I found this title — and just this title, nothing else — marooned in the drafts folder for the site.
I have no recollection of what I was thinking when I wrote these words but it may have been an attempt to kick-start some more writing on here but maybe also an injunction to start putting down some words in the form of short-stories, the latter an area that Val encouraged me to start thinking about, last year.
Because of COVID-19, we missed some weekend courses we’d booked at CityLit in London. Mine was to have been two days of creative writing with Jonathan Barnes, he of The Somnambulist and The Domino Men. I hope to be able to re-book.
The title also reminds me of the words from a beautiful wood-cut by a Kyoto potter called Kawai Kanjirō…
…whose house, studio and huge, hillside straddling, sloping kiln, found in a little side-street in Kyoto we visited.
Cool, shaded, tranquil. Inside I felt like a bull in a china shop. Tall, clumsy, Western, almost every moment and movement a constant fear that I’d manage to break some precious cultural icon or go crashing through a fragile screen, or floor or doorway. Dear reader? You’ll be pleased (as were his relatives, who still run this house as a museum) to hear that I didn’t. I did however buy a couple of his prints and this one is the one that I was reminded of. “I want to see a new self. I work.” I love this piece.
I don’t think we’ll ever get back to Japan. Pandemics, aircraft CO₂ emissions, such travel now seems to belong to a different age. A wasteful, damaging, selfish era. One that we shouldn’t go back to.
But still, I miss Japan.
Val sent me a link today, a short piece on rice growing in the Southern US states before the Civil War. Not too much in the words that was new to me, but some of the photos served to again bring home the casual (and often not, often deliberate) brutality visited on the slaves.
In turn it reminded me of this packet of rice that I bought pre-lockdown some months back. I’m actually not 100% convinced that this is really the fabled Carolina Gold that I hoped for but I’ll tell you when I get around to using it, maybe in a recipe by Mashama Bailey, whose restaurant, The Grey, is inside an old Greyhound Bus depot, one that, in its time was, like all of them in The South, ‘Jim Crow’ racially segregated with separate waiting rooms & toilets for Negros and whites.
Yes, her recipes from this one, due out next year…
…rather than those of the white (predominantly male) folks — talented though they may be — are ones that I’ll wind up using.
I didn’t buy this via Amazon by the way, but today’s juxtaposition of rice, slavery (old and new) and lockdown, led me to rant about the obscenity that is the money that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos makes. Currently around $2,500 a second. Net worth now somewhere north of $120 billion. yet the minimum wage workers in his warehouses are forced to work wearing nappies (diapers for those of you in America) because taking a pee-break means loss of time or bonuses, under the fucked up system they run there. No PPE, no distancing. And why? So he can pretend that his company is some almost charitable, vital service that also just happens to make him more money than Croesus. I’m sure he’ll toss a few hundred million of these dollars, like the proverbial bone to the dog, towards some deserving causes. Good PR you see?
But that’s not enough. Nowhere near fucking enough.
As part of the “Reconstruction”, the changes that we as a planet and global society need to make post-coronavirus, should see a return to a recognition by everyone that the “vital workers” aren’t the hedge-fund managers, the politicians, the multi-billionaires, the Air BnB leeches, the vampire bankers (none of them ever were vital of course but they own the papers, the legislators, they control the PR narrative, see Bezos op. cit. …) but are the health care professionals, the carers, the shop-workers, the warehouse shelf stackers, the teachers, the trades unions, the unpaid volunteers. Everyone who helps others. Who contributes to the common weal. For whom “devil take the hindmost” and “survival of the fittest” is anathema rather than dogma.
A good start will be an immediate 90% wind-fall tax on anyone who’s worth more than say, what, I don’t know, let’s be generous here, £750,000? Proper inheritance tax laws, ones that bite, so that the wealthy can’t continue to grow ever more wealthy through the generations. Any company that operates in more than one country is obliged to pay the taxes on the income they make in all the countries they operate in. Say at 50%. No more tax-haven loopholes such as the Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich. Indeed, no more tax havens. If places like the British Virgin Islands refuse to open up their books, then they get boycotted and sanctioned like the pariahs that they should be seen as. Full disclosure on land ownership. Everywhere. No more obfuscated, corporate ownerships. And we take away all of the land owned by absentee landlords like The Duke of Westminster and all the others on this list and re-distribute it. Oh, and the forcible removal of all of the aristocracy and inherited royals (whether they have title or not). Starting with Queen Lizzie over here. That she ‘legally’ owns 2.7 billion hectares of land, close to one-sixth of the Earth’s land surface, should immediately have the tumbrils rolling along The Mall.
And last, but not by any means least, a complete debt-forgiveness for individuals. Start afresh. The rich can go fuck themselves. As they’ll no longer be rich.
That’s the start of my own Fables Of The Reconstruction. And maybe a germ of an idea for the start of a (maybe not so short) story of my own. I’ve just finished William Gibson’s “The Peripheral” — which was started in pre-coronavirus times — yet so presciently talked about The Jackpot times mirroring uncannily, the series of (all of them, non-fatal) blows that started to bring low our current society. “Fables Of The Reconstruction”. Now, there’s a thought…
And finally, watch this delightful video of the solitary bees…
…taking advantage of the bee-house that we provided for them. A joy and a distraction from the current times.