The silent footsteps of ghosts

THE WRITER’S LIFE

With London recording its 50th murder this year, and crime on the rise nationwide, I wonder what can be done, and I think about what I could do. Not much on my own, but there are gathering voices on social media, calling for an end to the violence.

London ghosts

Agendas vary between groups (and possibly within), but the most effective activism is always unified, and I hope that those within the groups can overcome differences to unite against a common foe. I’d propose coordinated silent marches, children and adults walking together, reclaiming the streets throughout towns and cities across the UK.

The enemy is the country we’ve become, and while many may hark back to days of empire, I see my country’s proudest moments when we were far more united. I remember the pride which surrounded the London Olympics in 2012, as we welcomed all nations to our inclusive country. Now we’re a fractured, disunited former kingdom.

There’s the ever-present danger of such a movement being hijacked by the far right (that’s why I thought the silent protest most appropriate). Racial tension is only one element of life on our streets, stoked by those very people.

It’s partly about drugs, but the biggest drug problem is that they’re illegal: Legalise, tax, regulate, boost the economy and reduce crime in a stroke. With illegal drugs come weapons.

Much of our youth feels disaffected, left to do nothing. Round after round of government cuts mean there are next to no youth facilities. It’s a problem of poverty, of the UK wealth divide, underfunded police, and a government not taking notice.

If you have money, you can afford to do things with your children, or give them money for a pursuit of their own. But if you’re broke, your kids have little to do besides hang around in groups of peers, quickly growing bored and disruptive as they find amusement: Gangs, drugs and violence.

A nation’s tragedy could be an opportunity to fundamentally change the way we’re governed, and how we think, of ourselves and our neighbours. People might find themselves talking to someone they associate with a conditioned stereotype.

They’d learn more if we all walked together: The family of Britain, young and old, of all colours and religions. Together, we can get our country back. Then we can talk about the other stuff.

Maybe we should get to know each other better. One country, one planet, one family, one race. We are humans.

Talking Pi with Simon Fry

THE WRITER’S LIFE | FICTION

I was meant to have dinner with a friend last night, but I failed. We didn’t actually get around to eating. It’s a bit like me in real life, buying food and aspiring to fine meals, but only looking at produce as it gradually grows less fresh. We enjoyed a fictional meal nonetheless.

PiPi: The endless constant (FiveThirtyEight)

Simon Fry was just as he’d been the last time I imagined him, and I probably hadn’t changed much in his eyes. His flat looked very much as I’d left mine, so I felt at home, even before he’d asked me to sit down. With me seated comfortably and uninvited, Simon went to a fridge very much like my own.

What food’s in there?” I wondered.

Enough to make some fine meals,” Simon replied, “and just enough for two.”

There has to be, given my appetite.”

Eh?”

I can’t buy portions small enough.”

But there’s some nice food in here.”

Less waste. I pay more for less of the premium stuff. Sometimes I even cook it.”

And otherwise?”

I plan meals, imagine cooking and eating them, then don’t get around to it.”

Why?”

No-one to cook for, other than myself.”

And me?”

Are you offering?”

No.”

Good. Fewer fictional dishes.”

So with dinner out of the way, Simon and I talked.

Yours is a life,” Simon said, “of possibilities. Except you dwell on them, imagining what might be, but never living it.”

I never go out.”

Where are you now?”

At yours.”

Exactly. So you need to keep imagining, but you need to share what you see with others. Then maybe they can see what I can.”

Something I’ll never see,” I replied. “I sometimes compare life to love, when often they’re interchangeable; there must be very few people who’ve never been to that place. The best part of life is falling in love. It doesn’t matter that I never will again, just so long as others keep doing it. Being in love is a wonderful feeling, like your world is full of happiness. But falling there, and the anticipation, the feelings you’d forgotten since you last lived.”

Like eating food?”

Like planning a meal, perhaps with someone. As an objectivist, and having not fallen for some time, I can transcend it and write about it in a fictional sense. They say there’s a part of the writer in every story, but I left my heart in enough already. Sometimes it’s best just to let things go. You’d rather have seen how things went, but you can still imagine what might have been. No-one will ever know and you can keep that for yourself.”

Like not finishing a story. And not eating.”

When you’re in love with someone, you’re in love with the world. You’re loving living. When your greatest love ends, so does your life. I’m not in love with anyone; a lot of people a little bit, but only maybe one in another life. It’s always been difficult to separate fact from fiction in the lone writer’s story.”

The one you’re writing. The non-fiction one needs to eat.”

Maybe I’m too into it. Perhaps I actually am falling in love. But only with someone I’ve created as a character, or the person that actor came from? I’d never make a fictional character conform, as most of fiction is about conflict.”

That would be life then. You’re falling back in love with being a writer, and you need to keep writing about it.”

Eating it, instead of looking at it.”

Exactly. But you do have an eating disorder to add to your list of ailments.”

There are very few people who could have pointed that out to me, in a way which made others see. Perhaps I’ll have a midnight snack.

It’s tomorrow now. I sit at my writing desk, gazing out of the window and wondering what the world is eating.