Friday, July 15, 2005

Change and decay - work in progress

The train muttered and grunted to a halt, and the doors hissed open. I stepped out onto the deserted platform- none of my fellow-passengers were inspired to alight. I walked through an archway, leaning to even out the weight of the laptop case and suitcase, past spare mail trolleys queued for an unexpected pre-Christmas rush. A bus timetable yellowed behind a cracked glass display, ready to be sold to some transport museum as a bygone. I began to wonder how I'd get to the Hall, but luckily the taxi rank outside wasn't completely empty. There was a beat-up car sporting a TAXI rooflight. The driver was reading a tabloid paper, or at least staring at the three-inch-high headlines with an uncomprehending frown. He looked up at my approach, and told me to jump in. I aimed for the back seat, rather than the front passenger's seat, because I'm told this discourages conversation. It didn't work, though.

After his questioning quickly established that I was visiting on business and that the weather was fine and that I had come by train, he launched into an ill-digested re-run of the paper's views. Since we weren't in London, he didn't need the Knowledge to be a cabbie- he had the lesser, more general, requirements, though: the Ignorance, the Bigotry, and the Stupidity. Perhaps, to be fair to taxi drivers across the world, their views are coloured by the people they have to deal with, the lack of respect they enjoy, the constant wheedling needed to turn a starvation wage into a living one. It reminded me of my Marxist days at university- my disbelief when I was told that the petit bourgeoisie promoted and defended the system which enslaved them. It had taken a little longer to realise that much the same was true of the proleteriat; it is a sad truth that the common factor between all hard-socialist revolutionary workers parties is that their memberships belie their title as "Popular" and that the few they can muster are students, not workers.

My reverie was interrupted as the car turned off into a grand gateway, and crunched along the gravel track. The drive was lined with trees; sheep lurked in the shadows. The view opened out and we arrived in front of a large Georgian house.

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