this moment sitting in Soho House New York (natch). On the way up he almost shared a lift (they go by another name here, descriptive of only one half of its functions) with someone from the show Modern Family, (you know the one, you do; the one with the hair) but the star wished to descend. Thus, like fugue and counter fugue, so passed Blarney’s touch of fame.

Now he is on the 6th floor, sucked into a slut-red booth, and some cunts two booths over are talking about Coachella. Here in the club room he sits across from a man whose tanned duomo of a head bobs as he rattles off number after number: “246”, then “275”, “260”, “261”. Each number chasing the other out of him. Blarney begins to listen. This ticker tape is not the price or future of some heavily followed stock but, in fact, this weeble is listing his fluctuating weight. He has just been to Japan, you see, “where all they do is eat” (something Blarney is not so sure about). “It’s the fucking ramen man, the ramen” he wheedles as he slurps an ice tea to his insides. “They’re just free with it you know.”

Freedom is used here as a justificatory suffix for excess. I’ve seen a grown man put a syrupy waffle on a quarter-pounder and mumble the word in defence as the streams of oily regret percolate in his beard. I’ve seen a woman dressed like a poorly-strung ham sling a bucket of coleslaw into her gaping mouth and yell “freedom” to cover her tracks. I’ve seen $1.2m of fireworks hover for an instant above the Charles River on the 4th July in the name of the concept. ‘Live Free or Die’ is the motto of New Hampshire (the best motto in the Union, everybody says so) and it is slapped to the bumper of every SUV that turns cheap gas into expensive waste. But once you are free from Mad King George and his taxes, where does this leave you? What was wartime posture is seemingly used to justify peacetime surplus. The essential question now is: freedom from what?

The United Kingdom’s founding myth, if any, is not one of freedom. There was something about Merlin or a Dragon but that’s about it, and I think that might only be Wales. No concrete foe that was vanquished for statehood. We were only really invaded by the Normans and they were pretty good about the whole thing. We don’t have our history riven severally by post and antebellum as our transatlantic cousins have. It is thus surprising that under the auspices of such a myth the aged of our Kingdom have hobbled from their covens and their teashops and rotary clubs and parish councils and have taken up the withered arms required to fuck a country in the ballot box. ‘Take our country back’ they said (as well Washington might have in his day) – but from where or from whom ‘Mrs. Miggins’, you fucking doubly myopic crone? There was no village cricket, you did used to lock your doors, a ha’penny couldn’t buy you dinner, the wireless was pretty shit, Wooster was a fiction. The halcyon days are a clotted fever dream.

Mr. Blarney’s holiday may be extended.