Joan Juliet Buck
Feeling that nothing I know will be of use, said or unsaid.
The Easter break was beautiful, four days in Suffolk with his cousin, then with my friend Valerie, who gave me Emilie Pine’s Notes To Self to read.
Yesterday, fun with Kate Misrahi and the crew to evoke days of lost glamour for a tv show about a dead designer. Then an Uber ride home in a car so noxious with fumes that even the peaceful utopian sight of hasids in gigantic sable disc hats trundling along past girls in hijabs and bros in hoodies failed to dispel the nausea.
He made me ginger tea.
Watched the news, felt helpless. Then sat through a singularly bad TV show entitled Chivalry, sort of an extrapolation of Episodes, written as captions. Wanted a distraction, but can’t deal with bad woke dialogue when soldiers and mercenaries are murdering and raping their way through Ukraine.
What do I say to the woke who tell me we only care about Ukraine because they’re white, “what about the other wars?” Do I say, righteously, because that’s where my great grandmother was born in the mid 19th century? Or name-droppingly , because I once met Ruslana , who in 2014 sang the national anthem every night in Maidan square , for how many nights?
Or do I say — fuck off. This aggression is against all of us. It is meant to spread. It is world poison poured onto the cursed lands where violence has ruled.
I say: I revere the persistence of the Ukrainians, their balls of steel.
But those teenage boys just off one of the three buses allowed to leave Mariupol, the damage in those faces. Reading Uwem Akpan’s novel in February , I cringed at the horror passages about the Biafra War. And now it’s white kids in puffy jackets with trembling eyes.
Mass graves. Worse than Babi Yar.
There’s no way that today can be anything but jumpy, but within that constant agitated twitch it’s imperative to make a quiet place. ‘Make’ because you won’t just find it; any beautiful landscape that drifts into your sight will carry the full today of today with it, and today is full on eeeek.
I’m at the stage where the only thing I can think of is making more coffee.
A distant onlooker at a carnage, where to put the mind? We watch the news, Mariupol becomes a modern Masada, but bigger wider longer deeper. I say “evil,” and I notice the ICBM he just tested is named — really?— Satan. I think such unremitting evil is not possible, I remember the footage of Syrians choking on poison gas, I want to change the subject, but everything else is froth on the heaving gravel of Ukraine. Of global warming. Of a potential far-right, possibly Putin-supported victory in France, narrowly averted.
The UK’s gibbering blond fibber is in India, cavorting with Modi, doing a photo op with a Gandhi-adjacent spinning wheel that he appears to be trying to understand.
India: I remember the Paris Air show in 1993, when , instead of a single Soviet pavilion, there were suddenly many chalets exhibiting Russian planes, fighter jets, laser initiatives: new boys at the arms bazaar. In one stand, a Russian man was promoting fighter jets, in exceptionally good English. I complimented him but enquired about his distinct Indian accent. Oh, he said, like many of the Indian Air Force, he’d trained in the Soviet Union.
Everything is a different shape from what it was. The elements have recombined. The imperative is to find that place of strength and self sufficiency, of inner steel balls.
I go looking for low wattage lightbulbs at the shiny Stratford mall. No bulbs at John Lewis, but I find a pair of yellow pants. Any blue top will make me into a flag.
I still feel sick from the diesel fumes. More ginger tea. Covid test negative: it’s not Covid, it’s today.
Reading Emilie Pine’s Notes To Self.
Joan Juliet Buck, author of The Price Of Illusion, once a pillar of Condé Nast, is currently writing a serial novel for Radio Free Rhinecliff ( soon on Apple Podcasts) and has been keeping a public diary on Facebook that was anthologized by Statorec last year and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Brian's Worried Blues (and Yellow)
Black Night ::: Bobby Blue Bland
Are You Glad To Be In America? ::: James Blood Ulmer
If There’s A God ::: Ry Cooder
Worried Blues ::: Skip James
Everything Is Broken ::: R.L. Burnside
From Russia With Love ::: Roland Alphonso
Coffee ::: Papa Mali
Lost On The River ::: Hank Williams
Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
A Quiet Place ::: M’Boom