Things are getting scarier and scarier politically, both in the uk and all over the world. I know it’s a few days old, but I just came across This Channel Four news story about the tricks the Outists played and the lies Aaron Banks told. I had a break from all this shit while I was in India, but it really is getting sickening. How much clearer does it have to be that the Leave campaign cheated and told lies, and that Brexit is an act of geopolitical suicide. Brexit is a crime, nothing more, and no sensible community or state would let it continue.
I took myself up to the olympic park yesterday. It had been a while since I last went up there and I wanted to see how it was developing. But what I found myself being most struck by was the contrast between that part of London and where was a week or two ago. Compared to Delhi or Jaipur, say, it is quite staggering how clean and quiet London is. I would in fact go so far as to say that I even found it slightly disturbing. India has a huge, quickly developing economy; the wealth of it’s cities can’t be that different from those of the uk. Why, then, were Indian cities so underdeveloped? Why was the contrast so striking and stark that it is impossible to ignore? When I was in India, we saw vast swathes of crumbling buildings desperate for repair, either side terribly maintained potholed roads. Pavements were rare, steps frequent. Without someone like john there was no way I could have got around. Litter was everywhere. We could tell there was certainly money available because of the pockets of modern, stylish buildings of the kind you find in any modern european or american city; but these were amid seas of crumbling disrepair. I couldn’t work out why everywhere seemed so dirty, dusty and smelly – was it due to the climate? As I wrote here, that stark contrast, that juxtaposition, struck me as perverse. Moreover, even on a saturday afternoon with crowds heading for the West Ham football match, Stratford felt less busy than any indian street. There, tuktuks and mopeds surge down any and all alleyways no matter how narrow, so that you have to constantly look out. Compared to that, London feels startlingly tranquil and well maintained.
The question is, why? Why should there be such obvious disparities, both between european/american and Indian cities, and within Indian cities theirselves? There’s obviously plenty of money in the Indian system, it’s just not going to the places which need it. That’s what I find perverse. The money is going to places where the Indian government know visitors will go instead of being used to help their own communities. It’s as if they want to keep a facade of a modern, urban, economic superpower up while allowing everything behind it to fall apart. Of course, that part of east London only looks like it does due to being transformed for the 2012 olympics, but even so no part of London looks like the widespread disrepair I saw in India. London’s roads and infrastructure, as with the vast majority in the uk, is well-maintained and clean, whereas in Delhi and Jaipur there was dirt, dust and rubbish almost everywhere. I simply couldn’t work out why it was like that, and why there were such disparities. Coming home has really brought that contrast into focus.
I couldn’t help wondering yesterday whether being awarded something like an Olympic games, or a major international sports or cultural event, could somehow help India: maybe it would provide authorities there with an incentive to drop the facade and tidy up a bit. It certainly helped in Stratford, after all. There are so many wonderful things there, such as the ashram at Rishikesh, which are just being left to fall apart, while large, modern, glass and metal buildings are being put up elsewhere to give the appearance of a modern twenty-first century superpower. That is a disparity and an illusion which I found quite troubling, to be honest.
I still want something awesome to associate with Sir David Attenborough. That probably sounds a bit weird, so I’ll explain. I now have incredible things or memories which complement most of the things I’m into in terms of the media. For instance, for Star Trek, I have the fact I went to the 2014 Destination Star Trek London Convention and met Sir Patrick Stewart; for Monty Python, I have the memory of going to their 2014 reunion show, and for James Bond; I have his meeting with the queen in 2012 (it had been too long since I mentioned that on here). I still think all these things are incredible; they act as my personal crowning glories for the associated fandom. Now, though, I want something just as cool to associate with Sir David Attenborough.
I once, ages ago, blogged that I thought Attenborough should have appeared in one of the 2012 ceremonies. As they included my favourite song, wizard and physicist, I thought the greatest natural history tv presenter was definitely worthy of the same esteem. The question was, what could Attenborough have done? I still think he deserves that type of enormous tribute. I have been watching his new Netflix show, Our Planet, and it seems to me that no other TV personality or presenter comes close to his astonishing career: well over sixty years presenting some of the most beautiful natural history programmes ever created. Everyone has grown up with his warm, knowledgable voice describing natural wonders most of us would probably never see; he’s a massive part of our joint cultural heritage. If that isn’t worthy of some kind of massive tribute, I don’t know what is.
The question is, of course, what kind of tribute could Sir David be given? It should definitely be of the order of an olympic ceremony appearance, but I can’t see the UK hosting the Olympic Games again any time soon, so that’s a non-starter. But it wouldn’t really be fitting anyway: the tribute I’m thinking of would be culturally enormous, yet in keeping with Attenborough’s devotion to science and nature. When 007 escorted the queen to the olympic opening ceremony, it attested to the Bond franchise’s position within British culture, but it was also in keeping with the character – a spy on her Majesty’s secret service. There must be some way to make a similarly resounding statement about Sir David Attenborough in keeping with his devotion to the natural world. Of course, it was good to see a great big research vessel named after him (even though Boaty McBoatface would have been a far more amusing name), but I think we need some sort off grand, national event honouring him too..
Sir David deserves some sort of awesome cultural event associated with him, other than, of course, his peerless body of natural history programmes. When the Monty Python team reunited in 2014, it said something about their standing as possibly the nation’s greatest comedy act ever; the fact I was actually able to go and see them still fills me with joy. The fact that Stephen Hawking was in it made it even cooler for me. What I need and what the nation needs now is a similarly brilliant memory associated with sir David Attenborough.
I didn’t think I’d post an entry today, but I just came across this piece of absolute genius. While I haven’t yet found who to correctly attribute it to, Opinion Rhapsody is both hilarious, and a spot on comment on how tense and fraught online debate is becoming. It really is getting frightening how angry everyone now is – it isn’t just me. I suppose the anonymity the web gives us allows us to depersonalise the people we are debating with. The danger comes when such tension and anger seeps into the real world, as it increasingly seems to be doing. It’s good to see that some people to make creative, witty comments about it though.
I’m back taking my usual powerchair cruises around south-east London, but what I find most striking now is how clean and well-kept it all is. After seeing a bit of India, I can’t help but be struck by how little litter there is, how none of the buildings look like they’re about to fall down, and by how fresh the air smells. In Delhi and Jaipur, say, the roads were totally unmaintained and most of the buildings looked decrepit. As I mentioned here, there are a few modern, stylish buildings, but they are surrounded by seas of crumbling concrete. Some say it’s due to the Indian caste system, with everyone expecting someone else to take responsibility for the maintenance, but my return to well maintained London streets really has put it into sharp focus for me. I used to think Woolwich, with it’s famous market, was quite grubby and bustling, but I trundled through it with ease along the type of pavements I never saw in India. Believe me, compared to Delhi, London is staggeringly clean, quiet and small.
As a science fiction fan, I hope this will give the country it’s collective smile back. “The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.” Apart from Holst (obviously) they are also planning to have a sci-fi concert. I really hope they play a few of my old favourites, particularly the theme from Star Trek The Next Generation – how cool would that be.
I had been feeling quite tired today, until a good, strong dose of caffeine about two. I think my Indian adventure has caught up with me. Despite that, the urge to travel has already returned: last night’s news about Notre Dame made me reflect upon how long it has been since I last visited Paris, and I now want to go there as soon as possible. It is still one of my favourite cities, and to see one of it’s greatest buildings on fire last night was so sad. It’s only a couple of hours away by train, which is nothing compared to the journeys I’ve been taking recently, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t head down there sometime soon. Mind you, I think I need a bit more rest before going anywhere again.