meanwhile (2)

Matthew Kolakowski has not a blog but a new site (which I’ve only just discovered)…

where you can see some of his superb paintings and other artworks.

This one’s called Lattice static 1.

He says: Maybe one of the principals of faith is uncertainty. If you know exactly what you’re doing you take the outcome for granted.

I’m with this a hundred percent. My obsession with doubt always taking me forward some how. But there’s no doubt about going, despite this wobble. See you all soon somewhere else, but not here. Bye bye.


as Bernardine enters, I go. The cynicism of short words and short pieces has overwhelmed unstrung for the present. It’s time to say basta. Something new and Hackney based will emerge, no doubt, at some point soon.

Goodbye. And thank you.

Bernardine Evaristo…

has finally – and about bloody time! – joined the blogosphere. Big shout goin’ out. If you don’t know her work, you should. Her first book (I know I’m an egotist) was, and is, called Lara which is kind of why I met her. Sort of. And I met her in Accra in Ghana, funnily enough when I did my first interview for the BBC World Service. It was with Nadine Gordimer and was so bad that even NG asked: “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are you new to this?” I lied, of course. “No, no, not at all. I’ve been doing this for ages.” The interview was not deemed broadcastable. But I’ve kept the tape and must listen to it one of these days, when I’m feeling more sure of myself. If I listened to it now, I’d probably go and stand in the middle of Lower Clapton Road and throw myself at a bendy 38 bus.

And Bernardine (two Rs, remember): that’s a fabulous picture of you on the top left.


Something on Angolagate at Comment is Free. Shame it is in a way (free, that is) judging by the level of comments coming in from a few clever-clogs with nothing better to do. The knowingness of people, eh. Never ceases… And the strange one who implies I think the French are the only greedy foreigners who made money out of Angola. She/he correctly cites the Cubans as having benefitted too – indeed, she’s right, and it is something I have written about myself. Anyway, I did have a line in there about Mark Thatcher, another son of another former European leader. But the lawyers must have taken it out. Shame. All this makes me ask myself, once again, what is the point of writing anything less than several thousand words? Readers assume you are claiming the final word on the entire range of the subject, regardless of the fact you have 800 words only. What’s the matter with everyone? Aren’t readers prepared to use their brains when they digest news and comment? In this case the subject matter is France and Angola. Not Spain and Angola, or Britain and Angola, or even (really) Israel (ponder the multi-national Gaydamak’s role) and Angola. Wake up, dear public. Wake up. And go spend your bitter energy elsewhere. Throw a brick through a bank. Don’t throw it at me (unless you’ve done a bit more research about my work first and still feel you hate me)!

remembering South Africa (I)

A fine letter.

Recently, in South Africa, I was interviewed by an SABC presenter on a half hour TV programme about the Angola elections. She asked me at one point whether I thought Unita should have “accepted the election results so willingly”. I responded with another question, “Should Al Gore have accepted the 2000 election results so willingly?” This was not as out of the blue as it sounds. What depressed me most about South Africa’s media, while we lived there for 11 months, was their own insistence on seeing and judging the African continent from a very Western perspective. Their news reporters report the West by airing BBC reporters in Washington or printing British newspaper reports on their own pages. They don’t invest money to send their own reporters North, nor encourage their own reporters to see the world in more objective terms.

When Mbeki was ousted, J & I had several long discussions about Margaret Thatcher’s exit from power. As many South Africans predicted the beginning of the end, I wondered if it wasn’t infact the sign of a maturing democracy. Power changes hands peacefully within a former African national liberation movement; a leader steps down after 9 years as President; rumours that the former national liberation movement might split. All progress, I think, not the coup d’état portrayed in many South African papers. Was the Tories’ behaviour so much more gentile than the ANC’s?

back in britain (III)

