Democracy’s jet-lagged volunteers stumble out of Simon Bolivar international airport into the full glare of the Venezuelan sun. The two security men, locals employed by the mission, hurry us onto the waiting buses, eyes raking the space like Bren guns. We pile on, bemused by the urgency.
In 2017, freelance writer Tom de Castella noticed an elderly woman and her son living on a bench in south London. He discovered they had already been there for two years… which was puzzling. Why hadn't anyone done anything to help them? Why did everyone accept it as normal? The more he investigated, the stranger it seemed. A large bulky object wrapped in a bright blue tarpaulin. It is sitting in the middle of the pavement. It could be an old piano, maintenance equipment, a delivery waiting to be unpacked. But then the tarpaulin starts to move, an arm appears
I'm standing on a sunny playing field in a corner of post industrial Kent, trying to take in the fact that what Im watching is a football revolution.
In a few hours I will feel elated. Then despairing. But at 11am, as I pull out of my south London street in a Toyota Auris estate, I am trying to feel calm. It’s a new career. I’m about to start my first shift as an Uber driver. You don’t join Uber for a laugh, or even a feature in a Saturday magazine. It has taken me six months and £550 in admin costs to get here. There are criminal record checks, medicals, training in how to navigate using the London A-Z – there’s no GPS in sight during training.
I remember the radio broadcast - three bodies found in the Channel, a yacht missing. But I only took a close interest a few days later when it was reported that accident investigators were examining the hull of the P&O ferry Pride of Bilbao.
'They put a gun to the back of my head. I heard them cock it. It jammed'
Up close it looks like a normal, if rather high-powered, literary event. We're in the hall of the British Library. On stage is Mark Lawson, the nation's undisputed master of cultural ceremonies, holding aloft a new book and chatting breezily to the thirtysomething celebrity author sitting alongside him.
In the 1970s, idealistic young activists created a wave of experimental schools - no compulsory lessons, no timetables, no rules. So what happened to the kids who attended these free-for-alls? You wait an age for the green man to let you cross Liverpool's Scotland Road.