The Root, Trunk, Branch and Leaf of All Evil

(Reading time: 35 seconds.)

The bitter irony is that when they tell you knowledge is power it’s because they’re lying to you, and it’s not. (Although obviously it should be.) Material wealth is.

Conveniently, objectively, hoarding of finite material wealth is evil. And under the ridiculous socio-political-economic system we (still, bizarrely) inhabit, encouraged.

So, literally, in our current reality, power is evil. And evil is power. Which is why it seems like everyone with any power these days is a cruel psychopath.

Because you’re not crazy. They are. But they have the wealth, so they have the power. Their appetite for both is insatiable, so do yourself a favour and stop them the only way they will be stopped:

yourself.

Seriously. They can’t stop you. They’ve merely convinced you that they can. And besides, if you haven’t noticed that if they aren’t stopped urgently, we’re all fucked, then they’ve done a better job of brainwashing you than I think even they intended.

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My Father Forever

He was born in 1949. A gentle, loving, intelligent, simple man. Father to four children. Grandfather to five. Husband to his loving, caring wife – my mother. A professional footballer in his heyday. Somewhat tortured by a past unfairly characterised by poor treatment and ill-fortune. Afflicted by Parkinson’s syndrome the final decade of his life. He will be missed. He was and remains loved. His suffering is over. He is cured.

He died today (May 10, 2018).

My first memory of dad took place on a beach in Victoria somewhere.  He kicked a football so high and straight into the sky that it would almost disappear.  It would hang there for a while, then hurtle back down and he’d catch it with ease – while I was surely scurrying for cover.  The man seemed a god.  Unfortunately my memories since then are dominated by Parkinson’s syndrome.  It was at times a nightmare – especially for dad.  I’m hoping now death has cured him of his disease more memories of better times with him will swim to the surface.  Even during the past decade or so, there were good times.  I was with him and mum at the aged care home one day.  It surfaced that during his football days his nickname was Magic.  I asked him if that was his reputation with the ladies.  He grinned wryly, and mum playfully reprimanded him.  There was always something so comforting about dad, that extended beyond the fact that he was my dad.  He was a good listener, and he was logical.  You could lay out your problems to him and, even if he couldn’t practically help, he could spell out a solution in only a few words.  He had a cheeky sense-of-humour, that I for better or worse inherited.

Most of all he was a teacher – which all the best dads are.  I learned from his words.  And his actions.  Or inactions.  The best lesson he taught me: love and respect for women, through his love, adoration of and admiration for his wife, my mother.  The importance of familial love.  The precious fragility of chosen love.  The love my parents chose to have for each other always seemed as strong and eternal as it was priceless.  Until Parkinson’s came along, but that love didn’t go away.  It merely changed.  Dad reaped what he’d sown.  He’d worked hard.  Suffered.  Endured.  Been wronged, even.  Most importantly he loved and protected us, and his wife.  And when the time came it was our turn to look after, love, and protect him.  As much and as best we could.  We, or at least I, started saying goodbye to dad when he was diagnosed.  He’d been dying ever since, agonisingly slowly.  And now, both tragically for our grief and gratefully for his suffering being over, he has gone.  He was of course not a god.  He was just a man. A good man.  The football he booted is hanging, resisting gravity for a few more moments, a black dot against the blue sky.  Dad is not there to catch it anymore.  But we are.  Those who loved and were loved by him.  And we will catch it.  He taught us how to.  And we can teach others how to.  So in that way, at least, dad was a god – who will live forever down through the lives he touched and created, and taught.

Dad, just this summer past. Edited by Mitch Gilmore

Two Things I’m Obsessed With

The first is commonly known as the (technological) Singularity. Put simply, it refers to the moment in which a machine emerges that is not just smarter than humans, but smarter than the collective intelligence of all humans. The average prediction of various experts places this occurrence at about 2045. Which means it could happen much sooner, or much later – depending on the rate of technological progression. I won’t bother with references. You can look this up if you choose.

For me, the consequences are simple. And about three-fold. One: humanity will be capable of achieving a type of immortality, through people being able to upload their minds to what we now call the cloud. This will possibly also permit downloading minds into bodies of any imaginable type, not unlike in the Netflix series Altered Carbon. Whether one would actually want to be immortal or not, is worthy of an entire book. Two: machines will replace humanity as the dominant species of Earth, and possibly the universe. This might happen through the direct destruction or dying out of humans, or because humans fuse with technology to the point in which the cease to be explicitly human (cyborgs). Such an occurrence could be seen as evolutionary – as in the next logical step in human evolution is superior beings originally of our creation taking over.

