Is This the Real Life?


“The people can have anything they want, the only problem is they do not want anything.”
- Eugene Debbs

Monday was good, Tuesday less so.

Monday was a bright, warm day, perfect for taking a stroll to the city centre, paying a loan from a friend into the bank, buying an advanced grammar textbook...and bumping into some friends who're running a stall about climate change.

If you set up a stall in a shopping precinct, two things are guaranteed to happen. The first is that the manager of a nearby shop will be an arsehole about it. The exchange generally goes something like this:

Manager: You'll have to move.
Stall holder: [Ignores manager]
Manager: You can't stay here, you'll have to move.
Stall holder: Why?
Manager: You're blocking our window display. You'll have to move.
Stall holder: The display's over there, we're over here.
Manager: [Sigh]. Do you have permission to run a stall?
Stall holder: [Ignores manager and hands out more leaflets.]
Manager: You need to get permission from the council.
Stall holder: No, we don't.
Manager: Look, if you don't move, I'll be forced to call the police.
Stall holder: Go on then. They'll take 20 minutes to arrive, we'll move two metres five minutes before that, the police'll be annoyed that you called them out pointlessly and you'll look like a tit. And we'll be back here tomorrow.
[Manager walks back inside. Stall moves two metres]

The second thing is that every slightly mad shopper will try to have a conversation (or start an argument) with you. On occasions when I've done stalls, passers by have told me things like:

* The British Empire never existed.
* A total of fifteen Afghans died when we last invaded.
* Communism is the same thing as fascism, and can't work because human nature is fascist.
* Lenin was gay.
* I'm an anarchist. Because I worship satan.
* Global warming is caused by sunspots, and in any case is good because it gives us nice hot weather.
* Immigrants are deep cover Al-Qaeda suspects sent by Saddam Hussein.

In this case, there was an old man who argued persistently that there'd be no crime if everyone carried a loaded gun for shooting anyone who annoyed them. There was also a rather sweet natured fellow who obviously had a mental age of about 12 - he just wanted to listen to my mp3 player. I had some Indian chillout stuff that he happily boogied to for a few minutes.

After packing up the leaflets and paste table, Donna S invited me to an impromptu picnic in the park. Birds singing, dogs being walked, five-a-side football, bread, olives and lots of really cheap red wine. What could be nicer?

I pushed the pushchair carrying her daughter Daisy, and got smiling looks of mutual brotherhood from parents with young children. Yes, they thought we were like them. A single mother (currently homeless) and a gay man, both socialists, accidentally posing as married couple with child.

You remember how, in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the heroes learned to walk among the creepy aliens, pretending to be assimilated? A bit like that.

We were joined by Roxanne C (single mum, artist) and brother Craig (teenage dad, musician), who, with the latter's baby carriage containing the tiny adorable Ruby, were probably not met with smiling looks of familial brotherhood. On account of looking too young for parenthood to be "respectable".

Actually I think they're both bloody good parents - Craig in particular has grown up really really fast. And I'm not just saying that because I fancy the pants off him, or because they both read my blog.

Tuesday - cold, cloudy, cheerless.

Mother has been ill. I don't mean with a virus or stomach upset - I mean with the kind of stabbing abdominal pains that strong prescription painkillers don't dull. The symptoms which, some years ago, turned out to be a near-fatal tumour.

So, we're worried, but of course we're not saying anything. Nothing to say.

She's working on her degree in music theory (forth? fifth? I don't remember), while I'm helping out with some of the technical bits, reading about adjective complementation, and arranging amateur psychological counselling disguised as late night sex with MK against a wall.

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