Leafleting Down Past Baker StOliver Briscoe
There is so much of London one does not see; the London of other people, for others. Odd forays may exempt complete ignorance, but do not break general disinterest in those othered places. A childhood Midsummer’s Night Dream, in midsummer’s twilight at Regent’s open air theatre, does not mean I have ever been around the park, or much far north of Baker Street.
Nor does work in Shoreditch, taking me out to Bermondsey and as far up as Old Street, mean that I know much beyond the Liverpool Street dragons, where London tilts East.
Islington, Hackney, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath–all deep Labour.
St John’s Wood, once for Lords
Even Ealing seems far, or in that vein, Barnes too. When I first started seeing her there, I was of an age where I did not yet take pleasure in the beauty of women, as soul and company, or the beauty of this little London neighbourhood, far past a broken bridge, whose petit-bourgeois silence and greenery I did not care for.
To know Clapham, to visit young cousins there, or as a way out to Surrey, and Putney, passing through, does not commit me to knowing Peckham or Dulwich. Never have I been to Wimbledon, always summering abroad. South of the river, perhaps beyond a boyhood sight of the Cutty Sark, or Richmond Park, is hardly London to me. There seems little to bring me away from West London; elsewhere, different or trying to be.
Even in West London I have often been incurious, rarely peering into places which lie along the road unlit. Not from fear; the people I have met in those dark corners are no nicer, no meaner than others; decent, working, used to being ignored, unseen.
These urban troglodytes; some hoarders, with all sorts of broken bobs littering their piece of balcony, yet fresh stickers on their letterbox read ‘No junk mail’.
The smell of garlic and hearty stews, keeping warm between the tiles and the brickwork of benighted stairwells, chilly to the lonely October leafleteer. Not his to enjoy, as he dreams of a warm supper waiting at home. In my jumper, a greatcoat and a scarf I was wrapped warm enough, despite the first cold puff of breath and red stinging fingertips. Somewhere in a central court, basketball players howled into the darkness.
One old hag I met–called by her fat grandson who sat, hunched over his phone, mute when I asked him to fetch her ‘please’–appeared suspecting. When I said the word ‘mayor’ she stepped back into the threshold, made to shut the door and shouted "I ‘ate Khan!” Her Cerberus certainly seemed he had.
‘No, no, we’re Conservatives!’ I reached out in alarm.
‘Oh, ok, I’ll read it.’
What a relief, and she took her letter happily.