DAY 249: Memories – Harping on a Knee

June 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

My sister, with het usual perspicacity, has suggested that I should keep a blog of my recent life, which has indeed been more than usually mouvementé. My knee – I hate to keep harping on it, and indeed to harp on a knee seems a fine metaphor for a time-wasting occupation – has been giving me much grief despite injections which the NHS, or one particular untrustworthy doctor, swore blind would have me leaping around and throwing away my crutches in seconds, has been grumbling away with increasing intensity; while in an attempt to sort out my parlous financial situation I’ve put myself in the hands of a lawyer (£10 for a phone call) and am trying to produce the usual statement of incomings and outgoings.This work(the statement, are you still with me? Thanks) is a fascinating mélange of fact and fantasy, the facts being the huge amounts spent on school fees and credit card repayments and the fantasies being things like £22 for school trips and video rentals. Do people read this garbage, and what do they do with it? I’ve nearly completed the statement, am waiting for the knee to get its act together, and for the lawyer who in my mind plays Germany to my Greece, the ant to my grasshopper, to wave a magic wand over my debts. And I’m trying to find an analogy between (on the one hand) the difficulties of an old man in Islington, beset with a sea of sorrows and lacking the courage to end them; and the state of Europe, or indeed the world, fenced in, detained,


Campsfield detention centre

ruled by authoritarian maniacs armed with every weapon from video cameras to drones to tear gas and ready to shoot teenagers on sight either if they are the wrong religion or simply (if in an American high school) out of a blind destructive urge. The analogy predictably doesn’t work. Only the pervasive despair does.

 Stories and politics

As usual, I’ve jumped into a debate without realising that it’s been going on for decades, and I probably need a decade of my own (which I don’t have) to catch up with the literature. About a week ago, my eye was caught by some stuff about possible new directions for Palestinian leadership on Al Shabaka; and (I think) in the same estimable publication, something about folk stories, or was it poetry? Which prompted the following brief interjection on Facebook:

‘Hysterics suffer from reminiscences [Freud]
History is a nightmare which I am trying to forget [Joyce]
I’ve been reading recent articles in ‘Al-Shabaka’: on reinventing Palestinian political institutions – yet again! – and on oral history. Somehow in my confused mind these come together, so that people earn a place in the political institutions according to their memories; as streets in Nablus’ Balata camp are named after lost towns or villages. This relates (partly) to the Home Office practice of giving you rights according to how we believe your ‘story’.
I feel that telling stories is currently a more hopeful practice than building institutions. Do the stories have to be credible?’

Apart from misquoting Joyce (‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’, but I think my version has some merits), I find – I surely knew – that the relation between Palestinian political institutions and memories has been endlessly debated over the last seventy, if not a hundred years. I could cite Laleh Khalili’s Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration, although that’s itself far from being the beginning. Palestine, that nation of refugees, has a vast library of refugee stories – literally. And to turn from the discouraging search for a better ‘leadership’ to the search for better stories, of which there are many, could be a much more creative use of the time we have left to us. I do try, in my feeble way, to help refugees have their stories believed; but surely the first step is that the stories should be heard.



DAY 248: Risotto

June 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

To move to a grander scale in the grand scheme of things, setting aside mass carnage in places too numerous to mention, human rights abuses ditto, the shooting of a clearly marked paramedic on the Gaza border by the Israeli occupation force, drownings including of children in the Mediterranean. East and West, it was only to be expected (as I have finally come to conclude) that the fragile fabric of the universe which there were a number of reasons to conclude was not as secure as we had thought  was indeed crumbling (has anyone written down the Grand Theory of Everything? Does the Higgs really do what it say on the packet?). Things, which I had thought persisted in space and time, were unpredictably vanishing. I could cite about three cases from today, but let’s restrict our attention to a packet of arborio rice which – naturally – I wanted in order to make a risotto. I’d cut up an onion and various herbs and started  some oil melting and stuff and – hey! Where was the rice?

A week ago, there was a nearly full pack (okay, only a pound,


but no one around here would have eaten it) in the rice-cupboard. Now there was nothing. Nor in any other cupboard neither. Could that amount of rice have dematerialised? Could it have been taken by bailiffs to settle some rather picayune debt of which I was unaware? I naturally – given my currently rather fragile nature, which in the asylum-seeking trade we term ‘vulnerable’, rapidly became reduced to a weeping gibbering wreck.

Like the rest of us I’ve passed through a fairly disciplined school system (it’s evolved over the years) which filters the youngsters so that they come out getting to ‘know’ things about the ‘world’ (note the scare-quotes). So that we’re deemed to know about French, or chemistry, or Marxism, if we know that the past subjunctive of ‘nous voyons’ is ‘nous vissions’, or that cadmium has two valency electrons, being a transition element in group 12 (I hope) of the periodic table, or that the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas. And not only would these ‘facts’ get you through your GCSEs, but they were ‘true’ and told you something about the ‘world’, which was safe and stable and wouldn’t go away. In particular, a packet of rice, if you put it in the cupboard, would stay in the cupboard unless there was some compelling reason for its disappearance.

[I should mention that this was the third in a series of such disappearances (or apparent disappearances) in twelve hours, and I was getting twitchy.] I wonder if Bishop Berkeley


had similar problems which unused him to doubt the reality of the material world. I know he didn’t exactly do that, but let’s suppose he did.

Of course eventually the rice turned up, next to the Shredded Wheat. I know rice is a cereal, but how could anyone have been so misguided as to put it there? I hesitated to turn inquisitor; I prefer to stick to my belief that the structure of reality is, in some essential way, fractured, and that causality had decided to take a holiday and play games with the rice. Jesus did it with
loaves and fishes,


it’s not too much to suppose that other kinds of food can mutate.

As I said, I found the rice and made the risotto. I can move on (or back) to the struggle and hope the universe will stay put for the time being.




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