We Are Unable To Connect You
I lie on the floor, eyes to the ceiling and my radio tuned to a French station.
I can't understand most of what they are saying.
That's the beauty of a battered old analogue that's had it's fair share of kickings or being thrown against the wall, ( acts of violence on my part that I blame entirely on the adverts of DFS, Sainsburys, Waitrose, or Home Office Dot Gov Dot Uk ), you can still pick up the distant, crackled signals from the continent.
I'm sure the couple across the road in their semi-detached with the two cars on the freshly-laid driveway, would laugh with a sneering disbelief that such an " old contraption " still exists.
I expect they were on the DAB bandwagon before it had barely started rolling down the hill of progress. On its acquisition into their home, no doubt they felt their happiness in life had moved up another notch.
I guess if I had digital myself, I'd be blessed with crystal clear reception without the fuzzy foreign stuff interfering between stations.
But then maybe I don't want that. Maybe I want the fuzzy foreign stations.
Maybe I'm just strange.
My head felt light, and my legs as if they were no longer even there. The train home from work seemed like it was careering out of control through the evening's blackness, detaching itself from the rails and scything across the countryside.
It was an odd sensation I'd not experienced before, and probably lasted no more than twenty seconds or so. I'd no idea where this sensation had come from, but it seemed to tie in with my feelings over the previous two days since returning from abroad. Increasingly disconnected from all that was most familiar to me. Rather like the train that had momentarily felt as if it was derailing off course from the tracks it would normally cling to.
Only four days ago, I was contentedly lost among the narrow medievil streets of the Alfama district in Lisbon.
I wasn't hopelessly lost. Lisbon is a small enough city to enable you to regain your bearings fairly quickly, but Alfama's cobbled labyrinth of twisting hilly lanes that at times become little more than dusty alleyways, is more than enough to lose yourself in for a morning or an afternoon. But map reading becomes an almost futile exercise here, and you are left with just your own sense of direction.
Were it not for a minimal volume of traffic, plus the touristy Route 28 trams, you could describe it as a timeless pocket of existence. It is the only part of the city that survived the devastating earthquake of 1755 virtually unscathed, therefore preserving its Moorish feel.
Whilst the rest of Lisbon was ravaged by fires and tidal waves, Alfama remained untouched. Perhaps geography had something to do with this, perched as it is on a hill overlooking the now-modern central area and crowned with the 12th century fortress - Castelo de Sao Jorge. Equally though, it wouldn't surprise me if some powerful external force had decreed that this area should survive such natural disasters, forever to be explored and forever to capture a traveller's heart.
There is an atmosphere about this place that I have not experienced anywhere else, a spirit in the face of relative hardship.
It would be wrong to say the people here are living in poverty, more accurate to say that this is one of the poorer parts of the city and that the area is not swimming in money. Those that do negotiate the narrow streets slowly in their cars are probably the luckier ones.
However, you don't get the impression that money is always the issue of the day here. Obviously it holds importance, but only in as much as it would hold importance anywhere in the world, in that people need money to survive. But that is where you get the feeling it ends.
To survive and lead reasonably comfortable lives seems to be enough. Spread randomly throughout this network of cobbled roads, are the businesses where they make these small amounts of money, be it tiny basic cafes, equally tiny shops, or sometimes simple work-shops which emanate the sounds of carpentry or other similar trades.
People hang together on corners, smoking and chatting, even the odd glass of wine clasped in someone's hand. Hanging washing dries in the warm October sunshine, suspended unashamedly from the balconies, whilst some lean from their windows and hail others cheerily in the street below.
Now and again you encounter the waft of cooking, the ingredients of which you can tell are plain and far from fancy - predominantly rice.
When amalgamated, all these sights, sounds and smells create an overall atmosphere of community. A laid-back neighbourhood spirit. It is not easy to describe it in words, without it sounding a little cliched, but there is almost something idyllic about it.
I liked Alfama. I only spent two to three hours wandering aimlessly around it, but I left with the feeling that it had left a very deep mark upon me.
The people here had found a degree of contentment.
Just how deep the mark was, I hadn't realised until that train journey home from work.
Now I found myself back amongst so many aspects of our culture that I am rapidly growing to hate. As the train seemingly tore itself off course and the lightness gripped my head, my mind descended into a tangled rant, an irrational list of everything that alienated me.
So I'm back again.
Back in a land of complicated, greedy lifestyles. Back in the land of "debt solutions" and " mortgage repayments" and " claims direct" and misinformed tabloid-influenced attitudes and opinions.
Back in the land where "panoramic sun-roofs" are an absolute must if you don't want to be left behind in the dark ages. Even now, in this carriage I'm surrounded by techno-zombies gawping at their mobiles as if slaves to some Orwellian command transmitted through Mobile connections.
Phones with a hundred different functions, on one of a hundred different types of contract. Connect to the Internet with it... get all the latest movie downloads...FOR CHRISTS SAKE WHY DO I NEED A PHONE THAT HAS THE INTERNET, I HAVE A PC THAT I USE FOR THAT, I ONLY NEED A PHONE TO PHONE PEOPLE WITH....sorry if that sounds just a bit too weird for some!
Back in the land where the christmas decs are up in Boots and Argos in mid-October. There can be no other reason for this than a dirty, nasty corporate greed. Why can't we, the people, make a stand against it and tear it all down. Hunt down these retail moguls and company directors, and ram their premature tinsel back down their throats.
Back in the land of " Please drink responsibly ...er, but not so responsibly that we the supermarket superpowers can't make a killing out of your eventual liver failure. We only tag that to the end of our ads to make it sound as if we have an ounce of social awareness, but frankly it's market forces dear boy, market forces. "
If you really want people to " drink responsibly ", don't prey upon the disillusioned working classes with such ridiculous deals on your alcohol.
And now we have Betting websites advising us to " Please gamble responsibly " . When will the burger chains jump on the band-wagon with " Please eat responsibly " ? Pretty soon I reckon.
These are all government-backed token efforts to correct the downward spiral of our society. At this very moment, the Home Office are putting the finishing touches to their new HomeOffice.Gov.Uk campaign titled " Please act in an anti-social manner responsibly ".
Please walk responsibly, please talk responsibly, please go to the toilet responsibly, please breathe responsibly!
I am teetering on the edge of this stifling false wisdom
This overbearing world that has become the United Kingdom
Yeah let's all dance to the tune of consumerism, greed
Stress, ambition, pressure, chasing riches we don't need.
And that is why I lie on the floor, eyes to the ceiling and my radio tuned to a French radio station.
I am finding it easier to relate to a language I mostly don't understand. It relaxes me, it soothes me. It doesn't make my blood boil.
I am losing contact.
Happy.... as they try in vain to re-establish my connection.
Published on writebuzz®:
> A day in my life