The only people who gave us a seat at a crowded Costa café in Reading were two men from Lebanon chatting about politics in Arabic. Groups of posh girls slid about the station in denim skirts that just cover flat bottoms, staring at the cleaning lady like she’s scum. Accessorize in Reading station is almost indistinguishable from Accessorize in Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo airport. BBC Radio Four has a very narrow agenda but the news presenters are damn fine interviewers when you’ve been listening to SAFM for eleven months. Everybody seems to be more sluttish and slaggish, greyer and colder and plumper, than they were when we left a year ago. Small pots of sliced chunks of pineapple cost £2.50 in Marks and Spencers. Berries of the Forest cost nearly £4. Public transport is a great leveller, and teaches patience in unknown ways. British people are frightened of intervening when young men are shouting and drinking Red Bull. Only an equally frightening person is brave enough to confront them. I’m suddenly conscious of my accent and how I am perceived by other British people. I long for foreigners: they have better manners and are more considerate. The UK is full of badly behaved, angry, bored, under-educated young people who wallow in alcohol and can afford to talk on mobile phones for several hours and buy new trackie tops every few weeks. But they’re unemployable. (In South Africa, people who don’t have access to running water are employable.) Nobody smokes. Middleaged women with grey faces are lonely and sad and single. Country Life promotes posh girls in miniskirts who are studying Geography at Edinburgh and teaching in Mexico for their gap year and are already talented artists. Fox-hunting was never banned. Middle-aged men wear pink V-neck jumpers and long dark blue brand new jeans with ready-worn-out hems at the heel of their cowboy boots. Equality through consumption. The Independent newspaper headlines articles about safari holidays ‘Discover the real Africa’ because the big five is still what Africa is. And I saw a woman in a black bikini sunbathing in North Cornwall in 16 degrees of, er, heat. A lot of kids can’t walk because they’re too fat. The internet has changed my perception of being away and coming home.

I was so convinced I loathed South Africa. I’d just forgotten the detail of England and how angry it makes me. I’m not here yet anyway. I’m only watching.

back in britain (II)

‘Ooo’s that? Who? Who? Sue? Sue? Fuckin’ slag. Cunt. Fucking cunt. Slept with seedboy you did. What? What? You there? Who’s there? Who’s that? What? Wha’? Wha’?’

‘Givvit ‘ere, cunt. Look ‘ere. Look here. I said look here. Don’t cunting ring this fucking phone if you don’t say anything. Sue. Fucking slept with seedboy.’

‘Gave me clamidia. The cunt gave me clamidia. I’d ‘ad checks just three weeks. Three weeks. Seed’s clean. My seed’s clean. Oy! Said my seed’s clean. Cunt’s got clamidia. Fucked seedboy. Passed it on to tonnes, she has. Got a test I said, three weeks. I’m all straight. I ain’t got clamidia. Wouldn’t fucking fuck that cunt.’

I’m on a train. Reading to Bodmin, arriving at 9.32pm. It’s Saturday night. The train is packed. Packed with old couples, and groups of lads and groups of girls going out on the town. And us. I’ve been on British soil four and a half hours, and these lads get on and sit in front of me on the train. They’re there for a good hour talking to each other and to various people who call them on their mobile phones. Behind me sit an old couple, nibbling on sandwiches. Behind them, a Scouse and three girls. Behind them, more travellers but I forget the details.

‘Don’t fuckin do it, you cunt. Fucking cunt.’

‘Oi! Have some respect. Respect. Put a sock in that language. There are old people on this train.’

‘Fuckin’ cunt. What the fuck does the cunt know about language!’

‘I said put a sock in it. Respect, right.’

‘Shut the fuck up cunt. Stop fuckin’ shouting your cunting mouth off.’

‘Sorry. Wha’? Wha’? Wha’ I done? Fuck off. I didn’t fuckin’ say nuffing cunt.’

‘If you lads don’t keep your fucking mouths shut and stop this language I’ll tell you right now you’ll be in trouble. I’ve done things you wouldn’t imagine. So fucking shut up. I don’t want no more from you lot.’

‘Sorry. It was me. Weren’t him. Me. It was me. I did it. It was me.’

‘I said shut it. Shut it.’

‘Do what the man says. Fucking shut ya cunt.’

‘Sorry. Sorry. I’m just sayin’ sorry. Don’t want anyone getting it cos of me. Sorry.’

‘Fucking sit down.’

‘D’you wanna a fucking Bull? Here, drink this.’


‘Take it. Drink it ya cunt.’

‘OI! I told you boys to shut it. Don’t shut it I’ll beat the shit out of you.’

‘Shuttit seedy. Fucking do what the man says. We don’t want trouble. Fucking been out of that fucking place only for fucking days. Shuttit.’

‘Sorry. I said sorry. Sorry. It was me. I’m just fucking saying it was me. Fucking sorry.’

‘Like the fucking Bridgewater Boys he is. Bridgewater. Got no fucking respect.’

‘Fuck off. Ain’t no Bridgewater Boys on this fucking thing.’

‘What we doing? What we doing? Going round your sister’s?’

‘Got fucking kids. Can’t fucking go there. We’ll go round that cunt’s, Sue.’


‘Fuck that cunt. Smash her fucking face in.’

‘Smash that fucking Scouse in. Fucking Scouse. What the fuck he knows? What the fuck he’s telling me what to fucking do, to fucking shut my fucking gob. Break his fucking nose. Smashing break up his fucking face.’