Life During Wartime





A pair of jays in the trees, seen through the dirty glass of a tube train delayed near Golders Green. Behind them, Hebrew signage.

Goldfinches flit on metal fencing that grows out of the rubble where Colindale Park meets the humming train line. A crushed Fanta can in the dirt. Commuters, harried looks, rushing by, ignorant of the incandescent avians.

Beery conversations, angry shouts over Holocaust memory, the gender of trees, men talking over women. The theoretical abyss of feminist males.

Anarchy daubed in white emulsion on old redbrick.

Discussions of American interpretations of street punk and Oi! An alternative anglophilia. I warm to them as people, Americans that are better than their country deserves. We laugh over Judge Judy played at half-speed, at how they can’t interpret a Yorkshire accent with any degree of accuracy.

A vegetarian BBQ within sight of Suicide Bridge, talking performance art, failed relationships, skinheads and drunk punks in Blackpool, literature and vegan sausages. Heavy dub on the stereo. 

I think the city and I are done, too many broken promises and disappointments on both sides, but then it pulls me back. I fall in love every day.

Traveller boys play football with the Muslim kids on Stoke Newington Common well into gloaming evenings. Hasid families look on from the playground. We smoke, drink and mutter about multi-cultural Britain. Plan what intoxicants we’ll be purchasing later.

Mixing with an older literati up in the leafy hill-burbs of Highgate. Trying to get a foot on a ladder. Perhaps a slight guilt building, but also a coalescing of what I want to do, want to be. What I am. 

Conversations with Yiddisher Hackney boys from the anarcho-punk days help solidify the ideas that I don’t have to play anyone else’s game. I won’t forget who my parents were. I do not want to be middle-class, though fear I may be. A time will come where a line may have to be drawn.

Standing in a field, deep in Flanders in a Belgium now ungoverned. Everything seems to be working fine. A festival of near exclusive US punk and hardcore. A glut of straightedgers, no drugs to be found. The queue for the half litre beers is tiny, only full of the English desperate to approximate a pint. The Europeans and Yanks are all happy with their little beers, and they queue for the privilege. In that moment, we feel uncomfortably bound to our country. I see a back-patched Leftover Crack fan sip from a plastic flute of cava. We witness genuine legends. 

I think punk rock and I are done, too many broken promises and disappointments on both sides, but then it pulls me back. I fall in love every day.

The background noise is this: anomalous monarchs celebrate their longevity, and idiots applaud, celebrating their own oppression. The mass media shows its true poisonous effect – all consuming coverage and yet…a million may cram the banks of the ancient river, yet they are the minority. We, the people, enjoy the time off, sleep off hangovers, do whatever it is that we want to do. We are the majority, the republican and the indifferent. Shame on the BBC. 

The Olympic flame, we discover, will head on down the road on which we live.
Hackney as filtered through Jay Z is on the telly. We sigh and shout at the box over our dinners. 

This is life during wartime. Slowly the network is expanding, though, a few people who think and feel the same coming together. Leafing through urban texts, post-psychogeographical tomes, in a derelict dentist’s on the Chatsworth Road. Friendships get formed or strengthened. We all know each other through someone else, the pool is small but it is growing. It gives hope during wartime. You reclaim a sense of self and realise you never wanted to be an individual, not really, but part of something. Something that you create in collaboration with others like you. You realise you can’t buy your way out of a problem. 

People, physical people in a digital world, may be the answer.

            I fall in love every day.