John Walker's Electronic House

by on May.31, 2005, under The Rest

I am rich!

Well, actually I’m poor. It turns out the increasingly large numbers on my bank statement aren’t a good thing when they have that little ‘D’ written afterward. Not an emergency – I’ve been behind on my invoices for magazines, and after this evening’s slog through the tedium of filling them all out, I shall have the rent for Landlord Hicks within the week, with plenty left over for overpriced coffee and underpriced sandwiches.

But I felt rich this afternoon. My degree is unfortunately coming to an end on something of a downward spiral. Not in terms of grades, they appear to be going well (for those who followed the Dark Dissertation Days, I got my result last week – a First, so go Team Me), but in terms of the quality of the course. This last term is a pathetic shambles, made up on the spot, the assignments farcical and astonishingly un-thought-through by those setting them. It’s a real shame for the degree to end at its lowest – despite this not being a rare feature, there have been superb modules, and superb lecturers. This term is made even more frustrating, as the greatest of all the lecturers, Simon Perry (Siiiiiiiiiiimon), is taking one of the modules, and his lectures are exquisit. The module itself, and especially the humourless joke of the assessment, is not. A horribly wasted opportunity.

So when today’s Art and Popular Culture lectures descended further down the farcical helterskelter, there was little reason to stay on beyond lunchtime. As indeed there was little reason to go back into the lecture after the mid-morning coffee break. So instead a far more enriching time was spent in edifying conversation with my fellow skiver, during which I learned far more than I could have in a thousand hours of the populist drivel on offer the other side of the common room wall. When our current weather moodswings offered sunshine, we took it as our cue to make good our escape and catch the bus.

I want to stress, and not just because I’m conscious that a lecturer is reading this, that I find no pride or glee in leaving a lecture. I find it depressing that it is even to be considered. Our lecturer for this particular module seems a pleasant and intelligent guy, but he’s so horribly restricted by the appalling course materials that there is little hope. And I can watch soap operas and the Simpsons in my own time, without the aid of a man telling me which pages of the course booklet to read at various intervals. I look forward to Siiiiiiimon’s last lectures with the excitement I would have put into a forthcoming tenth birthday. My enthusiasm remains very high. However, so does my dignity and realism.

The riches… My train politely delivered me to Bath a smidgeon after 4pm. It was a Bath bathed in glorious sunshine, and one I found myself unable to traverse without interruption. I could not pass the semi-public park beside the canal, and seeing the spots of human colour dotted sparsly about its green, and feeling the bulge of an excellent book in my pocket, I was left with little choice. This particular area is odd. While the weather is wintery or miserable, it’s a shortcut to the leisure centre. As soon as the sun shines, a booth at the Roman/Roman-esque walled entrance becomes manned, and 95p is demanded to pass. That is, unless you can prove yourself to be a citizen of Bath. As I said, odd. All I had with me was some post for Chrissy, who used to live where I do now, so the address matched if the gender did not. I babbled confusedly at the man about how it was my address, and he waved me past more to get rid of me than anything else.

After prowling about to find an appropriate spot (beneath a tree, but a tree to myself, and not too close to one of the eight million Happy Couples licking each other’s small intestines) I settled, rejected, chose another tree, and settled. The tree was perfect – coloured with a healthy parody of autumnal explosions, and I found myself staring fixatedly at the leaves for a good while. Sun on my face, with time to gluttonously absorb the intense colours. I am rich.

A fantastic book was often upstaged by the fabulous antics of my fellow skiving public. I like to think that everyone there should probably have been somewhere else, but were equally unable to imprison themselves within banality on such a day. The most enthusiastic effort came from two girls, probably three or four years old, who I could only assume had been strangers until that afternoon. One belonged to the most fantastically attractive mother and father on one side of a central path, and the other to another group of grandparents and parents the other side of my tree. One was half-Indian, the other ghostly white. They were already best friends, holding hands, chatting aimiably with the alternative sets of adults. They engaged in races, a game of trying to smack the handsome dad on the bottom, but most of all pursued their secret and incredibly important missions that could only be whispered, a hand cupped to an ear, mouth pressed in close, which invariably involved running somewhere extremely quickly.

Couples came and went, occupying a bench for their privately allotted time, replaced immediately by the next pair as soon as their tongues became tired and they moved away. I imagine that there must have been some sort of delicatessen ticket counter and digital number displayed, only visible to the in-love.

And then, after two decadent hours of sun-spattled reading, as I went to leave I saw the most elaborate of courtship dances. The bored female sat on the hill and watched with a practised nonchalance while the male attempted complicated Thai Chi maneuvers, each requiring the most peculiar psyching up of pulling a fist back and forth as if sawing an invisible, shoulder-high, plank, before the sudden and often ridiculous punchy spin. I do hope that after I left, another male came along and attempted to win the female from him with more elaborate exercises, seeing the first slumping off, defeated, and without a mate.

It was the course director of my college who told me of my riches recently. I was informed that I was rich beyond most people’s wildest dreams, and that I didn’t know it. The thing is, I do know it. I may have a lot less than no money in the bank, but I have so far managed to escape the ridiculous routine that humans keep telling themselves they are required to perform. Jim celebrated the freedom a freelance lifestyle offers recently. It is something I absolutely do not take for granted. I am one very lucky, very rich man.

7 Comments for this entry

  • Tom

    That park’s exclusivity completely ruins it for me. I live in Bath, and can prove it, but if I have to bring a fucking gas bill to get access to grass, it’s not a park.

    Essentially, paying up or making any effort or preparation would be admitting that we live in an environment so much worse than the greenery that preceded and surrounds it that we’ll pay to pretend we don’t for a while. I’m nowhere near that honest.

  • John

    But we don’t. We live in an incredibly beautiful Georgian city, resplendant and wondrous. Presumably you require Bath to be within a tiny Flash window before you’ll notice its beauty.

  • Bobsy

    So… this isn’t a kind of richness that means you could spot me a couple grand, then?

  • John

    A couple of grand views.

    That’s it, however.

  • Bobsy

    Eh. I’ve already got plenty of them.

    Well, not so much ‘grand’ as ‘hideously blinkered and misinformed’, but I’ve got enough to last me for a while yet.

  • chrissy

    post? what post?