I went into Banbury today to sit in the warm, as my current abode is a crumbling 300 year old stone edifice that loses heat quicker than a MP submits expense claims.
I settled on the Mill Arts centre as I have a little history with the place and they make decent coffee and set about writing a proposal for my new show. What struck me more than the caffeine and the toasty warmth uncramping my toes and setting them fizzing; was how loud the British public have become. ‘Perhaps it’s just theatricals’ I thought, but no. This was good old Joe Public in full effect. To be fair, groups of people meeting in a theatre bar are probably measurably (scientifically) louder than most. In the same way that people react better to magic when there is a camera on them. I have noticed overall, since my return to the bosom of Albion just how loud we have become as a race. It used to be, that we looked across the pond at our American cousins or to the far flung shores of Oz, and tittered and remarked on the loud nature of the denizens of these places, but now it seems we are no longer the exception (if indeed we ever were). I remember visiting Beijing for the first time. I was so excited, as I had grown up a fervent martial artist on a diet of Water Margin, Monkey and Golden Harvest films. I expected the ‘motherland’ to be a place of repose, meditation and dedicated stoicism. I stood in Tiananmen Square suffering from culture shock assailed on three sides by pedlars of Mao Tse Tung watches and other cheap goods simultaneously shouting at me whilst I searched desperately for a shaolin monk to cling to. I remember thinking then ‘fuck, these guys are loud!’ And now I’m thinking it in Banbury.
So what has prompted the British to turn it up to eleven? Have our upper lips somehow become more supple? Have the timorous masses decided to roar? Are we simply increasing in number and therefore louder or is it a by-product of the growing tendency not to listen rather than to wait for your opportunity to talk?
AA Gill posited that we were the ‘Angry Isle’ and I think he’s got a point, we are aggressive-always have been- as a race. And we don’t have an outlet other than the pub. We don’t fiesta, we don’t have Carnevale, nor do we really go for a knees up on holidays like St. George’s day in the way that other countries do for their national days and/or saint’s holidays.
We are an unsupervised pressure cooker without a properly functioning lid that is occasionally vented by an uncaring chef.
We are the seething nation, busily convincing ourselves that we a still up there in the top countries of the world.
But we know, don’t we, we know deep down that that’s not the case. We eat the partially digested truths our politicians and patriarchs feed us and the bitter fuel hardly sustains us.
But there’s just enough attention to keep us from blowing.
At least in the pressure cooker, we are all in it together, aren’t we? Blitz spirit and all that. We can shout to each other and affirm ourselves by being another voice in the directionless dissent.
The fear of the alternative to the constant squeeze keeps us nicely agitated.
But we’re not really in this together are we?
There’s a whole strata of people who are clearly not in this with us, and they’re not planning on joining us any time soon.
So keep being agitated and keep jostling for room
In a pressure cooker no one can hear you scream.