I found this on Twitter. Marie Le Conte – as shrewd as ever – points back to a piece by the MP Bridget Phillips about the new thinking needed if Labour is to become relevant again.
The sad part is that this was written, unheeded, in 2015. The good is that Bridget Phillips survived the cull and is still an MP. I’d be glad to think that she – and others – will be able to make themselves heard in the clamour of denial, blame and defensiveness that is engulfing the party at the moment
If you are on Twitter Le Conte (@youngvulgarian) is well worth following.
One of my earliest memories is of dabbling in the waterbutt at the back of my great uncle’s house in Whickamford. He grew plums and his orchard seemed to begin right outside his veranda in a clutter of hosepipes, baskets and tools. His waterbutt was an old steel drum, full sized and black as pitch. It was all surface glitter and reflection above an unknown, unexplorable depth.
Water has always fascinated me. Mum called me a waterbaby – happy and absorbed, splashing and pouring, up to my elbows in sinks and bowls.
Later swimming became my thing – especially underwater. I was inspired by Hans and Lottie Haas to practice holding my breath in the bath. It was a constant grievance that flippers – let alone snorkels – were strictly forbidden at the local ‘bathers’ – although I still went everyday that they were open in the summer.
I was disproportionately proud of swimming a whole length underwater. In my defence it was almost the sole sporting achievement of my boyhood.
All of these memories came flooding back this summer when I installed a waterbutt in my own garden and found myself – not much changed in truth – gazing into its depths, still drawn to – well, I still had no words for what it was that drew me – until I came across this poem of Seamus Heaney’s, and there seemed nothing more to say.
Personal Helicon for Michael Longley
As a child, they could not keep me from wells And old pumps with buckets and windlasses. I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top. I savoured the rich crash when a bucket Plummeted down at the end of a rope. So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch Fructified like any aquarium. When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call With a clean new music in it. And one Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime, To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
Reading Geoff Dyer’s essay about Camus (filled with so much wisdom and beauty) and came across this passage. Dyer is in Algiers on a sort of tribute tour of the places that helped form Camus’ world. Walking one day he passes a group of boys playing football and writes:
‘As I continue walking the sun bursts out again, making the bank of cloud smoulder green-black, luminous over the sea. Perched between the road and the sea, between sun and cloud, some boys are playing football in a prairie blaze of light. The pitch glows the colour of rust. The ball is kicked high and all the potential of these young lives is concentrated on it. As the ball hangs there, moon-white against the wall of cloud, everything in the world seems briefly up for grabs and I am seized by two contradictory feelings:
there is so much beauty in the world it is incredible that we are ever miserable for a moment; there is so much shit in the world that it is incredible we are ever happy for a moment.‘