2066 continued – where to next for Janek?

Friday  20th November

Eventually I came to a large junction with several tunnels leading off in a star formation and tracing the wall round I found the edge of another ladder.  I had no choice, my feet were almost numb with the cold.  I had to get out of the water soon or I would pass out.  I gathered my strength and started to climb, to haul myself up the ladder.  I had forgotten how deep I must have been, and I was clinging onto the rungs with ice-cold fingers just willing the ascent to end when my head suddenly struck metal.  This time thank goodness it was a lighter drain cover, and I could manage to lift it by hunching my still sore shoulders to take the weight.

I had no idea what I would find, how far I had travelled, or indeed if it were still night, or where I might be.  It could be right in front of the Polis for all I knew.  But I was craving daylight, anything but this overarching and oppressive darkness.  I pushed up with my tired and wet legs using the rungs as an anchor and raised the lid an inch or two.  Still darkness.  All I could see was darkness; at least no strong blue streetlights bearing down on me.  I hauled myself up and rolled out of the drain, and sprawling on the cold street I tried to regain my strength.  The street was narrow, dark and unlit, a quiet back-alley almost.  A whisper of light was coming from the road at the end of this alleyway.  I staggered to my feet and wondered what on earth to do next.  I had to get somewhere warm and safe, I knew that.  It was bitterly cold and I had lost my tattered shoes in the water, my trousers were soaking and in rags.  They flapped against my tired legs in the breeze.

Houses, there were large detached houses in the main street.  Only a few old orange lights lit the road, (I thought they’d got rid of those decades ago) and there was no traffic at all.  The houses were all dark, except for an occasional porch-light.  I hadn’t seen a street like this in years.  It was like something out of the twenty-twenties or even earlier; we lived in a flat in a complex, you had to hold your phone up to the camera to be let in.  And the streets around were all full of identical flats or container homes.  But these large old houses had been mostly knocked down years ago, space was at a premium, the population was vast and nobody lived in big houses anymore.  Or nobody I knew, and outside our strata-level we hardly knew anyone.  It just wouldn’t have been appropriate, for them or us; you kept yourself to your own level.

But the rich people must still live in mansions.  There were some drama-shows on screen that showed the mansions of the super-rich – all flowing drapes and antique furniture, but no-one really knew for sure how or where the rich might live.  So, who lived here I wondered, what sort of people inhabited these large old houses.  I decided to find out; I had no choice really – it was back into the dark drain again or take my chances.”

COMPLICITY

Thursday 19th November

We live in an interconnected world like none before.  It may seem that we are helpless in the face of the madness of the world, but we are a part of it.  And part of the trouble too.  Our problem, as humans, is that we are so adaptable.  As long as we can get by we turn our backs on problems.  We have to really be cornered before we react, we simply go along with everything; we shrug our shoulders and say – “Well, there is nothing we can do, it is just the way things are.”  But this is in fact Complicity.

Every time we allow another bomber to take off loaded with death we are complicit.  Complicity in murder actually.  Every time we allow an oil company to start fracking, every time we ignore the warnings about Global Warming. every time we walk away when someone is being racially abused (well, we don’t want any trouble) we are complicit.  We proudly boast that we have Democracy over here, when all we have is a once in every five year chance to kick out one lot; much like on Strictly, or X factor – we think we are voting, but it is the judges who really decide.  And we blithely hand the reins of power over to a bunch of Politicians who have probably lied to varying degrees, dangling gifts in front of us silly children “Which sweeties would you like this election?” and we go along with it.  We shrug our shoulders when the Chancellor makes cuts he promised only a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t touch.  We are dragged into wars by a Media which portrays our “enemies” as evil and lunatics, when in reality they simply have a different world view than we have.  Only a few months ago Russia was being portrayed as an enemy in the making and now they are our mates when it comes to bombing ISIS.  And we are complicit in all of this.  Because we allow it to happen, because we do not march, we do not protest, we do threaten our rulers, they take our silence for Complicity.  Which it is.  Wake up, and smell the rancid coffee before it is too late.

