DAY 92: Sat 13 June

The day the racists showed their true colours in Westminster

Sat in bed this morning editing yesterday’s diary entry and listening to Radio 3, the station my latest stab at the DAB took me to. I could not tell where I had landed from the content; first some folk music, then some ‘pop’ classical excerpts, and then – what is this? – an extended recording of someone SKATEBOARDING as an intro to a piece of music. I cannot tell you want it was as my mind was in a spin, Has the world gone mad? My reaction to took me back to interviewing Christopher Jefferies at home in the aftermath of his terrible ordeal at the hands of the police and the press over the murder of one of his tenants. He expressed similar sentiments about the changes to Radio 3, as it drifted downwind to catch up with Classic fm, playing extracts instead instead of the full length of classical works. I must be getting old.

I was got up by the chickens making a hell of a din. I don’t want them offending the neighbours on the other side of the garden. It is clear they now know there is a way out of The Gulch, and three of them are standing guard by the gate. However I know them too well. They also like a good squawk after laying their eggs, and I am right. Three nice warm eggs lie on the straw in the laying area of their hutch. I replenish their feeder to put them off the scent of freedom, and leave them to it. I want them to understand that they do not have automatic rights to the upper garden. It needs to recover from their predations. 

As I make cup of tea I see a bee gorging itself on the ‘hot lips’ salvia plant by the pond. The birds have made short shrift of the food put out for them, and the sun is shining. I toast myself a slice of bread and spread it with the last scrapings of dark lemon marmalade. All is right with the world. Right here, right now that is.

I know that trouble is brewing at the cenotaph in Bristol and in London as fascists of various ilks plan to defend Churchill and ‘the glorious dead’ from being disturbed by anti-racist demonstrators (who aren’t going anywhere near them anyway). More later no doubt.

I hear from Big Sis again. In the middle of the night (2:40am!) she was woken by phone call from a security company. The alarm had gone off  at her ex’s home at a remote location some miles away. They had been unable to raise the householder so, as a key holder, could she go and check what’s happened. Well no, since she is shielding and in no position to drive a car. Luckily persistent calls to her ex’s phones roused him from a deep sleep before the police were called out. There had been a power cut which had set off the alarm. It was, she admitted, the most exciting thing that had happened to her in a long time.

It is World Gin Day it seems. Why didn’t someone tell us earlier? I might then have properly prepared for it. As it happens I am in no position to celebrate. A friend let’s me know that as she is babysitting today, perhaps we can make up for our failures tomorrow with a distant gin in the garden,

Much of today was spent dealing with emails and locked into online reports of events in London, Bristol and elsewhere as fascistic thugs exposed their tiny closed minds and warped sense of identity while supposedly defending war memorials. I was surprised at the London turn-out which was larger than anticipated even without the presence of ringleader Yaxley-Tommy Robinson-Lennon who kept himself safe by staying away. There were echoes of the racist National Front outbreaks in the 1970s, ignorance, incoherence, mindless violence and a false sense of patriotism. The sort of nastiness we used to oppose at weekends in Brick Lane, and which I used report about way back then. The magnificent specimens of Brutish manhood we saw on display reminded me of thugs like Hoxton’s Derrick Day; a man so intelligent that he openly worked on the conversion of a building in Great Eastern Street into the new NF headquarters while still claiming benefits. I had the privilege of exposing the existence of Excalibur House to The Observer, after a tip off from a disenchanted Fronter. It was n surprise that I was barred from attending the press conference to launch the opening of the HQ, so I joined the thousands outside demonstrating against its presence in the East End, on the very edge of the City of London.

This is the ugly underbelly of British racism and Johnson’s literal base in the Brexit campaign. I found myself in an adjoining booth to a bunch of them in St Stephen’s Tavern in Westminster at the height of Brexit debate. Having spent the morning waving their union flags and chanting in Parliament Square, they were now having lunch.Nit content to down a few pints and stuff their gobs, they continued to spew their nasty, racist ideas as if it was legitimised by repetition. These men and women sought comfort in a small world view. It was as if ending the overseas aid budget, sending asylum-seekers and refugees packing, and quitting the EU would solve all their problems. Not so, poor souls. Nor will attacking the police while allegedly defending a statue which is already boarded up. Or throwing Nazi salutes outside the Houses of Parliament. The world has gone mad.

It was a blessed relief to get out into the greenhouse, where I started off new batches of beetroot, coriander, kale, mizuma, rocket and spinach. I also re-potted the oregano plant my son has nurtured from a cutting. I have lost count of the number of times I have tried to raise oreganum from seed, without success, so I prize this sturdy little example. The garden is looking healthy after some torrential rain and its respite from the chickens.  

But then it was time to get into the kitchen. I had promised to bake a cake for this Sunday’s street session. I found a recipe for a chocolate and coffee cake on the internet last weekend but lacked the ingredients then. I could not find it this afternoon. Instead I tried the box of Marguerite Patten’s recipe cards that have been gathering dust on the window sill. And there it was – Coffee Frosted Brownies. I have had a go at it and we shall see how well it goes down with the  neighbours. 

I also made a fresh version of my trademark fish pie for supper – poached cod, herring, red snapper and salmon topped with mushrooms and baked under a mash of potatoes and butternut squash. Served with a very tasty herbal salad from the garden, but a disappointing glass or two of Chilean Sauvignon Gris.

Neighbours brought new basic provisions while I cooked, so now we are well supplied for the coming period. Hopefully the first early potatoes will be ready soon; the first two strawberries have made an appearance, and we are already able to harvest peas and greens.

After all that I felt wasted. It has hardly been an exhausting day but I felt like escaping into a movie, or two. I began with a very odd ‘thriller’ entitled Exposed (originally called Daughter of God) which I can well imagine turned off audiences expecting an conventional police drama with Keanu Reeves. Ana Celia de Armas Caso plays a shy school teacher who seems to be seeing mystical figures while Reeves is a troubled detective trying to find out who killed his corrupt police buddy. No spoiler here, but only if you stick with it to the very end does all become (almost) clear. It was a mixture of curiosity and apathy which kept my finger off the zapper.

As an antidote I turned to Al Pacino and Robert de Niro in Righteous Kill. With that pairing you can’t go wrong, can you? Well, this was a bit of a plodder, with early apparent resolution as to which cop has gone rogue as a serial killer, so you kind of know there is bound to be a twist. Pacino and de Niro act their age, but without much energy and for em the standout performance came from Carla Gugino as feisty cop, and de Niro’s lover with a penchant for sado-masochism. Something was nagging me all through the action, and it was not until the denouement that I realised I had seen this before. It obviously made little impression when it first came out more than a decade ago.

I made my way to bed half way through a bar of chocolate. Says it all. 

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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