In the Green

"I'm not sure when the idea of London started becoming a problem for me, when I started to doubt that the city existed. I can look back and see the process unfolding, but it is impossible to put a date on it. Reading too many London novels may have had something to do with it..."

Stewart Home, 'Memphis Underground'

Odd things had started to seep into even our media-deprived consciousness. On the front cover of the London Lite was a blurry, grey-green image of an anthropoid figure, caught on cheap camera-phone somewhere, apparently, on the Hackney Marshes. Emerging from a small crop of overgrown nettles and bracken, the figure stared directly into the camera, pixellated eyes making contact with my own as I gripped the paper in my hands, the bus crawling through Tuesday traffic toward Old Street. The image was jostled by large, obnoxious print; some new declaration regarding the actions of minor, surgically altered celebrities. A cultural detritus soon to be swept away by what I could feel was coming. Olympian folly and the disruption that had come with it had destabilised something, the world now felt less steady underfoot. Instability infected the air. Vision flickered. The London Lite image fixated me, my mind afloat on a tidal wave of imagery that ran from Jack-in-the-Green to Cerunnos the Horned God, the Green Knight, woodwose, sprite, Sheela-na-gig, a whole pantheon of dank, woody gods and spirits that only existed in my old books of mythology; books I had pored over as a child, mixing the mythologies with that of bad fantasy novels.

A child had been found dead in the River Lea, barely one hundred metres from the beginning of the Olympic Site, the tiny body desecrated, the child’s name trotted out as grief-pornography in the national press for months after the event. No killer, no evidence, nothing. I dismissed with over-enthusiastic rationalism the enthusing of various friends, heavily into psycho-geography and theories of occult capitalism, who became drunk on theories that the land itself was revolting against the new capitalist temples being built upon it, that this was a warning. Grindylow really did swim in the Lea, if only one looked for them. So they said. Bullshit, I said again and again.

Jerome laughed off the image when I showed it to him.

Cerise and The Poet took it more seriously. Cerise had been recording the graffiti and the actions of the NSM, attempting to order the chaos, lock it down in a sensible pattern, an art project, an installation maybe. I saw fear in her actions. The Poet, he had hinted, was involved to some extent. I never knew whether to believe him. Maria, I felt, must have got involved somewhere along the line. As the reality we thought so stable began to buck and shudder my rational mind retreated, assaulted by barbarians of myth and terror, our lives becoming allegory for people to read and extrapolate meaning from.

Sometimes I tried to lose focus and see the city I knew was buried beneath what my eyes could register, the world as it could be, a shining urban Arcadia, a beacon of hope to inspire the world and the world’s dispossessed would flock here not through desperation and fear but with hope, welcomed with arms outstretched. Multiculturalism as it should be. No fear, hatred, division. I could see this city I hope for in the reflection on the water of the Regents Canal, the Hertford Union, the River Lea, the Thames itself. It was forever out of reach, inhabited only by the fauna of mirrors. My doppelganger would smile at me through a distorted, flickering barrier, and I would envy him with murderous hatred.

But this was where I was, and I had to deal with that. Murderous reality was pressing in.

The NSM were on the move, and I had to make a choice to make a difference and fight for something better, sense the seachange or be buried under history’s rubble. It was sink or swim. Time to make that great leap forward, to create a new lexicon that we could call our own or be bound forever to the past by the language of our ancestors.