Here be Monsters?

Anyone who thinks that “respect” and “tolerance” are “Fundamental British Values” hasn’t spent a lot of time online. The review of Prevent by William Shawcross published on February 7th reflects the government’s alarm that referrals for right wing and racist views were beginning to outnumber referrals for Islamism by 2021. As well they might. Jihadist attacks have dropped off sharply. There have been none in the UK since 2019 and the ISIS Caliphate no longer casts any kind of bogus attraction to a community that has overwhelmingly grasped how malign it was, whereas there was a far right/Incel mass shooting of five people in Plymouth in 2021. Nevertheless, the Review has ruled out the growing concerns about the increasingly aggressive misogyny in Secondary schools, directed by boys influenced by the Incel movement against girls students and women teachers alike; even though it has increasingly gone beyond verbal abuse to violent attacks, killing 53 people across the world and injuring many more. By this definition, racism and misogyny are not worthy or referral, even though they are currently leading to the largest number of violent incidents and Prevent is supposed to be about stopping people being “radicalised” so that they commit such acts.

What’s quite overt about this is that racist views – by definition contrary to “tolerance” and “respect” – are considered by Shawcross and the government to be “mainstream right wing views” that are acceptable. Given that racist paranoia about “small boats” is one of the main knee jerk reactions the government is trying to hammer on to divert attention from its deplorable record in sustaining our living standards, not least by cutting the immigration of necessary workers, unless racism is taken out of the list of Prevent concerns, the government itself would have to be referred for grooming it.

Its hardly surprising that they should want to define themselves out of a situation in which, if Suella Braverman were in a classroom, she might find herself referred for the incendiary language that fuelled the people who firebombed refugee hostels in Knowsley and Dover. Braverman herself, who always comes across as someone living on the edge of nervous anger from having to control so many explosive contradictions in her own head with a rigid framework of far right paranoia, doesn’t seem to have twigged that the next step on from “Stop them coming” is “Send them back”. And, however much she tries to save herself by channeling pure gammon, the people she is winding up to violence won’t exempt her from the flights to Rwanda she says she dreams about.

The paradox of the government’s move is that it exposes Prevent as a divisive and “partisan” tool employed for limited political purposes, with some views demonised and others given official sanction, whether they contradict the FBVs or not. They are dropping the curtain and stand revealed. Here be monsters indeed.

Its a right of passage towards old age when someone young offers you a seat on the tube or a bus, which started happening a few years ago. When someone visibly middle aged does the same thing, as happened yesterday, you know you’re getting past it in a big way. What must I look like? And today, someone stopped their car to allow me across the road. OK, I was pulling a shopping trolley and wearing a mask, but I must be exuding a new level of decrepitude to bring forth such gratuitous courtesy.

This is the bust of late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts that’s been on display in Kingsbury Library for the last couple of months. Watts, who definitely got old before he died in 2021, grew up locally in a now demolished row of houses off Fryent Way and went to Tyler’s Croft, the Secondary Modern School off Roe Green Park that became part of Kingsbury High School when Comprehensivisation went through well after he’d left; and my kids went to well after that. He is one of two famous alumni. The other being James Hanratty; the last man in England ever to be hanged. I see that the new Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, would like to hang more people in the future on the invincible grounds that “nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed”. As an extra bonus, that includes all those innocent of the crime they were executed for.

The 183 bus route, run between Pinner and Golders Green in a striking display of cross border state ownership by the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) has now been electrified. It feels like riding inside the future. The buses arrive swiftly, swoosh to a halt, then accelerate off again smoothly; without picking up any of the bad vibrations, rumbling, juddering, boggler, boggling you get with a diesel engine. Smells better too. At present it will take TFL, which is very good by UK standards and at least publicly owned, about another ten years to electrify all 8,000 of its buses. Shenzen, in Southern China, did all 16,000 of theirs in 2016.

