I get hangovers so easily these days, and this one was the result of a Saturday night party on a boat moored on the Thames. Not quite a costume party, but called a themed party, everyone was asked to dress to the theme of Water and Air. For three days, I mulled over it, and decided on Aquarius, the God, the Waterbearer. I decided to go for a slightly boyish Greek look, while observing the suggested Theme colours of blue (for water) and silver (for air).
The result of this was a head garland of lavender, and jasmine, wound with electric-blue cord and tinsel around a base of hose pipe. A tunic consisting of a unitary piece of shiny blue satin (that I've had lying in my storage for 15 years!), secured over one shoulder and leaving the other shoulder bare. A brown leather thong tied at the waist. With a bit of thoughtful pulling and arrangement, the loosely flowing folds and necessary draped effect billowed above waist, while the tunic finished well above my knees to give the suggestion of adolescent youthfulness. Hey, you have to fit the picture to the frame, and mine is a boyish one! For water-bearing I had a leather wine-skin, that I usually use for drinking grog at street festivals, filled with water and slung over the draped shoulder. A spotty brown wooden staff that I made this summer from a stalk of briar rose complemented the wine skin. Finally I wore silver-painted Wellies which I dressed with spurs and harnesses (whatever they call it when it goes over the back of the heel, under the boot, over the boot and round back the heel again) made from pale blue tinsel.
I deliberated how I should get into the town dressed so "brazenly". There is nothing so soul-destroying as to be accosted in the suburbs by a bunch of bored, boring, cardboard-cutout "youth" who point and laugh and make smart-arse remarks. Even showing a bare shoulder or revealing a thigh through the parting in the tunic is enough to send this modern generation into fits of hysteria. With all the liberalism that they have been born into, they have in some ways become more close-minded than my grandparents' generation.
There are parts of North and West London where you may easily walk about dressed like some theatre actor and invite complimentary smiles or even delighted enquiries about where you may be heading for. In most parts of Newham, you can expect nothing of the kind. The newer immigrants and their children are very often incredibly afraid to "rock the boat" or dare to look different, even though they live in a part of London where immigrants are the visible majority. Their lives are so insular that it is considered radical enough to be speaking English , and then only in the lost and ancient dialect of the Hip Hop Rapper Artists, a late Twentieth Century patois of American English. Visible manifestations of individuality, in any case, have disappeared from the youth of today, and not just this lot of East Londoners.
Not having had the organisation to borrow the car in time to whizz myself in insular anonymity to the party, I found myself running late and faced with the choices:
- To be VERY LATE,
- or to think, "FUCK THEM and their narrow-mindedness, I'll go out dressed as I want to, and if they laugh, then maybe they are secretly envious and need this kind of encouragement.
Well, first of all I just missed the train. Then I had to stand at the busstop. The usual types around the station stared or smirked. Then I got onto the 101 bus down to East Ham Station. Oh what dreary people. They look, and are afraid to look, lest their imaginations should take hold of their circumscribed lives.
It was with relief when I finally got off the District Line and headed onto the boat. What does it matter what I look like, when on the journey, I am forced to endure what everybody else looks like, which is plain, fucking, drab? No wonder all the interesting people have left London. I really am tired of living in a city that has become full of people who are nothing to look at, but still somehow think that looking good means you have to wear a BMW or an AUDI.
So anyhow, I got to the boat, and then found that less than 5% of the people had bothered to wear a costume. And that's a gay party, on the Thames. Need I say more? This is the state of Londoners today.
When Tony Blair took over 8 years ago, this country was known as "Cool Britannia". Now it scarcely deserves to be called a country.
Thank goodness for M, who made the party interesting. There were some buttons pushed. What can I say, except that I increasingly find my own generation, or the older one, interesting, whereas the younger generation, I fear, cannot even dance. Who would have thought there would arrive a day when a whole generation of gay men would appear in the world, whom couldn't dance?
I changed to go home on the night bus. Here again, I have an anecdote of how alien London is becoming. The N25 night bus is now an articulated bus, not a double-decker. Instinctively as you board, you become aware that it is a much safer space, with less likelihood of crime because of the clear line of sight through the bus, and the sensation of being on the same visible level as the driver and the other road users. The top deck of some of the Night Buses, have in the past been the scenes of the most horrific of violent crimes, (one guy had his eye gouged out about 3 years ago).
Improvement, yes? But then we stopped at Mile End, and to my amazement, THREE ticket inspectors boarded at 2.30 A.M, and began to thoroughly check the bus with assiduous Zero-Tolerance. Some guy at the back had no ticket and refused to get off the bus. The bus was held and going nowhere. It subsequently took FIVE POLICEMEN to sort out the offender, and twenty-five minutes later, we finally went on our way.
I was brassed off and brassing off about Ken Livingstone, because at the time of the night, on the bus, you get more than your average number of Ken's Slavish Followers. Despite obeying the political doctrines of their Public Sector organisational cultures, these people seemed to think it was a good excuse to play a mouth organ. A fucking mouth organ on a night bus, for God's sake. And to think that we're in East London, not the Deep South. I was expecting to see fields of Cotton outside.
Maybe they don't realise what Slaves they have become, these Slavish Followers of Ken. Such a sophisticatedly perfect culture of slavery constrains their lives. Their bonds are not tethers or chains, but mere ideas inserted into their heads and reinforced by daily mantras broadcast to them in their Guardian. God forbid that you should ever turn up for work in a public sector organisation in London, and wave about Any Other Newspaper. You may as well be uttering profanity at the BBC.