This appeared as an illustration in my book The Groundwater Diaries in 2003, as part of the Hackney Brook walk section…
At the little stone circle in Gillespie Park sit four disheveled figures. They look battered an hurt and are all talking very loudly, the men trying to get the attention of and impress the woman, as a spliff is passed around and they sip from cans of Tennents Super. They must be 21st Century Druids. The younger bloke, whose name is Michael, starts to shout out “poetry is lovely! Poetry is beautiful! Chelsea will win the league.” I finish my quick notes and get up to go, as he smiles at me still singing the joys of football and poetry.
“You’re right about the poetry anyway,” I say.
“Do you know any poems?” he asks. I recite the Spike Milligan one about the water cycle:
There are holes in the sky…
“Spike is a genius. What a man!” he yells. “We love Spike, Spike understands us!” and he starts to sing some strange song that I’ve never heard before. Then the little Jamaican bloke jabs me in the chest, his sad but friendly eyes wide open, and he smiles.
“If ya fell off de earth which way would ya fall?”
“Er, sideways,” I say, trying to be clever, because it is obviously a trick question.
“NO ya silly fella, ya’d fall up. And once ya in space dere is only one way to go anyway and dat’s up. Dere’s only up.”
“The only way is up!” sings Michael, “Baby, you and meeeeee.”
“Whatever happened to her?” asks the woman.
“Whatever happened to who?”
At this strange turn in the conversation I wave goodbye and walk towards the trees. The little gathering is a bit too similar to the blatherings of my own circle of friends, confirming my suspicion that many of us are a just broken heart and a crate of strong cider away from this kind of life.
2001 © Tim Bradford