Which makes the current wave of Sinophobia doubly sad and dangerous. We have things to learn from each other but, instead, we get stories designed to make us fear. A feature of the recent past is how quickly stories that first show up on really whacked out far right sites – the sort of places that combine racism and imperial nostalgia with adverts for hemorrhoid cream, and feature Nigel Farage as an embodiment of all of them – find themselves on the front pages of our mainstream press within a week or two. This one, complete with weird capitalisation, “China finds SHOCKING WAY to spy on you – and they’re already in your KITCHEN!” was replicated in the slew of headlines this week implying that use, in anything, of technology made by Chinese companies would allow surveillance by the CPC. This is weird. If Xi Jinping wants to know what’s in my fridge – and this is terribly important information for the 15th Five Year Plan – he will have to nudge Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos out of the way, because they already know (and are using it to try to sell me stuff that I don’t realise I “need”). US based tech companies are also, of course, completely tied in the the National Security Agency, so, if Joe Biden wanted to know what’s in my fridge he could probably find out without too much trouble. If you want to be really paranoid about tech surveillance, read Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. This is a bit repetitious, but reveals some quite alarming stuff, like the way interactive toys are sending messages about what a child says, and how they say it, back to the manufacturer and that devices like Alexa don’t just tabulate requests, but tones of voice…

Although I retired from teaching three and a half years ago, I still get classroom anxiety dreams. This morning’s was a classic. I was being driven in to school by a friend and everything was really relaxed until I got there – even though it was during morning break, so seriously late – and realised I was due into class in a minute and not only had no plan, but no idea what we were supposed to be teaching that week. Feeling far less panicked than I would have been if that had actually been the case I wandered into the classroom, getting a reproachful look from a younger version of BB, my old head teacher, who’d been covering, and asked what we were supposed to be doing. “Stories”. That’s ok. Everything is a story. Best to start with a question. As the kids drifted in chatting and sitting on the mat, I asked them “Where do you find a monster?” while thinking that wherever we find them, they are already in our heads…

Then I woke up and it was all a dream. THE END.

New Year Sounds and Lights

In the period between Xmas and New Year the vibe in the local supermarket has changed even more rapidly than in recent years. The decs were all down – not even waiting until 12th night – and relentlessly upbeat music was playing. Even “Things can only get better” with no apparent sense of irony. Nevertheless, it works. Even as I am critiquing it in my head, I find myself bopping along to “Happy” with my shopping trolley. I look around and the only other person in the shop still wearing a mask is doing the same.

Watching the New Year Concert by the Vienna Phil, probably the whitest orchestra in the world, which is self consciously put on every New Year’s Day as reassurance that in a world of change, nothing changes. Three parts a static version of Last Night of the Proms to 2 parts Jules Holland’s Hootenanny. Even if the pieces shift round a bit from year to year, its all the same sort of music, and even though they actually finally let some girls from the Vienna Girls Choir sing with the boys this year – there were only a reassuring few, because you’ve got to take such wild experiments slowly and steadily so as not to scare the (Lipizzaner) horses. And the Blue Danube and the Radetsky March will always be played as encores, and in that order, with the emphatic last two beats of the Radetsky march ending on an emphatic “so there!” Thus, it was, and ever shall be. But not so of course. At the time they were written, those two beats were meant to affirm that, rise as the Italians might, Austria would stay in charge in Northern Italy – and the Habsburgs in the Hofburg – forever; and it didn’t turn out like that.

Its happy, frothy, beautiful music, sometimes accompanied by film of happy, frothy, beautiful – and impossibly clean – people doing swooping dances in classical surroundings dressed in impeccable clothes, or simulating a picnic with food that is visually delicious (this isn’t just food, this is Vienna Philharmonic food) but oddly fossilised, lacking in touch, smell, giving off a sense that the lush red strawberries were 3D printed, not grown in dirt, and with no sound other than the music – an impersonation of feeling in a replica heritage of a culture that died when the Empire did.

As Eric Hobsbawm pointed out, no one wrote Waltzes or Polkas in Vienna after the First World War. All the same, since 2014 at the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, I have not been able to listen to the opening drum tattoo of the Radetsky March, calling all Kaisertreu men to arms with a jaunty innocence that it might all be over by Xmas, without welling up.

The last “invincible Suburb” part 2.

On the way up to Northwick Park hospital on Friday, we passed through Kenton. As the rest of Brent North has become tougher and more workaday. Kenton has retained a tidy “my pink half of the drainpipe” quality where people are well off enough to keep keeping up appearances, keep their houses fixed and front drives clear for shiny cars that all conspire to keep the property prices up. Passing so many handsome detached houses, its still possible to image them populated by the sort of Tory granddames immortalised in Betjeman’s Metroland film (1973); all hatchet faces and horrible hats. Kenton is the one ward that has consistently retained three Conservative Councillors when the Party has been all but wiped out in the rest of the borough since 2010.

