Thursday, June 27, 2013
All Tomorrow's Parties
My youngest son goes to a standard state primary school and I'd say that the social mix between the middle classes and what my German neighbour coyly refers to as 'people from social housing' is about 50-50. As a middle class person who grew up in a working class family, I have watched the interactions of these two groups with interest.
At first it all seems to be going very well. At the age of four, the children all happily play together and although the mothers separate into different groups from the word go, there is still a sense of community and the party invitations are blind to any social divisions.
The middle class mothers might shudder with horror when Coca Cola is served at little Jordan's 5th birthday. They might also cringe at food that has more 'e's than the Hacienda Club in 1990 and worry that Sasha's manic dancing to 'Jive Bunny' is the result of consuming too additives. But they grin nervously and remind themselves to be otherwise enaged in a year's time.
The non-middle class mother are equally non-plussed by Sasha's party, which seems a joyless occasion consisting of activities that look like schoolwork, inedible, tasteless food and music that has never been in the charts. When Jordan is handed a plate of hummus and pitta bread, he looks as if he is going to cry.
And, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes. Gradually, the unspoken apartheid between the classes becomes more entrenched and the party invitations become more selective. It's all rather depressing. I've tried crossing the invisible lines, but I always end up sounding like Prince Charles visiting an inner city community centre.
Selling secondhand books on the internet has its own challenges, but at least the selection of titles I sell is constantly changing and completely random. It's so refreshing to be able to discover new books every day, rather than putting yet another pile of Victoria Hislop's 'The Island' on the paperback bestsellers table.
However, I wonder how much mileage my business has. The way people read is radically changing and although there will probably always be a place for the printed page, I worry that the supply will begin to exceed the demand, driving prices down to an unsustainable level. I don't know what I'll do if that happens.
If I sound slightly gloomy, it's partly because we've discovered that our new kitten - the one we bought to cheer our oldest son up - is dying. He has Feline Infectious Peritonitis and is slowly fading away, getting thinner every week. I know it's only a cat, but we've grown rather fond of him, as he's an exceptionally affectionate little creature.
I feel particularly sorry for my son, as this experience has just reinforced his already pessimistic view of the world, instead of effecting a positive change. When a suitable period of time has elapsed, we'll get a new cat and hope for better luck next time.
It's just like flying (although EasyJet is probably cheaper). Indeed, a nearby plane seemed to be at a similar altitude, which was slightly disconcerting.
Afterwards, I wandered through the streets of Southwark, where my grandfather was born in the 1890s, gatecrashing a boy scouts' church service in the cathedral. One man sang 'Oh Worship the King' so badly that several very solemn-looking dignitaries started to get the giggles.
I finished with a visit to the Tate Modern - a gallery that never fails to disappoint. I loved the Tate when it when first opened - the 'space' was very impressive. But these days I'd like to see a little less space and a lot more exhibits.
I'm not sure what the point of this rambling blog post was, other than trying to add content after a long gap. I can't blame alcohol this time, as I've been drinking nothing but tea all afternoon.
That reminds me, I think the sun's over the yardarm...