Life was like a salad now; once it had been meat and two veg, meat and two veg, meat and two veg, meat and two veg, fish on Fridays and roast on Sundays. A stodgy but nutritious routine of working 40 + hrs a week, 5 out of 7.
Reconsidering this gastronomic analogy, he thought his working years could be compared to the career of a farmed goose in south-western France. Initially he had felt relatively unconstrained. He had had quite a convincing illusion of freedom. He had been able to eat well and they even gave him holidays; but slowly the price that he paid in his labour and freedom for the sums of money regularly going into his bank account increased.
He became more and more discontented, but he had previously worked in shops, factories and on building sites, so he knew that relative to workers in those places, his conditions were good. Sometimes he could just about make himself believe, that as he taught Economics, or Psychology, or Politics: he could be contributing to a counter culture or even, if really deluded, that he was fostering some sort of revolutionary consciousness amongst his students,
When he taught word-processing or some of the gimcrack pro-capitalist garbage that went under the banner of “business studies”, or “world of work” or some other such bullshit name; it was then he knew that he was a wage slave in the wage slave training industry. Over the twenty years that he worked in the College, it was the latter type of work that grew whilst, the former shrank. So to return to the analogy of the French goose, he was still being stuffed with salary stodge, but he had now noticed the funnel down his throat and the fact that his feet were nailed to a board.
Like a force fed goose, he got ill, but unlike that of mature geese, mature human liver was not yet a saleable delicacy so he got ill health retirement instead of being pateed, preserved and tinned.
Since then he had ceased to have a routine. Sometimes bits and pieces of casual employment, or the need to travel, could induce him to pitchfork himself of bed early, even before dawn in the summer if need be. Sometimes electronic bleeping that he had programmed, or more often and urgent need to piss could get him up. He usually wished that he could resume the conversation that he had been having with a great crested grebe in the urinals of Buckingham Palace. Sometimes if the bleeper reached him whilst he has elvisly enthroned asleep on his not tropical hardwood toilet seat, he would open his eyes and his entire flat would seem to move through forty five degrees when realised that he was looking down at his feet which were not sticking out of the end of his bed.
Seizing the time and a tube of athlete’s foot cream from the window sill, he would anoint himself between the toes with this white fungicide. An operation which usually reminded him that human toes were a useless evolutionary dead-end, like the vestigial legs of slow worms. He wrestled with and swore at bits of attire as he donned them but seldom as much as he did when he took them off again in the evenings.
He seldom went anywhere without a bag ever, but recently his brand new ones had wheels on since his arthritic knees meant that he had to use the shopping trolley that he dragged behind him as a sort of walking stick. He packed this contraption with whatever he thought he might need that day, sometimes if hurried screaming “ Get in the fucking bag!” at recalcitrant objects.
He limped and lumped, down the stairs, the downloaded essential junk out the front door, over the step, down the cracked concrete drive past an urban foxturd. Out the front door turn left, turn right along uneven pavements to the bus stop. Sometimes he returned and made the journey again, if he remembered that he’d forgotten something, like the memorised memory stick that he’d once forgotten that he hadn’t got.
If it was early morning, cold or raining or all three, the people at the stop would often be morose, some almost asleep on their feet and /or conversing softly it languages that he could not understand. On anyone one of seven weekdays, the bus was likely to be full. London had a voracious and continuing appetite for servants to consumers, it sucked in waiters, house painters, cooks, shop assistants, security guards, clerks and all their line managers, like crabs, flatfish and strands of kelp into the blades of a tidal turbine.
Usually he only went has far as the maw of the nearest tube station, he might buy an unhealthy breakfast of biscuits and canned drink, to digest: he also was digested by a metal travelling worm to be cast back onto the surface into a demo, a meeting, a computer room, a library or some other assignation.
On a political day he might end up holding a placard or banner outside some ministry or multinational HQ, or even the Prime Minister’s official residence, often fenced in, by the police portable sections of metal fencing into a sort of political pig-pen. But the political activity he most enjoyed was the start of a big march.
Here he could behave like an extra in a sickening sentimental musical based on a sickening sentimental novel by Charles Dickens.
“Placards! Placards! PLACARDS!” he would shout.
“Git yore Placards, ‘ere! Green party Placards! No demonstration is complete wivaut a PLACARD! Heverey political hactivist needs a PLACARD!”
Sometimes he made up a little song to the tune of “My Way” as sung by Frank Sinatra. His lyrics were quite simple.
“Placards, Placards- Placards,
Puh luh uh-uh, uhhh uh-uh achards
Placards, Placards- Placards
Puh luh uh-uh, uhhh uh-uh ackards
Puh luh uh-uh, uhhh uh-uh ackards
Placards, Placards- Placards
Puh luh uh-uh achards!”
In the course of all this singing and shouting, he handed placards to those passing by who were assembling for the demo occasionally, he attempted to foist them on bemused tourists. Sometimes people wanted to take them, Sometimes they didn’t. It seemed to go in phases and he could feel like a loud-mouthed angler standing on the bank of a fast flowing river, filled with migratory fish that would suddenly, and for no apparent reason, voraciously bite bait.
At some point either the placards or the people would run out and his shouting would cease. If the march was slow enough, (and nowadays it seldom was), he might go on it, but usually he took some kind of short cut to its end. This often turned out to be a paved square or an area of grass trampled into flat mud in a park where there would be speeches and pigeon shit.
Speeches at English political demos in the early twenty first century were, as far as he was concerned, empty rituals, usually as irrelevant as biblical psalms, but never as beautiful. Much as he purported to despise the prevalent media driven sound bite culture, he was incapable of listening attentively to even a two minute speech.
Demos were basically big social events, unless there were counter demos or sometimes unless a shadowy powerful person or committee deemed that some sort of symbolic threat to capitalism was being posed via the smashing of a bank’s plate glass windows or the scratching of expensive cars so that roboid cops in riot gear were deployed and push did come to shove. Usually during the speech, the listeners were rather than continuing to struggle, vowing not to give up the fight or keep marching until something or other, deciding which pub to go to and therefore also which ones not to go to.
If the demo was anywhere near central London, the pub was crowded the drink was expensive, the journey back to suburb or province cramped, so the sword went back to sleep in the shopping trolley, the clouds did not unfold and capitalism stayed to be smashed on another salad day.