Big Issues :World Press Photography, Laughing Skulls and Quiet London

Waterloo station always gives me the sense that I am in Brief  Encounter. It makes London a set, a scene of its very Londoness. I forgot this kind of time when the rain has stopped on a weekday afternoon, the grey and the dried blood stained red of old bricks, everyone disconnected only familiar by the fact we are going somewhere. 

Passing under the bridge has the sensation of pulling the duvet up high on cold mornings. Contruction workers florescent jackets and the bumping handbags of single women thread from place to place. I pass the Duck Tour bus huddled up by the pavement. One day there will be time to travel on it, enter the Thames, lovely yellow cheery thing. Empty paths towards the eye with bored looking construction men and bin men on the grass, curves towards the faint gramophone voice of a singer. A melancholy busker sing La Vie En Rose in an old fashioned key. Her last verse is interrupted with strikes of Big Ben and a boat pushing a barge of what looks like coal but is probably waste. 

The second busker sings Driving Home for Christmas by a few food stalls. All has the atmosphere of the morning after a street party when all can be found are a few staggering guests and dropped paper from party poppers. I go to the bookshop and buy a large hardback of Day of the Dead faces and head upstairs. The World Press Pize photographs are something I stumbled on at the Southbank Centre a few years ago. It always strikes me the poignancy captured in the injustices and after maths on display. These moments of World journalism are worth going to see while you can. Strangers stand and stare together in silence, in thought. Today I learnt there are places in the world where public hangings often let the victim’s family kick the chair from under them. Another Image shows a victim of the Malaysia plane that was fired down over Ukraine. They are still in their airplane seat, safely strapped in and displaced in the grass field. 

I rarely watch TV and never buy newspapers, my information comes mainly through radio. These exhibition images importance speak for itself. 

The ‘not so secret, Secret Walkway’ from the bridge into Charing Cross is gated shut in unfairness. Idescend   the stairs like a limping pensioner and saunter up Vilier street wondering what next years press photos will show. A Big Issue seller asks if I want a copy and when I politely say no thank you the response is a grumpy ‘so that’s a no then?’ To which I have a go at him back as the day darkens and all the headlights quiver in the drizzle and someone is whistling a tune sheltering in a doorway. Men share a lighter beside the art shop in gloomy weather I cherish. London looks its best in rain, most cities do.  I buys pens and step out into their thick sickly smoke as they hail a cab..

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The Red Beret

An unseen impostor, just another Londoner, staring at stiff black shoulders and white shaved necks under balding heads or over sized white circles of caps.

Already the silence had begun long before The Silence would be tolled, scattered mutterings among a street congregation hush.

Stood heavy among the monochrome uniforms, a camouflaged back and a red beret caught me.

The bugle cried in vain and the tree beside the poppy adorned grave shivered where there was no wind. As a pocket of London fell quiet to think of those fallen, some of them downed in the Final Push, not a fall, the birds could be heard leaving Regent’s park, heard above the city. Even the dead leaves remained still.

Now and then the head below the red beret would turn and reveal a boyish bright face. I wondered where he was off to in duty to kill, or defend, to be defended. Would he come back from where ever he was bound?

In those moments he looked younger than he’ll ever be.

Sunday

sunday dusk along Vilier street men are in uniform, old ladies dressed like it is V.E day still. They look so proud and smart in their uniforms on the Strand, veterans and young men together. I imagine what they have had to do, what surviving conflict is.

Vivien Eliot being lifted by her husband to see the parade on the Mall after the First World War. Writing to T S Eliot’s mother how she was too ill to feel much joy that the war had ended, perpetual pains and bed days and flu.

I don’t wear a poppy for the first time ever for I found nowhere selling them. Maybe my poor sight missed the street poppy seller. I sat in Trafalgar Square by the horse skeleton on the fourth plinth only days after police horses were attacked nearby. Protesters against Capilaism with mass produced capitalist made masks and fireworks. Empty ideology and excuse for a fight.

Kettles Duns and whistles echoed. A bin cleaner rattled his broom handle in a metal bin like confused music. Tourists posed with him.

I watched African flags on the embassies and walk through tourists up Whitehall. Why was the Cenotaph placed in the middle of a road? The horses at Horse Gaurds don’t like the camera flashes or maybe they love it to break their cruel boredom stood in a box. 

It’s a short walk, brief break from the Suberbs on a dim Sunday. A homeless man catches his cardboard sheet blowing away. The government can give £23k. A year in benefits, maybe they should cut it a bit and give every homeless person a sleeping bag…or a room. I got the 211 bus, the longest bus you can get to read in peace. 

Dull Sunday’s…

Blind Blunders

I open my purse quing in Wilkinsons to see if I have enough change. A month of receipts and I.D cards spill out like a magician shuffling cards. All the white paper invisible on the white lino. A woman tells me I drop something, I only see one receipt and she tell me there’s another and another…
I say I can’t see them and she grunts while I am clawing the floor saying to everyone ‘i can’t see it, I can’t see properly. 

The entire que become model railway men frozen in their annoyance of me at their feet. 

‘I suppose all of you are deaf and don’t understand English?’ I snap to blank stares. They do this a lot, the public. They think she can’t see me just keep out of it. 
I get to the till and ask for two £1 scratchcards. I have to choose but can’t see which are a pound or which number they are for the sales assistant to tear off the display. 

‘These one’s?’

I don’t know!

Waiting to cross a junction I don’t realise I’m blocking a van waiting to turn in to wear I stand. White Van Man shouts at me like his honourable stereotype. 

The bus has a back door, old routemaster. I step on not seeing another girl trying to get out and thinking we both have room I move aside and faceplant a metal hand rail. 

The next bus I am gentle held under the elbows by a pensioner to help me on. Why does everyone take my arm? Why will blindness make my arms fall off. 
Yesterday I headed fast towards the stairs of Hungerford bridge, terribly lit but climb a decades worth of times. In the black I make out people and pause to let them pass before reaching for the rail. A man grabs my forearm without word or warning. I shout you are hurting my arm!

‘There are stairs infront of you’ he tells my white stick. 

‘I know!’

Once they have your arm, scaring you half to death they never let go until you bare your teeth. They never THINK how did she get this far? Do they presume blind women pass through the city on a human chain of strangers gripping their sleeves?

This is every day. It’s getting boring. 

Day of the Dead

The garden nursery my mum works for provided hundrrds of orange marigolds to surround the British Museum for this weekends Day of the Dead celebrations. I visited the event with her yesterday as I love the imagery of day of dead skulls and flowers. Here are some photos.