One sign of change is that the old Kenton Conservative Club, Churchill Hall, a hideous prefab mausoleum painted 8th Army orange – the venue for generations of young Conservatives to bond over games of ping ping, tea dances and pints of bitter (and twisted) – has been demolished; even as a wave of communalism among better off members of the local Gujerati community gives them an revival of a kind, incorporating “favoured” ethnic minorities in the way the Empire always did, and Anthropology Departments set up to theorise, but now as an aspect of domestic politics creating a kind of equal opportunities xenophobia. Suella Braverman, after all, grew up in Harrow and Wembley.

Going in to A&E in Northwick Park is always a bit daunting. Hearing a radio report recently about how many hospitals were now beginning to slip below the 4 hour limit for dealing with new arrivals, it struck me that 4 hours would have been a fast turnaround for our most recent visits. The staff are always lovely when they get to you, incredibly overworked and kind, the pressure they are under almost unbearable. In a last flicker of COVID precautions, masks now being worn by a minority, I am not allowed in with my daughter.

Walking up the corridor, I am passed by two medics of visibly different grades animatedly discussing ballots; giving a sense that the NHS staff are engaging in a mass collective struggle to save it and make ends meet.

An elderly woman being pushed, backwards, in a wheelchair, clutches a bottle of Lucozade – the convalescent strategies of the 1950s still alive and well it seems.

A bloke walking and talking on a mobile mutters “You don’t understand. You can’t eat an orange in one go”.

In another legacy of Covid precautions the Costa uses paper cups, but the harassed Barista trying desperately to work her way through a queue that keeps growing is too preoccupied to engage in a discussion about it.

The woman selling hand made jewellery along the back of the Costa tells me that the bright, glittery crystal hearts are very popular. Not surprising. They are shaped like love and look like hope. Not medicine, but what you’d want from it.

Waiting over in A&E, my daughter reports that the “Mission Impossible” theme has just been played, raising a few smiles around her. Reminds me of a physio appointment I once had during which the music in the background suddenly launched into the Volga boatman’s song – “Yo-Oh – HEAVE Ho”. I asked the Physiotherapist if it was a departmental theme tune.

Outside the main entrance to the hospital, someone has chained up this extraordinary small motorbike. A retro version of the electric bikes that are becoming more common, and alongside one of them. What the future looks like for petrol heads?

On Saturday, with S properly medicated and beginning to recover, I am sent in search of a wood yard with cutting facilities, which takes me deep into the Harrow part of Kenton to a dour and no nonsense establishment full of shiny drill bits lined up in order of girth, saw blades ordered by type and size, nuts, bolts, DIY power tools, some covered in dust to show that life is too short for cosmetic cleansing and a long counter, staffed shoulder to shoulder with serious looking men trying to keep warm in black fleece hoodies. While I am waiting for the 2 cuts on S’s plank of MDF that the colossal B&Q in Cricklewood couldn’t handle – “the cutting’s not available” – a bloke buying a lot of timber tries to get a bit of edging thrown in for free as a sweetener. He hits a brick wall. “Yes, but you’ll have to pay for that”. He tries to haggle a bit, but knows its a lost cause. The spirit of Mr Flint is alive and well in HA3. This is also apparent when I get my two cuts at £1 a cut. The bloke in charge of keeping tabs on orders hand writes a receipt for £2, writes PAID on it and circles it, handing it to me with an understated but definite flourish.

Walking back towards Honeypot Lane, one of the more hopeful sounding local thoroughfares, I realise that I have been to this area before. In the run up to the December 2019 General Election there was a mass canvas of these streets. A big detachment of the huge urban militia that Labour was able to field at the time spread out across the stony ground of these neat little bungalows seeking to squeeze a bit of red blood out of Tory stones by trying to drive more hope than an aging local electorate could cope with. This bit of suburbia clings on to Major’s conception of it.

I walk past the bungalow with the stone lions on every buttress where the elderly gentleman I spoke to barked at me “Do I LOOK like a Labour voter?” I said that we came in all, shapes and sizes, but it was downhill all the way from there. Actually, he looked a bit like me. Old, white, bald. But he didn’t feel like a Labour voter; and I expect still wouldn’t, however many Union Jacks the leadership stands behind them.

The Last “Invincible Suburb”? A Trilogy in two parts.