And three (which leads me to the other thing I’m obsessed with): the current ownership class (the bourgeois) of humans (think Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch et. al.) use their ownership of the increasingly automated means of production to render the vast bulk of working class humans obsolete, perhaps homeless, or even liquidated by the very machines which made them obsolete. Frankly, as things currently stand, I think the third scenario is the most likely. Wealth inequality is at catastrophic levels, and the super-rich are showing no signs of either intending to, or actually balancing things out. While I admit this possible future might solve the problem of overpopulation, I also venture that technology advanced enough would solve the problem of overpopulation (and associated resource shortages and pollution and climate change) itself.

The second thing I’m obsessed with is called Universal Basic Income. UBI involves giving everyone, from poorest to wealthiest in society enough money to live on. Say four or five or six hundred dollars per week. Without any obligations in return. The idea is that they can then work or create/expand a business for more money. Or they can travel the world eating banana sandwiches. Or they can become the artist they always wanted to be. And etcetera and etcetera. When I mentioned UBI to a narrow-minded but intelligent friend recently, he gave a cliched response, something to do with that it wouldn’t work because people need an incentive to work and excel and achieve. Unfortunately, what he didn’t grasp because he clearly hadn’t read into the issue is that, yes, UBI is not an incentive. It’s a tool. Much of the world is too impoverished to be really of any use to their fellow humans. You have to spend money to make money, as the old adage goes. But if you don’t have any to start with, then you can’t make any from it.

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inspirobot.me

Current welfare systems across much of the developed world already seek to achieve this purpose. The problem is they provide a subsistence, not dignified, level of income. And they require recipients to look for work – ignoring the absurdity of such a requirement in a rapidly automating labour industry which is increasingly prohibitive of the sort of low skill, low wage people on unemployment benefits. UBI gives people enough financial power to not just survive, but live a comfortable life, and also possibly live an even more comfortable life if they wish to work/innovate/invent for it. UBI gives people choice. Freedom. Freedom they’re otherwise denied, whether they’re working or not. It gives them the ability to achieve their dreams – even if their dreams involve sitting around at home, ordering in pizza and buying products from the internet.

Another criticism of UBI is the cost to taxpayers. Firstly, it’s a “basic” income. They’re not going to be squirreling away much of the money. The vast bulk of it will be returned straight to the economy, and into and through again the hands of taxpayers. Secondly, even if they are saving a lot of the money, eventually they will make a big purchase with it. Maybe use it to create a product beneficial to mankind that wouldn’t otherwise had appeared. Third: the cost of current welfare systems are bogged down in their complexity. Their bureaucracy. The myriad different payments to and requirements from welfare recipients make up a sizable bulk of their cost. The argument goes that UBI would eliminate this complexity by giving everyone a flat basic income. Any losses of employment in the public or associated private sector would be mitigated by the fact that said unemployed would be receiving the UBI, and would now be free to pursue activities or work surely more enjoyable than sitting in an office unnecessarily managing the lives of society’s worst off.

Barring an unforeseen catastrophic event, or perhaps a foreseen one in the event of climate change, technological progress will only continue to accelerate. Humans will become, in a productivity sense, more and more redundant. Artificial immortality is an at the moment science-fictional ethical dilemma for individuals and their families. If humanity is replaced or absorbed by machines, then by then we won’t have much to whine about. But if the vast bulk of humanity is not just enslaved, but made redundant, homeless, starving by a tiny clique of super-wealthy elites who own all of the machines that produce everything, that would be the worst option for me and any children I might have (that currently I don’t want to have because I believe that’s exactly what might happen in their lifetime). Wealth will always be limited, depending on how much of the universe’s resources we eventually have access to, but it has never been more abundant. Why is it not psychotic that this world has several billionaires, while millions starve to death? We need to start asking ourselves, and our elected representatives, one simple question: is it necessary, or even humane, for people to be forced to work for water, food, housing, clothing, and small luxuries such as technology and travel, or otherwise languish in poverty?

I say no. Certainly not. And I hope for ever more agreement.