Places I Have Lived – part three

Wednesday 18th November

Number 8   Patmore House, Mathias Road, Newington Green.  A pretty grim old GLC red-brick mansion block.  It was Carol’s parents flat, and pretty awful it was too.  Why was I living with them?  Oh, usual story.  Carol was pregnant.  We had made a stupid attempt at running away to Scotland and had returned in shame. After a few weeks her parents were half-reconciled to me moving in. Life was hard here but we were together, at the time that seemed all that mattered.  Her father, Wally, was a drunk and would come home in a foul temper many nights.  Carol regularly fought with her mother, her sisters, and me of course.  A night-mare really.  We decided to move out once…

Number 9 – a basement flat somewhere in Stockwell.  We moved in with three crazy Canadians I worked with.  It was alcohol every night.  Carol and I got married from this flat at a local Registry Office.  A few nights later I woke to find her snogging one of the Canucks.  I was pathetic, pleading with her.  She laughed it off, and said it was just a joke.  The only good thing about living there was that they played Leonard Cohen’s first LP almost constantly.  Anyway, we were only there for a few weeks and then we were back at her parents flat until one night after Justin was born, he was just a few weeks old, Wally came home drunk and tried to beat me up.  Ended up with Carol, Justin and me tramping the streets.  We went to the Police, who drove us to….

Number 10 – Halfway House, Archway.  This was a reception centre for homeless families.  Apart from an Irish family we were the only white people there.  Each couple had a hardboard boxed-off room.  But the partitions only went to about 6 feet high and you could hear ever word spoken by every family.  It was absolutely squalid. Next day and we had an interview with officials from the GLC.  One of the questions we answered was “Do you have any furniture?”  Well, yes I answered.  We had bought a double bed, now back in Carol’s parent flat and little chance of us ever getting it.  Thank Goodness I said yes, as within six weeks we were rehoused….

Number 11 – Hornsey Rise Gardens.  Well, I say rehoused.  This street was full of houses waiting to be demolished for new flats, and full of homeless like us waiting for something permanent.  We had the ground floor of a big house, three large rooms – no bath but a toilet and a cooker in the kitchen.  I spent every penny on second-hand furniture trying desperately to provide a home for my wife and child.  But in no time at all Carol was again pregnant and far worse, she had started going out in the evenings with an Irishwoman who lived upstairs.  They used to go to the Irish pubs on the Holloway Road, and left me at home with the baby.  Well, the inevitable happened and Carol met someone else.  He was a member of Sinn Fein, and just after the baby was born she left me, going to Northern Ireland with Seamus.  (Well, who can really blame her – it was 1971 and she wanted a quiet life.)  Thank God she left my son with her mother, but I was in pieces, my marriage and my life seemed over and I was only 19.  As I read her goodbye note, Justin started crying and I bent down to pick him up.  He probably saved my life that day.

Places I Have Lived – part three

Wednesday 18th November

Number 8   Patmore House, Mathias Road, Newington Green.  A pretty grim old GLC red-brick mansion block.  It was Carol’s parents flat, and pretty awful it was too.  Why was I living with them?  Oh, usual story.  Carol was pregnant.  We had made a stupid attempt at running away to Scotland and had returned in shame. After a few weeks her parents were half-reconciled to me moving in. Life was hard here but we were together, at the time that seemed all that mattered.  Her father, Wally was a drunk and would come home in a foul temper many nights.  Carol regularly fought with her mother, her sisters, and me of course.  A night-mare really.  We decided to move out once…

Number 9 – a basement flat somewhere in Stockwell.  We moved in with three crazy Canadians I worked with.  It was alcohol every night.  Carol and I got married from this flat at a local Registry Office.  A few nights later I woke to find her snogging one of the Canucks.  I was pathetic, pleading with her.  She laughed it off, and said it was just a joke.  The only good thing about living there was that they played Leonard Cohen’s first LP almost constantly.  Anyway, we were only there for a few weeks and then we were back at her parents flat until one night after Justin was born, he was just a few weeks old, Wally came home drunk and tried to beat me up.  Ended up with Carol, Justin and me tramping the streets.  We went to the Police, who drove us to….

Number 10 – Halfway House, Archway.  This was a reception centre for homeless families.  Apart from an Irish family we were the only white people there.  Each couple had a hardboard boxed-off room.  But the partitions only went to about 6 feet high and you could hear ever word spoken by every family.  It was absolutely squalid. Next day and we had an interview with officials from the GLC.  One of the questions we answered was “Do you have any furniture?”  Well, yes I answered.  We had bought a double bed, now back in Carol’s parent flat and little chance of us ever getting it.  Thank Goodness I said yes, as within six weeks we were rehoused….

