For if I am able to see through the Eye of Time, this Moment can last Forever

I have had my time. I have had my chance at fresh, unblemished skin. I have relished in the vainglory of taught muscles and beautiful bones. I have had youth.

 

I have had my fill of the eyes of young women as they glance through curiosity, then twice through interest, then a third time because they imagine futures stretching off in permanent adolescence.

 

I have had my opportunity to clutch caution and consequence, and throw those notes scrawled upon torn paper up into the air to be snatched by the wind and whipped away to some distant revelation.

 

Now I have marched with blind naivety the path that so recently felt to be such an unconquerable distance. Now I look back upon the hesitancy of youth, upon those worries of the simple unknown, which turned out to be but the tiniest goblin growling as a lion concealed by shadows. I look back on the heedful prudence that haunted every of my steps and I wonder whether regret is a companion I have managed to avoid. Whether that sad man is left in one of the gloomy inns along the way.

 

For I have had my time as the young man – the vessel for old men to stuff their own regrets in, to project their own dreams and aspirations on to in frustrated impotence, to seek to belittle and browbeat and beat with the sticks of their own insufficiencies. I have had my time as the brief light of realisation, that coarse reminder that their bones and their muscles and their joints no longer afford them the opportunity to achieve those dreams that long ago felt could take place in eternity.

 

Yes, I have suffered the resentment of the aged. I have had my dreams and my ideas undermined by those who have given way to time’s judgmental nature. I have had my green horns and I wanted nothing more than for them to be severed, not realising that with them went the hope that can only come from perception of a world undiscovered.

 

I have smelt of new birth and possibility. I have been the exciting prospect. I have been the untapped mineral reserve in the mines of humanity amongst the dark, brownish matter and the dripping muck. Now my preciousness has been looted and I hope the world got all it could. I hope that the jewels of my raw, blank material that now sit in the shop window are a source of delectation and delight for the passers-by. I shall never know. Such is the curse of having access only to one mind, so full of curiosity as to the state of others’.

 

I do not know whether that potential of which so many spoke, whether the unknowable seas that were so vast and so infinite were blue illusions. I do not know whether the depths of my waters contained something worth finding, or whether the dips and the troughs of their beds retain something left unfound. I can never know. Though, perhaps I can say I am satisfied with the treasures I discovered.

 

When I was young, I knew that beyond the pale, death and his creeping embrace awaited. Still my collar was grabbed vociferously from behind by wary watchfulness. How was I to know that it would not lead to ruin or pestilence or impecuniousness to act upon the lustful desires of spontaneity and luck?

 

It is both the curse and the blessing of mortality that it brings life’s end. It is both the curse and the blessing of life that it must involve the slow depreciation of both one’s flesh and one’s thoughts into some unhinged and unimpeded abstraction. It is both the curse and blessing of the ages that with the impending possibility of youth comes the stifling stranglehold of uncertainty, and with the stifling stranglehold of senescence comes the limitless power of knowledge.

 

I am still young. I am still beautiful; I am still the capsule of possibility that so draws ire and admiration, which spins the loom of regret and resentment in those who have not the gifts of my temporariness.

 

So I stand in the doorway of the rundown boozer and its beer that inspires my introspection and I crane my neck to the night sky, feeling the breeze upon reddened cheeks. As I pull the cigarette between my fingers to my lips, cracked and pink in the cold, I watch the cherry ignite boss-eyed and suck that intoxicating poison down into my nubile lungs. Viscerally and immediately I am propelled back from this imagined future that I created for just an instant – just a floating, forever moment. With the nub of my cigarette stomped beneath a flat foot, so is that future extinguished as if it had never existed. But it did exist, for an instant; for the glimpse of a second I was myself, only with trench lines etched into my skin and the bags of years beneath weathered eyes. For a moment I had seen all that is to come and then I was plunged back beneath the surface. But now, of course, the vigour of such electric air infects my blood and I am renewed with my knowledge.

What do we want and when do we want it?

If the events of June and July 2016 prove anything – with Nigel and Boris and David resigning, and George suddenly announcing a 15% rate of corporation tax – it is that we don’t employ politicians with ideas, we employ politicians eager for power and attention and influence who are willing to say or do anything to get it. We need to change our entire society and our entire system so that we promote and give platforms to politicians with long-term thinking, who have ideas and manifestos and philosophies, rather than short-term elastoplasts and knee-jerk reactions.

The only question worth asking

In a perfect State there is no need for charity. All the monies that private individuals and companies donate to charity and spend in philanthropy would be effectively collected through proportional taxes and thereafter efficiently divided and put to their proper uses so that charities are not needed to fill the gaps. This depends on a perfect State not burdened by bureaucracy or corruption. When there are enough resources on the planet to feed and house and power every single human being, then there is only one question to ask: How do we formulate a global economic system and a nation State in which those resources can be fairly distributed through government structures while still retaining the opportunity and impetus for people to work and utilise their talents in order to capitalise upon their labours and gain and improve their situation? And how do we retain the right amount of inequality so that there is something to aspire to?

 

 

The volunteers of Calais

In Calais, at the ass end of our sceptred isle, not a hop-skip over the channel from the White Cliffs of Dover, in the centre of Western Europe, is a floodplain upon which the huddled masses of North Africa and the Middle East have coalesced, and which has come to resemble a foreign country.

