Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Monday, 14 November 2011
Remembrance service at St. Michael’s,
During the silence, disturbed only by the buses beyond the hedge, it was hard to know what to focus on. My mind flitted about, there are so many people to remember; that young man filmed while being shot through the head in
The Great War remains upper-most, the day is still really about them. And it’s still infuriating that the whole thing happened at all – an unnecessary catastrophe, off shoot of a worthless struggle about empire, which led to even more social collapse, and hecatombs of dead. I don’t mean that the empire was entirely worthless, but going to war with
It’s odd how Londoners pronounce the word poppy. A little girl pointed at mine and said, “puppy,” and I looked around, wondering what she meant.
Potter down to Shepherd’s Bush to try to find a poppy brooch in
Hardly any poppies are worn in this part of town, no one is selling them in or near the vast shopping centre. Inside, the shop assistants don’t wear them, not even in cosy old Marks & Spencers.
Perhaps some idiots worry that it might be a religious or political symbol. For me it’s about death, nothing else; remembering people who died caught up in recent conflicts, including Germans, French, Turks, Italians etc.
Not sure that also applies to people who joined the Condor Legion, Gestapo, Einzatzgruppen, Arrow Cross groups, or the NKVD.
In the quest to end poppy misery, I roamed around, floor by floor until I found Swarovski the jeweller, as they had been advertising some little crystal poppy brooches for £15. In this shop the Japanese looking staff stared blankly at me, they’d never heard of them. Finally got a little cloth brooch with a good clasp from among the racks of girly things in Accessorise.
I hope I am not turning into a “poppy fascist,” but I wore my lone poppy proudly on the crowded bus home but also felt slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps people wearing them were all sitting up the front of the long bus, because I didn’t see any around me, just drab, worn out looking foreign mothers with babies and Somali lads in odd knitted tops talking into their i-phones.
I do wonder what all this new enthusiasm for the poppy is all about. A few years ago I distinctly remember there was very little public interest and elderly people would sit outside M & S in Kensington with their full poppy trays, looking very gloomy. People no longer seemed willing to give money to wounded soldiers or think about the past.
Perhaps that was due to the economic boom that was on, and Tony Blair’s attempt to turn us into a land without history. Well all that is over now and the poppy has become a rallying point, the only symbol of cohesion we have left as a country, and I think people are clinging to it rather desperately.
Hear that Evelyn Lauder the woman who founded the pink ribbon breast cancer campaign has died, aged 74, from ovarian cancer.
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Just sold a piece to the Daily Telegraph about Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, comparing her experiences to mine. She discovered details about her real mother recently, then met her supported of course by her new lover, super shrink Susie Orbach. You couldn’t do much better than that. I met mine when I was 19 just after I left home to become a student and hadn’t a clue what I was doing. In both cases it didn’t end well.
That money, £350, plus fee for doing some on-line work for Private Banking Magazine, will pay the £500 for the short portrait painting course I’ve just signed up for at Heatherley’s
Of course I still believe that fame and fortune follows. I hope I’ve still got enough time left for it!
A friend of mine says that in the photograph of me, on the front of my book, Inside, about teaching in HMP Wormwood Scrubs, I don’t look at all well. Not surprising as I was at the time, unknowingly, fizzing with cancer. Remember myself at that time, all the symptoms boiling and bloating away, and how I just ignored them.
Take a painting, a self-portrait where my head is replaced by a Victoria Sponge, to the vicarage in Ealing as a present for Fr. Bill. He insists on giving me £10 for it. This is my lucky day. He is my Dr. Gachet.
Also take him a quince and apple tart. Try to explain that the quince seemed a bit tough, much more so than the apple so he will need to re-heat the pie slowly so it cooks a bit more. As usual he wasn’t listening.
He was mumbling on about the C of E – and the shenanigans at
Some lucky vicar will soon be getting more pay and a nice cosy, 17th century vicarage. Fr. Bill won’t be applying.