Number 11 – Hornsey Rise Gardens.  Well, I say rehoused.  This street was full of houses waiting to be demolished for new flats, and full of homeless like us waiting for something permanent.  We had the ground floor of a big house, three large rooms – no bath but a toilet and a cooker in the kitchen.  I spent every penny on second-hand furniture trying desperately to provide a home for my wife and child.  But in no time at all Carol was again pregnant and far worse, she had started going out in the evenings with an Irishwoman who lived upstairs.  They used to go to the Irish pubs on the Holloway Road, and left me at home with the baby.  Well, the inevitable happened and Carol met someone else.  He was a member of Sinn Fein, and just after the baby was born she left me, going to Northern Ireland with Seamus.  (Well, who can really blame her – it was 1971 and she wanted a quiet life.)  Thank God she left my son with her mother, but I was in pieces, my marriage and my life seemed over and I was only 19.  As I read her goodbye note, Justin started crying and I bent down to pick him up.  He probably saved my life that day.

Praying Will Not Help

Tuesday 17th November

Since the atrocities in Paris on Friday night Facebook has been inundated by posts asking us to Pray for Paris, Pray for Peace.  And here I have to offend many friends – Praying will not help.  It may help to make you feel a bit better; it may even make you cry.  But you are deluded if you think it will stop these outrages.  Let me give all you Religious People a simple message.  GOD IS NOT LISTENING.  Even if he does exist, or some intelligence created the Universe billions of years ago, he isn’t listening NOW.

Let me tell you something else, those callous and cowardly killers prayed to God too, and just before they pulled the ripcords, or started spraying the bullets around.  They prayed to God, and as any Historian will tell you, the Christian and the Jewish and the Muslim religion all have the same roots, and essentially the same God.

Religion IS the problem, not the solution.  Stop praying and start acting.  And yes, we all feel powerless in the face of such horror.  So, what can you do?  Write to your M.P. and insist that real peace talks are started NOW, including ISIS.  Because sooner or later we are going to have to talk to them.

Forty years ago I lived through terrorist attacks in London.  The IRA did not lay their weapons down because anyone’s prayers were answered.  They stopped killing people because a political settlement was reached.  True, it is fragile, it is imperfect, it needs constant re-enforcement, but it is better by far than the killing which preceded it.

So get off your knees, stop praying and start doing something.  Sign Petitions, join Marches, pressure those in power and stop blaming Muslims.  And who knows – a better world may just be possible.

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Places I Have Lived – part 2

Monday 16th November

Number 4 – A Basement Flat, Sussex Gardens, near Marble Arch.  I had run away and had almost no money, I had to survive.  I am not ashamed of what I did but no need to divulge the details, except to say that within 2 weeks I had a job and a new address.  But it wasn’t that awful and I was taken to a couple of parties, one where I met a few of the Black and White Minstrels – all gay.  Anyway the owner of the flat, a quite wealthy man was kind and helped me to get both a job and somewhere to live.

Number 5 – 40 Carysfort Road, Stoke Newington.  My very first digs.  A tiny room, the cheapest I could find.  Two pounds a week for a bed, a tiny wardrobe, a chair, a sink and a one-ring hob with a shared bathroom and toilet down the hall.  I can remember a few weeks later when I had contacted Mum and Dad and the look on their faces when they saw what I had left home for.  I was there for about four months.

Number 6 – Rectory Road, Stoke Newington.  A room again, but a large one this time.  I split it up into bedroom and sitting room and decorated the walls with drawings.  I bought a radio and can remember spending long hours with Carol, my first real girlfriend in that bed, me nipping out for take-away fish and chips and drinks.  Happy days.  Rent was six pounds a week.  I was there for about three months.

Number 7 – Dukes Avenue, Muswell Hill.  A huge shared room with a workmate in a beautiful shared house just behind Ally Pally.  I was only here for a few weeks but had a lovely time.  I can remember laying on the hilly slopes looking over London with Carol and thinking I was the happiest guy alive.

