If I want to stay nearby, there's loads to do in the neighbourhood anyway. We have veggie cafes, London's best market in Deptford, Greenwich and the river nearby, lots of punks and gigs and most excitingly at the moment is the new DIY Space for London about to open just 10 minutes away. Finally the punks have our own venue - 15 years after I joined several others tried the same with the Emmaz project. I'm thrilled it's ended up being local and not in North London.
London has been my first love for over 20 years. It's feeling less like my city though. The 1% are using our neighbourhoods and the city generally as a reserve currency and the spirit of the place is noticeably dying off and being replaced by large glass structures and chain stores. It does mean I have to put my faith in people and not in the fabric of or a general idea of this city. My attachment wasn't particularly healthy anyway.
So I'm doing more local activism. Now that I have roots at last, I have been making commitments to some local groups and getting more involved in others. Some really good folks live around here.
After 2.5 years in a job I was increasingly hating, I finally left last month. I got offered a very different type of work though still linked to the charity sector. It's working in digital/tech stuff so the workplace is more fun and less regimented. At last, a 21st century working culture. There is even properly good music played in the office. I'm still the only vegan though.
Also last month, I met up with two of my best friends from school - one I hadn't seen in 25 years and another in about 10. We got on so well and so easily. It was just a weird coincidence they both now live in the same part of the US I was visiting. I didn't get to catch up with John, who has been my closest and longest-lasting friend continuously since we were 15.
John came out when we were 17, and his evangelical Christian mother bullied him horribly. When he turned 18 he moved in with me and my family. He set off on his own for University but didn't last a year. Clubs, drinking, speed and generally enjoying being a free gay teenage boy became a big part of his life for a long time. 15 years ago he met his life partner, but the substance abuse continued. He destroyed his liver by the time he was 41. 2 weeks ago he was on a waiting list for a transplant but his body wasn't going to wait anymore and started to shut down. He died 8 days ago. My best friend John. One day we didn't tell our families that school was out and he drove us to the nearest big city where we spent all our money on Kate Bush records. Then the car broke down and we took them all back to the shop so we could pay to have the car fixed. The fix didn't work and finally we had to ring his parents to come pick us up. He wasn't allowed to be friends with me because his mother thought I was a satanist (as a result of seeing me wearing Dr. Martens). Consequently, he was in all kinds of trouble. Still, his parents didn't find out for months about him sneaking out once or twice a week to go clubbing. He pushed his car down the drive at midnight so they wouldn't hear him start the engine. On Saturdays, he'd pick me up - I had my own door outside from my bedroom. We went to a terrific bar - the only gay bar in town. The Metro played industrial (this was 1991) and had a separate room with drag shows. The compere was a black drag queen called Sirocco who was impressively professional for such a little venue. Seeing her was such a treat. John and I shared a sense of humour, some of the same music, some of the same politics and a whole lifetime for those 3 years we were in school together. I was so pleased he found someone to settle down with and love. He had a lot of tragedy in his life and needed that consistency, partnership and reciprocal love. I was surprised that he found it in himself to make peace with his mother and step-father, and even more surprised that they did the same. John and Brian spend Christmases with John's family. His mother was with Brian when John died. I wish I could have helped John stay off the alcohol. He had spent weeks in hospital to dry out more than once. It took me a long time to even notice that he was drunk during some of our phone and skype calls. Once I did, the best I could think of to do was tell him to ring me when he was sober. He was sober the last time he came to stay with me. He was trying very hard - he wouldn't even go into a pub to use the toilet. He loved my dog Coco and was so impressed that she would fetch her squeaky toy and bring it to him. More than once I was woken up in the morning with him screeching the command 'dolly!!' at her. She loved him too. Goodbye John.