Interesting piece in the New York Times about the US Embassy in London (here registration required). Well, I say interesting, but for anyone who's had the misfortune of wandering through Grosvenor Square at any point in the last three years every point the article makes is blindingly obvious:
"It is impossible to miss the American Embassy, hulking menacingly in genteel Mayfair with all the subtlety of a man wearing sunglasses and body armor to tea at the Ritz."
What is interesting is the fact that this has been noticed by a major newspaper in the US itself (even if it is the supposedly left-wing Times). Everyone is a bit miffed at the US at the moment, and it must be said that the security measures in place round the US Embassy seem somewhat more appropriate to some kind of warzone than the capital city of America's closest ally. It's been three years, guys - time to redecorate...
This and this is what Grosvenor Square used to look like; this is the Embassy pre-9/11 (it was pretty ugly then). Perhaps surprisingly, photos of the defences themselves are hard to come by. But this and this is the sight that greets you as soon as you get within a couple of hundred yards of the Embassy.
For our American cousins a quick reminder - we don't really have guns in the UK. The sight of a policeman in a flak jacket and armed with a sub-machinegun in the centre of London only ever used to happen after IRA attacks. To turn the corner and be greeted by one of these guys scares the living hell out of me every time. I always think a bomb's about to go off.
"This is Mayfair, one of the toniest little enclaves in town, where housing prices are in the millions, the streets are thick with luxury-goods stores and "unattractive" is a four-letter word... the scary-looking eyesore in this otherwise elegant area has become, to some, a symbol not just of American vulnerability, but also of its arrogance and excess."
Unfortunately it's not going to change any time soon - according to the head honcho at the Embasssy: "'We have a lease here that's almost 1,000 years long' - it expires in 2953 - 'and we plan to stay until the end of that lease'." Hurrah...