There are two periods I recollect as shaping the way I view the world.
Firstly, the summer after I took my GCSE exams, I spent most of that summer laughing until it hurt. I remember waiting in a Fish & Chip take away with my friend Mikey, both of us noticeably stoned. When our order came Mikey was knelt behind the counter, they called out for collection at which point Mikey slowly elevated himself, as if in an invisible lift. When he was finally fully standing, he proclaimed ‘ding!’ I pissed myself laughing.
The second period – another summer holidays – my dad gave me Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives to read. The book is almost as brilliant as Mikey’s elevator sketch and explores love, sex, death, violence, nationality, history, travel and all sorts but ultimately it is about reading. The scene that has always stayed with me is one where a lover realises her partner reads in the shower. Funnily when I later gave the book to Roddy (the ADAM & ELVIS drummer) he too picked this scene as significant. I suspect the reason is that both he and I have always liked the idea of being utterly devoted to the arts. Since reading The Savage Detectives Roddy has become a drum virtuoso, travelling the world, performing in several different bands and genres. I have become a pisshead who sings to babies for a living.
The first summer in question taught me the importance of fun and the second: that as long I read voraciously, then everything will be A-Okay.
I’m starting to think I might view the last eight weeks in a similar way. The big difference being that in the early summers it felt like everything was changing, when in truth I was just becoming a bit less thick. Now the world really is changing! How could it not? You tell people they can’t go out for two months and obviously the way people view the world will change.
There have been painful phone calls here at the call centre, voices wavering with disturbed vibrato as they relay rapes, child abuse, dead mums and dads, starvation and all manner of panic and anxiety. I should definitively say here that this is not some false claim to heroism, in between calls I recline in my chair, daydreaming, fingers bridged, imagining I am a highly sought after lawyer, confidently waiting to deliver my explosive address to the jury, winning my 700th case this month.
In truth it is quite nice here, but coronavirus has shone a light on how unjust a society we live in. On the train on the way to work it is largely BAME workers I sit with, forced back to work earlier than the rest and on public transport. If money can be found to renew Trident, surely some money can be found to extend furlough and Universal Credit schemes, for all citizens so people don’t have to go back to work and risk getting sick.
Although it has not been discussed much at the call centre, everyone is of course aware of the horrific murder of George Floyd and how it has driven many to become involved in protests here in the UK.
Maybe the lesson of this third influential moment in how I view the world is that I’ve had all my epiphanies. I know it, all my friends know it, England’s got a racist structure, there’s bastards dodging taxes and paying themselves in dividends and what not.
I’ve just finished Slavoj Žižek’s The Parallax View which asks some brilliant questions and offers very few answers, it even proclaims that doing nothing might be the best option. I think old Chomsky probably has it right, if you want to make a difference you have to try for quite a long time and keep focusing on finding and telling the truth. That doesn’t sound too bad, a bit like the call centre, put in a few hours each day trying to make the world a bit nicer and then when I’ve got a free moment I’ll go down The Windmill or The George Tavern and get properly tangled up in some naughtiness. I mean off my rocker, gurned up, shitting myself and chatting bollocks like it’s going out of fashion.
For now I’ll start with this list of 75 things to do to help support racial justice, do one a day: https://www.communitycommons.org/entities/9b0f805f-5d46-4636-9b74-2926363486d3