The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not myself

Skip back a few years and I’m working in the cinema. The trendy end of London, customers in Gucci and artful smart but casual, casual but casual, dragged through a hedge backwards and sprayed silver but casual. But for us it’s all the same, the whispered impact of cardboard against stale popcorn, the watered down Coke with 60% ice (minimum) and the sensation of not really being there at all. Cogs in a machine, we twist and turn as the hot dogs roll up and down the heated plate behind us and we mouth along to the RomCom trailer for the fifteenth time. And I write poems and hide them in people’s napkins, fill the backs of frozen food logs with black biro sketches, snatch kisses from ushers in fire safety emergency drills; hiding beneath my navy blue cap and yellow T-shirt the colour of nacho cheese. My badge says ‘Hi my name is Ahmed’.

Fast forward and it’s stock taking night at the music store and the door is barred and the lights are bright and I’m sailing between the aisles looking for the magic spot to put Moby’s Play. I have Bill Hicks on the PA system and I’m smiling to myself and laughing out loud a bit which is unusual. Around me everything is imploring me to buy anything, tokens, stickers, posters proclaiming discounts, free gifts savings, BOGOF, membership deals. But I’m broke and I’m rimy eyed and desperate for change. There’s a Persian girl with thick eye make-up, a pretty face, a mono-brow and a deep monotone voice to match. She’s obsessed with Nick Drake and she dances now through the shop to music that plays only in her head. And I look at her a split second too long and she notices and holds my stare a moment longer in solidarity. I still have Moby in my hand and I’m standing in Easy Listening.

Earlier today I’m told the play is cancelled due to a bomb scare. The roads are deserted in the centre of town and the policeman and I stand in the middle of Broad Street with blue tape stretched between us. I’m so angry, I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. But this is our world now, for whatever reason this set of people are trying to blow my set of people up. I can’t believe it, that such a theoretical conflict could have a physical impact on my life. I’m so bitterly disappointed. Then on the way home I hear on the latest NewsPod – real bombs in Baghdad, detonated in a busy market, they’re still finding body parts. Then I’m disgusted with myself.

I can paint the past in nostalgic hues. The world was different then. Bigger, safer, softer. No one categorically wanted me dead. The weatherman said that at four o’clock this morning, in two hours time, it will start to snow and it won’t stop for a very long time.

We’ll all wake up tomorrow and we won’t recognise where we are.


The weathermen are clever.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry you missed Cymbeline - it's a wonderful show but you probably don't want to know that...

You say the world used to be "bigger, safer, softer" than today. Not strictly true; in November 1974 19 people died in the Birmingham pub bombs. They were detonated at 8.30pm in pubs frequented by young people - the kind of place Broad Street is now - so West Midlands Police can be forgiven for erring on the safe side.

Andrew C.

6:24 pm  

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