I’ve been thinking about class. Or rather, wealth. If you have a flat with a garden, or a house with a garden, or a large house with a garden, or several large houses with large gardens including one in the country such as a minister of state might have, it is really not so hard to isolate. Your flatmate or your friend or your partner or your housekeeper or your maid or your permanent under-secretary might bring out a cup of tea and leave it at a respectful distance, in accordance with governmental guidelines, while you sit with your head back and your face to the sun, soaking up rays this afternoon. You might even feel a flash of the joy of Spring, on an unexpectedly fine, still and warm day. And you might read about the people who are filling the parks of the cities and give a little frown, or think of writing a letter or posting a Tweet or issuing a statement or making an order or calling a chief constable or closing a park, or several parks, to stop this dangerous behaviour, for the benefit of all at this difficult time when what matters above all is to stop Coronavirus. You might think, why can’t people stay home? Don’t they realise how dangerous this is? And you might close your eyes, feeling satisfied with the thought or the action or the order or the decree, and drift away into a pleasant slumber. But if you live in a flat that has no garden, or a shared flat in which you have just the one room, or a room you share with someone else, or a room you share with your family or your extended family, and the flat is cramped and the windows don’t open, or if they do they open on a fetid space between walls or the thundering, half-broken ventilation system from the chicken shop downstairs or you share your tiny, claustrophobic space with someone who hates you or hits you because you have nowhere else to go, then you might stumble outside on a day like this, gasping for air, head in a vice, soul thirsting for the wide sky, and make for the park, to get some rest, some space, some release some escape. Some breath, just for a while. And you might think of the police who moved you on from a bench there yesterday and decide to risk it today because you need to be out, you need to be somewhere else, with an urgency and a desperation that would frighten you if you could think or feel at all. And you might remember the sweet freedom of the moment you lay back and closed your eyes and drifted away in slumber, before the officer shook you and woke you and told you to move on. So you might stagger to the park, heart racing. And you might find it closed, by order of the minister. The one who was a success in business or the law before he entered politics. The one who has a fine home, or several fine homes with gardens. The one who was saying, just a few days ago, that it was important for everyone to be able to get out and exercise even in this lockdown. The one who has no idea of your tears, your fears, your frustration, your despair as you grip the iron gate that bars your way to the one open space available to you in the fevered city. The one who is at home in the garden, half-listening to birdsong as he slowly, slowly drifts away.
David Baddiel is Jewish. His grandparents fled the Nazis in 1939 but lost people they loved to the gas chambers. So it’s no wonder he felt disgust at having to shake the hand of a man who insists the murder of millions of people never happened. “I wanted to be very up-front about how much I didn’t want to meet a Holocaust-denier,” says the writer and comedian, who accepted the greeting in order to film an interview for a new BBC documentary but was visibly disturbed by it. “There were a lot of emotions in meeting him. I was very angry at bits of that interview and very exhausted after talking to him for a long time, three hours or more, with him saying unbelievably offensive things. I was like: ‘What the f*** am I doing here? What am I doing to my mental health?’”Continue reading ““I was like: ‘What the f*** am I doing here?’” David Baddiel on why he is confronting Holocaust deniers”
This is a true story. We’re in East London, early Eighties, I’m 15. I really like Laura. She’s arty, graceful, smart, cool. Out of my league. We go to drama club. She dances to a song, I’m mesmerised. So I go off to the record shop to buy it. Derek’s Records, Walthamstow Arcade. “It goes dooo- do-dooo … I think it might be Dire Straits.” Derek laughs. “No mate, that’s Lou Reed. Walk On the Wild Side.” He sells me the single. I love it. A few days later I go back for the album, with money from my paper round. So I take Transformer along to drama club and leave it on the side. Devious, eh? Laura sees it. “Whose is this?”Continue reading “A Valentine’s Day story”
This potent debut by award-winning writer Moreton weaves a richly evocative story of heartache and secrets, set along the precarious coastline of the Sussex Downs. It opens as Jack races from London to the cliffs near Beachy Head, convinced that his wife, Sarah, plans to end her life after a final, failed IVF cycle. But Sarah doesn’t want to be found, and nor does Gabe, a man holed up in a disused lighthouse and known locally as ‘the Keeper’. In finding each other, they’ll rediscover themselves. Pacy and packed with bittersweet lyricism, it’s a multilayered tale with a surprise ending.
Hepzibah Anderson in Event, the magazine of the Mail on Sunday
Buy The Light Keeper now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Light-Keeper-Cole-Moreton/dp/1910674575
Clive James was dying when I met him. Everybody knew it, because the great writer and broadcaster had said so in print. He had written a poem about he would never see the leaves on the Japanese maple in his garden turn green again, because leukaemia was about to claim him … but then the tree died first.
‘We’ve had it replaced,’ said James sheepishly, when I went to see him at home in Cambridge, two years later. ‘I am highly embarrassed to still be here,’ he said at the start of a long afternoon and early evening in which he talked with surprising candour but unsurprising fluency about his life and loves. There were tears, from both of us.
Never meet your heroes they say, but they’re wrong. He had been a writing of hero of mine since I was a teenager, when his brilliant memoir made me realise it was possible to be a writer even if you came from a place everybody else thought was nowhere. I’m glad I met him. It was a privilege. This is the first draft of what I wrote, an account of the encounter that is more raw and far less polished than what appeared in the Mail on Sunday, but closer to how it was.Continue reading ““I am not afraid of dying.” An emotional last conversation with the great Sir Clive James”