Stratford City

There is so much to write about. Sleeping dreams, waking dreams, vague notions of reality and consciousness. I went for a drink after work with a friend and work colleague. I enjoyed the conversation, his company, the couple of pints, the atmosphere and more.

After we parted I did something I haven’t done for a while. Going into a pub and having a pint on my own. I enjoyed this a great deal. By this time enough beer had been drunk to create a slightly trippy feeling. The trippy music provided a a lift-off.

It was the perfect pub to be alone. There were other people alone there too. None of us had any interest in breaking through each others loneliness. But it didn’t feel lonely. The scattering of solitary people created a sense of something shared and communal. Collective even. Collective solitarity being.

We had been talking earlier about solidarity, collective, universal, socialism, labour and capital and much else.

In this new pub, with me myself I, leaning on the bar. It was a solitary atmosphere and it felt that there were a number of people who wanted this solitary atmosphere. I like this. I don’t generally like people who gush on the initial meetings. I have made much better friends with people I have initially been wary of. But these are not dogmas. There are people who have hugged and kissed me from the outset and I have grown to love them in an unconditional way.

I am suspicious of all dogmas. Dogmas are often expressed through wooden behaviour. Just look around. Dogmas are expressions of fear. The fear of what is usually less clear.

This is being written on the train. The music I’m listening to has been amplified to cover the droning mobile phone conversation of someone who is reaching out and going forward and who is acting as a cipher. As a cipher for what? The capitalist relations of production. It must be exhausting. What do they really think and feel? Surely not what they are saying. What sort of life is that, to have an inner life so at variance with a spoken life?

Standing at the bar of the pub created the sensation of being in dream that can never be quite remembered. We wake up and there is a memory that will not form. Of some other place that we have never been to.

Everyone is talking about the cost of living crisis. The barman tells me that the utility bills are going up by 85 percent.

‘Now, if only we had one company that was controlled by the government and the prices were controlled’, he explains. And lifts his eyebrows up. There are deep currents running. No one knows exactly what they are or what swirling patterns they will make.

Everything is shifting but it’s shifting too fast for the prophets to prophisise. The leaderships are self-proclaimed. Is it a dynamic force or a fetter? There is activity, but where’s the critique? Too easy to be shifted this way and that way by the trade union bureaucracy moving. The socialist movement needs to be philosphical and hard.

‘What do you mean by hard?’, my friend had earlier asked.

‘Hard politically. Universal, but critical’.

‘Take this area. How many people work here? 10,000? Shop workers, construction workers, office workers, delivery workers. The movement against Capital must be universal. But how do we organise the 10,000 people?

‘We have to argue that the Bulgarian and Romanian construction workers have something in common with the Indian delivery workers and the shop workers who wear the Hijab and the gaunt white delivery drivers and the Black and eastern European workers. And the different and wider combinations that fill all these shops, offices and construction sites and all these other workplaces’.

‘What do you mean about philosophical?’. My friend has just put two lovely foaming pints of beer on the table. We clink glasses.

‘We have to confront people in a sympathetic way – what do you get out of capitalism? Is this really it? Consumerism is an empty dead end. The best things in life are your friends. The best times I have ever had are with other people’.

Types, social phenomena. New social types appear, and then new versions of earlier types. There’s someone in this pub who reminds me so much of R- . Was it really so long ago?

In the canteen at East Ham town hall. I was sitting at a table on my own probably eating sausage and mash or something like that. He approached my table carrying a tray with liver and bacon, or something. Long black hair, long grey coat. He reminded me of Pere Ubu.

‘Can I sit here’, he said in a broad Bradford accent.

We talked. It was one of those meetings that were oddly memorable. I don’t remember the next ten or twenty times we met.

Meetings, introductions, closeness, apartness.

I’m standing at the bar in the pub writing all these notes down. Two people turn to look at me. I make a note that two people at the bar turn to look at me.

It’s a continuum of writers, would-be writers, unknown writers, secret writers. For decades and beyond, in pubs and bars in London engaged in solitary writing, surrounded by solitary people, all getting on with solitary activities. Casually looking, listening, being engaged, but really being detached, living in one’s own world. It’s from this observation point that the world sometimes makes most sense.

An alcoholic floating. The music bounces out of every corner of the bar. These solitary drinkers are now my comrades and companions. There is no need for words to amplify the atmosphere. We are all absorbed in our worlds within each others solitary company.

Another pint or go home? I talk to the barman. There is restlessness, an idea of exploration, of being alive; outside the realm of toil, but within the cage of capitalism, the oppressive social relations, the alienation and estrangement of self. For a moment, a sense of something else, an escape into the realm of sensory consciousness, but it cannot be permanent. A glimpse of something else, so cruelly and quickly torn away by this reality of; Stratford City.

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