A couple of days in London is always interesting. The journey down provided an underpinning start to the opaque reality of our country.
A phone call begins in the seat behind me, by an individual from, allegedly, a ‘leading digital agency’. In fact, it suggests itself as THE agency in its field. As it happens, said agency has a relatively small twitter following, although, maybe I’m the one that’s wrong using such a measure to define leading, or maybe the digital/virtual/non-accountable world we operate in now simply allows the English language to be redefined for personal gain.
Back to the phone call. This escalates quickly into an expletive filled, volume increased, torrent. Referring to the recipient’s actions as idiocy and being ‘inches from the sack’, such an outburst caused an air of embarrassment to everyone else around simply going about their business, however, this ‘leader’ was oblivious. Whatever the actions of the person at the other end of the phone, they are working for an organisation that I wouldn’t want any association with, as employee, customer, supplier, or investor (I’ll come back to that). I was starting to suspect that my analysis, based on twitter following was right, and that they needed to go back to the dictionary and check the definition of leading, in more ways than one.
Towards the end of the journey, the train manager checked tickets. It became obvious that she had settled into the seat opposite this individual, and their colleague — always a sign there may be a payment due. In summary, they couldn’t produce their railcard, but I’d certainly recommend an acting career, as the feigning of misunderstanding was the only authentic thing in this whole performance.
As the train manager left the carriage, rather than suck up the £100 it had cost due to non-production of said railcard, they debated with each other the fact that this country doesn’t allow any scams — such that they had used a Two Together railcard when booking, only the other passenger wasn’t the other half of the ‘two’ — disgruntlement at rules — that may be one view — the alternative view is simply, fraud. Is that what customers and staff at a ‘leading digital agency’ expect?
So, how do I know of this leading agency? Well, I’m no tech geek, and I’d expect them to be ahead of the game on this one. A quick check of available hotspots via my phone gave me a name. A social media search gave me a profile, with a matching picture of the non-swearing fellow passenger. Proclamations in their bio about the company, and a link to the website. And there you have it.
Now, I’m not an employee — thankfully. I’m not a customer. I’m not a supplier. I’m not an investor. If I had been any of these, that would have been ending. On what grounds? Values completely misaligned to my own. A willingness to defraud. And finally, being amongst a group of people that still can’t keep their mouths shut on public transport!
I’m writing this on my return journey, and on the way back across London today, I captured this image. We can choose to live life through whatever prism we want. This is the Royal Exchange building in the City, surrounded by the wealth of the financial district. Inside, was a very festive Fortnum & Mason Christmas experience — decadence of food, drink and gifts. Had I turned around 180 degrees and captured the shot down the steps, it would have been of a woman sheltering in the doorway to the underground from a cold, wet London afternoon — my human nature protected her dignity. Like many cities, wealth rubs shoulders all too uncomfortably with the horrors being experienced by our fellow human beings. The inequity of London brings the polarisation of our society into sharp focus. It all depends what we choose to see and which we believe to be the authentic image. I suggest we need to choose our discomfort — are we going to feel uncomfortable choosing the eye level of those in need or maintain the discomfort of seeing the twinkling Christmas lights as a veneer across a very different place.
I detoured via the Houses of Parliament on the way and wandered through Parliament Square. It was a conscious walk to get a sense of the place where our future is being determined — is it authentic? I’m really not sure. Despite its history, it is a sense of a cocoon, being occupied by some who simply, are so detached from what it means to have nothing, making decisions affecting generations to come, being made through a very different prism than the lady on the steps. Looking over them are Winston Churchill, Millicent Fawcett and Nelson Mandela. What would they say about the world right now? And did they fight for train travellers to be disappointed at this country not allowing scams while, elsewhere, citizens are sleeping outside tonight.