“Fifty years from now Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and – as George Orwell said – “old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist” and if we get our way – Shakespeare still read even in school.” ~ John Major Speech at Conservative Party Conference 1993

Visions of the future as an eternal version of the past never wear well, especially in a period of late capitalism defined by the maxim “move fast and break things.” As Karl Marx remarked when capitalism was taking off beyond its North European cradle All that is solid, melts into air.

Thirty years on and some of Majors eternal bucolic vision is already looking a bit far gone.

  • Thanks to Major himself, the Football Pools were overwhelmed by the National Lottery that he introduced and were pretty much dead by the time he was turfed out of office just four years later.
  • There may still be some long shadows on county cricket grounds, but a lot more attention is paid to 20:20 and even when Major was speaking, cricket as such had long been supplanted by Football as a totemic national sport. A visions of crowds of the hoi polloi chanting obscene -if original – songs on terraces, while munching on meat pies and drinking Bovril, conjures an image of a different kind of country than that of chaps in whites languidly striking leather with willow in arcadian surroundings. Whish poses a question beyond “who do you think you are?”, which is “WHERE do you think you are?”
  • “Warm beer”? Although there are still around 40,000 pubs in the UK, they are currently closing at a rate of 50 a month, or 600 a year. At that rate, the last “Last Orders” would be called some time in 2088.
  • In a country now turning its back on formal Christianity at an increasing rate, “Old Maids” (ouch) cycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist” – which, for me, conjures up an image of Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple – are a rare sight. Major might not have understood that many of the single women Orwell was referring to were bereaved by the mass slaughter of young men in the First World War, which left a legacy of many single women in one generation and a deep reluctance to suffer such extreme loses ever again. You could still see this in an odd sort of way as late as the first years of this century in the ceremonial welcomes given by rows of silent people to the coffins of dead soldiers flown back from Afghanistan and Iraq being driven through Wootton Bassett during Blair’s auxiliary role in the opening stage of the Wars for the New American Century. Respect, but there’s a limit…
  • That phrase “Shakespeare still read even in school” indicates both the Tory suspicion of teachers as dubiously progressive thinking people who can’t be trusted with “the national heritage” as they want us all to imagine it, but also how poorly he understood just how subversive Shakespeare can be. Shakespeare will be read and watched and performed because he was a brilliant, funny, moving poet of a playwright who asks hard questions about power and humanity even in the midst of a seeming puff to mindless patriotism. The opening of Henry V, which for people on the right and far right is nothing more than a mash up of “once more unto the breach” and “we happy few” and sticking it to the French with arrows at Agincourt, is of a cabal of cynical Archbishops faking up a “legitimate claim” to the French throne to sell to the new young King; to divert his attention from helping himself to their land holdings. The version of this I saw at the Globe a few years ago had the discussion taking place with the plump, crimson clad prelates sitting on portable toilets, just to underline the point. I think the Tories like the heritage, but may not watch the plays themselves much.
  • As for the Conservative Party itself, it is now looking as endangered as it ever has and could well not exist in its present form by the time Major’s 50 years are up (2043). “Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished” (Hamlet) or as Richard II put it, talking of his dying uncle, John of Gaunt, “Pray God we may make haste…and come too late”.

For the “invincible green suburbs” – see part 2.

Grumpy old men at bus stops

After the drought in the Summer turned the local park into a dustbowl, the grass bleached to straw ghosts, the ground rock hard, the air hazy, the Autumn monsoons that we have had for the past few weeks have turned it back into lush water meadows almost to marshland in places. It hasn’t quite got to the swamp quality we’ve had in previous autumns, with geese wading through puddles that have merged into small lakes, a testament to just how dry it got, but it’s on the way. I now stay on the paths when I walk through, so as not to plash.

A grumpy old bloke in the bus queue outside the Magistrates Court, perhaps ground down a bit by the almost constant rain, turns to the woman next to him and complains about the new Highway Code giving cyclists preference over cars in a tone that implies that this is a sign we are being driven to go to the dogs by a conspiracy of elitists with a thing about Lycra. It is so evident to him that this is a bad thing, and so evident to me that it’s a good thing that I say so. He ignores my comment. or, possibly, doesn’t hear it because I seem to be one of the last people in Northwest London still wearing a mask on the buses. It seems odd that he’s so defensive of cars when he’s queuing for the bus. Perhaps he’s more anti cyclist than pro car.

