Trumpitty-Bumpitty / Bumpitty-Trumpitty (you decide)

Several things have happened today. Well, several things happen every day but you know what I mean…

President Trump has decided against visiting himself upon us this February in order to ‘cut the ribbon’ on the new US Embassy. The new US Embassy is rather an incredible building, but apparently he hates it and it’s all President Obama’s fault for selling off at a ludicrous price prime real estate in central London for such a monstrosity in an ‘off’ location. He hates it, so he’s not coming to cut the ribbon.

Everybody here breathes a sigh of relief and tears up lists of possible things to throw –

rotten eggs – always popular?

yellow paint, maybe?

flour bombs?

or maybe umbrellas. Maybe we could litter the road in front of his car with unfurled yellow umbrellas. I just thought of that, but of course he would probably see it as a tribute.

UK Citizens showering me with golden umbrellas. Local custom I believe. ‘Nice’ of these peasants, but Sad!

Now we won’t get the chance, which is a bit Sad (though also a Relief) because we have a long creative tradition over here of being Gently, Incredibly Rude to people we regard as crass, common or beneath us in some way. Just read Jane Austen. Possibly Trump has been warned of this but by now he will have forgotten.

At least the Old Horror won’t be coming on the informal visit, but there is still the State Visit to contend with. Why exactly She rushed to offer him a State Visit – an honour American Presidents are usually only accorded in their second term of office – trade deal or no trade deal – so soon – at all, even – nobody knows, but now we are stuck with that dire event, looming on the horizon.

Admittedly both sides are doing a very good job at the moment of something I believe they call “kicking it into the long grass” or “kicking it on down the road” – in other words, failing to set a date, procrastinating, making no firm plans as yet…so we may escape.

If he does have to come over here (in which case rotten eggs, unfurled umbrellas and flour bombs will be the very least of his problems, protest-wise) I think the Queen herself may have supplied the answer.

She has recorded a TV programme about Coronations, which I believe is going to be shown tonight. I just saw a clip. There she sits, and they bring in the great Coronation Crown from the Tower of London, and place it reverentially in front of her. She leans forward, curiously. This is the first time she has seen it herself, up close, for many years.

She talks about the Crown, how heavy it was, back in 1953 when she was a mere 27 years old, and how lucky that her deceased father and she ‘both had the same shaped head’ so it more or less fitted her. She explained that it weighed such an awful lot – so much, in fact, that she had to remember to lift her speech to eye-level to read it, for if she had leant forward the weight of the Crown could have broken her neck.

She also talked about the Golden Coach. It was very uncomfortable, she said, and she was driven all round London in it – at least five miles. The coach had only leather suspension, which meant the occupants were constantly jolted about and felt every bump in the road. And it went on for ever because the horses could only go at walking pace – the State Carriage was far too heavy for them to do anything else.

So it seems to me that, if and when our civil servants (famed for their numerous and subtle delaying tactics) finally do run out of excuses to “kick it on down the road” and he really does insist on a Visitation of Himself upon Us, the best response would be to be All Smiles and Obsequity and arrange for him a very long sight-seeing trip around the many wonderful sights of our capital city.

He could visit our beloved Big Ben (whose ‘bongs’ are currently silenced due to a lengthy maintenance programme) and be driven around – and around and around and around – Nelson’s magnificent, pigeon perch of a Column. He could be taken to see the London Eye and Tower Bridge, and maybe that historic old ship they run past on the Marathon – even some of the outlying suburbs – ideal sites for new golf courses – and then there must be quite a few other historic buildings, plus of course that splendid new American Embassy…


Probably he doesn’t have piles – he looks pretty healthy for a man of his age, in spite of the fast food diet – but you never know.

Maybe we could arrange for it to also to be raining on the day of the Golden Coach. That really wet English rain that drives in through windows and soaks you to the skin. Almost certain to be raining, in any case…

Maybe he might even be allowed to wear the Coronation Crown, in the very uncomfortable coach, in the extremely wet rain, all the way round the sights of London and Greater London. He’d love to be the first American President to wear a Crown – can you imagine the tweets?

And with any luck it might just slip his mind about the hazards of that mighty jewel, and he might just forget and bend forward for a tiny moment…

And watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

Stroke of Midnight

My problem here is how to make New Year’s Eve in this windswept little clutch of bungalows, amid puddles, weeds and unmade roads, sound quaintly worth reading about.

For some reason I think of the sea at the bottom of the road, licking the partially-concreted shore with an oil-coated tongue. I think of the mud-tumbled cliffs stretching up and then round, that may at any moment – tonight, perhaps – continue their slow-motion fall into the North Sea taking with them such bargain basement park homes, decrepit caravans and bits of deserted cottage as are left behind, awaiting the inevitable descent into pebble-and-salt oblivion. Palaeontologists say there were dinosaurs here once, on these very cliffs, and I choose to believe that imprinted in the mud beneath my house remains one giant footprint.

Dylan Thomas called his own, Welsh sea the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. He was more of a poet than me, his cosy little Welsh sea more poetic than mine. Mine is a grubby, industrial, estuary-into-sea type sea. I consider that great expanse of grey-black water with its crop of wind-turbines, its silent steel-barges, and the docks with their Meccano cranes and car-transporters.

On the beach in summer, when they Londoners are here, the camps full to bursting, people tend to get stabbed – teenagers and local nuisances mainly. Girls tend to get what the boys will claim they were asking for. Sometimes you hear a girl’s thin scream in the night. In the morning police cars come sweeping in, in twos and threes, down the only road out. Whatever happens out there in the dark will be drowned by the rattle of shingle. We close our curtains and turn up our TVs.

Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.

My curtains happen to be away at the dry-cleaners so I’m making do with nets, lots of nets which, if folded thickly, give an illusion of privacy. The street lamp shines through them, though. Ghostly cobwebs of light on the ceiling.

My friends email, then my sister from Canada. Happy New Year we tell each other, separated by roads and houses, land and ocean, fireworks, streetlamps, police cars, traffic signs, dark villages, dark towns. Lets hope for a better year this year, my friends have written. Lets hope at least for some good – a mixture, maybe. Ten Minutes To Go.

And so I turn off the computer and go downstairs. Somehow it seems important to finish drying the dishes and putting them away, though the countdown’s about to begin. Cats sleep along the tops of chairs and on every available cushion. London lights up blue and pink on my TV screen and the firework displays begin. The London Eye is transformed into a giant Catherine Wheel. We can be proud of our fireworks, I think, taking my first 2016 sip of microwaved milk. We’re good at this sort of thing, we British. Pageantry and whatnot. Good at this sort of thing. Why is that no longer comforting?

And outside someone sets off a firework or two, but there’s no cheering. Where are the snows of yesteryear? I wonder, and then wonder where that came from. With any luck I’ll have forgotten by tomorrow – save looking it up. Where are the remnants of parties and the people banging saucepans to scare away the devils of the old year? Where is the dark first-footer, bringing in coal, salt, bread and a silver coin? Where are the whisky-fuelled celebrations, the loud goodbyes, the raucous singing in the street? And why, in Dubai, that burning building? It seems like an omen.

Where is what we had, before it all started to change?