I was walking near Kensington High St the other day and saw the faces of a young Japanese couple beaming with glee at something behind me. As I turned round to see what they had seen they were both eagerly taking out their ipods to capture the auspicious moment. Behind me was the office, London headquarters maybe, of EMI. And I had been taking it for granted for years! I live with a default distrust that applies especially to corporations. How do you love a corporation when you know that their main aim is to take your money? I get a similar feeeling, often in Kensington too, when in this wintry weather practically everybody with money is wearing a moncler puffa jacket (do they still call them puffa jackets?). Retailing at many hundreds of pounds these jackets are mostly the badge of social standing and disposable income. But, my imaginary interrogator tells me, they’re such good quality. My lip curls in time honoured fashion. I remember when I lived in France and had to endure the well-worn mantra about how impossibly difficult it was to pass the French teaching qualifications, the Capes and the Agreg, and how you had devote yourself body and soul (corps et ame) to study over many years to pass this exam. And yet, are all teachers in France geniuses? Not by a long chalk in my experience of the matter. I think all the hysteria about these exams tells us more about one aspect of French culture and its thrall to administrative authority than it does about the exams. In the same way, Japanese youth and upper middle class aspiration are what lie under my imaginary microscope rather than the money-generating mechanisms that are EMI and Monclair.