They should require smoking in all bars. The haze of smoke softens people's features, which is something most people need if we are going to be forced to look at them. Plus, it diminishes the sensitivity of the olfactory glands, which is a godsend if we are going to have to sit in proximity to one another.
I got a cab back from Carnival. From his number, the driver must have qualified about eight months before me, and his route was full of little touches as to how to avoid traffic lights and traffic in general. A thinking cab driver. It's pressure when you get a big group, requiring more than one cab to the same place, as it was from St. Pancras to Hyde Park Gate. Two very different routes are reasonable, but I won by a good couple of minutes. "Did ya go through the park?", the other driver asks. "Nah", that was the too clever route.
Not ten yards away, an 84-year old Ian McKellen is on stage, in a SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT. t-shirt, and hey, sign me up for all of it, except there is an unacknowledged prejudice against ex-convicts out there too. "Hey, Charlie, you think the bad people are in charge?" my friend, colleague and PhD examiner Ralph once asked. Maybe I do. He arranged two academic work contracts for me in New York, which regrettably I was unable to fulfill, and we lost contact, Ralph, because I'd had enough of the absurdity of the situation; it was never because I didn't like you, respect you, or didn't appreciate what you, alone, tried to do for me.
My good friend Terry died today, out of the blue, although Iíd seen him once in the past ten years. Iíd known him vaguely from school since I was about 11, but I knew him better when we later had Saturday jobs at Tesco in Edmonton. At 20, he went and dug the Duke of Beaufortís grave up on Christmas Day, got arrested with the wooden cross that was above the coffin underneath his bed in his bedsit in Tottenham, but some liberal judge only gave him two years for it. It was a sick thing to do, but I canít help liking the FU-ness of it. He was naturally above average at football, golf, tennis, table tennis, and chess, but not as above average as he thought. You were a bad influence on me. His brother Paul rang me with the news. Said he was there at the end and played him some Leonard Cohen.
Yeah, being young, first drinks, first smokes, there's a group and some you get along with better than others, and what is that? One time he had the tickets to see the Damned and we arranged to meet at Seven Sisters station, but there are two different entrances to the station, and it was a terrific gig, apparently.
In my late 20s I did an MSc in computing, which I knew was my final shot at doing something in life, and I threw myself into it. I forget the exact sequence of events, but this was around the time Terry was living in Manchester, just up from Moss Side, which was not a safe area at that time. I visited him there one weekend. He was living among a bunch of animal rights hippies, and not long afterwards ended up in Strangeways. Anyhow, I was walking home to my bedsit in Turnpike Lane one evening, and there he was walking up the road looking for me. I’ve found this cafe in Camden where they have a chess tournament on a Friday evening, he said. Let’s go. I didn’t want to go, because it was getting towards the exams, but as usual I ended up tagging along. Into the cafe we walked, and you could tell they weren’t keen on allowing two noob strangers in their tournament. First match I was up against Bob Wade, twice British Champion and, I think, one of Fischer’s seconds for the Spassky match. And by some crazy miracle I drew with him, in a 15-minute game. It was a terrific game too: he had to promote a pawn to a knight rather than a queen in order to avoid getting checkmated, and I also missed a mate in two, which was via a subtle, waiting move, which in severe time-trouble I missed. Acceptance in the cafe after that, although neither of us did well in the remaining games.