Depression

It’s just as paralysing as anxiety, but for different reasons. Anxiety is fear. Depression is resignation. Anxiety is worrying things are bad or will get worse. Depression is being sure they are or will. It’s hard to say which is worse.

Anxiety can be physically painful. Though, depression can be a total numbness almost to the seemingly oxymoronic point of severe pain. Depression is being sure that others in society won’t do what you need them to, while they will certainly still force you to do what they want.

It’s jumping through the myriad hoops of life, put there by others, but wanting to just lie down and close your eyes. It’s thinking “I wish I’d never been born”. It’s fuelled by little things, such as the fan making that stupid random noise that wakes you up at 3am and then you can’t get to sleep and then you’re grumpy at work and with your girl/boyfriend and with your family so you lose your job/relationship and fight with your family.

You know what I mean? I hope you don’t. I don’t blame people who are mentally well and don’t understand mentally unwell people. It’s when they don’t factor our health into their expectations of us that I don’t like. They get something they don’t want from us. Or they don’t get something they do want. Or not enough. Or too much.

Then again, maybe they aren’t well either if they don’t react well to someone with poor mental health. This is why depression is so isolating: it’s not exactly cheering to spend time with a depressed person. So the person will avoid others in case they’re depressed too or to keep from bringing them down. And people will avoid a depressed person because they don’t want to have a negative experience. Or they’ve just got other shit to do.

It gets better and worse, but it never ends. . . .

Anxiety

It’s paralysing. Driving. Walking. Talking to people. Even eating. Anxiety attaches fear to everything. Fear of a car accident. Fear of anything terrible happening. Fear of someone saying something I don’t like. Or saying something stupid. Or not saying something I should have.

I don’t suffer from anxiety as much as I used to. I’m much more depressed these days. It might be because I’m underemployed. An even split: anxiety/work, depression/no work.

I should have never started writing. It’s brought me nothing but trouble. Meeting some of the most psychopathic people in existence. It’s estranged me from people, because I tend not to hold back. (I should have just stayed working at a supermarket and accepted the abuse – which it turns out is far milder than that a writer receives.)

And now legal action. I’m anxious the police might turn up again at the behest of some philistine who doesn’t like what I write but thinks they’re entitled to do more than express disagreement; which they’re not because of freedom of speech, as protected by the Australian constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I’m afraid that life is never going to get better. That people will continue to kick me to death agonisingly slowly because I’m not as energetic as them. It’s one of the most difficult things about life in Australia: the most energetic, motivated expect everyone to be that way. And might even force others to be if they get into positions of power.

The problem is they kick you to death, but always avoid delivering a deliberately killer blow. So I’ll die. But of my wounds, slowly, alone, long after they’ve stopped kicking me and have turned their attention to some other gentle soul.

I just wish they’d leave me alone. They’ve kicked me enough. I’ll die of my wounds now. If they keep kicking they’ll deal a killer blow and might have to face the consequences. Who am I kidding. No they won’t. They have all the power. I won’t see any justice, not even posthumously.

#latecapitalism ups the ante

Just answered my landline phone. I know, I shouldn’t. But I was curious. Straight away it’s weird. I say hello, and there’s background scrambling as if his phone was lying on his desk because he didn’t actually believe anyone was going to be stupid enough to answer.

So anyway, I say hello, and then there was a delay, so I followed up with “how are you?” And then I get a response: “Hello sir how are you?” Good, I reply then again ask him how he is because he didn’t answer me the first time. He says good and thanks for your concern.

I’ll sum up the rest of the conversation. He says someone’s trying to take over my Internet connection. I say that’s not good and is there anything I can do about it. He says go to your router and tell me is there a light flashing or not. I look at it, groan a little at the slight exertion of bending down to get close to see the router. Then I hang up.

It sounds absurd. And I might be wrong. But I’m pretty sure this guy was calling me to tell me someone was trying to gain control of my Internet connection literally so he (or whomever he represents) could try to gain control over it. Why, I’m not really interested in. Where to from here is the question uppermost on my mind, in the wake of the conversation.

If the sharp edge of capitalism has gotten to the point in which it almost blatantly has to be a problem in order to solve the exact problem it is, where else is there to go?

I don’t know. But I suspect it will be very interesting.

