When you’re in a hole stop digging?
by Pseud O'Nym
Last night my partner drove me back to Camberwell from Stoke Newington, so that I could be at my house in order to allow our house’s collective decision to take place. To do this, we had to drive from North to South London. I mention this only because my partner and I are unusual, she more than me I’d say – a lot more than me actually – but in this instance because we were born here. We’ve lived here all our lives so therefore the sight of a deserted London on a Saturday night– hardly any cars meaning green lights all the way – made London feel both eerily empty and at the same time kind of how we both remembered it as children. Less busy, easier to drive through…just less.
Driving past a deserted Trafalgar Square triggered youthful memories of schlepping down to it after a night of clubbing – well hardly, as clubs would close at 3am in olden times – to get a night bus home. They’d be swarms of people, like small rivers that would form larger ones, all heading for the same place. Because you wanted to get on one – something that had a different meaning for clubbers years later – ideally get a seat but more likely to end standing with your nose in someone’s armpit, as they’d be invariably packed so tight that drivers wouldn’t let half as many people on now. But what with there being only one every hour, a stampede would ensue the moment the doors to the bus opened. Getting onto a night bus was nearly as difficult as getting into ‘The Wag Club”
But they are now memories, like the memory of on one building on the square shining a light onto the South African embassy on the other side of the square, of a swastika.
Apartheid, in case you’re wondering why.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. I’m let you know that there’s been an isolated incident of foot and mouth disease, involving me putting both my feet into my mouth. It happened last night, after I was safely in sunny Camberwell and had called my partner for a chat. Ah, how nice, you might think, but read on. We were chatting away quite merrily when she referenced my fears of a Berlin Wall type sudden lockdown of London in a mocking way. Affronted by this, I suggested that by closing the bridges over the Thames the government could effectively cut London in two. Hah! I thought, only for her to come back with “Oh, is that why you wanted to get back, in case you were stranded in North London?” leading me to reply without thinking “No, because all my music is there.” You know the feeling of instant regret you have when you’ve said something you shouldn’t? I had that and she pounced on my comment as if she was a shopper and it was the last toilet roll in the world.
Cue caustic barbs about it being good to know where my priorities were, pointed remarks about not caring, the sort of thing anyone would say after hearing that.
You might’ve thought I’d have stopped there. But no, foolishly, I thought I can still salvage this, but if there was a right combination of words to effect this, they were not, unfortunately, the ones I used. Firstly, I claimed that she was twisting my words – this got a snort of derision – but then “Well it’s not just that, there’s a huge garden here as well.” Then I stopped digging. But it was too late. If I though the previous amount of righteous indignation had been bad, it was as nothing when compared to the response these words elicited.
One of the worst things she said was that while me saying this sort of thing was ‘shocking’, it wasn’t ‘unexpected’. And as disapproving teachers and parents have done to me all my life, I was invited to think about what I’d said, and to tell her today why they were wrong.
But to me they weren’t wrong. Ill judged, tactless, selfish, and other words that mean the same thing, yes. Putting things ahead of her might be construed as crass and insensitive. Might? Would it have been better had I not said them? Undoubtedly! But were they wrong?
This digging malarkey is ruining my clothes. I should stop.