Any impressively long wall is bound to cause us to recall the midfield dynamo and philosopher John Trewick. In 1978 Big Ron Atkinson took his bubble-permed West Bromwich Albion team to China on some sort of goodwill tour. The lads’ diplomacy evidently rested in their feet, for when Trewick was asked by the BBC crew documenting the tour what he thought of the Great Wall, he replied: ‘When you’ve seen one wall you’ve seen them all.’ Good try, John, but not quite accurate.
He would, however, have been on the money had he alluded to the common state of mind among men who commission immense walls (paranoiac) and to the loss of life that is, without exception, occasioned by the construction of the things (considerable). In these regards all walls are, indeed, one wall — whatever form they take. For much of its history the Great Wall was not continuous but a series of manned fortifications.
The last major land defences built on British soil, whose greatest concentration is on Portsdown Hill and the Gosport peninsula, were separate from each other, and garrisoned. They were martially redundant by the time they were finished: Palmerston’s Follies were the result of a specific paranoia, that prime minister’s Francophobia and his mistrust of Napoleon III. This Francophobia did not inhibit the Royal Engineers and the chief designer William Jervois from borrowing liberally from the Marquis de Vauban, who had established the model for this sort of structure 200 years previously (in French border and coastal towns passim.)
These citadels were, again, defended. They were also both better-looking and more sophisticated than the chimera proposed by the Lout in the White House which — a further given — will be avoided, as the Wehrmacht avoided the Maginot Line by invading through Belgium, or breached, quite probably by the north-eastern intelligentsia fleeing to civilisation. Unless, that is, the Lout can devise a wall unlike any wall in the history of walls from the fictive tale of Jericho to friable levees to the Bastille to the razor wire, Drachenzähne and chevaux de frise that disfigured Berlin. This seems unlikely given his previous form with a) more modest walls and b) the world that disobligingly fails to conform to his megalomaniac whim.
Michael Gove is an Aberdonian. It was, however, too much to expect that during his protracted rimming of the Lout’s duodenum — a malodorous playspace shared with Nigel Farage and Piers Morgan — he might raise the matter of the leylandii-topped earthworks spitefully constructed around properties that impinge on the Lout’s golf course among the dunes just north of Aberdeen at Balmedie. Anyone who has witnessed this boorish narcissist’s abuse of people who refused to sell their modest, pleasingly ramshackle homes must question his suitability for the office he has bought himself as a belated 70th birthday gift. The Lout is a vandal. The dunes were not just an SSSI, they were magnificent — a place of startling natural beauty and shifting mystery.
The US has little to offer him in the way of models for a 2,000-mile-long wall — apart, of course, from the wall, or walls, that already exist along almost half of the country’s border with Mexico. The proposed wall is a base fantasy. Boasts about this most rudimentary security device were effective vote-catchers. They were stirring appeals to proudly American xenophobes, even to those who live in the south-western states and are thus familiar with the gappy fences, barricades, border patrols, piles of ladders, shredded clothes and occasional corpses that form the secondary décor of such an environmentally hostile and socially divisive exercise in infrastructure.
Even if it could be built — and the distance from Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico to Tijuana on the Pacific is the same as from Athens to Amsterdam — it would require a force about 60,000-strong to police it effectively day and night. There’s every chance that the coarse earthworks he created to harass his uncompliant neighbours at Balmedie may turn out to be the only walls he will ever build.
But if he did build it, what sort of wall would the Wall be? As I say, the Lout is an aesthetic retard who possesses a baleful taste for gold, marble and mirthless kitsch. Can these materials be applied to a wall? In dilute form can they demonstrate the fulfilled aspiration they represent: you know the sort of thing — a plastic putto every five miles, a fibreglass caryatid here and there, Atlantes. Abundant crenellation. Loads of abundance. And to top it all extruded plastic selfies of the Lout as Roman soldier, berserker, GI, tommy, astronaut. His taste is akin to that of professional footballers, gangsters and, most tellingly, central Asian tyrants and African dictators. This is worrying. America may soon discover that the tastes he shares with such gentlemen extend beyond matters of mere décor.