Time to go brave the London New Year Day rain.
If I was superstitious I’d say the rain portends perilous times;
If I was religious I’d say God is raining down His blessings (or wrath);
but being a pragmatist atheist I’ll just say: God Save The Queen
Now where’s that Union Jack umbrella?
So, yes it is true and the case that guilt and, alas, shame pay me their customary nuisance visits when someone accosts me on the train or on the street and, in a quavering voice, maunders on about how he needs (for he is usually male) a little spare change “just 50p” so he can make it into a hostel “tonight” (it’s always for just tonight) and get a shower and a bed because ‘”it’s cold sleeping out on the street” in London. I can just about hold my breath for it, very quickly, becomes beyond doubt that he does need the refreshing graces of a shower. What kind of society or god (Fortuna? Where the hell is she nowadays?) rewards some people with flash Ferraris and others with nights on cement underneath bleak wintry stars.
Then I start to think: wait a minute, isn’t this guy white? Isn’t he English? Wasn’t he born and raised in one of the most affluent places in the world? Hell even, he’s no older than forty at a stretch and sometimes definitely in his early twenties. Why is he out for alms in one of the richest cities in the world in his own country; a place where hundreds of thousands of foreigners (Aussies, South Americans, Africans, Polish, French, you name it they have come to seek the golden fleece) and perhaps millions have succeeded in building a working life having, in many cases, been born with a rustier spoon in the mouth? The real question is: what sort of person would rather get a dog than a job and does he deserve sympathy and my money? I sound cold and heartless, traits less becoming of a humane being, but I have come to the realisation that some people simply need to make an effort and get a job. For yelping out loud, this is not Spain (unemployment 27%). Makes me wanna bark: “If you need money, get a job! If you need company, get a girlfriend!”. Then get a dog.
After an ill Tuesday for me, battling the dreaded cold virus, the sun cut its holiday short and returned to London’s sky today. Without so much as a second spent contemplating another miserable day indoors I headed out for coffee, some reading and writing and then an impromptu viewing of the Man Ray exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. If you’re in London then please go see it. And if it comes to a city near you then go see it. It is wonderful. Man Ray was a master of composition with a good eye for drawing out character (or at least the appearance of it) and to think he did that on portraits and not say landscape – wow! And what a lucky man to have been living in Paris between the wars and after WWII and to have been part of that art scene along with the likes of Picasso, Dali, Miro, Virginia Woolf, Le Corbusier, Hemingway, Joyce and countless other writers, artists and poets. After the exhibition I walked to the South Bank with my new camera, the Fujifilm X100, for some practice and I snapped away thrilled to be amongst people. It was a mite chilly but it was crisp and fresh and the sight of so many other keen photographers snapping the fabulous evening lights of my home city was a delight. Ahh, I can’t wait for spring, then summer, then autumn!!!!!!
Light, Camera, Colour!!
The English have a saying, France is actually alright – the problem with France is that it’s full of the French. I wonder if something similar can’t be said of London. I love London. It’s my home but Londoners, truth be told, are filthy, especially the Londoners I saw in the wee hours of this morning on my way back home from a night out. I had made my way from Vauxhall, south of the Thames, to Trafalgar Square. This is where all night buses depart from and return to. Trafalgar Square is smack in the centre of this city of seven million and is always busy. Leicester Square is but the proverbial stone’s throw away and hosts a slew of tourist trap eateries that cater crap to night revellers. I’m walking to the bus stop and I have to constantly step over all the filthy containers and food wrappers thrown on the pavement. Fish and chips, burgers, hot dogs, you know all the junk people eat after a night drinking. The thing is, I do not understand why grown ups will throw their rubbish on the street when they are but ten metres from a bin. I guess a thousand centimetres is just too far to expect a sophisticated cosmopolitan Londoner to carry his rubbish. Or is it that London is now so crammed with immigrants (I’m one) who take no pride in the city (I do) – perhaps many of them don’t think much of London or the West and can’t wait to return to their homelands if only their homelands weren’t such shit holes?
My experience was not made any better when I stopped, at a shop, to buy a drink to rehydrate. A group of Somali or Ethiopian young men blocked the door into the shop. Probably in their early 20s, the boys were pushing and shoving and being a damn nuisance. They eventually let me in and while I was choosing my drink I heard one of them, out at the front, say “We know when you close, we’ll come back and shoot you”. I made my way to the counter to pay and four or five of these boys were in front of me still pushing and shoving while the Turkish (I presume) shop owner was screaming for them to behave or leave. One boy brings out a wad of highly denominated notes (I can’t remember seeing so much cash outside of a bank) and while he’s paying and distracting the owner, his friend was busy, stuffing chocolate into his pocket. The thief turns to me and goes, “Hey rasta man”, (why do people think every black man with locks is a Jah man who worships Haile Selassie), “Hey rasta man, you smoke weed?”. I said I didn’t. “Hey you drink alcohol?” I was becoming irritated by his questioning but thought that asking him to fuck off would be asking for trouble. So I asked, “Why are you asking me all these questions?”. He goes “Why?” and I repeated, “Yes, why?”. He looked at me and replied, “Because I sell alcohol”. The point being alcohol is not licensed to be sold at 4 a.m in the morning but he could, illegally. “Well, good for you then” I shot back and then watched the thief and his friends leave the shop. I paid for my drink, dodged all the filth Londoners threw on the ground and caught my bus home.
PS Just before I turned the corner into my street, I heard a noise behind me. I turned round and it was a young bearded Englishman riding his bike while holding on to a second bike. He called out “Good morning, Sir” in a friendly voice. I was in shock as a Londoner greeting a stranger is a strange phenomenon. “Good morning”, I replied in as cheery a tone as I could muster. Maybe there’s hope for London after all.