That didn’t last long.

PARIS

Sunday 15th November

Well, what can we say.  Our beautiful city has been attacked again and 130 innocent people are murdered.  It is almost inconceivable that once again men with machine guns and explosives commit carnage in Paris.  And there are two major questions I am asking.

Why?  Well, part of the problem is that we see everything from our own point of view.  I share nothing with those who committed these murders but they would justify their actions because they perceive that there is a war being waged against Islam by the West.  And in our Media and fueled by right-wing propaganda there is a sustained attack on Muslims in our society.  The (short-lived) celebration of the assassination of ‘Jihadi John’, treated as some sort of cartoon villain is typical of this.  I have Muslim friends who are as horrified by their perversion of the tenets of Islam as we are but our illegal war in Iraq has simply provided Martyrs for these radicals groups.  And our continued bombing of Isis in both Iraq and Syria will not help.  Even if we destroy them completely they will simply go underground and re-emerge elsewhere.  France has an extra problem because of their history with Algeria, where resentments are still strong against their former colonial masters.  Of course, understanding still does not help us to stop these attacks or to change minds.  Maybe, just maybe, a complete re-evaluation of our relationship with the Middle East, which would include massive investment in Iraq and Syria, and a lot of education will eventually start to change the situation.

And of course how do we react?  If we create a complete Police State with people being searched at Railway Stations, Undergound Stations, All Public Venues and with police with machine-guns patrolling the streets we will lose more than we will gain. In Northern Island for a few years we had a policy of Internment; that is, imprisoning suspected sympathizers before they had committed any crimes.  And that was a complete failure, but there are already voices calling for this in France.  President Hollande is already calling this an Act of War.  Rhetoric maybe, but you cannot declare war on a huge section of your own citizens just because of their religion.  Of course the security forces should try to find out whoever may still be at large that was in any way involved with this atrocity, but we must be careful not to do the terrorists work for them.  In the long run, as in any war – unless you kill every single one of the enemy, you will have to one day sit down and talk to them.  Maybe we should try that now…before there are more attacks.

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Places I have Lived – part one

Saturday 14th November

Number One – Can’t Remember, Don’t Know – For the first three or four years I was fostered and have no memories of where I was living, though my mother had me most weekends so I must have been taken then to Grandma Allard’s house (my Mum was brought up by her Grandmother not her Mother) at Ipswich Road.  This was (from later memories) a narrow and dark old Victorian terraced house with chickens in the back yard, no indoor bathroom and a twisty old staircase leading out of the living room.  I can just about remember Grandma Allard on an old chaise long, and she had her hair wound up in a bun on her head.  She died when I was about 8.

Number Two – 91 Bury Road.  My Dad’s parents house.  A 30’s council house, again terraced but very spacious with a front room, only used at Christmas and Easter, an outdoor toilet and a tin bath in front of the coal fire.  We lived in the back living room, a smallish room with two armchairs, a sofa and a table and four chairs and a sideboard, a wireless on its own table with a yellow dial with exotic locations Paris, Berlin and Hilversum.  I cannot actually remember living there ( from three till five) but spent many happy weekends there as I grew up. It always seemed a happy house, and maybe I was happier there than I ever have been since.  My sister was born there but we moved quite quickly into our very own council house…

Number Three – 6 Silverdale Avenue.  This was a brand new house.  Built as a stopgap, it was breeze block and only meant to last about ten years, but lasted almost 50 in the end.  Semi-detached with a generous front and back garden, it was a really decent, if bloody cold, house.  One coal fire and a paraffin heater in the kitchen, we later got storage heaters upstairs but I can remember ice on the inside of the windows.  It was on a brand new estate and there was a green right in front of our house where we played football and cricket.  Most of the time I was happy in this house, and as the oldest boy I had the second biggest bedroom (my sister had a tiny box room) with a dressing table, a wardrobe and a desk and a bookshelf I rapidly filled up with books. But I was unhappy in my teens and I got rebellious and couldn’t wait to leave.  It was always going to be London where, little did I know, my troubles would really begin.