“The ambition of clerics is terrible in
“But the important thing is being a good vicar of a demanding parish. What ambition is better than that, and my ambition is achievable.”
I wondered if Ealing, once the golden suburb of the west, is really that demanding.
He says it’s now very big and full of “all sorts,” later he referred to that fact that the parish is now barely Anglican or even Christian.
“You are running hard to keep still,” he said. “There is no money. But in the end the C of E in the diocese of
Apparently the fabric of the buildings, churches and vicarages is all rotting away, returning to the damp earth, helped along of course by the new voracious breed of metal thieves.
Monday, 7 November 2011
I’ve got to stop reading newspaper columnists as they get me so stirred up. Of course I’d love to have a column of my own, what an off-loading of bile, what a superb weekly defaecation that would be. One reason I fell out with the Mail was that they wouldn’t unpigeon-hole me from Features and give me the chance to comment.
Like most people I can only sit back and read the opinions of wealthy journalists, writing with elegant fountain pens from their homes in Chipping Norton and Pewsy, about an
On Sunday Dominic Lawson declared that he is not worried about predictions that the
More power to Mr Lawson, he is a good, ballsy chap, but like most wealthy people he doesn't see or feel the effects of mass immigration and population growth. He doesn’t have to look at the everyday vandalism of this country.
Grab a seat, grab a Metro – it’s almost an obsession. A feeling of failure and misery descends if I fail to do either.
There was a photo in the Metro of Olympic diver Tom Daley looking at his clay likeness in Mme Tussauds. It was amazing - not a thing like him. The putty nose was a completely different shape to his, one being convex the other concave.
I wonder what kind of people work at the wax works what they are trained for, certainly not getting a likeness for portraits.
In another carriage I saw a young couple with a boy of about three lying in a pushchair. The child had a look of pain and discomfort, wrinkling his brow and I realised that this must be what he does, how he looks just before he falls asleep. His mother leaned over putting her fingers lightly onto his eye-lids while his father began stroking his head. In a few moments he was asleep.
I am fascinated by these little family scenes. I’ve never seen a child being badly treated on the tube, although I have seen that on buses and in parks, when I never know what to do about it and I can’t forget it afterwards.
There is another kind of domestic group, headed by the braying parent, sometimes audible on the tube, but they tend to travel in 4 X 4 and family saloon, so you mainly see or rather hear them in public places.
Yesterday, 5/11/11/ I was sitting in a café in
"Otto you must listen to your teachers. Otto, we must see this, a new Leonardo exhibition starting soon. Would you like to see it? I am going to phone Granddad and tell him.
“Hello! Max and Otto here. Look you must come with us to the Leonardo exhibition it’s starting soon at the National Portrait Gallery…”
“The National Gallery,” I piped up from behind him.
His braying stopped dead. It reminded me of one of those moments at night in an
“Oh, thanks,” he said and went on at full volume, “It’s the National Portrait Gallery. Otto is dying to go. He’s a precocious three year old who won’t listen to his teachers.” Etc etc.
I don’t suppose poor Otto wants to listen to anyone at all by now. I’m surprised he doesn’t go round in ear-muffs. I don’t think I had any teachers at all when I was three. I didn’t have to go down that tortuous road until I was four, and then only in the mornings.
Father and son shuffled off down the street, I hadn’t heard a single word from Otto, and I was left wondering just who his monologue was for, not Otto who plainly wasn’t listening, not me sitting behind him, or granddad. Perhaps it was for the people of Chiswick at large, part of a Chiswick symphony of braying, bragging and deep groaning self-satisfaction.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
He looked Latin American and was reading, O Americano Tranquillo, by Graham Greene. I thought of pointing out the irony of this to him, but I think it would have been wasted.
When I changed at Earl’s Court I sat next to another of them, not reading anything this time, just blank. I swapped seat to sit across from her and glare.