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This report is taken from PN Review 127, Volume 25 Number 5, May - June 1999.

Escaping the Millennium Lawrence Sail

Some of the items that lodge in the memory, and the reasons for their survival there, seem as random as the way in which some household objects outlive others. Sometimes they lie hidden until an incident or thought recalls them suddenly to consciousness: or they float to the surface for no obvious reason. Recently, for instance, I found myself thinking of an American preacher who, almost half a century ago, toured the boarding schools of England, and is still quite widely remembered today. Rejoicing in the name of Colonel the Reverend Lewis O. Heck, he was armed with a confident drawl and two sermons, one about Daniel ('Daniel just laughed and laughed and laughed') and one about Samson, which began, ringingly: 'If I had a million dollars, why, I would build a monument a hundred miles long, a hundred miles wide and a hundred miles high, and I'd call it The Mighty Failure.'

The reason for the re-emergence of this memory was, of course, the Millennium Dome, which I had been reading about. The Reverend Colonel's monument might have been a prescient vision of it, or at any rate of a widely held view of it. So much has been written and said about the project that it has begun to dwarf the occasion of its building. And when it is not the Dome itself which preoccupies us, or whether the millennium occurs at the end of the year 1999 or 2000, it is the business of ...


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