On the side of a bus outside Willesden Health Centre, “Come for our affordable premier dental care in Turkey”. The shortage of NHS dentists laid bare by an advert.

Outside a fruit and veg shop on Willesden High Road a sign reading “Polski, Irani, Arabi”. Fusion Grocery. Up the street a succession of shops with Brazilian or Portuguese flags. We duck into a cafe that’s a little gem of a place, panettones hanging from the ceiling, dark wood shelves all the way up displaying gleaming bottles of mysterious dark alcohols, a coffee machine that looks well used, a TV in the corner showing Joe Biden speaking grim faced in Indonesia with Portuguese subtitles, everyone else in the place speaking Portuguese and the guy at the counter just about understanding me. We sit at a tiny table next to a freezer cabinet and shelves full of the Iberian equivalent of chocolate frosted sugar bomb cereals drinking an almost perfect Capuchino, just smoky enough, not too sweet, not too much and the best one of those tiny custard tarts I have ever eaten, the pastry flakier than flaky and the custard full of creamy dimensions; positively mindful. J agrees that its better than Costa carrot cake, in more ways than one.

Coming back up the road, a pair of houses are being renovated by a hard working squad of, mostly Sikh, builders. Every day a different smell. Some almost poisonous, the reek of araldite. Some fresh and spring like, newly sawn wood. Outside on the scaffolding, a large stuffed rainbow unicorn is suspended like a hunting trophy with that awful pathos abandoned soft toys always have. “Jackie Paper came no more…”

Post Truss Polka with street scenes.

On my street, halfway up the hill someone has left a pile of bright yellow Don’t Pay Energy Bills Oct 1st leaflets on a garden wall. They have blown in the wind all over the pavement like autumn leaves amongst the equally yellow barriers put up by the gas men around the holes in the pavement they have dug to replace the mains. This, according to their hand out, is to make our increasingly unaffordable gas supply safe for “many decades to come”. This is a bit alarming. If we are to be off fossil fuels by 2050, “many decades to come” can’t be more than three at the most.

Along Grove Park, on top of the low brick wall under the boundary fence of The Village School – its shrubbery studded by crushed beer cans and discarded wrappers blown in on the wind – someone, some time ago by the looks of it – has propped up a copy of Salman Rushdie’s children’s book Haroun and the Sea of Stories as though it is an offering, or possibly a statement of some sort. Soaked by rain and spattered by leaves and bits of paper, it is steadily decomposing back into the wood pulp from which it was printed, the pages stuck together in a papier-mâché morass. There is something simultaneously plaintive and defiant about it – an echo and reminder of what it once was; haunting itself like a literary ghost.

Down at the shops, a middle-aged black guy in a brushed fur cowboy hat emerges from the halal butchers looked bewildered.

A huge man wearing a windcheater with a gigantic Welsh dragon emblazoned on the back chats quietly with his mate, in Polish. His 8 or 9 year old son stands next to him with an identical stance and body language.

Outside Aldi – “the cheap shop” – an aging Indian bloke stands staring across the road in a full-length black leather coat and battered, but smart, brown fedora, looking like a slightly effete secret policeman from 1920’s central Europe.

And this evening there were no less than two foot-patrols of police officers walking through the shopping drag. Two men heading East and, ten minutes later, two women heading West, crossing each other’s path like an attenuated square dance. Neither were making any contact with the life on the streets. The two women were absorbed in conversation with each other, turned inwards as they proceeded at the regulation two miles an hour in the general direction of Iceland and VBs and both talking at once. The two men seemed cut off from everything, and each other. No eye contact with anyone, staring unfocussed and a bit glacially into the middle of next week as they walked. There but not there. An oddly passive presence. Waiting for something to react to rather than trying to connect.

Between 1912 and 1920 along the West side of the Edgeware Road, where the Loon Fung, Morrisons and Asda Supermarkets are now and stretching up as far as the Volkswagen dealership by Hay Lane, was where the Airco factory used to be. This was a vast workshop that built a large proportion of the aircraft used by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. All the original De Havilands. The company went bankrupt within two years of the armistice. The end of the war meant there was no demand for aircraft anymore and BSA, who bought it, were sold a pup (and not of the Sopwith variety).

