The Proud Archivist venue in London’s Haggerston is suddenly, definitely trendy. I went to see Trevor Lock’s Not Joking show there last month. And he is performing it there again this Friday.
So I thought we should have a blog chat about it.
We did not.
“What else are you doing?” I asked him.
“Next Wednesday,” he told me, “I’m doing Paul B Edwards’ Crock of Mould at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green. It used to be regular, with Al Murray, Harry Hill and…”
“Was this last century?” I asked.
“Yes. And now he’s revamping it with me as host, Miles Lloyd, Joz Norris and various people.”
“A regular team?” I asked
“I guess so. We’re doing it up at the Edinburgh Fringe next year.”
“And,” I asked, “after Crock of Mould?”
“I’m flying to the South Americas at the beginning of December.”
“Ah,” I said, “I suspect there are many stories to be told about the South Americas and you have never told me any of them.”
“And I never shall,” said Trevor.
“Why are you flying to the South Americas?” I asked.
“Ah… erm… I don’t know my purpose, but… erm…”
“But you know your destination?”
“I may go to Colombia.”
“I may go to Bolivia. I’m definitely going to end up in Rio.”
“Rio?” I asked. “It’s full of people with knives who want to rob you.”
“My ex-wife has landed up there.”
“Ah,” I said. “How long are you going for?”
“I don’t know. I will be back in the UK in the summer.”
“You lived in South America, didn’t you?” I asked.
“Yes. Not for very long. I told you the last time you blogged about me.”
“I only write it,” I said. “I don’t read it.”
“If you did read your own blog, “ said Trevor, “you would know that I made a movie. It was finally released in Peru in August. It was very well received and may come to the London Film Festival next year.”
“Lima was a tad unsafe when I was there in the 1983,” I said. “though not as dangerous as Bogota.”
“I feel safer in Lima than I do at Loughborough Junction in London,” said Trevor.
“But,” I said, “Lima’s a pisshole.”
“I love Lima,” said Trevor.
“Puno was almost as bad,” I said. “Terribly poor. But I was there in 1983. It could now be the richest, most wonderful place on earth. I am feeling very old. When my grandfather was young, he went to Canada and he used to tell me as a kid what Canada was like with its raised wooden sidewalks instead of stone pavements. It wasn’t for ages that I realised what he was describing was not modern cities in the 1960s but 19th century Wild West style towns in the 1910s or whenever he went there. Because he was that old. So I tell people knowledgeably about what Peru and South America are like, but I am actually talking about what they were like when I saw them a third of a century ago in 1983.”
“Yeah,” said Trevor, “and that was before things got really bad. That was just before (the excesses of the Maoist guerrilla group) Sendero Luminoso. Peru was clearly suffering in the 1980s.”
“If ever anywhere deserved Sendero Luminoso,” I said, “it was Peru. There was no middle class. The poor were never ever going to get out of the shit. There was nothing to aspire to. Miraflores in Lima was all private tennis courts and Mercedes Benz cars and everywhere else was a shambolic nightmare of abject poverty.”
“Yes,” said Trevor, “that was basically my experience when I went there for the first time. I saw the poorest people I had ever seen and I met the richest people I had ever met. It was just absurd. Utterly absurd.”
“In the countryside,” I said, “you could see the way the Incas used to successfully farm the hills in terraces and yet, when I was there, people were starving at the bottom of the hills with cows with ribs which stuck out. Lima was absolute shit. It deserved to be nuked. But you like it.”
“I love it,” said Trevor. “What I like is the overlap of different classes and cultures.”
“But there is no overlap is there?” I asked.
“Well, there is,” said Trevor.
“These are the rich. Those are the poor,” I said. “Ne’er the twain shall meet.”
“They are completely intertwined,” argued Trevor. “You can’t have rich without poor. You can’t have poor without rich. And, being an alien, being a gringo, I can pass between these worlds. In a sense, you are right that they can’t mix. But the most obscenely richest people in Peru are all nursed and brought up by the poor. You go into the parks of the rich neighbourhoods and you see all these little white babies being pushed around by their much darker mothers. But, of course, they’re not their mothers – they are indiginous employees – wet-nurses, maids, household staff. The parents have played a very little role in the upbringing of their children.”
“Much like the English upper classes,” I said.
“It’s incredible,” said Trevor. “Amazing. It is really, really fascinating to see even quite old children who are not with their parents. My friend is from Spain – he’s got a little kid. He drops his kid off at school every morning and he is the only parent – the only blood relative – dropping a child off at school in the morning. Everyone else is being dropped off by their nannies.”
“It would have been like that when I was there,” I said.
“It’s changed since the 1980s, though,” said Trevor. “For a while, it was the fastest-growing economy in the world, though it’s slowed-down considerably now. They called it the Abu Dhabi of South America.”
“And you like it,” I said.
“You see the industrial, Western civilisation stripped naked,” said Trevor. “Like most of South America and much of Africa, compulsory schooling has destroyed the culture. The poor in the countryside have been sold the bullshit that, if you have a better education, you can have a better life in the cities. The subsistence farming that worked for centuries has been destroyed.”
“So,” I said, “good news and bad news for Peru.”
“Well,” said Trevor, “up in the remote places there are still communities that do live from the land, but most of the places are mono-cultural agriculture growing one crop for some money and then they have to buy shitty food from a shop. Their children now have to go to school and they have to be sent off at the beginning of term and travel three days to the nearest school and come home at the end. It’s horrific. But that’s progress. And some pricks over here go over there and facilitate it.
“I’m regularly asked to perform at benefit gigs to raise money to build schools in Third World countries.”
“And what,” I asked, “do you say?”
“Well,” said Trevor, “if it feels like they might have an open mind, I will explain and, if not, I will just politely decline.”
“Because?” I asked.
“Because it’s a holocaust. It’s holocaust of lies. You’ve seen the slums of the major towns. You’ve seen it.”
“What’s the way round it?” I asked.
“There is no way round it,” said Trevor. “I don’t know what the answer is… I dunno… I think a lot of people have a religious instinct and, when you don’t have a church to go to – as many people now don’t – you have to get into something else. So you get into ‘helping’ developing countries and ‘saving’ the poor. You can’t export your religion any more, because you don’t have one. But you can export your values and your politics. You can export your world view.
“So you tell them: Stop growing all these different kind of vegetables, just grow this one kind of vegetable and I will give you all this money and then you can send your children to school and, in 20 years time, they can be lawyers and estate agents in the city. Brilliant.”
“When,” I said, “Japan managed to have a nuclear disaster AND a tidal wave, I was amazed people were donating money to them. Japan is one of the richest countries in the world.”
“It’s a religion,” said Trevor.
… CONTINUED HERE …