Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Origins, Illusions and Schooldays.

I asked the young woman in the coffee shop:

‘Are you a Scouser?’ (For those who don’t know, a Scouser is a person from Liverpool.)


‘Where do you come from?’


‘London? So how do you manage to sound like a Scouser?’

‘I don’t know.’

And then she broke into giggles and Mel told me I’m far too forward with young women in coffee shops. The mystery of both the accent and the giggles remains.

And then there was the conversation occasioned by my asking the same question of the young woman on the calendar stall in the shopping mall (because she had a Slavic accent) and she answered ‘Croatia.’ But I’d prefer not to go into that.

By an odd, and somewhat perverse, coincidence, the accent of the young Pakistani woman who runs the Asian tucker wagon (from which I get my vegetable samosas) is becoming so thick that I have to keep saying ‘I’m sorry?’ I suspect it’s because she’s so used to seeing me that she no longer feels the need to try too hard.

*  *  *

It occurred to me yet again that around 95% of what they sell in shopping malls is of little, if any, real value. It’s all ephemeral lifestyle stuff, and only there to persuade people to spend vast sums of money on things they don’t actually need. The really valuable stuff is what they sell in the old fashioned markets, like dishcloths, socks and potatoes, and the old fashioned markets are nearly empty these days.

So here we have a bunch of people at the cutting edge of science telling us that both individuality and the very fabric of the material world are effectively illusions, and yet we continue to push the notion that image is the be all and end all. Has Bedlam become the new Eden, I wonder? And I really can’t be bothered to explain why I suspect the material world might bear analogy with the shadow, but Mel liked the idea. She generally prefers my existential theories to my habit of being overly forward with young women.

*  *  *

The nice thing about travelling by train is that it frees your mind to wander into strange places, like today I wondered whether schools still have buckets of sawdust stationed at regular intervals to throw onto the vomit when a kid spews his guts up. And did you know that when you’ve cleared vomit from a carpet but the smell remains, the way to neutralise it is to sprinkle the area with soda water? It’s required knowledge for those working schools matinees in theatres.

*  *  *

And here’s another little anecdote from when I was a kid at school. I was around 10 when I got my finger trapped by a hinged wooden seat. It shattered the nail and left my poor little digit spouting blood at a rate of knots, so I was taken to the space between the headmaster’s office and the staff common room and deposited on a chair to await transport home. I remember looking down and being surprised that my feet and the chair legs were resting in an ever-spreading pool of blood, and by the time I was taken to the headmaster’s car I was all but gone. I suppose it was the combined effect of pain, shock and loss of blood, but I could hardly stand without assistance. So did I get taken for treatment? No. In those days and where I came from, you either got better or you didn’t. No doubt it saved the NHS some money and also prepared us for the possibility that we might be required to defend the Empire against people carrying sharp things with malicious intent. This is odd because we didn’t have an empire by then, but old habits die hard. So did I, nearly.

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