Life Goes On (Obviously)

Autumn Rain II by Flickr user Dyversions

It is a wet, wet day here in Birmingham, England. The rain is falling on the land with the enthusiasm of a lover too long removed from his beloved. The green of the grass is the garden is lush and vibrant, the flowers dip their heads to better show their new glistening adornment. The leaves of the trees are making their migration from deep green, through golden yellow to passionate reds and oranges.

Autumn is here with a vengeance. It should be; it always arrives with my birthday*.

I am back at my parents’ house, another swing of the pendulum that has taken me up and down the country four, five times already this summer. I am ‘working’ at the bureau desk of my grandfathers; the first time I have had a proper workspace here since my teenage years. I have a job application to fill in, for a job I don’t really want (but probably need).

This weekend should be my last one here for a while. On Monday I head back down to London where I will be house-sitting consecutively for two friends. This, I hope, will mark the start of my return to the Big Smoke.

I’m resigned to the change. Not exactly excited, but not disappointed either. London was my home for many years, and it is still home to a great many of my dearest friends. After plans of farms and farming have fallen through, it seemed best to be somewhere where I have real ties, and I have more ties there than anywhere.

I have been homeless for over two years now. It was August 2008 when I packed up my flat, quit my job and ventured into the unknown. That unknown took me to l’Abri and all the wonders of deep friendships that grew from there. But there was no home for me at l’Abri (in the stable sense), and there has been none in any of my subsequent journeys either. Birmingham last summer was a holding pattern, Chichester was a fun but failed experiment. America this summer was… many things, but a study in alienation in many ways. Beautiful places with beautiful friends, but ones that only served to emphasise my alien-ness.

And now? Now I am longing to unpack my suitcase, to open my boxes of books and find shelves to put them on. I am longing for a neighbourhood, for an address so I can get a library card. For friendships built around a regular pattern of life rather than occasional visitations.

London is no longer my favourite place in the world. But, for now, it is the closest thing I have to a home. I need to pull my heart away from a distant future and into material reality, and the best anchors I have for that task are the friendships I have in the East End. And the opportunities that come with them.

I don’t really know what life will look like. I don’t know how I will pay my way. The generosity of friends keeping a roof over my head is a start. A good temping agency and the odd application form will help. Most exciting of all is the possibility of helping a friend set up a consultancy firm, which actually looks like it will happen in the coming weeks. It won’t be a full-time job, but it will be something. A challenge. Something new. Something fun.

It feels strange, after the last few years, to be trying to return to where I’ve been before. But this isn’t reconvening after a hiatus. I’m not picking up where I left off. This is a new start, if one in an old place. I don’t know if this gets me any closer to a rural, entrepreneurial community or not. But it does ground me back in the reality of life. And that’s progress, is it not?

The rain is continuing to fall, heavily. I think I’m going to have to put the light on – the grey, leaden skies are letting too little of the sun filter through. Beside me my suitcase is still full of clothes, waiting to be repacked for me to hit the road once again. I wonder how long it will be before I can unpack it for the last time?

The rain falls so that the plants may grow. When it stops (eventually), the air will be fresh and the grass a deep green that only comes after rain. Life, in all of it’s fullness, goes on as it always has. Obviously.

* September 22nd: brilliant sunshine, above 20oC temperatures. September 23rd: heavy rain, temperatures in the mid-teens… Same every year…

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Its May Day, it’s Fiona Parker’s birthday, and its time for elections!
If you’re in London, you can exercise your democratic rights by voting for the Mayor, the Policeman, or the Blonde Imbecile (not that I’m trying to influence you or anything).

If you live in London and don’t vote today, then you have no right to complain about whatever bad decisions the man in City Hall makes over the next 4 years. Polling stations are open from 7am – 10pm, so you really have no excuse.

Get out there and vote!

Candidates Debate

Mayoral CandidatesThere are 22 days to go until the London Mayoral Election (and the nationwide local council elections, if you care about such things). Why do we care? Well, we care because the Mayor of London is the most powerful job in Local Politics (arguably the second or third most powerful in the whole UK), administrating a £9bn budget affecting upwards of 25 million people. The Mayor of London’s power is by no means absolute (mitigated as it is by the London Assembly, the London Borough Councils and the UK Parliaments London Local Government Office), but the decisions made in City Hall probably have more affect on the day-to-day lives of Londoners than those made in Downing Street. Who gets this job matters.

So yesterday we got our first candidates debate, ably hosted by the BBC’s Newsnight team. Candidates’ debates are a particularly American phenomenon, and clearly a format that none of the three main candidates were comfortable with (all three stumbled several times during their opening remarks). You can watch the full thing here.

Three candidates: Ken Livingsone (Labour), the incumbent; Boris Johnson (Conservative); and Brian Paddick (Lib. Dem.). Poor old Paddick made sense when he had the opportunity to get his point across, but was completely outdone by the other candidates. Old ‘Red’ Ken did well, but was largely on the defensive, fielding accusations taken directly from the front pages of the Evening Standard, which he did his best to dismiss as the sloppy journalism that they are… (Which says something about the other two candidates: the only criticisms they could level are ones raised by a woefully biased tabloid – stories that are largely ignored as sensationalist by the mainstream media). And then there’s Boris…

OK, I’m biased. I think this guy is inexperienced, popularist with a total absence of policy, gravitas and, well, common sense. I personally think that Boris came off in the debate as someone who has no real policies, and cannot admit to the costs of even the few ideas he has managed to come up with. (Witness the many, many times he was asked to come up with a figure for the cost of commissioning ‘new’ Routemaster busses – no figure was forthcoming because, quite frankly, he has no idea). But like I said, I’m biased.

City HallIn my opinion, Boris, who is riding high in the polls at present, would be a complete disaster. His greatest level of experience is editing The Spectator, where he managed somewhere between 20 and 50 people, and had to make numerous apologies due to insensitive editorial comment. His own party have never trusted him with anything more than an appearance on comedy show ‘Have I Got News For You’. It’s not exactly the sort of experience you would want for someone running the most powerful provincial authority in the country.

Londoners, you have two votes to cast on May 1st: a 1st choice and a 2nd. Please, please don’t give Boris your 1st choice. And whichever of the 10 candidates you put 1st, please give Ken your number 2 (if not number 1).

Lets keep the blonde imbecile out of City Hall. Please!