My Silent Captor

By James Noonan, currently Melbourne-based writer

59th Street Station, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York

59th Street Station, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York

It was like a sucker punch, hard and fast. One minute I was sitting there calmly on the subway train hurtling beneath Manhattan, the next like I was fighting for my life. I felt like I’d been dumped in icy water, my skin tingling, my lungs reeling for air. In those dizzying moments that seemed to stretch endlessly, I became convinced I was going to die.

As the train came to its next stop, I leapt up and jumped out, even though my friend and I were nowhere near our destination. I may have mumbled something at her, I wasn’t sure. I was focused on only one thing: getting to street level. Racing up the stairs, I felt I had only seconds to reach the surface, to safety. My senses were dulling; the world around me grew vague and fuzzy.

When I finally made it out onto the sidewalk, I doubled over and heaved in lungfuls of air. My heart was still pounding and that cold pressing dread had yet to lift. I tried to imagine that I was on a beach, the warm ocean breeze washing over me—somewhere far removed from the garish lights of Times Square, the ceaseless bleat of traffic. The streets seemed to be closing in on me and I needed to escape—but from what exactly I didn’t know.

My friend was suddenly beside me, asking what on earth was happening. I kept saying, with a growing anger, that I had no idea. I knew it wasn’t simply a bout of queasiness or a migraine. I thought for a moment it could be a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism (I have a history of blood clots), but in a matter of seconds my mind had jumped to a hundred other fatal conclusions—poison, accidental drug intake—all of which somehow seemed feasible.

I walked around Midtown that night for hours, unable to be indoors or to take the subway any further. My friend and I ended up getting a taxi back to my apartment, the windows fully down and my head between my legs the whole time. I just didn’t think I’d ever stop feeling this way. I’d forgotten what it was like not to feel this way.

I returned home shortly after that frightening episode, having grown increasingly unhappy in New York. Things weren’t much better here though—I couldn’t find work, I had no money or place to live (other than with my parents), and I felt terribly alone. I felt, in all senses of the word, a failure. And I slid into a major depression. I completely withdrew into myself and stopped going out to see friends, frequently making up excuses as to why I couldn’t hang out. I’d lie in bed all day, just staring up at the ceiling, not wanting to face the world.

New York's Central Park Wollman ice rink, backgrounded by mid-town

New York’s Central Park Wollman ice rink, backgrounded by mid-town

I knew this lifestyle—or lack thereof— was bad for me, but I didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it. In a weird way, I felt almost comforted by the absence of activity and excitement in my life. I frequently found myself wishing to sleep, or ‘turn off’ for a month—maybe more. Depression was my warm bed in the dark. It was my morphine, coursing relentlessly through me, numbing my senses. And I was entirely under its command.

It was this other strange phenomenon, these frequent overwhelming feelings of acute and disabling fear, that really shook me. I’d been robbed of my sense of self, of all my confidence. I was no longer in control. There came a period when I couldn’t even leave the house for fear of public judgement, of attracting unwanted stares. I was assailed constantly by a voice which questioned everything I did and thought. Why are they looking at me like that? Was it something I said? Whenever I heard laughter, I assumed—however irrationally—that I was the focus of such amusement. There was a stain on me, my fly was unzipped, or countless other humiliating scenarios…

It was only after I cancelled a job interview on account of not being able to enter the office building that I sought help. My family were worried about me—they could sense something was wrong, however well I’d tried to hide it. So I booked in to see my GP, who diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. He explained to me that what I’d been experiencing were panic attacks. He prescribed me some meds for my depression and referred me to a psychologist for treatment of my anxiety. I found it initially nonsensical. I didn’t consider myself a stressful person; I went with the flow. I didn’t let things get to me. Why, then, was I suddenly struggling under the weight of everything?

In the six months following my diagnosis, I had regular therapy sessions, and read up on a lot of material, particularly online—some of which I found incredibly helpful, e.g. Beyond Blue and Man Therapy. I felt less alone knowing how common anxiety is among men and women. In many ways I learned how to be myself again, step by baby step. I focused all my energies on getting better, not on trying to live up to the perceived expectations of others. I learned to challenge my negative thinking, assuring myself that I was in control of my life, despite what that sinister voice kept trying to tell me.

