Fever Diary – May 9th 20--
I have solved the mystery of the disappearing newspaper. I have hungrily searched for them on the streets, but soon after acquiring purchase, they become blank and I find myself absurdly gloomy about the failure of my imagination in this one regard. I laboured, often reluctantly, at the coalface of journalism for a very long time, but now found myself with a literary blind spot. Although the fancier MC’s deliver a bulletin digest daily, many people do still desire a solid paper in their hands on the tube or the bus, but I can’t seem to keep one in my eye.
I told Pedro of my experience. He looked at me in the usual pitying manner, picked up a discarded paper from the pile of waste in the Council recycling compactor kept in the front garden and took me down the road to the paper kiosk at the entrance to Stamford Hill station. Inserting coins into the kiosk he showed me two black dots in the lower left hand margin of the paper and placed them in a gap between two protruding spurs of metal on the side of the kiosk.
The spurs came together over the dots and the newspaper’s surface instantly filled with text, colour photographs and advertisements. He showed me how I could make certain pictures move by tapping them to trigger a short documentary. It seems my imagination did not have a leak after all. It had filled the gap with something even more alien than the overt sexual language and depiction that seems ubiquitous in the media of the AW. Now that I know the costs involved, I will have to budget for a daily paper reload as well as everything else.
However, there are other allocations in our meagre economy that are probably more urgent. This afternoon, I visited my preferred Scandinavian chain store and invested in a tent and a small rucksack. Tomorrow I am going to search through what the AW calls Hackney’s Civic Amenity site, which, in the BW we called a rubbish dump.
Five Nigerians hold sway over the site and sift the goods arriving for disposal like city antique dealers at a country auction. I have cultivated their leader over the last few weeks and am promised a robust recycled bicycle for Pedro. Preparations are almost complete. I have felt for some time that our time here is almost at an end. I sense surveillance. I am almost certain that I saw the middle-aged man in the flat cap again hanging around the station. Once again, the lower face was covered so it is difficult to be certain.
Yesterday, there was a knock on the door around lunchtime. Pedro and I were washing up after an Irish stew that had left me feeling indolent and bloated. A young woman stood on the doorstep, a tartan coat over a pair of white trousers and tousled red hair above startling green eyes. I guessed she was in her twenties and almost certainly from the west of
judging by the twang. She introduced herself as Helen Boden, a reporter from
the Hackney & Haringey Advertiser. She held out her MC and said, ‘I
wondered if I could talk to you about this? ’On the screen was a picture of
myself in the dock at the Inner London Crown Court beneath an article headlined
‘Orwell in the Dock’. Australia
I invited her in and she sat sipping tea whilst I read the rest of the piece – a mocking sketch on the kind of entertaining eccentrics that occasionally pass through the Courts. It reminded me of Dickens’ ‘Sketches by Boz’ and perhaps this was the intention. It instantly sent a frisson of foreboding down to my belly as I realised that I was now attracting far too much attention for my own good. The most unsettling part was a reference to a ‘Stalinist Hit List’ for MI5. My game with Rees was hardly that, but it seemed to me as if Celia might well have had such connections.
‘It’s been picked up by quite a few people’ she said. ‘People like the idea, you know, that he’s still alive somewhere, watching us all.’
I observed that she was wary of the madman, but also clearly wanted something. I presumed it was a story and told her bluntly that I wasn’t interested in being interviewed and parodied for the benefit of the local newspaper. I told her, somewhat unconvincingly that I no longer laboured under the delusion. This was not helped by the act that we had purchased new razors that morning and, for the first time in the AW, I had shaved all but my favoured line above the top lip. She looked at me with an impishly amused scepticism and told me that she wasn’t really thinking of rewriting a national story for the locals. What she really wanted was for me to write a weekly column for the paper. I was taken aback and slightly suspicious. What made her think I could even write? She read from my impromptu meditations on the nature of existence in Court and pointed out that it sounded like a writer speaking, if ever she had heard one.
‘You may not be him, but there’s an angle here. A view of the world from an unusual place.’
‘Diary of a Madman’ I suggested. She smiled and said she was thinking of something more like ‘As I Please’ or even ‘Blair’s Diary’. I told her coldly that a literary bedlam where readers passed by to see the mentally defective rend their garments was not an attractive proposition. In truth, I was intrigued by the idea of having a column again, but not the attention that it would bring. Pedro, ever the pragmatist, asked how much I might be paid. She told him and he did a little mental gavotte as he juggled with reducing our benefit payments over being comparatively better off.
I cut them both off by saying that we would be leaving the area soon. It was not the best way for Pedro to hear of my plans, but he betrayed nothing to the journalist. She seemed un-perturbed and pointed out that I could write from anywhere I pleased. I quickly, but politely, declined. But as she was leaving, she left me her card and told me that if I changed her mind, all I had to do was send the first column to the e-dress listed.
After she left I apologised to Pedro and told him my intention. I made it clear that he was under no obligation to go along with it. After two hours of wrangling, he convinced me to wait and see how the B & C interview went, before making a final decision. Conscious of how long he had lived without comforts before I came along, I reluctantly agreed. I hope it will not be too late by then.
I put Miss Boden’s card in the small pouch that contains my puncture kit below the saddle of Rocinante.