I have noted on here before how living in London seems to skew one’s sense of geography and distance. As a kid I lived in Congleton, a small rural town up in Cheshire. There, I could tell how far a place was by how long one had to sit in the car to get there. For example, the nearest major town, Macclesfield, was about six miles away, which took about twenty minutes to half an hour. This also gave me a good sense of place. Yet because of the traffic and the road systems, hat rule does not hold true in London: I find myself having to adopt an entirely new mental approach to geography, my ability to roughly gauge distances having had to be disguarded.
To remedy this, I decided to do a simple exercise. In google chrome I opened two tabs, both with google earth. One was centred on Congleton, the other Charlton. Both, of course, had the same magnification level. What I found was rather cool, and drives home just how gigantic the city I now live in is. For example, Winsford, the town where I went to school for fourteen years, is to Congleton where Wembley is in relation to Charlton, or thereabouts. I remember it taking us about forty minutes to drive to school every day; I seriously doubt we could get to Wembley in that time. Romford is my new Macclesfield, but I daresay if I told Lyn we were going to Romford to do some shopping, she would look at me as if I had suggested we go to Timbuktu for our groceries. Thus London has this strange warping effect on distances: the distances between places bear no resemblance to the time it takes to get there; you could say it has its own rules when it comes to geography. On one level it struck me how big London is inasmuch as it is just one city, one place; yet on another level it is very small inasmuch as it is a self-contained world.
This is probably interesting only to me, and hardly worth noting. Yet it just strikes me as one of those oddities I have noticed. I suppose it’s just another of those instances where urban life skews one’s sense of perspective, and where another set of rules apply.
Yesterday I started to ponder something I decided to call Chronological transvestism. We all know that ordinary transvestism is when someone wears the clothes of the opposite gender – in common parlance, it usually refers to men dressing up as women. Chronological transvestism is completely different: it refers to boys dressing as men and girls dressing as women. When you think about it, it is from some perspectives justt as profound a subversion as ordinary transvestism, yet for some reason, I noticed yesterday, I find it very irritating.
Chopper and I had another of our stupid days yesterday. I might have known I was in for one of those when I rolled up to his place, just after noon; the first thing he did was offer me a beer. Mind you, this one was better than last time, as later Lyn came and joined us in the pub, and we had a fairly good evening. Anyway, earlier, on our travels around south-east London, I had seen a boy who can’t have been mire than twelve dressed as many of the older lads around here do: he was in the padded sleeveless jacket, tee-shirt and cap of a guy in his late teens or twenties. I know this is reverting to stereotype, but that look is associated with the violent, drug-filled culture of the urban male. The way in which this boy was seeking to emulate that look irritated me, although I’m not sure I can fully explain why. Of course, the boy just wanted to be like the older boys around him, but what does he know of that culture? What does he know of drugs and guns? It sort of felt like he was intruding on adulthood, pretending to be something he wasn’t.
Reading that last sentence back, it sounds silly, and indeed almost hypocritical. Yet part of me thinks that kids should be kids and should stop pretending to be more grown up than they are. After all, that kind of urban male culture is no place for a child. Replicating that culture, almost glamorizing it, perpetuates it, and, unlike the harmless donning of skirts and dresses, I’m not sure that’s such a good thing.
Hemingway once called London ‘too noisy and too normal’. He much preferred Paris or Havana, and other exotic places where one could chase women and be chased by bulls. But London to me is just as fascinating as those places: of course, they aren’t the same, but no two places ever are. London has a character of its own; one which you can only make out after you have lived here a while. Part of this character comes from the sheer size of the place: it’s so big that sooner or later you start thinking that London is the world and the world is London. It expands seemingly endlessly in every direction, not just geographically but culturally – there are people here from all over the world. The sheer expanse of this metropolis gives it the feel of a near-infinite labyrinth where there is always more to explore.
Lyn and I went to Bromley today, an area which I’ve only been to once, briefly before. We needed to get there early, so we took a taxi. On the way there, it occurred to me that even if I live here for the rest of my life, I’ll probably never know London in it’s entirety. I didn’t know what to make of that thought: I knew every nook and cranny of the small town I grew up in, but I can never know London that way so I cannot quite feel it is my own. But on the other hand I revel in it’s enormity: it seems endlessly varied, each sub-area having it’s own distinct feel so, as I say, it feels like a world unto itself. Thus, London may indeed be noisy, but it is never normal.
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”Letting this goal in proves our strategy is working.”
