Friday, 25 July 2008

This is England

On the train to Newcastle for a ‘business trip’.

Everybody is wearing the ‘smart casual’ universal corporate uniform. They’ve all got laptop cases and tap away at various gadgets. Then they read WhatCar to relax, or maybe for the racier ones; FHM. They have loud conversations about office politics. But I can’t work out from any of it what they or their businesses actually do.

I go to the dining car. I’m ignored for fifteen minutes by the waitress. When I manage eye contact she asks me if I know that this is the dining car. I mentally count to ten and tell her that I do realise, and actually I would like a menu.

Out of the city centre to a 'business park' I get to the company I’m visiting. It’s locked in the 1980’s. In reception there’s a faded photograph of Princess Di opening the place. She’s wearing a sloaney get-up with a collar like a cake doily. There are a host of faded certificates showing accreditation to various industry bodies . Many of these are time-expired. With a lot of fuss I am offered a cup of (something like) coffee from an ancient vending machine.

Waiting for my train home - in Newcastle I walk around the city centre to kill time. Something is a bit odd but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Then it dawns on me – I haven’t seen a non-white face or heard a foreign accent. And the shops are all ‘English’.

Coming home I look through the window. It comes to me that still most of the country we travel through is actually empty countryside and small towns.

I realise that this is England.
'Proper' England - not London or some other 'metro-sophisticated' city. Where you take it for granted that you can wear jeans and a t-shirt and show off your tattoos and still be taken seriously. Or where there is a whole diverse world on your doorstep. Or where coffee comes in a million different over-priced varieties. And I'm not sure how I feel about all this.

No comments: