It was the first place I ever felt at home in London and I go back to it, like a point on a compass. The greengrocer has a shop in South Kensington and I have been his customer at intervals for years so this time when I arrived – I was the only customer – he put his hands on my shoulders and said “He’s gone.”
“Really gone ?” “Well, he’s gone as leader of the party and he’s to go as PM in three months.” “Nah” I said. “He can still do a lot of damage …” and the young assistant who looks like a renegade from Gogol began to laugh. “You really don’t like him” he said. “No.” I never did.
50 years ago, I had my most prestigious secretarial job for a wonderful old American businessman, with whom I would probably disagree about all sorts of things, but whom I respected utterly. He received a communication from the American Embassy asking him to endorse for re election to office an American politico. “Put that in an envelope” he said to me, handing me his signed mail, and he had written across the bottom in his wholly legible hand above his signature ” I wouldn’t vote him for dog catcher.”
Although I can write about anything I like in annalog, I try not to “go on.” There’s always rubbish in the street (I began my Sunday picking up somebody else’s menstrual discards with which the foxes had had a field day from a bag dumped at the top of the road). I could write every week about the cost of everything – I am in dialogue with edf about the so called non reading of the meter, the latest person I dealt with telling me that the men
who came accredited to my door six times in 2021, once so far this year, don’t mean anything – so who sent them ? And why do they only read the gas meter ? No answer. No the automated reading doesn’t count – why ? (silence) … looks like a long haul. And Wal who is fiercely practical and good with money has just received a demand for £700 for a month’s electricity. Six chemists later, I am told that there is no calamine, variously, that there is a run on it (what, head to foot ?)
or that suppliers can’t get it – why ? Item by item, shopping costs more and I sat next to a woman older than I who lives in an area of Kensington and Fulham without tube services, who is looking at the axing of the bus route upon which she depends.
Nobody is minding the store. We are all horribly exposed. And it is terrifying.
But when I admired the jacket of a younger woman in the street, she turns out to be librarian for a community library so I have been sorting through the shelves to donate treasured books where they will be appreciated. And thus found one of those books I never read (because I was afraid I wouldn’t understand it, however much I appreciate the films of Jean-Pierre Melville )
but I am reading it now. With joy.
I shared a bus unimaginably slowed by a bad junction, traffic lights and gridlock with a Somali born teacher who was trying to get to school early to get everything ready for open day and when the bus finally began to move, we were the only two people left on it – we cheered and clapped and the driver tooted and we made it. Just.
I feel badly about my noisy old washing machine on a Sunday morning but the washing was out and on the line first thing, one of summers greatest bonuses.
Whatever his many sins and shortcomings, US President Biden’s message acknowledging our current upheaval was one of his most professional and elegant. Damn right, talk about us, all of us, the people – and devil take a leadership competition chiefly characterised by “Anybody Can Do Anything” – because they can’t. We just had three years of that dance and all we have to show for it is bleeding toenails.