The blog entry I made yesterday was crap. It isn’t that now disagree with what I wrote in it, but it wasn’t nearly as incisive a it needed to be. I just didn’t go deep enough into the subject. Truth be told, I don’t think I have written anything particularly incisive on here in ages. It isn’t that I think all my recent blog entries are crap I’m quite proud of one or two, like my ‘Desert Island Disks’ entry – it’s just that they lack a certain depth.
Dad came over today: I always forget how astute my father can be. We had a good long talk about this and that; at one stage I felt like I was using him to catch up with what was going on in the world. The problem is I have fallen out of the habit of reading around subjects. Dad made the point that Abu Qatada hasn’t done anything wrong; he is a highly educated, very intelligent person with a particular interpretation of the Qor’an. He uses the Muslim writings to incite hatred and war. The problem the authorities face, my father explained, is that if they do deport this guy it would be due to what he says, which would run contrary to the liberal value of freedom of speech. Arguing theocratically with this guy isn’t an option either, because he can back up everything he says with chapter and verse. In a way he’s rather like these fire and brimstone televangelists in the states, spewing hatred and backing it up with the bible.
Thus this dilemma is far more complicated than my summery yesterday. Most such debates are far more intricate than can be detailed in a simple 200 word blog entry. Yet when you have something on your chest you jut have to get it off. My discussion with my father earlier today, however, reminded me that it’s sometimes worth taking a closer look, stepping back and thinking a while. Yu also need to talk to other people, and ask their opinions. I have long known that perfect, absolute truth is unobtainable; all you can do is ask others what they think. I’m not alone in not knowing what to think about Qatada – nobody does.
The problem then is they might argue that there is such a thing as perfect truth, as often happens when I start debating online. I am, perhaps, not as wise as my father, and get into these online debates with right-wingers who demand I tolerate their right to be intolerant. I recently got into ne such debate over ‘Spastic ballet’: when I pulled them up for calling it ‘disturbing’, I was told I have an ”inability to accept that people have different opinions from you”. In other words, I was wrong for not tolerating their intolerance; they had a right to express their judgementlsm over my expression of personality, yet I was wrong in being judgemental about their judgementalism. Now tell me, where’s the logic in that? And where’s dad when you need someone to talk some sense?
I just watched the news at six as usual, and I feel I ought to say something on here about the main story, simply because I feel so conflicted about it. We heard today that Abu Qatada is to be released from Long Lartin jail. This is a guy convicted of plotting terrorism; it is very likely that he still poses a threat to this country, yet, despite the fact that e is wanted on terrorism charges in Jordan, the government refuse to deport him. Now I can’t make my mind up about this: ordinarily I take the liberal left stance and say that he’s served his time so should be let be. One cannot be tried for crimes one is yet to commit. But on the other hand the guy is obviously dangerous. He has been convicted in a Jordanian court in his absence. Given that he poses so much of a threat to the people of this country, why not, for once, put their rights ahead of his? But then my lefty side chimes in and points out he probably wont get a fair trial in Jordan, and that we must uphold our civilised values no matter how much of a threat this guy is. And so I must admit, not for the first time, to being in two totally opposing minds about this: my liberals instinct against my concern for what this lunatic might do.
I just want to note the not unexciting news that Channel four has comissioned a series of I’m Spazticus. I don’t know too much about it, other than the fact it was a pilot of a disability-based comedy show with two of my associates, Toby Hewson and Simon stevens. The glorious original can be seen here. If, however, it is being turned into a full series, it is great great news – such comedy is a great way of fighting prejudice against disabled people.
A few days ago I posted a link on here to an article about a guy with muscular dystrophy who had taken his own life over the cuts. In that entry I speculated that it would be the first of many such cases, and it seems I might be right. I just came across this article about Paul Reekie, a scottish writer who also committed suicide after having his benefits cut. He left no note, but the benefits letter was laid on the table near his body. What a tragic waste of Life? I ope people see what the tories are doing – I hope they see what pain those tory scumbags are causing for people with disabilities. They need to be removed fromm power before their ideologicallyinspired cuts lead anyone else to such despair.
Lyn and I took a walk though charlton park this evening, where Marta took this picture. Again, I thought I’d share it on here.
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I just had a quick gander at this video at the new Lightwriter. To be honest I have major reservations about whether I would be able to use it. No doubt it would be good for other people who can use their thumbs, but it would be way too fiddly for people like me. I need something I can put on my lap or on a table, with fairy big keys I can press. However, as soon as I saw it I began to wonder whether it could also be used to kill Borg or Jem Hadar. That spawned an idea for my next YouTube film. Watch this space.