Anxiety is often grouped with depression, but while many people suffer from both (as I did) and the treatments that work best for one may very well combat the other, they aren’t, I would argue, two sides of the same coin. Anxiety is still heavily misunderstood, and is often used interchangeably with stress. But whereas stress is a rational response to daily pressures, one that carries certain benefits relating to performance and decision-making, anxiety is a mental disorder, and does not usually have a readily identifiable root cause.

It’s also very difficult to open up about—especially with those that haven’t ‘been there’. Comparatively, depression—its causes, its effects—is quite a prevalent topic in today’s world. If one hasn’t personally experienced it, they usually know somebody who has—whether it’s a close friend of theirs, their favourite film star or musician, or a character on a popular T.V. drama. But anxiety is an affliction that still isn’t widely talked about, in its own right, even though it can be just as debilitating to one’s health (it certainly was for me). I remember I’d say to my friends whenever I was feeling anxious that I was just crook. On one occasion when it led to my being physically sick on the pavement outside a café, I said that I was simply nursing a chronic hangover from the night before. And we all laughed it off.

Eventually, however, I was able to be honest with those close to me. And I’m so glad of that, and often wish I’d done so sooner. Trying to bottle up such an intense internal struggle is poisonous to one’s health, and sadly does often end in tragic circumstances. For me, battling my anxiety remains an uphill battle. There are no quick fixes—contrary to enduring belief, one cannot simply ‘snap out of it’, much like with depression. Mostly I’m grateful for the people in my life who have supported me, even when I’d practically given up on myself. For it has been they who have reminded me when I’ve needed it most that there is a light at the end of even the longest and blackest of tunnels.

Brooklyn Bridge, from the East River Bikeway, below  Franklin D Roosevelt Drive, Manhattan

Brooklyn Bridge, from the East River Bikeway, below Franklin D Roosevelt Drive, Manhattan

Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of life. Increasingly, I can’t see that my life has purpose. Which is confusing at best, as without the courage to kill myself I am merely drifting along aimlessly. Two purposes I’d like to have are: 1) work, with the caveat that my boss and anyone else I have to deal with in the course of my employment not be an arsehole, and; 2) female sexual and emotional companionship, with the caveat that she be comfortable with my socially awkward and more often completely unmotivated nature. But I’m not optimistic that either of these two purposes will come along any time soon. Or perhaps ever again.

It’s important that we differentiate between the word “purpose”, and the word “meaning”. I don’t believe there is meaning, in a spiritual sense, to my or anyone else’s life. But there can be purpose, either to oneself or others or both. Work is purposeful because it achieves things for people who give you money so you can pay people for things you need. And female companionship is purposeful because it creates more life. If you’re into that sort of thing. (I’m not.) Plus it fulfills emotional and sexual desire. I’ve not had good experiences with work, and I’ve had too few experiences with women at all, let alone good ones. I want good experiences with both, but am tired of instead experiencing the bad.

I’ve also felt poorly treated by many people in my life. In fact it’s getting to the point in which those negative experiences are weighing so heavily upon me, the only way I can think of so as to not add to the weight is to avoid contact with other people as often as possible. Obviously this is difficult in the face of work and female companionship. I don’t know where to from here. Obviously. Because I have no purpose. Just sought after purpose. I guess you could argue that sought after purpose is as good as purpose. But it’s really not, because it holds no promise of reward. Just more searching. It’s an empty feeling, having no purpose. It drains energy and creativity and passion. There’s little to be done about it, though. Either I’ll find my purpose at a time I’ll likely find surprising, or I will never find it and the world and its people will hardly notice.

Most of all, I’m tired of feeling pressured to justify an existence I didn’t choose.

On Booze (phone blog mark two)

One of my proudest moments, God bless me, comes from more than a decade ago when I was 17. With my best adolescent poker face I purchased a case of Carlton Cold from the 7th Avenue Palm Beach bottle shop. Minus a fake ID but plus an early or perhaps about rightly timed bloomer couple of days’ stubble. Success. I will always remember with glee strutting across the Gold Coast Highway with the case on my shoulder to be consumed by my two years younger brother and few months older best mate. They both passed out before me. Relatively naive to the ill effects of alcohol, I alternated, concerned, between the two of them trying to figure out if they were sleeping or in some kind of alcoholic danger. My brother woke up with purple bubble gum stuck to his face. It was awesome. Fuck any prudes, lame-os or conservatives who think otherwise.

