My day started with a rather comic exchange with a chap called Owais Rajput who is standing for UKIP in the Bradford East constituency and who recently, and for no apparent reason, requested my friendship on Facebook. I woke up today to see that, as usual, he'd posted a lot of rambling nonsense on his wall about his party. What continually confuses and intrigues me, however, is that this particular UKIP member is an Asian man.
The bad idea bear which often sits on my left shoulder forced me to comment on the post. "Quick question. If you get elected for UKIP, at what stage will you have to deport yourself?" It was deliberately incendiary, but, as I pointed out in a later post (once the shit had really hit the fan), I was genuinely fascinated to know how a man of Asian origin could align himself to a party, the members of whom have proved themselves time and time again to be desperate bigots.
I then asked Mr Rajput what his personal - and his party's - stance on gay marriage was. I've asked UKIP people this question many times in the past and they always seem to fudge their answers in a rather sinister way. They usually end up telling me that it's not an interesting enough question to merit an answer. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Gay marriage was repealed in California after several years, so I should think it'll be a while before my community is out of the trees in that respect.
Mr Rajput's answer to me was astonishing. He told me that he could only answer my question after the process of "inductive approach" had taken place. He then said a lot of other things, mainly party jargon in incredibly badly written English which made me wonder if UKIP had actually encouraged an illiterate man to stand for parliament, largely, one assumes, so they could send out the message that they're not a party of racists.
I immediately looked up the meaning of "inductive approach" and it turns out that Mr Rajput was actually telling me he'd base his opinion on gay marriage on the results of a post-election local referendum! In fact, every opinion he had would be based on what local people told him through opinion groups and referenda. If only we could all be that flexible!
Of course no political party can practically be run like that. Referenda are expensive, and frankly, even if the majority of the good citizens of Bradford East are in favour of something it could well be that the rest of the nation, in their mini-referenda, feel rather differently. This "bottom up" politics is naive and completely impractical. What is Mr Rajput suggesting? That, if they don't approve of gay marriage, the citizens of Bradford can opt to make it an illegal practise in the city? Insane nonsense.
Of course the conversation thread rather quickly turned nasty, with a series of UKIP cronies joining the conversation;
"Why you choose gay marriage for your platform I suppose is cos you are gay. Well that's your business so don't impose it on the rest of us"
Rajput continued to have his ten pence worth and I started to get the very strong impression that he simply wasn't very bright;
"Benjamin, now you going to teach me, how to do politics in Bradford East? no you not, only my Bradford East people will dictate me through thr local working groups, definitely no dictations from outsiders."
(Seriously, this is what he wrote, I copied and pasted it from the thread... Is it not a little worrying that a man who can't string a proper sentence together has actually been chosen to stand for Parliament?)
I told him my business was done and that I no longer wished to waste my time talking to someone who refused to answer a very simple question. To which he replied;
"Benjamin, you sure your business done here? I wish but that is not the case, your business done and UKIP business started from here. Thanks provided us the business. UKIP knows only one business, how to serve local people of United Kingdom."
The messages continued, with another Asian man from Bradford diving in and asking Mr Rajput to answer the very simple question I'd posed. Mr Rajput told us he was only prepared to answer our question once he'd been elected. He then wrote to me; "I won't take no dictation from you." Seriously! You couldn't make this stuff up!
The other man from Bradford continued, "Owais hasnt given an honest opinion. He cant. UKIP wont let him. Benjamin has asked a perfectly valid question. If he cant give his opinion or views how can he perform at hustings etc, and how can he sway the floating voter?"
Mr Rajput's response to this was short but sweet... "Keep dreaming"
Things turned even nastier when one of the UKIP cronies started spouting thinly veiled homophobia;
"A gay having a go at people because they have a different opinion to him 😂.Im not sure if it's ironic or hypoctical 😃" (emoticons included!)
Then the conversation took a remarkable turn to the surreal, with one of the cronies, who'd been quite brutal previously said;
"I respect gay peoples' rights to get married but I don't have to agree with it. After all it is now the law of the land. I have never been married and no regrets at all. I have my pets but all but one of my family bar one brother are dead."
And here's how the conversation then went;
Me: I'm genuinely sorry to hear that Pat. I hate to think of any one not having family around them. On the bright side you have a very fine looking dog, who makes me very envious
(I'd looked at his profile which showed the picture of a King Charles Spaniel, and, frankly, being rude to a man struggling through life like that felt pointless and cruel.)
Him: Well Benjamin 2cats and Polly are like family and keep me company so never feel lonely. Got my motorbike to get about. Thanks.
Me: What are the cats called?
Him: Punchy and Smuffa-Jane would you believe it?
He then sent me three pictures of the cats and the thread came to a close.
In the midst of all this arguing, I took a Pepys Motet portrait. This one was of Carmen, who sings soprano one on all six movements of the piece. And when I say soprano one, we're talking obscenely high notes. I think she sings a top E on the recording, which is about as high as Mozart'a infamous Queen of The Night goes. It sounds like whistling! It's brilliant!
I photographed Carmen in front of various pieces of graffiti in Shoreditch. This part of East London is renowned for its graffiti. It's where Banksy and all the famous street artists ply their trade and it's one of the only places in the capital where I think graffiti actually enhances the visual environment. In Pepys' day it would have been mostly fields. Shoreditch would have been a small village with a few coaching houses and a church on the way to Bethnal Green, the village where Pepys shipped all his belongings during the great fire of London.
I had a quick tea with Carmen and then went to Hackney City Farm to meet Philippa and talk about suggestions for a re-write of Brass. Just as I sat down, a child literally starting banging his fists down on the out of tune piano there. It was a shocking, heart-stopping noise, and Mummy wasn't nearly fast enough in making it stop. I think for a moment she thought what her child was doing was actually sweet. I wanted to bring the piano lid down on her child's hands to give him his first lesson in cause and effect.
We made a run for it and completed our meeting back in Shoreditch, stopping off en route at Philippa's house where her husband Dylan dropped a phone charger out of the window, in the process whipping his wife across the face with the cable. It would take me too long to explain why Philippa's husband was dropping a phone charger out of an upstairs window. Sometimes it's best not to ask with Philippa...
Still, the notes she gave me were good ones. Very good. Obviously I was a little intimidated. Rewriting anything can be a big slog, particularly something which has already been performed. I'm actually going to be cutting four whole roles from the show. It feels really odd to be thinking about cutting roles, but I have to keep telling myself that I'm not cutting the actors who played the roles, just the parts themselves in future productions. It's not that I'm cutting roles which were not performed well. On the contrary, one of the roles is going because the actor who played it was SO good, he made those who saw it think he was playing a larger role than he actually was!
I came home via Caledonian Road where I saw the huge floral shrine to the teenaged lad who was randomly stabbed there this week whilst riding his bike. Such a dreadful story. Killed because someone wanted to steel his bike. Everyone reading this will know I'm a bit of a bleeding heart liberal when it comes to criminals, but in this instance, I'd lock those bastards up and throw away the proverbial key.