 

It is a vast expanse of sodden, soaking, gloopy, swampy land bristling with tents and shacks and caravans packed together like one of Brazil’s best favelas. Downtrodden men in torn jackets and ripped jeans from Eritrea, Syria, Iraq and a muddle of other countries slosh up and down the crude dirt paths, their sandaled feet mud-soaked. It is a pseudo-civilisation painted in graffiti: desperate English implorations to Cameron, quotations from the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, indiscernible Arabic, and a much-publicised picture of Steve Jobs in his iconic turtle neck, a bag of possessions flung over his shoulder. Within this microcosm of a foreign nation is an embryonic infrastructure: worried looking men and boys leaning on MDF counters, chickens rotating lazily on rotisserie spits behind them; smiling, kind looking women peering out from behind curtains further into the family section of the camp; fires burning in empty oil drums and hooded guys with smiles and rubbing hands huddled round damp planks that crackle and bubble black within; kids running out of the doorway of ‘Jungle Books’ – the library – with indomitable optimism in their eyes; and the plywood crucifix of the church standing erect, resolute over the tent points and the corrugated plastic roofs.

 

And although the people seem optimistic, insisting you needn’t pay for the tea they just made you, singing for you, sharing what pitiful shit they have; above, an oppressive grey lid of a sky bears down and a foreboding grey tsunami of clouds rolls by, and on the outskirts the silently flashing blue lights of riot vans are perennial. It is the people only that turn such a desolate wasteland, such a place of desperation and disgust, into something hopeful.

 

But enough has been written of the Jungle and its inhabitants, enough has been made of the poverty and enough journalistic voyeurism has been had.

 

A 10-minute drive from the camp is the warehouse of the charity, ‘Help Refugees’. It is a bustling bastion of solution and a testament to humanity within the drab, Soviet block housing of Calais and the endless roads speckled by lonely booze warehouses.

 

You walk in through the open double gates, and immediately the taste of a frenetic, joyful, furtive energy bombards one’s senses. Vans are backed up to the open mouth of the warehouse; high-vis guys and girls toss boxes out of them and trot them into the depths of the building, rotating round like a shimmering centipede, back and forth. A group of people stand off to the side sucking on roll ups and laughing and some girls run across the vista to the skip with a couple of black bin bags in their hands. There is purpose and meaning and drive in the air, but tinged with something you too rarely feel back in the City – friendliness, acceptance and collectivism.

 

To the right of the gates is a ramshackle MDF hut held together with nails and masking tape and topped with tarpaulin, and from within it a friendly looking hippie greets you. “Hey maaan; you guys new?” he asks; his tone pleasant, light and full of friendship. You say you are, and he gives you some forms to fill in. The hippies do bureaucracy apparently.

 

Once you’ve filled in your forms, the dude palms you off to someone else in an orange high-vis. There’s a hierarchy, you see: orange is a boss, yellow is a grunt.

 

She leads you into the cavernous warehouse. Past the vans ticking over are cages full to the brim with duvets and pillows and bed sheets – a few guys are sorting through them, removing whatever is stained or torn or generally useless. To the left is the break area, a couple tables where lunch is served, and beyond that the food: piles of tins and bags of beans and granola bars. But straight through forward is where prime time is. Below a cardboard sign demanding you wear a high-vis before going in (again, hippies do health and safety, apparently) is the entrance to a yawning chamber sectioned up by lines of massive metal shelving stacked with clothes and tents and sleeping bags and roll-mats and, down the far end, boxes of toothpaste and shower gel and shampoo and bandages and disinfectant.

 

The place is an ant colony: people stand over tables measuring the width of jeans and throwing them in the appropriate boxes, someone finds a pair of lacy women’s underwear in the pile and stuffs it in the charity shop crate; cages and trolleys are wheeled noisily up and down the corridors with bags of goods being taken to wherever they need to go; music blares from the speakers as a couple of guys throw bin bags full of clothes to the top of an Everest pile and, over in the corner, shoes get duct-taped together before being put in one of many size-labelled bins. “Mind your backs” is the echo and “where does this go?” the mantra.

 

At lunch a girl with a voice far too booming for her petite frame calls through the reverberating warehouse and a queue is formed as rice and beans and cabbage and coffee is dolled out into waiting bowls and mugs held aloft. People sit about, mill around, eating and chatting and discussing politics or TV or their plans.

 

The place is a maelstrom of diversity. Some of them are there for the weekend, professionals in PR jobs or the banking sector who felt it no skin off their nose to help out for a few days. Some are pure, unadulterated, unfiltered hippies with unwashed hair and who actually, thoroughly believe there should be no borders – because economics and the path of national development and international relations and resource disparity and cultural diversity can all be washed away with a hashtag. Some of them are just principled people who feel a connection to humanity and want to help, solely because they want to. Some were like me, there out of a mixture of curiosity and a feeling that our Governments are fucking up a long term plan and in the short term, were it not for the heroes that are those volunteers, those people in the camp, in disgusting limbo, would be fucked.

 

You see, whatever your politics – unless you’re a white-pride, Britain First troglodyte – you cannot deny that it is impossible to fault the people sacrificing their time and their jobs and, at least for the foreseeable future, their lives, to try and improve, at least fractionally, the situations of the desperate and the weary and the beaten.

 

When I sat in the local bar in the evening getting wasted, which was heaving with volunteers, I felt something I hadn’t expected to feel: an overwhelming sense of pride. To look around and hear so many British voices, as well as those of a multitude of other countries, and to know my compatriots had seen the undefended and come to defend them. To hear the passion and the urgency in their voices and to see them in the knowledge they were there to do a job, that they weren’t proving a point; they were there to try and dredge humans out of the shit and they were fucking well going to do it.

 

There is a dire situation in Calais. It is bearing witness to the fallout of man’s arrogance, it is suffering under the strain of human consequence, and the refugees there have felt the full force of governmental haymakers. But within it all, bursting through the gloom, there are the volunteers, and they are heroes with an utterly impressive organisation, and they need to be recognised.