Friday 24th: wake up early, check phone. News alerts. Take Southern from Peckham Rye to Victoria, District Line to Hammersmith. English tutorial. Try to explain to my tutee the significance of what’s happened. A lot of people feel angry, like they have nothing to lose, inequality having eaten away at our body politic, etc. The only thing we can do is be more open, more giving. He looks out of the window, either intensely moved or bored. We turn to Chapter 49 of Great Expectations. Miss Havisham’s self-immolation: is she finally consumed by self-pity or purified in the flames?
Saturday 25th: J says people were coming into the café crying yesterday. D says London should hold a referendum to leave the UK. A friend who’s just returned from visiting family in Mauritius cooks us dinner. Shock all round. Watch the last ten minutes of the Croatia-Portugal game. In the last five minutes, looking certain to go to penalties, Portugal score. While the Portuguese team and training staff celebrate together, Ronaldo stands apart. Croatia are united in their grief, Ronaldo alone in his joy.
Sunday 26th: At a café round the corner, I ask what the “Special” is. No one sure. Eventually someone says (or decides) it’s asparagus and egg on toast. Though this sounds appalling, I’m too awkward to change orders. I say I’ll try it. Before even taking my first bite I know this will be the taste of regret.
Monday 27th: Coffee by St Thomas’ Hospital on steps down to the Thames path, the Houses of Parliament to the right. Spitting with rain. A Korean male model is posing for photographs, holding a pair of sunglasses to his mouth. An Austrian news crew are setting up on Westminster Bridge. The presenter stands on a box, her face bathed in light, eyes closed. Later, in Committee Room 12 of the Houses of Parliament for “Stories of Migration and Displacement”, Inua Ellams talks about there being 7 billion worlds out there, and how selfish – or boring – it would be to restrict yourself to one. Two doors down, the PLP are calling on Jeremy Corbyn to resign. Outside, a rally gathers on Parliament Square.
Tuesday 28th: Meet M at exhibition. Defining British Art. Thomas Gainsborough painting from 1786 (two years before he died): wooded landscape with herdsman, cows and sheep near pool. I always confused him with Constable who, like a constable, I imagined as sturdy, upright, “English”. Gainsborough is all loose, expressive brushstrokes, swirling paths and shadowy faces. Here, the trees blur into the background and as soon as you get a fix on them start to drift. In the distance, family members congregate sadly around the entrance to a thatched cottage. They’re in another painting, another world. Later, at the candle-lit vigil for Nazanin Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi (both being detained in Iran), a woman comes up to us who’s just been at the remain march on Trafalgar Square. When we tell her about the vigil she shakes her head. The world is terrible. We talk about family. She says they live in America. It’s funny how people change. When her brother was younger he wouldn’t even peel a tangerine. Now he cleans up his mother’s shit.
Wednesday 29th: Walk A’s dog. Legs so bad he has to poo against the side of a tree. It slides down the side of the bark as I scoop it up. At Guy’s hospital, a sign in the Haematology department says they’ve lost over £18,000 from missed appointments in the past week. Later, read poems in Baker St alongside Hadiru (life in the diaspora as a kind of limbo) and Aleksandra (“identity is in the eye of the withholder”) and Vahni (throws mints into the audience, says “This Is Not a Riot”). Reminds me of an earlier conversation with T, who said he didn’t know there were so many kinds of mint. Buttermint? What does it taste like? Murray mints. But Murray mints don’t taste like mint. They have texture. First hard, then squidgy, then fading to nothing. Texture goes, but taste remains.