DAY 2.15 Thoughts on the incompetence and venality of the care agencies

April 9th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

This is simply a rant which takes off from the fact that I, an 82-year-old pensioner, am supposedly being looked after by ‘care agencies’, who are meant to provide up someone who turns up in the morning, washes me and makes me presentable. In return for this they are supposed to pay the careworkers a living wage plus assuring they work to a sensible timetable None of this id currently taking place.

DAY 2.11.3. The Beginning

April 2nd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Because so many times before today (23rd March, 2016), it’s felt like the end, surely now it’s time for a new beginning. As the joker said to the thief, there must be some way out of this; but I can’t even begin to imagine what it can be.

Here I am, holed up in a not overgenerous kitchen, trying to compose my thought in what is arguably the biggest disaster to overtake the planet. (There may be other planets and other disasters, but they don’t concern me right now.)

About not knowing what to write

April 2nd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Here we enter a bit of a mishmash of posts: A poem on a lonely country


Here I am in a lonely country

the streets are not my friends

nor are those two dishevelled men I just saw (one thin, one too old to describe)

who are coming to meet me –

with pleading? with menace?

Who are you I say, it’s a sort of question

Here where questions seem to be a bit too difficult or too

direct. I don’t know what I might expect them to answer.

And indeed, they don’t, looking sideways as if to emphasise

how alone we are, each of us.

Self-isolation is a word which encompasses my loss

My loneliness; enforced, And which shows that I’m not talking

about a condition of my own; but one which, right now,

Is on, is over all of us. Who imposed this on me?

Why is this lonely landscape, with its dreadful inventions

all around? The thin man seems to be crying.

In fact, I think he can’t contain some sort of terror



Poem 1.

March 29th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

I thought I’d lost this poem, and maybe I had. But luckily a hard copy was (perchance!) lying on the printer; so with great pain – and what else do I have to do these days? – I retyped it and I”m posting it to recall my days as PC4R admin.

Palm Sunday

Ahmed is messaging me stressing about his phone credit

And I’m stressing too, frying eggs and aubergine

At the same time.

Ahmed’s in Cosenza, good for him

His documents are OK, I’ve got his location

And number, but from his photo

It looks like he’s in a safe house. Can you show me a picture

Of where you sleep? Of the door? Of the outside? Keep an eye

On that slice of aubergine, it’ll burn. The admins don’t like the pic

though the house isn’t safe to Ahmed.

How long since he got fished up in Catania? and got his papers…

The NGO threw him out a week ago, now he stays with a friend

On the floor of a room (with a door). Coffee’s ready, drink it quickly.


If you go to Bethany, you’ll find a colt;

Say the lord has need of him. (Bethany, al-Azariya

Where they shot the girl Abir four years ago at a bus stop.)

Take the colt and bring it; I’ll ride to Jerusalem

Never mind the checkpoint, the people will shout

And the admins say

Ahmed’s borderline but just this time OK. Hosanna! Oh Sir thankyou please please

Can it be. quick

I need to call my mother in Raqqa


Lucky Marko the Eritrean, he’s in La Spezia;

Escaped across the desert, tortured in Libya; washed up in Lampedusa

Requested protection;

A minor, Dublin, can I translate his documents?

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord.

His sister’s in France, his guardian’s done the paperwork

He can catch the plane. But the Turkish army

Are planning to enter Sinjar , God’s gone west again

Three quarters destroyed already, two doctors left.  Millennia ago

These people worshipped peacocks.

You can bet the story’s nowhere near its end of endless

Heroes and heroines and butchers


So we listen and watch and share the human lives and deaths

As they cycle mindlessly for ever.

Do you believe? In what?


DAY 2.14 Conjunctions

December 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink


(A rendition of ‘dancing till dawn, see below) among which I, like many others, count ‘and’ ‘but’, ‘because’, ‘moreover’. and so on. Accordingly, this afternoon (to change the subjcct, at least partially), I improved my life dramatically by changing the picture which I’m forced to look at while (now there’s another conjunction) I bicycle, on my ‘exercise bike’. It (I mean the picture) was a particularly dreary contemporary bunch of flowers; but I persuaded a kind friend (I still have them) to climb the stairs, an exercise which is far beyond my capabilities, and come back with a photographic report of what lay hidden there; which included a first-class example of the genre  of Chinese ink paintings of rushes. It’s beautiful, and now proudly installed in its place opposite my bicycling seat. But all the same, I have to worry about the reported absence of conjunctions from Quechua, who had, naturally, to borrow them from the conquistador, or Spanish invader. They had previously got by, I’m told, with juxtaposition, which I imagine must have done for most purposes. Still, how did they manage to explain that ‘Sophie is clearly exhausted, yet she insists on dancing till dawn.’? My Quechua isn’t up to it, and I have to choose between at least eight variants of the language – I’m surprised that they still have that many, given the extermination of the speakers by the Spaniards. You have to begin by exclaiming (which I’m increasingly doing) ‘Don’t use this vocabulary; it will lose what brain cells you still have left!!’ I’m confronted by the image of a strange universal plague which has arrived – from China, not surprisingly – to attack me and my household with some loss of any or all abilities to carry out even the most rudimentary tasks. Here we are, isolated in our corner of North London, a million miles from Wuhan (how are they off for interjections there?)

DAY 2.13 Interjections

December 13th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Which seem to be the most appropriate part of speech for this dreadful morning. How could we have arrived here? I cast my mind back to the afternoon in 2015, which I’ve perhaps too often referred to, when I marched with
many others to welcome refugees (I didn’t get to Trafalgar Square, but that’s rather the way things are these days); and at some level set the course of my further life, what was left of it. Before the march started, a great roar told us that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected leader of the Labour Party. And in the course of the next two weeks I was to find myself integrated in a raggle-taggle army of much younger militants, traipsing between London and Calais, enlisted for the refugee cause. And I, and my friends, and the refugees are still there (in some sense) and will not be moved for all the actions of states to displace us; the Labour Party, which has been through so much from Keir Hardie to Benn to Blair will probably remain there, waiting for the revolution.

