Live and Let Live
It definitely said it was going to rain. In fact, all the weather websites were predicting downpours verging on the deluge side of things. Actually, not all the websites were predicting that, some, in what I figured was surely the apotheosis of internet echo chamber-ing, were saying bright sunshine and warm temperatures, for those people, Fox News viewers for instance, who like their wishes underlined. I went with the majority, the pessimistic view that Sunday, the day of Maurice’s birthday party, was going to be wetter than Atlantis and therefore some paring down in numbers had to be addressed before we were overrun indoors by a dozen twelve year olds.
‘We could still have the same numbers,’ Natalie said innocently, ‘but they could all stay in your office and play snooker.’
Had I been sitting close enough to kick her shins under the table I would have, but as it was, the awkward silence that followed while I tried to remain calm was broken by Maurice himself. He knew that the snooker option was never going to happen, and he saw a way out of his own dilemma. He hadn’t wanted to invite a couple of close friends from his old school, in case word got around to others. He didn’t want to invite kids from his football club, because it would be difficult to not invite the whole team and so he’d decided on just a few close friends who are in his class instead. Three to be exact; a perfectly manageable number for an indoor party while the Heavens offloaded their unseasonal torrents outside.
Of course it was a glorious day, of course it was, and so Maurice’s restricted party numbers actually ended up looking a bit mean on our part, alright my part. But if Maurice was disappointed he didn’t say, but then Maurice has always had his own way of dealing with things. Growing up in an English/French environment, English at home but French everywhere else he was slow to adopt either language, preferring instead his own made up language, ‘Mauritian’ his grandmother called it. I still have the dictionary I compiled at the time, over 150 words that he’d developed as a kind of defence mechanism away from the confusion of having to bracket people, and while he coped with the early days of communication.
Which is all well and good, but while smugly slapping ourselves on the back, and being ever so pleased with ourselves in raising bilingual children, and to the extent that they are accentless in either language, have we overlooked deeper identity issues? Samuel, as I’ve said before, was fiercely ‘English’ until Brexit happened and the scales fell from his eyes on what ‘English’ now meant in a wider context. It’s always seemed less of an issue with Maurice, and with Thérence too, but his party was quite revealing in that regard as Maurice’s two closest friends are both of mixed heritage – is that the term? – just like him. One has a Russian mum, the other is mixed French/Algerian/Spanish. It raises an interesting question. Are they chums because they’re different from the others? Do they see that as an issue themselves? Or have their more multicultural backgrounds given them a shared value system that goes unsaid, but leads to friendship anyway. It’s the same with Thérence too, he’s only 7 and of his two best friends one has a Polish mum and the other is the only black kid at his school. Again, the same questions raise themselves. It’s very pleasing to think that there’s a whole new generation of ‘Citizens of the World’ emerging just to upset ‘purists’ who rage against that type of thing, like breeding a little ‘liberal’ army. One can only hope that those values will remain with them because they, both the value system and them as individuals, are under threat, mistrusted, sneered at, and, horrifically, unjustifiably, literally attacked.
The youth are under attack. Policies by both conservative and so-called progressive parties are hocking their futures. Education, employment, housing, all of them are being sold off to help the core vote of older people roll gently down the hill to oblivion. And those older people, can’t they see that? What happens to the youthful optimism? The fearless nose-tweaking, the yah-boo sucks, bring-it-on attitude, when does that go? Maybe it’s the loss of youth itself. Perhaps there’s an unacknowledged resentment that the one thing we treasured above all else, our youthful energy, is taken from us and we never get over that. So much so that anything we then pick up through life, we cling on to with a death grip, refusing to let go even if we know it would be better all round if we did.
The youth are violently under attack too. I can’t add anything to the horror of what happened in Manchester; the sheer ferocity of people’s hate that they could target kids, target joy, target freedom, innocence and childish excitement is almost beyond an emotional range because it’s inhuman. It’s heart-breaking, the responses are heart-breaking too. To describe young girls at a pop concert as ‘crusaders’ is sick, and not the call of a whole religion but of a parasitical criminal element using it as a vehicle; to call for the ‘internment’ of all Muslims in the UK as a result is just random noise-making, unworkable, illegal and a fast track to radicalisation. One media hate-whore even called for a ‘final solution’ as a response, genocide in other words.
If you preach hate, on both sides, you’ll get hate. If you argue for division, you’ll get division and calling for even greater mass murder in response to mass murder just makes you two sides of the same intolerant, vitriol etched coin. A spiral of disaster awaits and it’s rarely the snarling, spitting voices that pay the price for that, is it? It’s the innocents caught up in their self-aggrandising maelstrom.
I sat on the train from Paris to Amsterdam, still numbed by the news from Manchester. Travelling has become harder and harder, for so many reasons but all five of us had woken up at home in the morning and then all gone our separate ways. Natalie was driving back from Chateauroux where she had dropped a Glandular Fever ridden Samuel back at school. I had put little Thérence on his school bus, Maurice was on his way to his school and I was heading off across the continent. It’s a tiny fraction of what those involved were suffering, I cannot even begin to think of what those poor people are going through but I just wanted us all to be at home together, to do the emotional head-count as it were. I was holding it together though, numb, desperately unhappy at the state of things but also, rarely for me, realising how lucky I, we, are. Maurice and I had had a little cry the night before. We had watched the film Sing, and we’d both shed a little tear at the ‘I’m proud of you, Son’ scene – yes, it’s enacted by two animated gorillas after the younger has just performed an Elton John track, but Maurice is like his dad, a sentimental fluff, rarely far from an outbreak of public emotion and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The news came through on my phone, via a Reuters news alert, that Roger Moore had died. On top of the horror of the day so far this was the less important, far less important, catalyst that sank me. My dad’s called Roger Moore. I grew up with both Roger Moores, they have both informed who I am, and who I wanted to be. You can attach too much emotion to these things obviously, all displaced and avoiding the big, but totally incomprehensible, real issue but you deal with what you can deal with, not what you can’t. I’ve never met him, (the actor that is, not my dad) though strangely I always thought I would; he was such a large part of my own childhood innocence, an equally large part of my own adult delusions too. To keep my sanity when travelling, I live in an alternate world where I am a spy; a suave, very English, very well-dressed spy. It’s how I get by and maybe the ‘keep my sanity’ statement is redundant as a result, but I haven’t found a better way of coping. I just don’t imagine I’m any old spy mind, I’m Roger Moore, I’m the spy. All heads turn, all eyes are on me. It’s a childhood dream that’s become an adult fantasy, an emotional safety net. Do I let that go now? That childish game, like an imaginary friend, is it time to put it away? Do I grow up a bit more? Shed even more innocence? No, I don’t think I can, and I’m not sure I want to either. I like the childishness that I’ve clung on to, more people should have that escape route, certainly politicians, religious leaders, ‘commentators’, anyone who spouts for a living. And anyway, in my childishly deluded mind, if there’s one thing the world really needs right now, it’s James bloody Bond.
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