But then again, more than a decade later, perhaps I should give pause to the effect Lady Liquor has since had on my life. It’s actually hard to identify the negatives. Or the alternatives. Perhaps I look older than I might otherwise. My liver might not be as healthy as it could be. Maybe I’ve missed out on pleasurable romantic experiences with women that I could have had with more frequent sobriety (or less-frequent drunkenness). Such hypothesising is merely speculation on an alternative universe – one in which I’m doing God knows what with my time in the absence of the brown, red, amber or clear liquids. I could have been religious, which would go dead against the skepticism (cynicism) I’ve cultivated that I can’t be sure isn’t itself influenced by the devil drink. Or I could have been a fitness freak. Not a footy boy at a high level of fitness who nonetheless gets drunk and rowdy with an entire team at his back. But a serious amateur or professional athlete with blinkers on for such distractions.

I’m just about done already, in light of the fact that there’s a large amount of hard liquor coursing through my system as I tap frustratingly at my phone while my laptop sits dejectedly nearby. I think, to be honest and not particularly positive, alcohol is a self-destructive indulgence for me. (Although I’m almost without exception a happy drunk.) I’ve never been terribly fond of the pain associated with life. The reality of living in a capitalist society, in which people will profess to care only should there be an advantage present for them to seize at my expense. A society in which the most deserving of wealth are judged not enough by their character but by the wealth they already possess. A society in which my good manners and gentle nature are seen as a weakness and my self-destructive tendencies self-perpetuatingly seen as an excuse for avoidance and malignancy. I don’t drink to forget. I don’t necessarily drink to be more social. I drink to be happy. To be more insulated from this world’s superficial and heartless realities. I drink because as people go about their lives around me I feel more content with mine only because I find their possibly ridiculous choices and opinions to be less grating. I drink because I can. Because it’s a legal and socially accepted escape from the fucking circus we call post-World War Two Western Society which has more evils to answer for than any evil empire which came before it. I drink because my knowledge of history and shame at a present I can too little control permits me to do little else. I drink, and that’s ok. I drink.

US and UK – I Lived By the River – Part Four of Nine

Somewhere in Oregon, US - November-ish, 2012

Somewhere in Oregon, US – November-ish, 2012

Portland, Oregon, was as you may remember a progressive Pacific-north-western American city I missed while riding a dragon (Wicked Camper) from California to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This is a little regrettable because since then I’ve learned without much effort more about the city’s vibrancy, despite its almost year-round wet-and-cold-weather. Such weather was itself credited by I don’t remember who in a magazine I can’t recall the name of as being the reason why Portland’s creative culture was blossoming like a sunflower despite or perhaps in spite of regularly dark clouds above. Because such foul weather more often than, say, on the Gold Coast, forced people inside to paint, strum guitars or write fiction. Now, at this point of my US and UK journal I’m in London, and the reason I’ve taken you back to Portland is to make a comparison between the two cities. By no means am I going to suggest that London is not nor never has been an international artistic centre. Hardly. But while Portland and the US north-west it calls home is known as a cultural “up and comer” (Lonely Planet), I felt London was long past its prime in that regard. Of course even or maybe especially for such an ancient city bohemian blossoming in whatever art form must come in cycles, but I couldn’t help but detect a certain stagnation, weariness or perhaps arrogant complacency in that old world town.

I'm posting either too many or not enough photos of London.  Hard to guess when I've started posting as I write.  Oh well. . . .

I’m posting either too many or not enough photos of London. Hard to guess when I’ve started posting as I write. Oh well. . . .

While this feeling was evident, to me, everywhere I went in London – it was no less keenly felt in Clapham, where I was presently riding the bus with young Kristy. We were sitting atop the double-decker heading along Clapham Road back to her townhouse somewhere in or near the Brixton area. At some point during this trip I remembered, loudly and vocally, that during late-2011 London had been rocked by widespread rioting in response to corruption, depressed economic circumstances and, I believe, isolated police brutality. Clapham itself, as Kristy confirmed, had on August 8 of that year been hit by more than 1000 disaffected youths who laid siege to Clapham Junction – one of “Britain’s busiest train stations” – through an orgy of violence, destruction, looting and general anarchy. When I much too loudly started discussing these recollections Kristy shooshed me, then glanced around the bus as if sensing danger. And finally that event brings me to my point: the only thing progressive I sensed about London during my time there was a distinct undercurrent of social angst and anger. But, hey, the Global Financial Crisis was kind to no-one, not least the British. And at least in the UK, unlike Australia, its people bother to notice their elected representatives’ corruption and contempt and voice their disapproval of such outrages. The whole “she’ll be right, mate” sentiment is something that must make our wealthy and powerful rub their fat pink hands with glee. Back to where I left off with the last blog post. . . .

