Signs of Spring?

I can’t help thinking that if Keir Starmer were a groundhog, he’d be the sort that always saw a shadow. There appear to be no limits to caution. We are living through the beginnings of the breakdown of human civilisation – the pandemic is not an aberration, the environment is unravelling and the old normal is gone, not in temporary abeyance, gone – and- faced with a government that is as venal as it is incompetent – all he can dredge up as a vision of a way forward in his big reset speech on Thursday is Business, Bonds and Britain. The reporting on this is back to the old parliamentary gamesmanship of it being a bad idea for an opposition to come up with a good idea in case the government adopts it. Which is an odd way to think. If you have a good idea, wouldn’t you want the government of the day to adopt it, rather than squirrel it away on the off chance that it will be you that gets to implement it four years too late? Of course, this presupposes that any idea that will be presented is within a range narrow enough to be promoted by either potential governing Party; which is where we are now. And why the venom directed at the previous Labour leadership was so over the top and unrelenting; because its ideas went beyond that narrow range and made it possible to imagine that the way things have been don’t have to be the way things will always be – world without end, forever and ever, Amen. As they say on middle management courses, “Always do what you always did, and you’ll always get what you always got”.

Outside the Chemists – one of the places I go to to socialise these days – there is a sudden, powerful smell of blossom. It is unseasonably warm in the way that is becoming expected. Looking round to see where it is coming from I spot a single daffodil and I become disproportionately happy.

The Eastern European saxophone bloke outside Morrisons is playing his usual variety of disconnected riffs; mixing up echoes of Glen Miller’s American Patrol with a snatch of Klezmer, a bit of bebop from Charlie Parker with the odd standalone note like a mournful car horn. Its like Elena Ferrante’s notion of Frantumaglia – that life and our minds are a whirl of fragments that don’t make sense but echo things that do – and seems the perfect accompaniment to the street scene on the Edgware Road – busy, but fragmented, everyone doing variations on the same things, but now more self consciously socially fragmented and keeping a wary distance from each other; which – now that that alienation is conscious – makes even the most reticent of us talk to each other more at times, at the check out, at the disinfection station.

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