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‘Who are you?’ shouts a lone motorcyclist across the breadth of the Suez Canal in the direction of the figure of T.E. Lawrence. This is a pivotal moment in the marvellous David Lean film since it encapsulates what the work is all about. Identity. As a British officer who had gone native and embraced the cause of Arab self-determination, Lawrence could never figure out whose side he was on. That was his tragic flaw. Ostensibly, I’m the working-class kid from the council flat who went to university and became a writer. The implication is that I’ve moved out of that working-class milieu, left it all behind me and undergone what is known to the sociologists as embourgeoisement – a kind of assim


The bus into town stinks of vomit. Fearful of what might lie ahead, you tread warily along the aisle. An old woman sits directly in front of you, her hair a Brillo Pad explosion. A man with self-inflicted tattoos on his hands and neck fidgets on the back seat, performing the characteristic Saint Vitus’s dance of the heroin addict. When he gets off, the woman remarks to the driver, ‘He’s had a bad life.’ These days the hole in the wall dispenses plastic banknotes with a disagreeable, waxy texture. Minutes later you are negotiating the concrete underpass which rises up in the shadow of a ruined monolith with shattered windowpanes. It is at this point, outside the former Technical College, that

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