Didn't go inside Shakespeare's Globe - too expensive

Didn’t go inside Shakespeare’s Globe – too expensive

Even with Google Maps streetview I really can’t figure out which Clapham pubs I’d been to during that Friday night in London with Kristy – a pretty friend of my half-sister and brother’s sister. Even memories of the first pub we visited, after leaving central London with her two full-bodied buddies, are hazy due to the amount of gin and tonic I was drinking. I remember enjoying myself immensely, though, and that the atmosphere was quite amiable – despite the fact that being a long way from home and escorting three women I barely knew through an area I knew even less well was a decidedly foreign experience for me. Still, we chatted and danced and drank and indulged in that time-standing-still atmosphere unique to Friday nights out or pleasant sexual experiences. The pub seemed a microcosm of that not-quite-eternal city; it was standing room only, unless you could actually find a seat on the sides of the room. We had, and it was warm inside so I’d removed my scarf, jacket and second jacket down to but a t-shirt and jeans. Not long before leaving entirely I stepped out for a cigarette quite bravely without wearing warm clothes and when I tried to return, they were closed. Of course the pub wasn’t actually closed, but that’s what the security staff told me. I said my friends and jacket were inside, but they were indifferent. So I stood there jumping slightly up and down with my arms crossed for warmth, until the meat-heads said I could go back inside to get my stuff, under one condition: they’d be following me. Naturally, once I’d taken a few steps inside and turned around to check I was being followed, the bouncers had lost interest and were nowhere to be seen. The fuckers were merely messing with the rare Australian guy who’d mindlessly followed a beautiful woman to Clapham.

London Bridge from the Thames south bank

London Bridge from the Thames south bank

So after I uncharacteristically kissed her friends goodbye European style (one kiss on each cheek), Kristy and I headed for hers via another pub to visit the bathroom and the abovementioned bus ride which could have turned ugly due to my indiscretion. Unbeknown to us, Kristy had lost her wallet at either the second pub’s toilet or simply anywhere within the first. We got back to her flat and I was all ready to make my move – I have no idea how but it’s happened before and hope I manage it again – when she discovered her wallet was gone. That’s a big thing these days. I mean all those cards can be painful to replace and anxiety-inducing to possibly have on someone else’s person. Actually, it probably was worse to lose a wallet back in the days in which money wasn’t electronic. But still, she was hardly pleased. And it was hard to pretend that the hour or two she spent on the phone with places she’d been that night – investigating the location of her misplaced treasured possession – were arousing in the slightest. At least her couch was comfy. In the morning. Well, 1pm really. The next afternoon I didn’t give her so much as a hug before I stepped out of her door and onto a street that was more bewildering than any I’d yet come across during the two months of the trip so far, because my smart phone and hence only real means of navigation had died. I regret not hugging her. At the time I was planning on seeing her again that night, for the 12 Pubs of Christmas. That, I should explain, involves while dressed as Santa visiting and having at least a couple of drinks at 12 pubs (or taverns or bars) – or as many pubs as you can before you wake up in bed the next morning dressed as a less-than-jolly Saint Nick, wondering what the fuck happened. I’ll explain later on why I regretfully didn’t make it to that event. It had something to do with an unplanned twilight stroll through the slums of east-London. I also regretted my phone being dead. Regardless, and filled with fragile confidence constantly battered by a savage hangover, I set forth boldly down the road with extremely little idea of either where I was or where I was going, surrounded by very Dickensian-looking inner-suburban London.

I would have taken photos of Clapham, had my phone not depleted its battery.  God knows my camera would have become lost/stolen, had I taken it. This is Westminster, backgrounded by a simply mesmerising dusk sky

I would have taken photos of Clapham, had my phone not depleted its battery. God knows my camera would have become lost/stolen, had I taken it.
This is Westminster, backgrounded by a simply mesmerising dusk sky