“But this city is a world of its own, a country within a country. People are used to taking the old and making it news; and used, too, to taking the new and making it old. Every glass of water from its taps, it is said, has passed six times through the kidneys of another, and every scrap of its land has been trodden on, fought over, dug up and broken down for centuries.”

“Iryna is like Adam Smith’s invisible hand: she does it all, then disappears.”

‘”Outside this country, and also in it, are millions and millions of people who would kill to have what you do here,’ she says. ‘They are clever, fantastically hard-working and they are all learning English. When you grow up, you’re going to be competing with them for places at university, and for jobs…If you don’t get good marks. You’ll never go to university, and if you don’t go to university, you’ll end up flipping burgers.’”

“‘I am a Jewish mother. My dying words will be, “Put a jumper on.”’

‘”You know the only rule you need to know to get on in this country? ‘Never complain, never explain.’”

‘”I’ll tell you the difference between our countries. Americans think life is serious but not hopeless; the English that life is hopeless but not serious.’”

“Nobody here automatically locks their car door as soon as they get in; you can walk around at night without being mugged, you don’t need to live in a compound just in case you’re burgled. In South Africa everyone knows someone who’s been burgled, and everyone knows someone who was murdered. Even now, London is a city that seems innocent and fearless.”

“It’s so easy to believe that others deserve their fate, and the fact was that if nobody bothered to help other people then the worst would always happen… She stares out of her window at the busy street, where the British go about their daily business, taking it for granted that they will never be arrested for not voting the right way, praying the right way, dressing the right way or for belonging to a different tribe. Unlike Polly’s clients, they will not be raped, or see their children hacked to pieces, or everything they possess stolen. They will take freedom with their daily bread, and never think to thank those who guard their civil liberties.”

“Sometimes, Job has a vision of English banknotes flying in a steady stream, out of this small terrier-shaped island and over to the sad elephant’s head of Africa.”

“Everything at the AA Carwash is sunk in age and decrepitude, apart from its staff, who are young. The oldest person there is probably Job himself, and he is only twenty-two. …It was a mystery to Job why anyone should prefer human beings rather than the drama of big, whirling blue brushes that descend and ascend mechanically onto a car. Yer not only are people better cleaners, they are cheaper. They cost less than a machine, for they earn two pounds an hour, performing the same repetitive motions until they get deported, get sick, or move on.”

“They do not speak of the past, though last summer when they stripped off their ash-coloured overalls to work naked from the waist up, Job had seen that at least three others bore, like himself, the marks of torture on their torsos. They have been carved like trees, and like trees they have endured.”

“Home for Job is now a tiny room with only a sink to drink from and wash in, and the noise of police sirens and traffic wailing and sighing in the continuous sussuration below. Damp blooms on the walls, outlining new continents – as if those who live here, in the perpetual stench of urine, beer, sour milk and cinders, need any more reminders of what they have lost.  Job’s own room is sib-let from another foreigner, in a kind of food-chain of privation and opportunism. There is a whole family next to Job, sleeping on a floor that is all heaving, twanging mattress…Intimately acquainted with each other’s bowel movements and cooking smells, his fellow tenants mind their own business, and when they pass each other silently on the stairs or in the corridor they keep their heads down. They bang on his door when he shouts out from his nightmares and he bangs on theirs if they quarrel or fail to quieten a baby, but otherwise they pretend not to exist, which is another polite English fiction.”

“Like a pantomime horse, the Rambler is divided into a front half (devoted to politics) and a back half (devoted to the arts). These maintain a sense of mutual loathing, yoked together by mutual dependency.”

“They might watch American movies, wear American clothes, even read American books but Bush and the Iraq War have made actual American people social lepers; she only has to open her mouth in some places to feel a wave of loathing directed at her. Katie is weary of pointing out that at least half her countrymen detest their President even more than Europe does, but it’s no good. Those charming children’s books which had lured her to this country are full of locked doors and barriers, and it does not escape her that such doors often demand that you change in some way in order to gain entry.”

“It’s unthinkable, now to live as her parents had done, going to work from nine to five and enjoying the benefits of the newly-formed health and education services. What paradise it had seemed! Now, in order to pay their exorbitant mortgages, and ever more exorbitant fuel prices, British adults have to work long hours – the longest, it is said, in Europe… Everyone they know, everyone they see, is just like them, living in houses like these, reading the same papers, seeing the same films and TV programmes and plays, buying from the same shops and sending their children to the same schools; and they think it will go on for ever, either ever-mounting property prices cushioning them. But it can’t. She looks out at the frosty darkness, and shivers.”