As the boy confessed when caught peering over the partition into the girls section of the showers; “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
The problem for most of us is that we’re trapped in the shadow of the giants. Not only do we not share their vision, but we’ve not even got the initiative to step out into the sunlight that is there for us, had we only got the courage to shift.
The last couple of days have been a quietly thought provoking time. Remembrance Sunday has gone, and on it I managed to finish reading the new Terry Pratchett, ‘Raising Steam.’ Brilliant book but reading it is not an entirely unalloyed pleasure. You see I am not without my literary pretensions. If you click on the ‘About’ link on the red bar above you’ll see the fantasy books I’ve written. I’ve even got a Sci Fi book coming out in paper back this coming March
Hence I was seriously chuffed when someone told me my books reminded them a lot of Jack Vance and Terry Pratchett. It’s nice to think I’m good enough to remind people of the greats, but it does keep me in my place.
So I sat down to read the latest book by the master
And for me, he did it again. Engineering and Steam hit Discworld. But it is so much more than that. He hasn’t merely written a book which is both a good read and amusing in places, page turning in others, he’s shone a light back into our world.
In this book he manages to shine a light into the dark places of religious fanaticism and the use of terror, as well as to get the feel of ‘The Age of Steam’. And the problem is, as he gently looks at the magic of the railway and the nature of the world the railways made, he somehow sets our own world in stark relief.
A century and a half ago we were a people who could build things, who could dream and hammer the dreams into shape with steel, brass and steam. Now we’re just a people who, if they want to make money, rip each other off with financial services scams, wheel clamping schemes, and now the latest is the car parking protection rackets.
We’ve seen the giants, and now we are the pygmies trapped in their shade.
Now, even having literary pretensions isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, reality ends up being more fantastic that anything a writer feels they can create. I went to a meeting locally. A local store, The Range, has got a car park for customers. They’ve handed over the management to Parking Eye who monitor it and ‘police’ it. Now, if you go to the store and buy something, that’s fine, you’ve got two hours to park or else they’ll give you a ticket. But if you buy something, go home, and find that you’ve misjudged the quantities and need more, there’s no return within three hours or you’ll get a penalty charge notice!
Even more strange, if you’re keen to buy something, and turn up before the shop opens, that too earns you a penalty charge notice.
Sorry, but don’t they want our custom? Aren’t they trying to sell us stuff or is the margin on car parking fines better than the margin on actually selling stuff? Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?
I’m left hoping that Terry Pratchett is fit enough for a few more books; he mentioned wheel clampers in ‘Raising Steam’, perhaps he can throw so light on car parking charges in his next. After all, I think he’s the only person with the imagination to come up with something more surreal than the reality.