The Betrayal of All Humanity

I saw a woman walking down a footpath towards the sea. One woman of a group of three pedestrians, not yet elderly, certainly no longer young.

They carried between them the paunch of middle age, tucked neatly under a belt or a waistband. The woman wore sensible leggings stretched out underneath a summer shift, a pursebag between the stripe of a strap across her back, sandals slapping on the footpath.

“I’ll let you know the next time we get one and I’ll send it over,” her friend was saying, as they swung past me on the final zig of the sea-bound zig zag.

“That’d be great,” the woman replied, leaning to her partner by her side. “Last time we paid, what was it? Sixty? You can go by train, but…”

As she said these words, she veered to her left, reached out a hand, grasped a stray branch and, with the deft clench of an expert, stripped the branch of leaves. She walked on, without breaking her stride.

“Oh no, you’ll want to fly,” her friend said.

But it was too late. In that moment, the woman had betrayed all of humanity for the apes we are.

The Mowing of the Lawns: A Study in Green, Gordon Square

The mowing dance plays with a steady whorr, with punctuating snap and crack of sticky twig or cruk of stone. Once around the round herbaceous border, once again, concentric circles of sliced and diced lawn rippling out in tidy daisy death.

This is municipal gardening, large scale, industrial mowing, without distinction. One lawn cuts the same way as the next. Sunbathers roll out of the way of the slicing machine trundling their way, sneezers get a lungful of grassy effluent and a guitar man is swamped in steady whorr.

Uniformly green shirt, blue trouser, red glove, three municipal gardeners assault the expanse of lawn, the side borders, trimming edges with mask for strimming protection.

His hair has had the same treatment by a municipal dresser, course grey lines, the borders neatly trimmed, stark against bare skin, skirting round ear curlicue, sweeping down the nape of the neck, defined: hair / not hair.

Underground Demographics

Carriage 96515 on the Jubilee line between London Bridge and Southwark at about 1340 on Valentine’s Day 2011. Every seat (in my section) was taken: 14 people.

  • There were 7 women and 7 men.
  • Of which 8 were white Caucasians.
  • 4 people were reading.
  • 2 were eating.
  • 1 was playing with their phone.
  • 1 was listening to music (audible).
  • 6 people were talking (3 separate pairs) – the rest were silent.
  • 2 of the men were clean-shaven; 5 had facial hair.
  • 1 person wore a hat; 1 person wore a headscarf.
  • 8 people were wearing glasses (including 5 in a row opposite me).
  • 2 people were wearing ties – all men.
  • 6 people were wearing scarves – all women.
  • There were 7 adverts on the overheads, including 3 for the same telephone company.

The woman next to me was reading “Pink iced heart cake recipe,” her eyes transfixed, her apple, half-eaten, paused in her hand.

Review: Infernos Nightclub, Clapham

The club was called Infernos. Because it wasn’t just hot, it was hotter. The name brings up some interesting theological ideas: not just one hell, but hells, each lovingly designed to its individual occupant’s worst nightmare. One man’s torture is another man’s pleasure, after all.

But I wasn’t there to be tortured and there were only two hells to choose from: House Party downstairs and Discotheque upstairs. I choose upstairs. Stairway fake curtains are plastered to the wall in chipped red paint, draped over a stair-length looking glass, screwed to the wall like in your cheap bathroom.

Hellish Thought #1: am I destined, forever more, to dance to the music from Grease?

Revellers don’t so much dance as simply coexist in the space. A girl, heavily made up, walks past me on the dancefloor, yawning. Two lads, one short, one tall, try to talk. Some laugh, some cry, some sing, some shout. But vacant looks dominate.

I find an open space on the busy dancefloor in which to jerk my arms and flail my feet as best I can. Then I realise: vomit is swilling around my ankles. The dance swells out from the caustic pool.

A girl sits alone, arms crossed, on a leather-effect sofa that shows signs of wear. She’s dressed up fine and her legs are bare. But she doesn’t look like she wants to be there. A security man perches on a low wall above the dancefloor, blankly watching the action below. One leg dangles. Menboys swing their shirts around their heads as the DJ hollers though the smoke puffing from his smoke machine, ‘Gonna switch the style after this one!’

Hellish Thought #2: are they having fun or are they comatose?

Impossibly, two aquariums shatter disco light in their water. Bemused fish, deaf, hoover up gravel with their bulbous lips, ignoring a girl and her boy who play hide and seek through the glass. In a mirror-image of excess and delight, a disco light revolves drunkenly above the convulsing crowd, its bulb gone.

The place to get your drink (of water) is called The Cocktail Bar and the girls’ toilet is called the Ladies Powder Room. No sign of a possessive apostrophe though. Singers sing in sound-proofed silence in the Popstars Karaoke Lounge. There’s a pool table in one corner, but no one is interested in playing games.

Empty beer bottles hit the dancefloor, where they are kicked and kicked again until ejected to the periphery, where a man carrying a red fire bucket picks them up. Boys hit the dancefloor, where they are kicked and kicked again until ejected the periphery, where a girl carrying a handbag picks them up.

Hellish Thought #3: I enjoy this.