(a spoken word piece which employs the cheap trick of rhyme to entertain)
Eight hours of daylight here, on the shortest day of the year.
The air is crisp, cold. The sky is bright, blue, clear – not quite the deep azure hues common to a Scandinavian atmosphere, but still unique, rarified. Edge closer to the equator and the sky pales, as it becomes wide.
I get on my bike to make the most the day; as soon as it gets dark I tend to hibernate. We’re still animals, I guess. My best friend bleeds to the moon, and a lack of sunlight tends to make both of us depressed.
I cycle along the canal. It must be freezing on the barges. Two years ago, all the wood went missing on park benches in a particularly cold snap. I can imagine boat people’s guilt at damage to public property, before acquiescing to frozen synapses, crying “Fuck it. It’s bitter!” and pulling out their axes.
But today’s not so bad; the wind bites. It’s nothing if, like me, you’ve discovered the joy of tights. I pass through the trees, now naked except for the most tenacious of leaves, in Victoria Park; cut back on the canal through to Broadway Market.
Every second dude I pass has got a full length bush on his face. Under my breath, I exhale, ‘Cunt’. I imagine cutting off their beards with a pair of garden shears, under the auspices of the Beard Liberation Front. “BLO!”
A second later I regret the violence in my thought flow, and reflect upon the paradox of gentrification. We created the beast and then we fed it. We’re all a part of making it happen, but no one wants to take the credit.
I’m visiting friends in their studios. I bump into Mariko Montpetit in the lift. Japanese heritage, Canadian born, London for twenty years or so.
I pop into see Loonie and Chris. She’s Korean and he’s Irish. Both writers – he’s famous, writes illustrated books for kids. I love the way that she’s picked up the Dublin mannerisms of her man, which bleed through her Korean accent; when she likes something, she says, ‘Deadly’, or sometimes ‘Grand!’
Niko and Catia have popped round with their new-born child, all of six weeks. She’s Italian, he’s Greek. She’s on maternity leave, a psychotherapist from Great Ormond Street; he’s a film maker, and has carved himself out a nice little niche; he’s the go-to goy for bar mitzvah films (his crew are documenting three Yiddish rights of passage as we speak).
This is London. Mix up, mash up, ever since the eighties, but even more so lately; the schools I teach in hardly have any English-born white kids at all, and I celebrate that fact with hardly suppressed glee; when those kids come of age, they will have bypassed the struggles with identity that befit the modern nation, as we come to terms with the benefits of migration; the pros of globalization. An ever expanding tribe; just in time, for empathy towards those across the great divide will need to be running high, when millions start to die from the shit we’re pumping into the chain of supply.
The five of us shoot the shit. We haven’t caught up in a while. All of us hustling, struggling, building; funny how life changes when your friends start having children. Pop into see more friends next door; Indigo is with Ananda, his best friend. They’re in the middle of a chemistry experiment. They met when they were collecting awards for films they made; Jesus. Ananda is ten, Indigo is eight! I get out of there quick smart; I want to catch the last of daylight in the park.
The sun sets in the sky like a low hanging fruit, grasped by finger-like clouds. I navigate through crowds, making their way to a winter wonderland; hear someone call my name. An old friend I haven’t seen in a while – London-born Polak, Pete.
We shoot the breeze as buildings flame orange and peach. He points out that we’re next to a sewer, pumping all of North London’s effluence to the sea. We chat about a future where everything humans make – all of our waste – has no negative impact upon either the environment, or humanity. We reflect on the fact that we won’t be around; Pete muses, “Such is the human condition.” Instead, we’ll be witness to a generation coming to terms with everything our species has gained, and paradoxically the damage we’ve caused, through the economics of exploitation and competition.
We stop for a drink in a pop up bar in Hackney Wick. Pete sips a half pint of London ale; I drink mulled cider, made from pears. The sky’s now tinged with precious metal streaks.
While I suggest that home is situated in the moments people share, Pete argues that we are most at home in the languages we fluently speak.