(A London Blog)
This week I have twice been given a free cup of filter coffee by Arabian counter salesmen working in different cafes of the Pret a Manger chain in London. The reason? The black Tshirt with a picture of the Palestinian flag on the chest, and the words ‘FREE PALESTINE’, that I’ve been wearing since my arrival here from Israel last week. They like the message. And so do many others passing in the street who give the thumbs up.
On Wednesday night I went to the scriptwriters’ workshop at the Actors’ Studio in Soho which I had to pay 40 pounds for a year’s membership, and 5 pounds for the session, which was to last from 6.30 to 8.30 pm. I brought along 3 copies of my play ‘The Rich Young Man’ in the hope of getting a reading. Stewart, the ‘tutor’ said he thought he recognized me from the 70’s when I was last on the theatre scene in London. I think I remember him too. Many moons have past.
I wasn’t the only one who had brought stuff along to be read - so had all the other 10 writers. Parts of their works were read out and then discussed, and it was pretty good stuff. After 3 monologues, a situation comedy, a drama about Elizabethan spies, a play about stand-up comedians by a Choctaw Indian and a couple of other interesting pieces, it was my turn. I gave a brief history of the evolvement of my drama, showed them the original novel, and then began reading the synopsis of the play. Stewart stopped me at the denouement at the end of the first act and called for comments. There was talk of blasphemy, a Pakistani guy shook his head, a young Christian girl said she would boycott the play, a woman said it would make a great film, and another guy gave it a big thumbs up. Unfortunately owing to time we didn’t get to read any of the dialogue, but Stewart said he would read the play and help me to organise a public reading sometime soon.
In the morning at the Piccadilly Backpackers’ Hostel in another shared room (10 people this time) and eating a tub of strawberry and banana muesli I had scavenged from a supermarket throwaway, I heard a crunch in my mouth, then a rattle against my tongue. I reached in and pulled out one of the top right hand molars from my mouth. It had a sliver nail in the centre and two pristine screws dangling from the root area. I sort of shrugged. I’m getting used to disasters. No way could I afford to have it replaced. I put it under my pillow for the tooth fairy and went out for a smoke in a nearby park.
I picked up a copy of ‘City AM’, a daily paper about business and financial news in London and the world, left behind on a bench. Corporation corruption and capitalist derring- do. As I glanced through it I began to feel very nauseous, as if it was caused by the filth I was reading. Eventually I couldn’t control myself and leaned forward and vomitted onto the headline on the front page: “EUROPE BACK IN CRISIS MODE”. Then I laid it on the ground and took a picture of it for posterity with my cellphone.
On my way back to the hostel the sun was shining and I saw a tiny thing shining very brightly from a crack in the pavement. I stopped and reached down and picked it up. It was a minute little siver star, no bigger than an ant’s head. I was amazed that I had spotted it, and put it in my wallet, a present from the Tooth Fairy!
In fact the tooth was gone when I got back to my room, and so was my bed-linen. My bed had been booked by another customer and I had to move yet again, this time to a 6 person room, more expensive but no choice. I’m like a gypsy in that hostel, paying nightly for whatever is going. I collected linen and made my new bed.
In the afternoon I decided towalk across town and take part in a picket against drones outside the headquarters of General Atomics in the City that I saw advertised on the Indymedia site.
On the way I checked some thrown away rubbish and found a carton of asparagus and blue cheese soup, a tub of Greek style yoghurt with honey,and a recently cooked hunk of roast beef. I sat in a little park and had a feast.
When I got to Old Broad street there was a small gathering of protestors outside the huge tower housing the offices of General Atomics. They are the manufacturers of the Reaper UAV drone in service with the US and UK military. This weapon has killed numerous innocent people without warning or legal process, including women and children in many targeted attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries.
I listened to a speech by Ben, and chatted with Keiran of Veterans for Peace. The forty or so gathered protesters (mostly ladies of age) were very quiet and I tried to get some chants going, but it was mostly me. ‘Drone Drone make us moan,’ was considered stupid sounding, ‘Atomics’ reaping causes weeping’, a little better, but ‘General Atomics Bloadsoaked Economics’’ the best. I bawled it through the revolving doors of the tower as I left. (I later learned that 20 of the protesters had been nuns from the Sisters of St Joseph of the Peace.)
I was on my way to the Anarchist Bookshop in Whitechapel to see if I could find any squats I might move into. On the way I picked up one of those free papers that are churned out in huge numbers every day, the Metro or the Standard, and the front page story is “FIRST SQUATTER JAILED UNDER NEW UK LAWS”. The squatters’ advisory service had closed by the time I got to the bookshop , but this new decree outlawing squatting is an outrage to human rights.
On the way back I walked along the Thames in the moonlight, enchanted by the coloured lights lighting up the buildings and bridges, blue, red, gren, orange, beautiful against the black sky. One view on the walk I viewed with distaste. A huge canvas hangs down from the Tate and Lyle building overlooking the river, covering its whole large front, showing a Picture of the Queen Elizabeth on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, sometime in the late Sixties, with her family (a young Charles), and close advisor and cousin Lord (Uncle Dickie) Mountbatten whispering in her ear. I shuddered.
"It’s for the honour of the throne that the drones are flown."