Diary

By 26th September 2015 COMMENT, Issue 5 No Comments

In Harlesden

As I was running along Harlesden High Street I heard a commotion – raised voices, a man shouting at a woman. What had happened was a mother was arriving 15 minutes late to the spot where the school bus service agreed to meet her and her daughter. The man shouting was the driver. The woman seemed unconcerned at the inconvenience her and her child’s lateness had caused the bus driver and its other passengers not to mention those children and parents waiting down the line.

Despite her insouciance there is something horrible about a man shouting at a woman. I seriously doubt that he would have dared shout at a man in the way he did at this mother.

The bus driver had blocked the way of an articulated lorry, which in turn had by now blocked the route of perhaps 250 cars. The bus driver could have moved forward ten yards, but he didn’t. He was damned if he would.

The only person to come out of the affair with any credit was the lorry driver, who sat gazing down on these troubled humans with a wry smile and infinite patience.


After reading Slazov Zizek

Is your green the same as my green – or yellow or purple? When you say the sky is blue is your blue the same as my blue? These perceptions of the manifestations of light are just that – perceptions made by the cerebral cortexes of individual humans. We can have no way of truly knowing if that green field is the same to you and me. Perhaps the question is redundant. Perhaps it is of absolutely no importance that one man’s green is another man’s purple (or pink). This paradox is one which art transcends and by art I mean fictional writing.

Ordering words in a certain way and placing them in a certain context ensures that whoever takes in those words will share the experience with another who also reads those same words. These two people may have varying responses to the words but there will be no question of the material being perceived differently by either on a purely neurological, mechanistic level.

In the case of the apprehension of words (visually or aurally) eyes (or ears) and brain are, together, restricted in function to the sole purpose of absorption and compression of shapes (or sounds) that, when ordered and formatted in a certain way, are meaningful to everyone who is able follow these rules. All that is left to the reader once this process is achieved is to combine these learned shapes with their own ‘humanity’ or sense of themselves in order to derive what meaning these squiggles or sounds convey.

For this reason, I believe, writing (and reading or listening) is the one truly universal method of communication for mankind.

On the tube at Holborn

The doors of the Central line tube open. A well dressed Muslim girl in hijab waits as the doors open. Instead of getting off, however, her doppelgänger is waiting to get on. The embarking girl is dressed identically, including the handbag (although her’s is white while the other’s is pink). This is the only physical difference easily visible between them.

The two girls greet each other very affectionately. They are identical twins. They know how to meet each other each night on the tube. They know where to stand in the carriage and on the platform. They ride as far as Bond Street and leave the train talking continuously without breath.


In Hatton Garden

A couple sit in front of a desk behind which sits the jeweller. The woman (clearly the fiancé of the man) is Asian – perhaps Philippina. Her intended is clearly white English, middle-aged. She is looking at a ring which she has placed on her wedding finger. It’s a sparkler. Even at some distance I can see the glint and crash of the diamonds facets. I can also sense the deep admiration she has for the ring as she turns it this way and that allowing the magic of the cut stone to dazzle and confuse her eyes.

As she lovingly regards the ring the salesman (his name is Brian) punches numbers into a calculator with thick fingers. Wordlessly he holds the screen up to show the husband to be. A flicker of something registers on this man’s face which Brian recognises and to which he responds with a similar facial tic. There is a dead moment that lasts for a second or an hour – I couldn’t tell you.

The man prepares himself. Face drawn taught he says “Sweetheart?” She looks at him – breaking away from the dazzle, refocusing. He continues: “It’s more than we agreed, darling. Much more”. She swallows and there is a thud almost audible as a dream hits the floor. She nods assent.

Brian steps in. “What about this one? It’s more in your price range”. The bride places the first ring back on the black velvet pad and takes up the new, less prepossessing one. I leave as she tries to like the new one. Turning her hand one way and then the other, desperately trying to like the ring.


The Wisdom of Erin

Dermot is an Irishman of 60 odd years who works as a building manager in Kilburn. He lives around the corner from me and can often be found pissed outside a Portuguese bar drinking brandy with lumps of ice. I run into him in the off license from time to time. On a recent evening I met him there as he was paying for two cans of high strength lager. One can was ‘15% extra free’ and the other was the smaller, regular size – both were priced £1. I asked Diarmid why he doesn’t get two that are ‘15% extra free’. He turns to me, taps his nose and says conspiratorially “Oim bein’ abstaymeous”

Senseless

We learn by using our senses, in particular our eyes and our ears. This is ‘analogue’ learning. In the future new information will be sent directly to our brains reducing the ‘ullage’ caused by distractions. Nothing but pure data will enter our minds, obviating the use of our eyes and ears. Necessarily we will become both blind and deaf.


From Singapore Airport

In a taxi from Changi Airport to centre of Singapore. 8.30am. The driver is listening to the breakfast show on a news station. Off-plan properties in ‘development areas’ in London being advertised in the breaks. Prices starting from £250,000…


Death in Singapore

In the Woodlands area of northern Singapore for a walkabout I pass a Buddhist funeral tent. These are often seen in high-density residential areas. There is a shrine and some offerings as well as pictures of the deceased with an open casket behind the shrine. On seeing no one around I walk in and take some pictures of the offerings and the tent.

Suddenly I notice a girl on my left and to my embarrassment I have also failed to notice two people quietly eating their breakfast at a table to one side. Presumably they have been sitting overnight in vigil ready for the ceremony later that day.

The Chinese girl, who may have been about twenty years old, looks up at me and asks, “Are you a friend of my father’s?”

I don’t know what to say.


A Hot Night in London

I am in a filthy mood and have not been very happy for sometime. Call it middle class/middle aged angst. Call it exhaustion. Call it whatever…

I am sitting in our tiny back garden which is flanked on three sides by other identically tiny back gardens.

Two gardens to my right (or thirty feet away) I can hear uproarious laughter. Children squealing with delight and older voices all shouting to be heard and having a great time. I know this family. The children’s father is serving 15 years for attempted murder and they are being brought up by his mother, their grandmother, who is recovering from a kidney transplant and works when she can as a carer.

ALEX SCHNEIDEMAN

Comments are welcome