My daughter is waiting for me at her rented room in our friends’ house, as much as she ever awaits anyone. Taking after her mum, she is the most beautiful person in the whole wide world, with burnished gold-bronze hair, a lioness’s body, angel eyes – an Egyptian sphinx, in fact.
I walk down the road in the summer sunshine, under the plane trees growing up through the tarmac pavement, past rose bushes, stop at the main road opposite the fish-and-chip shop, cross when the lights change and walk past the carpark, which is late Sunday afternoon empty. There are a few people smoking outside the pub where Coldplay used to have a pint (Chris Martin used to live in the house) and I reflect how glad I was to give up smoking when our daughter was a small girl, all those years ago.
Up the road I go.
Yet, I’m not fully-satisfied.
Not content at all, really.
There’s a compartment of my life that ain’t right.
When I am with my wife or my daughter I am one-hundred per cent perfectly okay, but away from them I am like a spaceship being tossed around by a sea of asteroids. A character from an old 60s Pink Floyd song.
I am lost in space.
Scared and alone.
Fellow human-beings are an alien species.
They go about their tasks of…what? Foraging…
Of killing or being killed. Slowly or immediately.
Of consuming or consumer-offering.
Of barreness, of passing the time idly.
They watch sport, they do sport, they go to the shops, they own a shop…
They hear, they speak, they look, they parade…
They are noble, they are ignoble.
They are an unfamiliar species who go about their tasks but I don’t understand why.
They are off the radar…my radar…which is…?
What is this organic being which carries around my mind?
It ain’t me; it ain’t somebody else, but it ain’t me.
Other human beings wander around in a kind of daze and I fail to get it.
They work, they eat, they…
Sleep is the one thing we share together, yet is the time when we are always apart. I sleep with my wife, my daughter has slept in my arms, as I have in my parents’ – and I have looked over them in their slumbers, too.
My work-mates, I have never seen them sleep. Maybe they don’t. My old friends, I’d watch them sleep sometimes, too (since we shared so much time together; mostly they watched me sleep dead-drunk or out-of-it on some combination of drugs or other; and even today it is chemicals that most settle me when I am deranged from not being with other family members, protecting me from the aliens and their ever-wakefulness, their continual chatter and nonsense, their gibberishness and constant motion).
I’d been reading about Buddhism in the west earlier in the day and been sickeningly reminded by the way supposedly enlightened members of the human race had tricked and cajoled other human beings into believing all sorts of bullshit and allowed themselves to be partners in a wholly corrosive mindset that had nothing to do with mystical enlightenment at all. How do people become such mugs? Why do they take off their clothes and have sex with drunken strangers who are apparently more spiritually enlightened than they and who are indeed their ‘teachers’? Wow! How sick or stupid is that?
In a blog-post I’d learned about witches and Nazis and Islamists who one way or another had either been victims of lynch-mobs or done and encouraged the lynching themselves.
And here I realise that this is my personal dread of others – that they, too, will fall into the trap of ideological or ignorant belief, and they too will be at the mercy of a lynch-mob, on one side or the other.
I, too, have been demonised for a lack of belief.
For a lack of belief in the educational system; a lack of belief in my betters: school teachers, parents, politicians; a lack of belief in my bosses and co-workers; a lack of belief in the UK and the World; a lack of belief in you, too, probably (if we have ever met) for your lack of belief in me.
So, yes. The shops. Shoppers. People in supermarkets barging you aside in order to fill their trolleys – yes, they scare me: they are the next lynch-mob.
The Sun and The Star and The Sport on dashboards behind windscreens in vans and cars: they are the next lynch-mob, too.
As Dostoevsky wrote of in Besy (Demons, or The Devils or The Possessed or whatever it is being presently called.)
And those who walk cagily to the newsagents for their Daily Mail or Sunday Sun or what have you: they are the next lynchers, also.
Readers of the Guardian, the Independent, the Times – at best they will stand back and watch, at worst, they are actively a part of the lynching, too.
This is what I fear in 2020s UK.
The public reaction to COVID has only confirmed such concerns.