13 August 2008

Protest Songs

petulance by Foxtongue
We were in the country (not far from the lip of the Cotswold escarpment etc, etc) and Mrs Botogol ordered a Chinese takeaway. "Ready in forty minutes", they said, so I had to set out immediately, taking a sandwich for the journey.

It came to exactly £90. Well there were 11 of us, and no one ever said that the countryside was cheap. Although it is low-tech:

"Sorry, no credit cards"

I was unaccountably furious. Red-mist, fist-slammingly cross. Why didn't they say on the phone?

I emptied all my pockets. Not enough.
"We do take cheques"
Cheques???? Cheques??? They might as well take ten-shilling postal orders. I haven't written a cheque since 2004.

I went back to the car and fetched the parking stash from the glove compartment and piled the tiny coins into a heap on the counter before the startled Chinese owner.

"There you are", through gritted teeth, "eighty-seven pounds and forty pence. It's. All. I. Have. You'll just have to take out £2.60's worth of food. HA!"

Protests don't make you popular, do they? I could almost hear my Mother's voice in my ear "Stop it Alibert, it's not big and it's not clever".

But protests are also irresistible.

I don’t remember much about my life before I was about seven; for instance I have no idea if I even wnet to nursery school, and from the two years at the primary school I attended from 1968 to 1970 just one event made a lasting impression on me, and that was a protest: a rainy day, an over-long playtime, and fifty or sixty of us mixed infants lined up in the yard desperate to be allowed back in.

It was Lester Deakin who took the blame for starting the singing: Why are we waiting? (And sung all the way through!) but it wasn't really fair: it had been all of us, but to my shame I didn't stand up for him and and that day, as well as the of futility of protest (we waited a long time in the rain that playtime) I also learned about the importance of isolating the the ringleaders, for it was poor hapless Lester who was sent to see the headmaster while we the rest of us filed sullenly past the incandescent Mrs Briers, back into our classrooms.

However the urge to protest has never left me, whether it is against the Chinese Government strutting self-importantly around my town or walking the entire route of the wrongly-compulsory Junior House Cross Country race in 1980 (no, it wasn't big and it wasn't clever) or sneaking unsuitable words into important, senior management Powerpoint presentations, or now harnessing the power of Google to tell the whole world to beware of the holiday apartment at 17 Dunhamish Street, Edinburgh for every single window has been painted shut and consequently it's stiflingly airless.

At the takeaway we were in a stand-off situation, but the owner was the one in possession of the silver topped cartons. She took out the Crispy Aromatic Duck (half) with Pancakes. "Hang on", I said, "that's worth more than £2.60". She opined that I wasn't really in a position to negotiate and I wondered if, on reflection, I could have handled the whole thing a little better; could I have been a bit bigger and bit cleverer?

For protests never work, do they?

Although the window one did! This morning a carpenter arrived and unstuck the kitchen, the bathroom and two bedrooms. Addresses have been changed to protect the - actually - very responsive.


pascal said...

I have to say that I wasn't aware of your "urge to protest" when you were a child. Perhaps you (wisely) stifled it, or possibly your caring and patient family gave you no cause.

Botogol said...

curses! caught out :-)

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Anonymous said...

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