The weekend approaches, bringing a welcome respite. In a few minutes, I have to go off and join the rush south to the city. After 9 am, the crowds seem a little less dense but that may be because numbers fall off during the week, for some strange reason. I am becoming used to the rhythms of commuting. I can put up with the crush of the tube in return for its speed, or use less popular bus routes where there are fewer people and more chance of a seat but the journey is longer. Impatient soul that I am, I usually go for the tube.
The station nearest the workplace, Borough, is exit-only during the rush hour because of refurbishment work on the lifts. So in the evening, I walk down to Elephant & Castle, and catch the tube from there. I went shopping there yesterday. The shopping centre there (“mall”, to you Americans) is a ramshackle beaten-up sort of place but I like it. In addition to the shops, there are stalls, both inside and outside the main building. It’s also an Hispanic stronghold, many of the businesses being run by Latin Americans. You hear Spanish spoken on all sides.
This lovely folksy place is, alas, under threat. The site is to be “developed” and we all know what that means: a valuable resource for local people will be swept away and replaced by some modern anodyne box-like structure filled with flats or offices. People need somewhere to live or work, I grant you, but people also need a place where they can shop and where everything they need is gathered together. Developers don’t care about that: their only concern is boosting their income. The Thatcherite philosophy of “greed is good” is alive and well and its practitioners walk all over the ordinary people without a qualm.
If you thought that “Elephant and Castle” is a strange name for a district of London, you would be right. “The Elephant” is well known and loved and has its firm place in London life and mythology. The origin of the name is disputed. Castles we may have in this embattled land but elephants? Only in the zoo. One theory is that when Catherine of Aragon came to England to marry Henry VIII, she briefly tarried in this area. As a princess of Castille, she would have been known as “la Infanta de Castilla” in her native land. This appellation, so some claim, became corrupted into “Elephant and Castle”. I rather like that and it is my favourite explanation. Knowing me, you will probably guess that between an infanta and an elephant, I will choose the elephant every time.
When you think about it… OK, when I think about it, it seems weird how we sell ourselves into wage slavery in order to make money to buy the things we produce. Put like that, it sounds mad, like charging the cow for the milk she makes. How did this system arise, and aren’t there better ways to live? I think there must be. If ever there was a time when we needed to think about this, it is now, when our current train of life is devastating the planet and rendering that life impossible. Do we need to work hard in order to pay an inflated mortgage whose purpose is to make rich people richer and to jet off to some foreign location where we do all the recreational things we could do just as well in Bournemouth or Blackpool?
Epicurus promulgated a life of simple pleasures and for him one of the greatest of these was sitting around talking with friends. We don’t talk to one another any more – have you noticed? Not really talk. We text, we phone and say “I’m on the train” but we don’t really talk. Maybe this is why the politicians get away with their deceits, enacting legislation that damages the quality of life. We can’t be bothered to think about it and do anything about it.