If you look up ‘Wow’ on Wikipedia, you’ll find that it’s an interjection which has an incredibly complex cluster  of meanings, and one could perhaps borrow one or more to express one’s feelings this morning. (One could also say ‘Shit’, as I did first thing this morning, or use various Anglo-Saxon words relating to sex or bodily functions; and I have been fairly free with them from time. to time.)

So, what should I say about my feelings on this momentous day? Raising my eyes as much as was possible from the immediate mêlée, I tried to focus on the more long-term questions, in particular the ‘Green New Deal’ in New York. It is, after all, important to remember that the real questions are only answered over decades if not centuries.

DAY 2.12. The next thing?

December 9th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

My dear friends lately persuaded me that the best cure for my late night insomnia was a subscription to a film streaming website; and recommended particularly a site by the name of ‘MUBI’. Indeed, one can spend a couple of peaceful hours after midnight watching something a bit soporific which one could enjoy. However, I found, after a short time, that MUBI in particular tended to be less than perfect; relying as they did heavily (at that period) on obscure Latin American family dramas which at the late hour already mentioned simply confused me. It’s true that the gamut. of films available is far wider, allowing one to hope that some day La Chinoise or La Regle du Jeu.would turn up. And indeed, the other day I was rewarded by being allowed to see Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, which in my humble opinion has got to be the nicest film I’ve seen in a long time, and atones for MUBI’s many goofs. I must urge you to watch this idyllic story of a bus driver (who is also a poet) and his wife, who aims to become a star cupcake baker and country singer. He’s called Paterson, and they live in Paterson N.J., immortalized by William Carlos Williams. His poems are
brief and  lovely; his wife Laura is constantly urging him to preserve them and his failure to do so leads to eventual disaster at the hands of the odious dog which unaccountably both Paterson and Laura are attached to. I won’t reveal the dénouement, but the way Jarmusch explores it is enchanting. I strongly urge you to watch it as soon as you can.

DAY 2.11 The end.

December 3rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

I, like many of my readers I expect, have got thoroughly tired of hearing apocalyptic warnings about how soon the planet is going to run out of its resources, (they must have started about fifty years ago) and I’m impatiently awaiting the day when the powers that be (who are they?) will announce that the planet has indeed finally run out of everything; and we can stop being in a state of red alert, because there is NOTHING LEFT TO DO! Despite all the best efforts of pigtailed Scandinavian teenagers, the Earth has run its resources into the ground, figuratively speaking, and we can just carry on partying, snorting coke, playing old Led Zeppelin tracks etc. I would get the current president of the USA to support me in this position, but I don’t think he has the intellectual rigour.

DAY 2.10 Verbs

December 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

a subject which has been rather a lot on my mind lately. Why? Compared with elections or shipwrecks or revolutions, verbs might seem to occupy a relatively small space in the public consciousness, although in their defence it could be pointed out that you can’t do much or indeed anything without them. But here they are, ever-present with their conjugations and stuff. I’ve been particularly preoccupied by the parallel between Nancy Ajram’s عم بتلعق فيك شوي شوي وعم حس بحني‘and Sappho’s Fragment 31. Both present the speaker as paralysed, in a sense, by the loved one’s presence. Immediately after posting I got one of those entirely justified complaints about the lack of translation: to which I had to respond



DAY 2.9 Report from the field

November 11th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

and it’s 11 November, which is widely celebrated (eg in France) as Armistice Day. I’m not clebrating much. I decided to skate lightly over hackneyed WW1 poets like Rupert Brooke, and zeroed in on the major Serbian writer Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj; who seems, dauntingly, to have written apart from some of the main poems in the Serbian canon, an analysis of turbulence which is a pretty tough nut to crack even if you aren’t a Serbian poet. […’The book will be a valuable resource for those who choose to make a research career in turbulence..’] Was this by the same Zmaj? I pass over my rich resources on Roma resettlement in Belgrade, which is obviously high on the list of Serbian problems for the human rights lawyer if not for the student of turbulence; one feels that the position of the Roma hasn’t advanced substantially since the day when Gavrilo Princip decided he ought to give history a nudge by shooting an archduke in Sarajevo.

Roma girl in Belgrade.

Well, it might be quite turbulent if you choose to look at it that way.]

But all this, in case you hadn’t guessed, is merely an excuse for introducing a poem I was sent following an appeal on behalf of ‘Phonecredit for Refugees’ (PC4R on your facebook page) for users’ accounts of their experience with the charity:

my truth

when I was little and lived in Africa
in the village with my mom,
one day I stole a coin and hid it
in my panties, my mother looking
for that coin, asked me if I had taken it myself?

I answered with a dry no.
we were out on the open veranda
with my friends.
my mother approached me,
stroked me and pulled my underpants down
and the coin fell down to the floor,
toppling down and up.
from that day the truth appeared
to me as a light, I understood
that one cannot escape the truth.

a few years later I left that village
bringing that feeling of feeling
the truth and telling the truth,
I pursued my truth, it became my freedom,.

my truth is to be a person who speaks with freedom
about herself telling her story without fear
because only my story is my truth …

my truth is to be a person who speaks gently
and kindly to others because only in this way
will I be able to transmit the power of truth …

my truth is to include people in my intimacy
because only in this way will I be able to open my heart …

my truth is that of giving people the chance to love me

By Landry Affton from Ivory Coast – Change the Word Coventry

Illustration byMajid Adin

I think that says it all.