Ceaușescu’s Romania with fast food outlets
Walsall in the Black Country is, Dalrymple points out,
the ugliest town in the world.
To the hideousness of 19th-century industrialisation is added
the desolation of 20th-century obsolescence.
The town’s art gallery, built at enormous expense, strikes Dalrymple as
a hybrid of grain silo and secret police headquarters.
Of all Western European countries, England is
the most richly endowed with unutterably dismal towns and cities, in part the heritage of the Industrial Revolution and in part that of modern architects and town planners.
Yet France is not to be outdone. Dalrymple writes:
I was under the impression that nothing quite so awful was to be found in France. Imagine my patriotic joy (for though not a xenophobe, I am a patriot) when I stopped for the night in a French town at least as bad as any in England. I could scarcely believe my eyes; I felt such a relief. The incapacity of others to do better than we is a great, if not the greatest possible, consolation.