Odd bits

The Sandcastle


The water in the teasmaid boils; it is this rushing sound which brings me to consciousness. I switch it off, shuffle to the bathroom – when did waking up with a stiff back become the norm? – attend to biology, then shuffle (a little less stiffly) back.

I pull the blinds before I pour the tea. I like to open them just enough so that, from the bed, we can see the night become the day (it’s just after 5am.)

We greet one another. Almost formally; that is, we have a rhythm whose details I won’t share. Repeated process matters to me. It signifies permanence, as close as a human being can get. The sea washes the sandcastle away, and all our lives are sandcastles. But while there’s a new morning you can build another. Practice makes perfect.

We’ve got our tea now and he turns on the radio. Tea is such a gift. I think of its journey, from China to India to London, and – oh, I know, it was shameful, our imperial past, and I know India is the future and we should regret the Raj.

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Essex doorstep

This piece appeared on ConservativeHome on 21 May 2014.


She’s my age, ish, maybe younger? Her eyes are black-rimmed with make-up. Not a hard face, but a determined one. You can tell she laughs at life. My hopes rise. I was an Essex Tory councillor, back in the day, and a subconscious “these are our people” feeling is present. The prejudice of the party activist! I mentally mark the canvass sheet with a “C”.

But Harlow (where I’d lived, back in the day) isn’t Colchester (where I am today), and I have no experience of fighting Liberal Democrats, who control the town. I don’t look my best on this summer-still estate, with my hot red baw-heid, and white salt crystals down the front of my sweat-stinking teeshirt.

I hate canvassing for votes (“I’m so sorry to bother you!”), but Ben Locker is the candidate, and ours is a close friendship, forged in the furnace of council elections we fought as part of the Hackney Tory Collective, so here I am, cheeks aching from the activist grin (curious, attentive, not actually insane).

The heat had worn thin my patience, and was reverse-telescoping time: it felt an age to walk to each new front door. My introductory spiel was by now boiled down, reduced, to its essence. “Are you going to vote for Conservative Ben next Thursday?”

“Oh yes. Well you won’t get anywhere with him.” She gestures inside, where I detect a hint of a man in shorts, angrily fiddling with a television cable. It’s not the television he’s angry with. I mentally delete his “C” from the canvass card in my head. “He’s Labour.”

That gets the man from his knees, and into the hall. “I’m not Labour, just another neoliberal outfit, just slightly better than this shower, you work hard, the rich get richer …”

“The bankers,” I offer.

“The bankers!” he agrees.

Continue reading Essex doorstep