In my middle late teens my childhood was largely over and I found myself in a bedsitter in an unglamorous area of London, living on fish and chips and working as a clerk in a sales office. The work was unstimulating and the company ethos alien to me. I must have made a strange work colleague but I turned up everyday and inflicted my own sort of chaos on the small area for which I had responsibility. I hardly knew what was going on.
In the evening I would walk home from the tube station, collecting my fish and chips on the way and walk up the road to the front door of the house in which I lived. The house before ours had a small garden facing the street and in it grew a rose-bush with fat red roses blooming on it. I often used to stop and smell the flowers. The scent is lovely, of course, but what I most liked about it, in the urban sprawl in which I found myself was that it was natural. All around it the bricks and cements spoke of man’s growing mark on the planet but somehow that rose reminded me of simpler more seasonal landscapes in which the organic progress of all life forms developed naturally.
All my life I have been consumed by the idea of what is “real”. Of course, everything is real, so it might be hard to explain what I’m trying to say. In the developed world we have lived in a protected hot- house where increasingly self-indulgent behaviours are protected by a sophisticated financial system. That system has grown ever more complex, and the life styles that many lead as a result seem threatened by that very system’s potential unravelling. In the wilderness of Somalia or rural China nail and hair salons are in short supply. People living in those areas would be little affected by the decline or collapse of the euro or the odd bank folding in on itself. To us in the west, however, the results would be regarded as catastrophic.
In friendships unconnected by mutual material reliance such as that found in farming or fishing communes or tribes the air kiss can take the place of intimacy and discovering who you have a real connection with can be quite hard. I met some women through my partner. She is pleasant enough though she holds a few startling alternative views regarding Chinese astrology and the like. I can handle that. we all hold some views produced by a minimum of facts and a surfeit of emotion: that’s just part of being alive. The interesting thing was that sort of piggy backing on the relationship between my partner and me she was quite friendly and asked questions about me which a stranger would not normally ask . I was politely evasive but otherwise friendly and the evening ended up with us all watching a film a chatting merrily together while snacking and relaxing.
At the end of the film she rose to leave and, as is my custom at a late hour, I offered to escort her to her car. Away from my partner her manner became a lot more guarded and formal and I was reduced to chatting mindlessly about passing bushes to prevent the walk being undertaken in total silence. It made me think. Which part of her manner was the most real. The over familiar and personal style while in the company of her friend or the stilted brisk silence which marked our short walk. It doesn’t matter but it does make you wonder where the real heart lies.