The only part of the original factory that’s left is the former head office, which is now the Beis Yaakov Primary School. Glancing across at it, it is surrounded with solid black railings well above head height – fortress style – and there is a tall square extension in compatible architecture topped off with an inwardly curving fence, presumably to stop balls being kicked over from the rooftop playground and, possibly, to make it hard for someone with hostile intent to throw anything in the other way. At 10 in the morning there are two Community Security Trust blokes shooing in Orthodox looking Mums in sleek grey SUVs delivering a rather late school run. They are both wearing bright yellow hi vis vests. One of them is holding on to it with both hands at chest height, while repeatedly doing that knee flex thing that the Police tend to do when they are standing still but feeling tense. Evenin’ all.

After announcing Liz Truss’s resignation as Prime Minister on the 2pm News, the first piece of music played by Radio 3 was the Thunder and Lightning Polka. I guess they are not in mourning.

Of Drain Covers and Walled Gardens.

The attraction of drain covers isn’t evident to most people. We walk over them without noticing. Primary schools sometimes do rubbings of them with crayons, like an urban industrial version of brass rubbings, but most people don’t give them a second glance or thought.

After having my flu jab this morning I was wandering along The Grove and spotted a couple of Drain covers with designs that were positively fractal, quite exciting as drain covers go. The patterns were quite vertiginous in a way that would pass muster in the opening credits for Dr Who. Most of the others were dull, symmetrical and functional. Nothing to see here. But these ones were an artistic labour of love that were worth giving a bit of respect to. Perhaps even photographing and collecting. Jeremy Corbyn is on to something here it seems.

One of the less serious attempts to put people off voting for Jeremy was the story that he collected photos of drain covers. This was part of a wider campaign to present him as a cracked eccentric; because it must be completely inappropriate to have a leader of a mass political party who grows his own cucumbers and pots his own jam. This, nevertheless, shows how universal this attack was. No stone left unturned. No angle not covered.

On Saturday, the rather secretive Roe Green Walled Garden was opened for a day. It does this a couple of times a year. Even though I’ve lived here for over 25 years, I’ve never been in there before, and it’s quite an extraordinary place. A sort of collective allotment growing organic produce, cultivating compost and worm juice (not for human consumption) and a celebration of a certain kind of suburban eccentricity and local historical awareness, with a little occasional cafe and a couple of sheds with a collection of fascinating bric a brac and second hand books. A joy of a place. Scattered around are life size dummies, mostly of people who lived on the site from the 1901 census with information about who they were. The Lodge by Kingsbury Road, which was empty for years and we used to call the “rat house”, because that’s who lived there, and is now on its third attempt to be rebuilt as a restaurant, was where a gardner lived with his family; and his model sits outside one of the shed with his mouldy cap on and a brass dog at his knee. But, my favourite is the bloke who donated the bike he cycled to Paris on in 1937. Tempting to follow suit, but I’d need an electric bike to manage it these days. He also looks a bit like Jeremy Corbyn.

Eat your heart out Bill and Ben.

Intimations of mortality 3. Holocene nostalgia

Looking up at the grey temperate sky on Thursday, and feeling the cool breeze, there was no sense of a return to normal after the Anthropocene heat of Monday and Tuesday. More a sense of being in remission for a terminal prognosis we are not doing enough to avert. Embrace it as it slips away.

The flowers on our straggly rose bush out the back have been seared into dry fossils.

The banks of wild flowers along the side of the park have been scorched into thickets of tinder.

The grass is bleached to its roots in widening bowls of dust. A few patches of green in the shade of the trees.

Down by the shops, people have directed their feet to the shady side of the street; a rapidly learned habitual reflex.

In a reflection of the times, in Iceland a display of energy drinks from Tyson Fury, with a picture of the man himself looking like a berserker, encourages us to drink the drink so we can “hit the day hard”. Just what we need.

J’s cousin died of a heart attack in the heat on Tuesday. He had Covid at the time. And underlying conditions. So, one of the vulnerable, discountable ones.

At the chemists, Rishi Sunak is on the TV talking about all the challenges facing the country. He does not mention the climate. Crisis? What crisis?

On the front Page of the Daily Telegraph in the Kingsbury library, Liz Truss “tells France to fix holiday travel chaos” (my emphasis) which is laugh out loud ironic. I suspect the response from the Elysée will be “Pfff!”

Outside Holocene Court, the new set of “Luxury 2 and 3 bedroom apartments with basement parking” down on the Edgware Road, there’s one of those hologram type images of the future when the building is finished showing gridlock in both directions up and down the road. And no new trees.