2066 – And Janek Comes Up For Air

Friday 13th November

“Eventually I came to a large junction with several tunnels leading off in a star formation and tracing the wall round I found the edge of another ladder.  I had no choice – my feet were almost numb with the cold.  I had to get out of the water soon or I would pass out.  I gathered my strength and started to climb, to haul myself up the ladder.  I had forgotten how deep I must have been, and I was clinging onto the rungs with ice-cold fingers just willing the ascent to end when my head suddenly struck metal.  This time thank goodness it was a lighter drain cover, and I could manage to lift it by hunching my still sore shoulders to take the weight.

I had no idea what I would find, how far I had travelled, or indeed if it were still night, or where I might be.  It could be right in front of the Polis for all I knew.  But I was craving daylight, anything but this overarching and oppressive darkness.  I pushed up with my tired and wet legs using the rungs as an anchor and raised the lid an inch or two.  Still darkness.  All I could see was darkness; at least no strong blue streetlights bearing down on me.  I hauled myself up and rolled out of the drain, and sprawling on the cold street I tried to regain my strength.  The street was narrow, dark and unlit, a quiet back-alley almost.  A whisper of light was coming from the road at the end of this alleyway.  I staggered to my feet and wondered what on earth to do next.  I had to get somewhere warm and safe, I knew that.  It was bitterly cold and I had lost my tattered shoes in the water, my trousers were soaking and in rags.  They flapped against my tired legs in the breeze.

Houses, there were large detached houses in the main street.  Only a few old orange lights lit the road, (I thought they’d got rid of those decades ago) and there was no traffic at all.  The houses were all dark, except for an occasional porch-light.  I hadn’t seen a street like this in years.  It was like something out of the twenty-twenties or even earlier; we lived in a flat in a complex, you had to hold your phone up to the camera to be let in.  And the streets around were all full of identical flats or container homes.  But these large old houses had been mostly knocked down years ago, space was at a premium, the population was vast and nobody lived in big houses anymore.  Or nobody I knew, and outside our strata-level we hardly knew anyone.  It just wouldn’t have been appropriate, for them or us; you kept yourself to your own level.

But the rich people must still live in mansions.  There were some drama-shows on screen that showed the mansions of the super-rich – all flowing drapes and antique furniture, but no-one really knew for sure how or where the rich might live.  So, who lived here I wondered, what sort of people inhabited these large old houses.  I decided to find out; I had no choice really – it was back into the dark drain again or take my chances.”

J – is for Jean-Michel Jarre

Thursday 12th November

The next sound you will hear is energy; in fact all sound is energy – or the release of energy.  We are told that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it just is.  And when released in one form it will be absorbed into another; in the case of musical notes, the sound waves created will carry on until they hit some substance which will absorb their energy – namely our ears which will transfer these sound waves into messages for our brains to interpret.  Physics lesson for the day over, the philosophical one remains of what does music mean?  And nobody questioned that more than Jean-Michel Jarre.  He was and remains a pioneer of electronic music.  Along with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream and a few other, mostly European, musicians he has redefined what Music was and whether sounds in themselves can indeed be music.

I first heard electronic music in the theme music to Doctor Who, which seemed incredible to my ears; I wasn’t even sure if it was music, more a swirling hyponotic noise which somehow pleased my ears and brain.  And maybe we should forget that whole first paragraph and simply measure whether our brains like what we hear, whether it be Bach, Sinatra or Ozygene.  And though I bought a few of JM Jarre’s records it is Oxygene which is his most famous and popular piece, and my favourite too.  There was even a single from it in the charts.  Jean-Michel was also a pioneer in staging huge concerts with innovative light shows, often projected onto buildings and where the presence of the musicians is almost unimportant, just the effect of the Son et Lumiere created.  I saw one such concert at Versailles in the early eighties, and watched too from Beckton his Docklands concert.  I am not sure I can really discern whether his music is actually any good or not, but it is certainly pleasant to the ear. He has also been hugely influential in creating the Dance music of today, and the development of the synthesizer which though some may argue ruined music is used extensively by almost everyone today.  So chapeaux off to M. Jarre and his revolutionary music; he even has a piece of music far out in space, ‘Music for Supermarkets’ – recorded as a one-off and the tapes then burnt.

He continues to write and record music, or maybe just dissonant sounds – who knows?  It all depends on the energy which is released and how those sound waves are interpreted by the individual brains they fall upon.

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