Tuesday 23rd June 2020
Today was the longest day -early this year. The sun got up at 4.30am and went to bed again by 11pm, when the last of its colour vanished from the skies. A friend happened to have a beeday in Clapham Common and it was rammed -the first sunny day in about 2 weeks, plus it being midsummer solstice and a Saturday – I reckon about 5,000 people out on the Common. There were constantly about 6-10 of us on socially distanced matting with people passing through and being replaced though I didn’t know anyone, but we got on fab, got drunk and played pictionary.
Tried to have a conversation with a couple where the inevitable –so where are you from? or what do you do? didn’t come up, and wait for the info to be volunteered -I think that’s a new politesse for London. The guy was talking about his work needing him to travel and decamp to NYC etc, and his accent hard to place. In the end he mentioned he’d studied interior design and was from Malaga, and his partner French, probably from Caribbean ancestry being able to speak Creole, (alongside Spanish, French, English and Portuguese). I think we got on so well because none of us ever asked those ubiquitous questions, a sign we weren’t judgmental.
The birthday boy and his other half, friends of J, were moving to a wild, tropical part of China -Yunnan province that’s wreathed in jungle and hilltribes -having been yoga teachers and Buddhists, so a bittersweet goodbye. Everyone pissed by then and fucking the social distancing, hugging at the end. We’re idiots.
Much of the crowd had diminished by then.
Though still in numbers at 9.15pm
There was a 250 year old churchyard right by us -Our Poor Lady Trinity St Clappers -which is surely sending a lengthy naughty list to Santa, or Satan. Because the police had closed the loos to discourage people staying too long, and the common without many bushes every fucker was using the site as an open air urinal. Couldn’t believe it but hundreds of men were pissing on the walls for hours, I counted about 12 stains at any one time on the back stretch alone, gravitating like furtive zombies staring into brick. I cannot imagine what the stench must’ve been like, wafting occasionally downwind and killing horses. Nor the poor deacon who’ll swing by tomorrow (services are still banned thankfully) and faint. Yours truly used a bush by the corner of the skatepark, AWKWARD when the family went by, everyone meerkatting their attention to the amazing lawn.
A had stayed behind to work on his CV and apply for jobs but once home, we went for a toke through languid streets, sunset turning to the midnight blue of dusk. What a lovely fucking day.
My Stonehenge moment:
Back in the day, the city calling. Offering up its coolness and grit, but a clean grit. That something in the air where anything’s possible.
And before all that pesky adulthood and reality, responsibilities, history.
Sun’s out, guns out.
Clapham Common busy as always, the temperature hitting 24C at about 3pm. All along the way people strolling, queueing outside the few shops. The usual keep-fitters skipping and cartwheeling but vastly outnumbered by sunbathers and picnics.
The fun police nowhere to be seen, but the signs everywhere, littering the flat surfaces.
A big no-no the outdoor gyms, now unsightly.
Looking like zoo animals, or edgy art.
The bandstand also (apparently the biggest in London), uglified as if to barricade there being nothing to see, nope. Rightly so, it’d be a prime vector from the sun.
The park caff fully open, and suspiciously looking to provide picnic fodder. A queue in and out, with almost a carnival atmosphere surrounding it.
Everywhere else nature returning. Although the parks now more used, quietude still to be found.
Once upon a time a ranger house, or public loos disguised as a wee cottage, pun intended. Looks like the mfing future.
The surrounding streets their own bubble in a quiet decay.
For so many a meaning lost without selling, buying, shopping.
I’ve no idea if that circus ever got there.
The ice cream shop does a roaring trade, and the closest thing to a break we can get. The queue snakes round the corner and down the street, with each punter looking a little embarrassed.
Today’s meant to be the first day of summer, traditionally the windows open, the radios blaring, the lawns littered with bodies and streets drunken. Instead a furtive atmosphere like a held note -fun is not to be had but if so, surreptitiously.
Tomorrow will be Saturday, and even hotter. It’ll happen then.
I sent the book off today to two agents, feeling myself dandy for doing so too. Then had another long trek, this time into Clapham via the Common. In terms of rating London’s green spaces there’s not a lot to say about it, it would maybe score 2 or 3 out of 10. It’s first and foremost a common, delineating itself from parkland by being relatively open ground and unplanted. No acres of flowerbeds, no landscaping a hill to the right or left, though there are two pretty ponds, and a windswept one. Everything is left as nature intended, kind of, with a few statues here and there and a playground/ outdoor gym/ skatepark. The scraggly collection of woods on one side is pretty scant in terms of biodiversity, being mostly grass and small, young bushes, studded with condoms. It is of course a favoured dogging site, almost legendary, though these days populated by the kind who cannot pull online or via an app (read: old, unsexy and unkempt, possibly murderous).
The rest of the park is plain – large empty spaces of green or gravel, popular for sports aficionados and event staging. It is dare I say it, boring. The Attenborough equivalent of an Asda carpark. Inside the ponds we saw a dead and rotting fish ( a fat, white carp), studiously being ignored by a heron, and two potatoes, possibly jettisoned by fleeing BBQers. The fun police were out in force, cruising ominously along the running paths and stop-searching drivers for evidence of commuting or shopping.
