“Renowned Diarist Dickon Edwards…”

Another photo from the Kim Cunningham shoot:

May 2011. Pond Square, Highgate.
Credit: www.kimcunningham.co.uk

Golders Green in the heat. Tempted to go without my jacket, but here – even at 30 degrees C – one sees the district’s famous community of orthodox Jewish men still in their full ensembles: black suits, hats, even coats. I find myself sharing their unspoken message. To strip down would be a let down. Dandyism is a kind of faith, too.

(Actually, as this day goes on I notice a few pious gentlemen just wearing waistcoats, or besuited but with shirts unbuttoned or untucked. But there’s still one or two in coats.)

Today on Golders Green Road: I see my first kosher ice cream van. Back among the Highgate heathens tomorrow, though.


Not much luck with attempts to secure employment. Am collecting rejection emails. One kind friend even pulled strings to get me an interview – customer service at PRS – and I went along and did my best with but no success. I didn’t really want the job as such, though,  just the money, and I suspect that showed in the interview. Feigning enthusiasm for wage slavery isn’t so easy after one reaches a certain age. Questions about what one is actually living for take over. Not in the teenage angst sense, but in the life lived sense. Justified world-weariness. Or rather, world-of-work-weariness.

I’m now past worrying about it, though. At the age of nearly 40 one’s priorities naturally regroup, and things like happiness and mental health count more than ever. The alibi “well at least I’m young, I’ll go onto something better”  has long since expired.

This reluctance is not through wanting a life of pure selfish hedonism, mind. I instinctively feel the need to be of use to this world, just not doing something where I feel disastrously… miscast. I’m hoping something will turn up soon.

In the meantime, something I very much do want to do is to finally get a degree. To see if I’m of use in that respect at least – proving that I have a brain after all (unemployment makes one feel so… thick), and making a contribution to the world of academe. My BA in English Lit at Birkbeck starts in October, and I’m now starting to read text books and set texts for the first time since school.

Quite intrigued that the course includes a seminar on the St Etienne film, Finisterre, as part of a module about London-themed literature and films. Other set texts for Autumn include Oliver Twist, Mrs Dalloway, Jekyll & Hyde, and Ian McEwan’s Saturday.

Today I’ve been reading something very much not on the course list: Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Partly because I’m trying to increase my reading speed for the degree and thought a proven page-turner would help (I zoomed through 300 pages of it today), but also because the English course has a module on the whole nature of reading, and I thought it might help to get my own opinion on the biggest selling novel of the past 12 years, rather than just join in with the literary consensus that it’s badly-written dross.

I was hoping it would turn out to be unabashed trashy pleasure, if only to not side with the literary sneerers, but I came away yearning for two crucial elements: charm and fun. The Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie books are equally non-literary, but they have heaps of charming characters and deeply enjoyable puzzles to solve. The Da Vinci Code is curiously unsatisfying. It’s not that awful – Brown flatters the reader with lots of short chapters ending in cliff hangers, and there’s a few impressive plot twists and intriguing theories – but the hero Robert Langford is no Poirot or Holmes or Bond. He’s just no fun.

As for other current bestsellers, I’m aware Lee Child’s thrillers have a Bond-style hero – Jack Reacher – that readers want to be, or be with, or be in bed with. That makes sense. Brown’s Langford, on the other hand, is barely there as a character. Someone who cracks cyphers shouldn’t be a cypher.

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