A traveller in search of the exotic

Having spent time in a small city isolated from its hinterland by wide sprawling villages of slight loveliness, it behoves me to pass on to you a feel for this exotic place. Let us spend a day wandering its streets and watching its people.
Dawn, rosy fingered or otherwise, awakens to find the city already awash with scurrying guest workers. These sad creatures, hauled into the city in cattle trucks, denied even a glimpse of daylight in their subterranean journey, emerge blinking to the surface.
Here, let us watch this one, a middle aged male as the grey on his temples shows. He storms along, filled with urgency to be at his place of labour. His top coat is undone, it trails behind him like a cloak, in one hand he holds a cardboard carton which on closer examination appears to contain coffee. Like many of the serf caste he is bedecked by wires and by means of these he rants and raves at the air, gesturing and posturing like some latter day Demosthenes. It is to be assumed that this communication arrangement is foisted upon the lower orders in an attempt to ensure they do not develop the habits of independence in action and thought.
Now it is later in the day. We can watch the true aristocrats of the city at work. Resplendent in helmets and jackets in the brightest of colours they sit and gossip with their colleagues on the edges of those sites where new temples are being erected. Or at times you might catch them at work, moving with the calm competence of those who know that their time is valued and their skills difficult to replace. They conduct their work with casual gestures, directing the great cranes or some juggernaut laden with building materials.
And then as the morning wears on we repair to the coffee houses. Here one can see the matrons of the city, directing its affairs from a distance, berating their inferiors or cozening their rivals through the same assemblage of wires and earpieces which are used to order the lives of serfs. Their daughters sit in small huddles at lesser tables, drinking ‘skinny’ this or ‘soy’ that, speaking in low tones, so different from the magisterial pronouncements of the matrons.
By the middle of the day the feeding stations are opened and again the serfs emerge to queue for their rations. With no little ritual each is handed one pack of sandwiches, one drink, and one packet of crisps, placed within a flimsy container barely opaque enough to prevent passers-by seeing the paucity of their choice.
They eat in hurried clusters in open spaces close to their workplace, or even scurry guiltily back to their desk where they devour their meagre ration safe from the unknown hazards posed by direct sunlight and no roof.
As evening makes its graceful entry we see the serfs slowly disperse, riding the subterranean cattle trucks back to their distant abodes. Some linger, mixing with the crowds of pleasure seekers who throng the streets, their frantic revels and loud laughter echoing through the night as they clutch desperately at Gaiety’s tawdry robe.
Finally night falls, and to the clank and bellow of the nocturnal labour, the screech of brakes and the roar of engines revved beyond wisdom, the city sleeps.

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6 thoughts on “A traveller in search of the exotic

  1. willmacmillanjones September 20, 2013 at 11:32 am Reply

    Not a city person Jim, are you?

  2. jwebster2 September 20, 2013 at 11:54 am Reply

    Funny you should say that…… 🙂
    No, I’m not. I can visit, I can enjoy, but the best bit of London is the northbound platform at Euston 🙂

  3. M T McGuire September 21, 2013 at 7:08 am Reply

    I lived there for a while and after that, became kind of addicted. Loved the last paragraph about the clanking and revved engines.



    • jwebster2 September 21, 2013 at 7:16 am Reply

      Oh I can see the addiction, I had a lot of contemporaries who went down in the 70s and stayed for a decade or so. I enjoy a trip, at one point I was going down to meetings about a dozen times a year or more which I was fine with. But actually living there… When hell freezes over and I can skate there across the ice, then I’ll consider it 🙂

      The last paragraph is from long experience, when in London, I take ear plugs 🙂

  4. keirarts September 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm Reply

    I spent many a summer with relatives in London. My abiding memory is of returning to the North and finding it easier to breath. As you know i’m not one for the rat race. Just looking for a way to make enough cash to keep the bills covered, after that i’m happy!

    • jwebster2 September 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm Reply

      It’s nice but it’s not real life 🙂

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