Sunday 9 May 2010

What did i learn?

The trouble with elections is that no matter who(m) you vote for the government always wins!

I don’t remember who said this originally, I might have seen it on a poster in a tourist shop in Piccadilly Circus, sometime in the late sixties alongside a terrifying “Lord Kitchener Needs YOU’. Then again I might have seen it scrawled on the wall alongside other graffiti on the way to the Drill Hall Arts Workshop in London where I first started juggling.

I remember that first lesson, as I guess we always do when the event is somewhat seminal.

I was living in Reading and had travelled up for the evening especially and i was a little upset that the teacher set me in a corner and told me patiently to work on throwing and catching one ball.

“Juggling is not about catching” he intoned mysteriously, “It’s all about throwing.”

This is not much help when you are constantly dropping the thing and chasing it around the room, annoying the other, more gifted students.

“And sometimes, everything falls” he added, “just enjoy it, visualise what you are trying to do and start again.”

I think that was the problem, I had no real idea WHAT I was trying to do, my arms and hands seemed to be in permanent dispute with my brain and with all the retrieving my legs were getting more exercise than anything.

After an hour of this, remember I was paying, he gave me a second ball and left me alone as he worked with someone on a seven-ball cascade. I just had time as the lesson came to an end to ask him quickly what I was meant to do with the third ball and then set off for the train journey home.

I had to walk past two graffitied sections of town and there were a pair of slogans that stood out. The first was “Glue keeps it all together” and all though I admired the play-on-words I was uncomfortable about abusing any substances that I could buy openly in a stationary shop. Surely if it was that good politicians would have criminalised it.

The slogan was daubed on the side of Huntley Street opposite the Drill Hall, a former military drill centre that had been converted into a community arts centre and vegetarian restaurant. This was my idea of swords to ploughshares.

Huntley Street contained an abandoned block of Nurse’s accommodation that had become a vibrant and radical squat; and had recently become the scene of violent pitch battles as the city’s police force sought to evict the people living there. It was ironic that it stood alongside a former military training facility.

The other piece of graffiti troubled me much more. Someone, I assume female, had scrawled, “All Men are Rapists”.

Sitting on the train home I thought long and hard about this. I was unable to make sense of the anger, the apparent sexism and the damming universalism of that word “all”.

Although street graffiti is probably not the best teacher these were my (in)formative years politically – and the lessons I was being offered were direct action and violent confrontation, plus a bit of glue sniffing. I had already read The Communist Manifesto and the Little Red Book along with large tracts of the bible and I was getting confused.

Luckily I shared a house with Maggie.

Well, really I was a lodger, I think I sublet and Maggie indirectly provided the best political education I could have had.

She was a single mum, had two young kids a menagerie of household pets and a boyfriend who lived in another town – he drove a bus and was a committed trade unionist. Maggie was clearly a feminist but she didn’t seem to hate men. She certainly loved her two sons.

What did I learn?

Something like this – get involved in what you love and confront the issues and inequalities head on. Feed the cats and use glue for Christmas cards.

Maggie had a sofa that ran the length of the small sitting room and for the next week she found me there almost constantly trying to keep those three spheres in motion. Juggling over a sofa saves a lot of time running after errant balls.

After a week I wasn’t Rastelli but I was ready for my next lesson.

No comments: