Weeknotes 2023.13: Into the vortex of a hollow spring
I need to get a political rant out at the end of today’s weeknote, so let’s get the pretty pictures out of the way first.
We went out for a long walk today through Holland Park and into Hyde Park. I’m moderately obsessed with all the cherry blossom I saw. At one tree in Kyoto Garden, a band of parakeets was stripping the flowers from the boughs; I narrowly avoided being shat on by a bird in the pollinator walk in Hyde Park. The peacocks were rowdy. My digital camera’s battery ran out after just a few hours (I forgot to charge it) and I managed to incorrectly expose rather too much film—that’ll teach me for not paying attention to the metering, which, by the way, was also on thin ice because my battery for that was running down too. (I guess five months is a good run, and I have spares.)
It was a glorious sunny day, and it finally feels like spring is here. This makes me happy. Winter feels like it’s been here forever. And yet, I end this week on mixed emotions at best.
In my line of work, at the end of each iteration, we do a retrospective meeting, and a perennial format of this is to organise things into those that made you “Mad, Sad, and Glad.”
Spring has made me glad. But the sad this week comes from a multitude of things in the news. This article about Happisburgh slowly being abandoned to the sea. The constant rumbling and bubbling of war in Ukraine and elsewhere. The unexpected death of Paul O’Grady, who I remember from my childhood as the mordacious Lily Savage on Blankety Blank before I was old enough to understand that she was a man in drag and all the dirty jokes. And no matter how much people may confuse him with Grayson Perry (or Larry Grayson???) or claim he shows that ‘wokery and limitations on comedy’ are bad: Paul O’Grady was there during the homophobic Metropolitan police raids of the late 1980s, took a considerable risk to his own career to call the Conservative coalition government of the early 2010s “bastards” on live TV, and even in recent years was a fierce advocate for fairness and equality towards migrants and refugees, trans people, homeless people, the poor… the list goes on. He was a real one, and it’s a tragedy that he’s gone at only 67.
And this brings me onto the “mad.” Oh, there’s so much. A cut in air passenger duty for domestic flights in the UK, when there are two separate railway lines between London and Edinburgh—downright appalling. This incredible Verge article about how inkjet printer cartridges are now region locked, apparently.
And then there’s the absolute shambles of the leader of the UK Labour Party taking the Conservatives’ culture war bait and throwing transgender people under the bus. At best his remarks are outright ignorance, so heavily detached from the reality of life for anyone who has ever lived in fear of their family or their school—at worst it is a sign of increasing radicalisation, of chasing votes from the kind of people who will never vote Labour and abandoning those who would be natural supporters to do it.
Let us be clear: this situation is a crock of shit. It is bad strategically (evidence has shown time and time again that the British public’s current attitude to trans people is to just live and let live—because most normal people don’t obsess over the configuration of complete strangers’ genitals and don’t stare in public.) It is also morally repugnant. I find myself with a dilemma in the general election in 2024 at this rate: while I want to support my (excellent) local Labour MP, I struggle to see how I can vote in good conscience for a party whose leadership appears to have the ear of well-funded agitators who would eliminate many of my friends from public life and deny them life-saving healthcare, concern-trolling for women’s rights while in fact seeking to police who they consider to be acceptable as a woman or a man (and mark my words: cisgender people will be caught in the splash damage, as we have already seen in the US.)
After fourteen years—almost half my life—of the Tories asset-stripping the country and pushing their foot down on anyone from a working-class background, I should not be confronted with a moral dilemma as to whether or not I should vote Labour at the next election. How the fuck did we get here?