online: 12 october 2003

11 october 2003 the names we give

16:58 Ethel Campbell Copeland seat. Completely still. No clouds. Highgate clock strikes 5. There are clusters of yellow leaves on most of the trees now. A talkative man with yawning companions walks past and gives me a friendly look. The ground is dry and many people sit or lie. Again I imagine I am a figure in a painted picture, as are the others. Long shadows across the uncut grass, now long and dry. Those who walk about do so slowly.

A magpie walks near - within 4 metres - and I notice the thinness of its legs. A cyclist rides freewheel down the slope. The shadow of a tall building has moved across another. The city is a sundial - and so is everything sunlit! The names we give to things tell more of us than them. Without its name each thing is part of unknown reality.

Two policewomen ride by on grey horses. In the clothes, the regalia, and the prescribed demeanour of a public role, they seem more named than the rest of us and less part of the unknown.

I sigh. I look up and see 7 seagulls and 3 insects flying overhead. I look down and see a dog chasing a magpie. People are leaving - there is no one sitting down now. The air is suddenly cold and the whole meadow is in shadow. It's time to move. I've been sitting here for 50 minutes.

As I turn to go I notice a folded paper* stuck in the railings behind me. Unfolding it I read:

You've been tortured
Your family think you are dead
You came here to find safety
And this is the letter you receive...
You state the men drove you to a place one and a half hours away and told you to run before they opened fire on you. The Secretary of State... considers that if the men had intended to kill you they would have done so straight away rather than give you a chance to escape.
Extract from an actual Home Office letter refusing asylum

As I wipe a tiny insect off my hand I contemplate this message.

*A leaflet from Asylum Aid (freepost LON18836, London, E1 6BR) appealing for contributions for the defence of refugees' rights.

what's new


digital diary archive

© 2002, 2003 john chris jones

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this notice and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

If you wish to reproduce any of this text commercially please send a copyright permission request to jcj at