I went to see Parasite on Sunday. For those of you not in the know, it’s a film and it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Given the title, you could be forgiven for thinking it is about a group of shameless politicians sucking the lifeblood out of a nameless country for their own financial gain, but actually B Johnson, J Rees-Mogg and M Francois didn’t feature at all.
I used to go to the cinema all the time. I was an active member of the National Film Theatre, now the BFI, on the South Bank. Autumn and the LFF (London Film Festival) was the highlight of my year. Oh the films I saw, sitting captivated in the dark, in a cinema where no one ate popcorn or hotdogs, where there were no adverts for ice team or Waitrose before the film began, and the audience watched in respectful silence without needing recourse to mobile ‘phones.
The curse of the addicted. We saw Parasite in a very nice cinema indeed and the seats weren’t cheap. There was even a reminder about turning our ‘phones off. But the people to my left were busy communicating with someone and the light from the screen was an irritant and a distraction. The film was gripping nonetheless, though I should have preferred to watch without my left hand shielding my face. One of the twists was predictable, but not the rest. Beautifully shot, well acted, it deserves the prize. The points it makes about wealth and privilege are thought provoking. I went with three neighbours. I have said before that we are neighbourly in this patch of south London. we are also ethnically, educationally, and most otherly diverse. Or vibrant as the estate agents like to say.
I mention this because prior to going to see Parasite I joined two neighbours in a local café. Café might seem a fairly neutral word, but in this part of SE17 it is loaded. Cafés are a recent phenomonen. We have been an area of caffs. Full English breakfasts fried to within an inch of your life; mugs of builders’ tea. Cheap, cheerful with condensation running down the windows in winter thrown in for free. Uncouth and proud. This café is expensive, cool, and unashamedly middle class. I had a glass of tap water. I ate there once and I still tying to work out why and how my meal cost so much. Continue reading
No surprise to learn I am here because MasterB is enjoying Outside Time.
The last two mornings he has woken me up at five and asked (loudly) to go out. This is exactly what Cat used to do. It worked well with Cat and it has worked well with MasterB this weekend as I have been out most of each day, and I am glad to know he has enjoyed himself in the early morning light. It also works as I fall asleep as soon as I get back into bed.
Aunt’s obit appeared in a national newspaper this weekend. I was a bit surprised to learn it has been online for month. A friend emailed me tonight to say she had read it. She described it as ‘lovely’, which pleased me, as a) Aunt was lovely and b) I wrote it. Nearly four months since Aunt died. I hope others who didn’t know her and who don’t know me will read it and marvel at her resilience. The editor at the paper was full of admiration for her. She emailed me several times to ask for more information about Aunt. I like the thought that Aunt’s life may be an inspiration others.
It’s a strange time. A man who preaches the politics of fear has achieved creditable results in both the local and European elections. Across Europe the far right has done well. Racist, xenophobic, homophobic just-about-any-phobic parties have received lots of votes. Though not, sigh of relief and some pride, here in London, where we know a thing or three about living in ethnically, sexually diverse communities made up of people of all colours, creeds and nationalities. And hey, you know what? We like it. We don’t feel threatened. We reforge our national identities all the time as new influences enrich our lives.
The idea that Englishness is somehow immutable is a nonsense. It doesn’t take much understanding of history to know that.
I looked at my fellow passengers on the bus the other day after hearing yet another speech about how how national identity was threatened and I felt proud. The two women sitting front of me were in their early sixties, obviously friends, chatting about their families, their homes. One black, and from her accent from west Africa, the other south London to her core. There were school girls of different races, some wearing the hijab, giggling and jostling each other just as remember doing with my friends decades ago. Tuning into other conversations, there were a number I couldn’t understand. The languages sounded eastern European, but I wouldn’t know what they were.