Friday, 13 December 2013

Jacking up in the toilet.

What a day.

What a terrible day.

Actually, it was also a really good day as well.

A morning in Tesco’s getting dog tired doing the shopping, struggling back and cooking my lunch. 

Driving into Slough to see my Mum in hospital– as I do every day.

Arguing with the Consultant (our first meeting) about the treatment she has had over the last two and a half weeks, which holds me up for an hour when I needed to get away early.

Stressed out, I’m driving back home when I get a call from one of the professionals who should have had a chance to treat my mum from the beginning and that’s after two and a half weeks of my being ignored and arguing and getting shouty and rude, of having to put in a written complaint. Perhaps finally they will get a chance to do what should have been done at the start.

I’m shattered.

Also, that call took another 20 minutes so now I’m really late.

I go home, pick up a hypodermic and a bottle of booze – what more could anyone need for an evening? I’m going out for a meal with friends.

I drive up to London. Now it’s the rush hour, it’s Christmas and every field mouse from the country (like me) is driving up to town.

At every turn I get it wrong – I may know every back alley and every shortcut but this time whenever I make a clever turn I get into a worse traffic jam.

It takes me two hours. My friends have given up on me and started to eat when I stagger in. Then I have to go to the toilet to inject myself.

Jacking up in the toilet, now that’s really sordid. In that moment all the pain of my illness, my tiredness, my inability to protect those I love and the general struggle of it all is painfully clear.

Then it all gets better.

I come out and I’m in the most wonderful Indian restaurant in London. It’s not expensive, the food isn’t too hot, it’s ugly and the décor (Formica and Linoleum) reeks of 1951.  Which is, in fact, just when it was built. Nothing has changed since then. It was just the same in the 1970’s when I was a student and we went there with just enough money to order the cheapest vegetarian curry and the never empty rice bowl.

It’s more expensive now but there is still no menu – they choose for you. You bring your own drinks and no one ever leaves hungry.

On the wall are pictures of the great Pandit Nehru and the not so great Gandhi clan that followed him. But the old tables smell of earnest student conversations; of the anti-colonial struggles, of young India and a new world being born, the world of ‘Midnight’s Children’.

Every table is full of happy people, shouting to try and be heard above the noise of a restaurant in the weeks before Christmas.

Around me are good friends and staunch comrades from years of political struggles.

There are empty bottles and plates all around us. Together we have marched and protested and fought to change the world for the better. When I can’t hear them I can see in their faces the memories of all those struggles.

Good conversation, good food, a happy evening.

When it’s all over I walk back to my car, passing through The London School of Economics, my old university. It’s near the end of term, so even late at night, students are about and the buildings are still open and lit.

So, for a moment I wander inside and look in on the ‘Old Theatre’ – scene of tempestuous meetings, lectures, film nights (twice a week on real film delivered in tin canisters) and concerts – great music.

So much has changed – new buildings, many alterations. Money, money, money – it just smelt of money. Most of all, where once there were radical and idealistic young people intent on changing the world for the better, now there are young business people and baby investors. There are ambitions to join hedge funds and dabble in speculations. Greed is good and survival of the fittest is the only ‘morality’. They have 'stock exchange clubs'.

Truly, I am already a ghost.

But it was good to get that out of my system and good to spend precious time with some wonderful people.

And none of us were talking about the past, only about the future.

So it was a good day after all.

Neil Harris

(A don’t stop till you drop production)



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