I did spot an interesting tree, as pique among dross. Very Easter. J said it may have been diseased (apt). I may come out and start worshipping it.
Then it was Clapham Old Town, a nondescript part of London tarted up into prettiness. Although every building is not that old it’s been done up as if they are, even the 20th Century additions, complete with flowerboxes and fabric awnings, scrubbed brick and pistachio paint. This is what all of London could look like with a spirited makeover, given this end was also traditionally poor throughout the centuries. Mostly residential but gracing a tiny corner of shops and businesses, almost all closed but for the delis, organic cafes, bakeries and ultra-expensive grocers each with a queue (how very Clapham). Sainsbury’s had a very long line outside, Tesco directly opposite nary a soul, not even a guard. UK has a curious hierarchy of supermarkets/ grocers not always evident abroad, from the department store emporia at one end who deliver in 1920s horse-driven cabs, to the panic buying, zombie-baiting megamalls at the other:
Fortnum & Mason
Harrods (formerly top spot but they lost their royal charter ever since Dodi, son of arms dealer Fayed, got into the car with Diana. It’s now owned by the Qatari royals)
Harvey Nicks (do they even do food?)
Selfridges (the best imo, far more choice, and surprisingly, deceptively affordable)
M&S (can be swapped with below)
Waitrose (far more choice than above, which only does it’s own brands)
Sainsbury’s (can be slightly naff, all the usual brands but pricier for no reason whatsoever)
Tesco (naff, but all the usual brands)
Morrisons (normally bottom of the pile. Wide use of the cheapest sugar, the offcuts, the sweatshops, despite rebranding)
Asda (the new low, having seen the kind of supermarket sweep and panic at the disco behaviour relevent to these climes. Part of the Wal-Mart fam)
Once home I was face-down and asleep, as is usual nowadays whenever popping out, as if the toll of sunshine and fresh air weighs upon the shoulders, along with possible contagion. Out of it for hours. Then cut my hair, and joined a group chat with some buddies via Zoom, the place to be this season. Despite all that had a low mood, surly even. A part of me is constantly worrying, one housemate becoming a hermit, the other needing contact, and myself trying to provide both or neither.
I miss going out to have a meal, going shopping, going on holiday. The NYC trip for May is now a no-go (had that coming) as BA has finally canceled the flights; the supremely dodgy travel company wanting to charge us £150 for an admin fee still and that’s eating me up. Canceled the Airbnb – with now over £400 in vouchers to use. Also found out the museum is looking at July or even as late as October for a reopening, so I’ll likely be furloughed.
Across the US people have been demonstrating to reopen the country, and get rid of lockdown, plus the usual barmy anti-vaxxers. There’s been a counter-demo by two fearless healthcare workers, dressed in their scrubs, standing in the street to block the traffic from joining. In the face of hooting car horns and a woman leaning out and yelling at them to go to China if they wanted communism, and that it wasn’t fair they got to work and she didn’t.
Democracy is being given a bad name. This pandemic is showing the flaws in the system, when ignorance is given equal standing as information, when the leader himself goads it as a device to keep himself in power. We kinda forget Nazism was a democratic rise.
This is why we need constitutions, as we the people can’t be trusted, as history has shown. Of course we’re going to vote for ourselves, of course we’ll step over others to get to the top, of course we’re going to lie, cheat and steal to furnish our bigger piece of the pie. I do wonder why giving freedom so often means giving free rein to abject competition.
I’ve looked at the news fora for the first time in a while today, and the comments are starting to die down, less demands for lynching, less arguing, insults and vitriol. It appears we’re getting used to the new normal. C-19 may be on the verge of getting boring.
Another 823 died last night in UK hospitals. Deaths in general have doubled -a 20 year high, added to by unconfirmed virus fatalities and a great deal of people avoiding hospital treatment for fear of cross-contamination, or thinking they’re overloaded (the reality is that beds are now at record vacancies due to this). They’re hoping the worst is over despite the high tallies. The city remains silent to the core.
News of vaccine trials to start next week are encouraging, though we’re still a good year off from being able to medicate it should it succeed. The orders for more tests and PPE are being stymied by bureaucracy, the govt promising new supplies from Turkey for the following day, then realising they’d forgotten to formally request it even. At times like this paperwork fuckups can kill, on a huge scale.
The night’s film was Fantasy Island. I wouldn’t call it run-of-the-mill despite using the usual jump scares and idiot decision-making (let’s split up! Let’s stage an argument now!) from the dwindling arsenal of Hollywood storytelling. The film’s premise is each vacationer gets to live out a fantasy, but of course one that turns sour and increasingly deadly. There’s a refreshing lack of gore and overt sadism, and an interesting landscape of a storyline (SPOILER) in which one finds the disparate scenarios for each guest are related. Large plotholes withstanding it was an interesting enough watch, and a big part of my life for 2 hrs, becoming the highlight of my day.
I need to get out more. Maybe all this was just some numpter wanting a bit of me-time.