Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Emperor and the people on wheels

The Emperor of Exmoor, a red dear and the largest wild land animal in the UK, was killed by a licensed hunter early this week. It reminded me of the scene with the stag on the Balmoral Estate in  the film The Queen: it too was shot dead by a licensed hunter, a finance type from the city. What can I say, I side with the wild beast everytime. It may be romantic and sentimental and misplaced but I believe that when something beautiful and strong is destroyed, a little piece of our humanity dies with it.

While I'm on the subject, I also think that Tate Modern's decision to close access to Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds 2010 exhibit on health and safety grounds (the exhibit, made up of millions of hand made sunflower porcelain seeds was designed to be walked on and interacted with... now you can only view it from the platform or from behind a rope) is sad, deeply unpoetic and small minded in the way that only administrators' decisions can be. There goes another little piece of our humanity.

How do you eat an elephant? Even a really large one? One little piece at a time. Same goes with our humanity. Every day a little piece of beauty, of poetry, of enlightment, of love disappears - lost for ever. Some new ones are created: random acts of kindness, charity, mercy - but there is a deficit. And one day we will wake up and all our humanity will be gone. And we will be very very sorry. So here's what you can do: look up. That's right: look UP. Can you see the moon in broad daylight? Is it full? Is it a beautiful crescent? Is there a rainbow? A lovely sunrise or sunset? A flock of geese? Can you see the North Star? Look up and create your own little piece of humanity.

On to cyclists. I'm a pedestrian. Sometimes late at night or early in the morning I am a driver. What I am not is a cyclist although two of my friends are cyclists... Anyway, it turns out that it's not just cab drivers and everyone else who hate cyclists, it turns out... wait for it... that cyclists hate other cyclists too! Imagine that. This is what I have been told, second hand, so don't hold me to it:

Apparently, there are four main cyclist tribes:
The Daddies who dress any old way, as long as it's warm, waterproof, and provides good coverage. They ride upright bicycles with baskets/saddle bags and sometimes sport a child seat.

The Newbies in their 30-40 who, having not ridden a bike since the Thatcher era, have just experienced some sort of undiagnosed mid-life crisis and resolved it through the purchase of a brand new and expensive bicycle which they are now riding gingerly and nervously, paranoid about hurting it or hurting themselves, or both. They're a jumpy bunch, easily spooked and therefore both unpredictable and of a stroppy disposition.

The Freebies are the ones who have signed up to London's free bike scheme sponsored by Barclay's Bank; they ride around on these very sturdy bikes which can be picked up and docked from any of the hundreds of stations around London. The bike's design means that it is very slow and their rider's movements are eminently trackable and predictable: you are not going to get one of these beauties sneaking up on you or making a dash across the intersection through a red light.

And finally, there are the Triathletes: they ride carbon fibre bikes, wear "ridiculous lycra outfits", and race from traffic light to traffic light as part of their hard core training.

And here's the thing, everyone hates or despises everyone else! There is a class order too: the Triathletes at the top of the pyramid look down on every one else.The Daddies despise the Newbies for their lack of confidence. Everyone hates the Triathletes (including, I suspect other triathletes... they're a competitive bunch) and everyone despises the Freebies or worse, dismisses them as pedestrians on wheels. 

No comments: