The best response to the question of what the meaning of life is, if someone ever asks you, is “look for it in a police crime reference number”. The parable of our human existence can be reduced to a letter from the local police station. Sandwiched in between the Total Policing motto at the top and the logos of both CRIMESTOPPERS and victim support at the bottom is the human essence of us. Our unsolved essence.

Dear So and So,

Thank you for contacting us to report the recent Crime. By reporting this you have helped us to understand local crime and police the area more effectively.

We have investigated the incident and our enquiries are now complete. However, at this stage, we do not have sufficient evidence to proceed further, which means we must close the case.

Why was “crime” spelled with a capital “C” in the missive? Was it to highlight the absurdity of someone making off with my bicycle? A bicycle that had been double locked in my front garden, but not actually bolted to anything? A fact that was seized upon by the less-than-helpful-and-rather-testy operator I spoke to straight after the incident? Or was the need for a big “C” a subliminal message from the forces of law and order? A way to show the public (crime victims, for instance) that the “C” stood for “cancer”, but of the social type.

Whatever the significance of that capital “C”, the effect of the letter was the same. My bicycle of almost four years, my two-wheeler, companion in so many urban jaunts, the transport that came in so handily when I went to Grenfell last year to give my support to the victims of the fire a couple of days after the disaster (most roads were blocked, so it was less difficult to pedal my way from help centre to help centre carrying donations on the rack). That bike had been taken, stolen from me in broad daylight a week before. And here I was, holding a letter from the local police telling me that “Although this case has been closed, our work does not stop here. We will continually review the information you have provided, as well as any additional evidence our officers have gathered.”

I felt as despondent and helpless as Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 2, when he delivers that powerful first soliloquy: “O that this too solid flesh would melt/Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!/Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d/His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!/How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/Seem to me all the uses of this world”. Or to put it more succintly. How useless my local bobbies are.

With thoughts of my bike disappearance and the ineffectiveness of the police in solving the case still plaguing me, I tried to find some consolation in the new Alexander McQueen documentary. Not being much acquainted with his life, other than being aware of his reputation as a controversial fashion designer, my expectations on watching the film ranged more along the lines of knowledge-gaining than knowledge-enhancing.

I can only say that the feature left me shaken up (“shook up” would be a better term if I were to apply a dollop of good, ol’ blues to my current mental state). Mc Queen was not just a mere sartorial genius. He was a dramatist, a playwright who scripted his own life and brought the curtain down on it when the role he had created for himself got out of control. His was a type of work so intense that the toll it took on his life, whilst sad and ultimately regrettable, can be understood in the circumstances the film so masterfully depicts. Abused as a child, HIV-positive and destroyed by the deaths of his mentor and friend, Isabella Blow and his mother, he slowly found himself in a cul-de-sac. One he thought he had left behind as soon as fame and fortune had knocked on his door.

In years to come dole money will probably be considered as important in an artist’s formation as their inspiration or their training. Perhaps the cut-off date for historians will be June 2010. Cameron-Clegg, Cameron and May have ensured that any future McQueen will have instead a zero-hour-contract to thank (I’m being sarcastic) before they pick up a needle or sew a button on.

After the film, I walked along The Mall towards Charing Cross. I kept thinking of the relationship between Mc Queen and his mother. The boy from Stratford, east London, who done good and rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, yet, still found the time to have a cuppa with his mum. This reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my own mum regarding my separation.

It was not an easy talk. My mum cried her eyes out all the way throughout it. For her, S has always been like a daughter, not just a daughter-in-law, but a real daughter, full stop.

I made the sort of false promises to my mother one might make when faced with an emotional crisis and the person bearing most of the brunt of it lives on the other side of the world. Yes, mum, we will bring you back to London so that you can see your grandchildren. Yes, mum, I will ring you once a month. Yes, mum, S and I are just having some time off from each other. All couples have their problems, mum. (Whispering) We will get back together, mum.

Even I choked a wee bit at that one.

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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