Smith, a ramshackle man, is bored out of his skull. The floorboards of his room accommodate his supine form with a directness which he highly relishes, since carpets he regards as nothing more than the first step on the slippery slope which may, at the bottom, precipitate him into the shameful position of being the owner of one of those most monstrous of appliances… the vacuum cleaner.
He hauls in his wayward mind like a net of obstreperous fish and contemplates his catch. It heaves and writhes while its many puerile observations squeeze themselves like miasmic spaghetti through the meshes of the net ─ the Finchley Road; buses; shopping; the government, blah, blah. He leaves the net lying on the shore and shuts a metaphorical door on the whole thing. Now the floor feels even better; but gazing up at the ceiling he is still bored.
‘Maybe I should go to the cinema?’ he thinks, and is about to jump to his feet but then hesitates awhile to examine the implications of this proposal.
‘I shall have to walk,’ he begins, ‘and that means doing the leg thing. First one and then the other; left, right, left, right, and so on.’ This doesn’t strike him as being particularly interesting and since it is an act which he has performed countless times before, it will have little effect on his present tedium and thus hardly worth the effort; in fact he finds his present boredom for more attractive.
Then, a spark of pure brilliance.
‘The cinema,’ he thinks again; he had become so caught up with the mechanics of the operation that he had forgotten that the leg thing was but a means to an end. He imagines the cinema: a bright electric glow sparkling across the distant horizon. Music too; the faint half-heard or imagined tones of a far-off carousel?
‘If I continue on this nihilistic path I will never move again,’ he thinks, and throwing caution to the winds leaps impulsively to his feet.
‘I’ll go to the cinema first and do the thinking afterwards,’ and before long he is stepping out along a pavement, each leg taking its turn to lead the way; left, right, left, right, and he notices that all around him others are behaving in the same way and moving, some in his direction while others, born along in this bi-pedal manner advance towards him. Sometimes he finds it necessary to adjust his trajectory to avoid collision with the latter but finds the whole process only marginally interesting.
Having reached the palace of delights he pays and enters. Taking a seat he directs his gaze at the screen. The film starts. It has a beginning, middle and an end, whilst during this process various actors pretend their way through whatever scenes are appropriate.
Looky, looky, looky. Watch, watch, watch. The audience engross themselves wholeheartedly in the lighted screen.
When the film ends Smith gets once more to his feet and directs them homewards. Left, right, left, right, left, right etc. Finally reaching his room he takes off his shoes and stretching out on the floor once more contemplates the ceiling.
‘What was all that about then?’ he thinks.
The Jumbo homeward plods its weary way
747 from Paradise
Room-service and a brief glimpse
Of what it would be like;
Then touch down and home again.
Now naught but a memory
Not cheap at the price
To join all the others
No better or worse.
And thinking back it must be asked…
Was it worth it?
Was it really worth it?
Pic: Nick Victor