round and round in my head

A nice surprise yesterday, a comment on Peniarth-uchaf and Peniarth Uchaf 2, nearly seven years after I wrote them. I liked that place and the pieces I wrote about it.

Here’s the Kardashian building again, which has been nick-named the Botox. No one knows what it’s for; everybody’s working from home.
The City is still largely empty of office workers so busy builders have the whole stage to themselves. Up and up the towers go, one after the other, our new Jerusalem, and dirt doesn’t stick to them, even late october dullness cannot dim their silver sheen: the Armourplated, the Stool, the Absolutely, the Fuck-off building, the New Apocalypse, the Cutting Edge, the Tower of Vibrancy, the Condom Condominium.

I loved watching the shard go up, took dozens of photos. But then I’ve always liked a spire. When it was finished though, I felt it was time to take it down. It’s so theatrical. Up there long enough for millions to marvel at, and then the show is over. We must have something new, something new. If it goes on and one it’s like the Rolling Stones.

Seriously though, over the last few years this town has become cleaner. Have teenagers tired of smashing bus shelters or has glass got stronger? Nearly everyone picks up their dog’s poo. More machines sweep the streets and pavements. Most people recycle stuff. The car wash is so cheap. There are no phone boxes to vandalise. Contractors are considerate. The new filth is largely invisible. Rubbish is exported to poorer countries. Everybody either has a cleaner or is a cleaner. Particulates have replaced soot. You can’t see greenhouse gases.

I hate that line, ‘rage against the dying of the light’. I mean, he drank himself to death, quickly! He turned the lights out! But then I thought, maybe that’s what I’ve been doing without realising it.

I had a look at the statistics, saw that the rate in Stamford Hill is nearly five times the rate in Stoke Newington. (I live right on the border.) Sometimes I think I’m becoming anti-semitic. But then the other day as I was coming back to the house I saw a hasidic woman looking at my hedge then trying to break off a piece of yew – which is hard to do – so I asked her what she wanted and she explained that it was her daughter’s birthday the next day and she wanted greenery for the dinner table, laid out across the table cloth, with the plates on top of them, or nestling in them, I’m not quite sure, so I said hang on a minute, I’ll get my secateurs, and I then I went round into next door’s garden, because on that side I still haven’t got round to cutting it this year – I think maybe next year I’ll ask Aaron if he’ll do it – so I could get her some quite nice long pieces, in a horizontal plane, with soft narrow leaves, and she was very grateful and smiley, and didn’t even mind the dog. Then this evening we were walking back from Finsbury Park, on our way home from work, wet dark mild windy, and all it was was I just paused, and the dog paused, just where a bus shelter narrows the pavement, to let a hasidic man and a small child through without us coming in too close to each other and maybe more to the point so that Skili wouldn’t frighten the child, and as he passed me the man said ‘thankyou’. So that was nice too.

Writing about the current anti-semitism controversy in the London Review of Books Stephen Sedley (eminent judge and jew) said “most Jews do understand the risk of hypersensitivity. There is the story about Goldbloom, doing well in the rag trade in Stepney, who has to make a dash for Euston to sort out a problem with his supplier in Glasgow. As the night sleeper pulls out, he realises he has left his overnight bag behind. Luckily the man occupying the other berth in the sleeper compartment has a spare pair of pyjamas, which he lends Goldbloom, and tells Goldbloom he can use his razor in the morning. But when Goldbloom asks if he can also borrow his toothbrush, he politely declines. The next evening, when he returns from Glasgow, Goldbloom’s wife asks him how the journey went. ‘Not bad,’ says Goldbloom, ‘but did I meet an anti-Semite!’” Jews tell each other jokes like that all the time. They’re allowed to. But wasn’t it some welsh minister who had to resign because she said that jews are over sensitive? Of course they are. I’m over sensitive too.
I’m grateful to the dog for introducing me to all sorts of people this year. And I hope that next year she will have puppies. Lots of beautiful puppies.
Anyway, maybe the ultra orthodox jews would rather die than change their habits. (Their communal way of life which has led to such a high rate of covid infection.) I can relate to that.

For those who don’t know me, I’ll just add that I’ve always liked the strange fact that although I’m not jewish, because my partner was, my daughter is.

They were talking on the radio the other day again about christmas – though I did hear someone else earlier on the radio say that it was a perverse obsession, all this christmas stuff – and a woman said maybe we could all write ‘lovely long letters’ to each other. Long letters with loveliness! Letters long in loveliness! So I thought I’d better make a start. And I have. Not sure whether to serve it up like an advent calendar or all at once like a proper christmas present. However I’m finding that long comes easier than lovely.

A few weeks ago we were walking through Springfield Park on the way to the marshes and the dog ran past some little kids playing organised football, quite close to them but not interfering, at least not so as I noticed which I realise might be an important qualification, and this guy who was evidently in charge started shouting at me – he seemed to think the dog had no business coming anywhere near the kids, so I shouted back, it’s a public park, and she wasn’t bothering them and anyway look, she’s already a hundred yards away!! And we then started walking towards each other to have an argument. I have a poor memory for dialogue so I can’t get this story right. It’s always easier to remember what I said than what the other person said. I said, anyway, she loves children! And he said, and I love dogs but! And he told me to stop shouting. And I said I’m not shouting. And he said you are shouting. So then I started whispering almost. And then I was able to say, now you’re shouting. And he said no I’m not. We carried on like that for a bit longer and I got the feeling we were both enjoying it. Then I realised the time had come to back down, to make everything all right. So I said, I’m sorry if the dog upset the children. Or you. And then he put his arm round me! And then we shook hands! A warm glow! And I realised that he was the first person I’ve touched since february apart from a couple of small children.

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3 Responses to round and round in my head

  1. lorinco says:

    If your dog has a litter of puppies will you consider us to provide a home for one?

    When I first came to work with you I remember being aware that the Jewish heritage in your household was something I should be aware of. You had a neighbour next door who was orthodox but seemed to me to be different somehow to other members of the Hasidic community I was used to seeing around. He never made eye contact or acknowledged us as we loaded tools of plants onto the van. What made him most distinct to me was his fur rimmed hat the like of which I had never seen before. It was exotic, romantic and foreign. I asked you ‘what kind of Jew is he?’ You we’re irritated by this.
    ‘What do you mean what kind of Jew?’ was your reply.

  2. lorin says:

    I leave comments and then they disappear, or everything is on there twice.
    I have a memory of coming to your house to start work one day. I know I was aware that I should be aware of the Jewish heritage in your family and household. I had always been interested in your next door neighbour, an Orthodox Jew who somehow seemed different to the other Hasidic men, who were more familiar to me, because of his wide brimmed, fur lined hat. He never acknowledged us or made eye contact as we loaded or unloaded the van with plants and tools.
    That morning as we drove off I asked you ‘What kind of Jew is he?’. You were really annoyed with me – ‘What do you mean what kind of Jew is he?’ I’m not sure what I meant. Somehow his hat looked so exotic.

    If your dog does have lots of lovely puppies and you need to find homes for them, please consider us for one.

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