People We Love

Sing in me, Muse, of those we love. Enough anger, Darling, let us speak of good people. Not just family, although your family is most adorable, I mean other people.

Construction workers

Let us start with construction workers. Is there anything more decorative than a gaggle of construction workers, all jeans and big boots and with florescent highlights sitting around drinking from a flask and eating a bacon butty? They prop up the side of the building and look ornamental, adding color and visual interest to the urban streetscape. Burly, lanky, looking as effortlessly and authentically part of the landscape as ducks on a pond, a street without construction workers in high-vis vests is incomplete. Such inert competence. Of course they are not doing anything, they so seldom are, but you get the impression that they could do something if it was a sunny Tuesday morning with waxing moon and ebbing tide. If the conditions were favorable then yes, your road could get paved. But otherwise, no.

Plumbers and house builders are much the same – ornate vans, lots of accouterments, belts with an array of tools, weathered faces, calloused hands but, oh dear, is it a weekday with a Virgo rising or is the water feature not working, throwing off the feng shui? Then getting your bathroom grouted, your tree stumps dug up, your conservatory roof repaired, the kitchen painted – it will all have to wait until a more auspicious day.

Construction workers teach us, Darling, that the appearance is vital, and sometimes the appearance is all there is. A burly construction worker surrounded by implements of destruction and a road way completely clear of cars, standing importantly with other workers drinking coffee and gesturing. It’s a vision worthy of Soviet brutalistic art, a vision of power and might that signifies, nothing. The road is not going to get fixed, not today. Those boots are dirty from hard work. But not hard work any time last week, or this week, or next week.

Enjoy the view – but don’t expect you will get the view AND repaired roads. Let’s not be absurd in our expectations.

Those who are not compelled to tell you their life story

Darling, how much I do appreciate those who have no interest in telling strangers their troubles. You might, it’s a slight chance but one never knows with genes!, turn out to be the sort of person who wants to hear the life story of random strangers but if so, remember that you may under no circumstances inflect your life story on those who have no interest and that means practically everyone on the planet.

Darling, I have never had a conversation with anyone I sat next to on a plane. Nor do I start in with Uber drivers or manicurists. It’s not fair to burden people who you are paying (and hence can’t escape you) with your troubles (bartenders are an exception as long as you tip them handsomely, if you take a job as a bartender or lobby piano player, you are setting yourself up to hear every miserable story every told, and a few happy ones).

Remember, if you open the subject of your life, you cannot go back and set limits. You gush about your adorable significant other and you will be asked why you aren’t married yet, when you will get married, where will the honeymoon be and how many kid you will have. Yap about your job to people you don’t know and you will be asked your salary, if you really deserve that salary and if you can get the person’s brother a job.

Weather, my dear, always a safe topic. Not politics, not religion, not your life. If you must communicate, stick to safe topics: photos of animal babies, recipes, moisturizers, favorite kinds of chocolate, Alma-Tadema and gardening.

(painting: Untitled by August Macke)