I had two experiences this week that, in their contrasting ways, made me feel both good and awkward and almost certainly said more about me than anything else.
Last Friday, I took part in a demonstration outside Parliament. It was on the vexed subject of climate change and was the domain of 20,000 school children out to make a noise about their concerns for their planet’s future.
There is no Planet B
read a poster. I know there are those who think climate change worries are made up conspiracies but, me, I’m a believer. And anyway, that wasn’t, for me the most important part of the day.
Nope it was the fact that there were hundreds, thousands of school age children bunking off school to make a thundering and, frankly mostly incoherent racket. They splashed paint, they climbed on statues and they were seduced to carry self-serving posters from unsanitary left wing cadres like the socialist worker and Marxism today who tend to feed off anything that smacks of anti-government and anarchy. Of course they shouldn’t but sod it, let them. They took part; they made themselves a piece of the political furniture in this country; they stood up for something they believed in. And that made up for the fact that, there I was, a sixty something old geezer mingling with this vibrant youthful mass like I was meant to be there. I felt like I was. It took me back to Uni and after, to the time when I finally bothered. Much later that these youngsters and no less incoherent and unfocused. But despite being utterly out of place, it felt good.
Yesterday the Textiliste and I went to our local cinema where a talk on underground London was to be held, to be given by someone from the Archaeological section of the Museum of London. As we entered the foyer we dodged a phalanx of parked buggies; presumably there was a baby and carer friendly film running in another screen. A smiling woman – who had a small child in one of those wrap round papoose thingies – checked us in and sent us the screen one. I should have guessed then.
We pushed open the door and, well, yes froze. The talk was due in five minutes and the auditorium was two thirds full. And every adult, or couple, had a sprat, an under-two strapped to their fronts, on their laps or rug-ratting the carpet.
We looked at each other; had I been alone I would have scarped then and there but Herself is not so easily put off. She nodded to the woman on the door – blond dribbler on hip – and took a seat. I subsided next to her. The screen made it clear the talk was what we expected and told us the organisers were ‘Babble’. The other seats filled and an awkward man with a mike came on stage and welcomed all these parents and carers out to garner some intellectual stimulation as well as airing their offspring. Babble, it seems, run talks for the newly terrified.
I sank lower. I did a ridiculous thing. I clutched my rucksack (contents: ipad, battery pack, re-usable coffee mug emblazoned with our pets, Sainsbury’s carrier bag and newspaper) to my chest like it was my very own newborn.
I couldn’t have felt more out of place in the woman’s only changing room at the local pool – though at least there I might have been thought of as presenting my gender differently. Here, we, and more to the point, I was inappropriately accessorised.
Surely someone would point, huff, raise a complaint? Of course not. It was great and we were made very welcome. Perhaps they assumed we were on day release or the Textiliste was my carer – that’s happened before, I kid you not. The talk was fascinating: if you dig down to Roman London – some nine metres below where we sit today – there are three black strips: the Blitz, the Great Fire and Boudicca’s burning of Roman London. Maybe that could be the new pond project.
I am very grateful to live in a city that is chock full of both such interesting talks but also events aimed at groups like the newly parented, who might, otherwise be turning to intellectual mush. And, oddly, having some hundred or so small persons in a confined space wasn’t as noisy as might be anticipated. And in future my carer now knows where the changing facilities are if ever she needs to cater for my needs. At least today my incontinence was limited to the verbal sort…