September 25: the lost world

I watched The Lost World on the telly the other day. This was the 1960 version of the H G Wells novel with Michael Rennie and Jill St John. I remember watching this as a child and how impressed I had been with the simulation of a dinosaur battle between a Tyranosaurus Rex and a Tricerotops (is that the name?). Revisiting it, I saw that the two dinosaurs were actually two little lizards scrapping in a miniaturised landscape. Another thing that struck me were the awful outdated attitudes to women and foreigners. Of the two women in the film, one was a primitive sexy indigeonous type, the other a sophisticated American who, we were told was tough as a man but actually broke down and wept at the first hint of trouble and needed the male to do the comforting. The foreigners (two South American types: one singing folkloric tunes to a guitar; the other with eyes rolling only for the diamonds). You wonder what the foreign actors and the women made of their parts in 1960. Fortunately, it is all now part of a lost world.

September 19: the follies of youth

After a whole day of religious ceremnony and religious music, it was refreshing to listen to something else this evening. We listened to some Joni Mitchell. I have only recently become aware of Joni Mitchell. I kind of knew her voice but had never really listened. As a very young man my New Zealand girlfriend liked Joni Mitchell, I recall, but I never really tried to get on board. I didn’t define myself by that kind of music and, as a 22 or 23 year-old defining myself was vital to my sense of self. I remember around the same time also convincing myself that you could not like both Beethoven and Mozart, again, I suppose, out of the urgent desire to inhabit a very specific space. Oh dear. These are the follies of youth, I suppose.

September 11: the desperate self

The great sadness over the death of Elizabeth II is understandable. She was in all of our lives like a watermark in our text. And yet, the truth about any sadness goes much beyond this. When we are grieving for her, we are grieving for ourselves, our past, our hopes for a future that never materialised. The desperate self is that egotistical; it never grieves for others; it grieves only for itself.

I went to Blackheath today and was a few minutes early for my meeting so I went to look at the house where, a full lifetime away, my first crush had lived. I think I found it. I saw her last the day I left London for Paris. I had phoned her and asked if I could stay the night in her parents house where she was, as my train or bus to Paris went from London early and I was coming from Manchester. That was the last time I saw her. This is many decades away now. Even by that night I had ceased to be enamoured of her. And still the pull of a past self is bewitching, so I had to go and look through the garden gate, like the grown-up Pip looking through the weed-ridden grounds of Satis House where he had once played in the garden of Miss Havisham. You understand why so many middle-aged men and women are desperate to see old flames from many years ago. Of course, it has nothing to do with the past love, now an old and alien being, if they are even still alive. It is that lost flickering image of their past selves they want to glimpse.

September 10: he asked for a cup of coffee

We got up early and went to Hampstead Heath for a walk. From there to Swiss Cottage and a Japanese cafe we had picked out to buy two Japanese cakes. Unfortunately it had become only take-away, so we put the cakes in a box for later and went next door for a cup of coffee. A man came in, maybe mid-thirties or forty. He asked for a cup of coffee and sat down. The waitress came over to clarify the order because, as you know, you cannot simply ask for a cup of coffee these days. She said Cappucino? He said a cup of coffee. She was confused. They agreed on white coffee. He waited a few minutes. Nothing came his way. There were about six people on duty in the cafe and it wasn’t very full. He got up and went across to the counter. Can I pay? he said, irritated. They were confused because it would be customary in this cafe to pay at the end, The white coffee was on the way though. It was £3. He paid in three pound coins. I was relieved they took cash. I was wondering what he was doing in this cafe when it looked like he was used to the habits of the so-called greasy spoon. As he left the cafe, muttering under his breath, I noticed he was carrying two big bags of Waitrose products. This was difficult to compute. An expensive supermarket but unfamiliarity with ways of a contemporary metropolitan cafe. He must have been living under a stone for two decades not to to know that you cannot ask for a cup of coffee without biblical retribution raining on your head. Old coin was also an iniquity that he committed. There are other crimes I commit myself; not keeping everyone waiting in queues while I get a big chunky smartphone out and pay with that; not paying with a QR code (which ironically stands for Quick Response). Today at work I wasted probabaly three hours trying to fill in some sheets that were only available in a hidden passageway of Microsoft Teams that wouldn’t open up for me. I also am available to be spoken to in life as I do not wear earphones in my ears. I play the role of social outlier and should probably wear a hi-viz jacket at all times that would set me neatly apart from the rump.