Just before Christmas the shop where I buy all my clothes closed down. This was traumatic for me. It was a place that imported expensive jackets, knitwear and trousers for middle-aged men such as myself who dressed slightly too young for their age and their baldness and I doubt there will be another like it. Nonetheless as the date for closure approached there were many bargains to be had and I found myself purchasing items I wouldn't normally have because they were reduced in price. One article I bought was a chunky cardigan in alpaca made by somebody Spanish called Ramon Gurillo. One of the attributes of this cardigan was that in order to give it an antique, lived-in look it had been knitted with pre-installed moth holes. At first I thought this a decadent affectation and I was intending to darn the holes but after a while I grew to like the moth-eaten look. As I considered the deliberately aged appearance of my cardy, I experienced an epiphany.
See, I have always been incredibly upset when my car has picked up little dings and scratches. Once the first scrape on the bumper appears I grow all despairing and think that the car is now ruined and I might as well throw it away. This is an especially stupid attitude for somebody like me; somebody who, while a safe driver at speeds above six mph, has a propensity below that to very slowly and deliberately reverse or drive sideways into hard, resistant objects such as brick walls, staunch metal posts and Hindu deities carved out of solid granite.
Yet if a retailer of smart apparel to portly boymen could think that a jumper with holes would look trendy then why didn't I think the same way about the dents in my car? Instantly, instead of the scrapes being horrible deforming scars they were transformed into rather stylish distressing that marked me out as the owner of a vehicle that was made even more lovely by being a bit bashed up, like a battered pair of Lobb brogues or a treasured family bible. I thought again of my cardy while at a dinner party in north London. I don't go to these things very often as all anybody seems to talk about is parking tickets, congestion charge fines, bus lane and speed camera fines. One acquaintance was moaning to myself and another friend, John, about what an injustice it was he couldn't drive as fast as he wanted and park where he wanted, expecting us to commiserate.
However, instead of doing this John said that he'd never been fined for speeding or driving in a bus lane and come to think of it neither had I. When we told the whiney friend this he was shocked but I started to wonder what it was about me and John that made us different. Certainly, we are not law-abiding conformists but I realised that we had both known danger. John is a highly political painter - Official War Artist in the first Gulf War, he's been to the West Bank, Soweto and the Amazon on a Greenpeace boat being threatened by illegal loggers, while I experienced danger when pursued through the streets of Bangalore by a furious mob after repeatedly backing my car into several Hindu deities carved out of blocks of solid granite.
The reason the whiney friend and all those other middle class fools at the dinner party kept getting fined was because they expected the world to be just, to be safe, to be fair - and that's why they keep getting tickets, because they didn't respect their enemy, the parking authorities, the speed camera people.
But John and I, because we've seen something of the real world, realise that it isn't fair or just or safe: it's random, arbitrary and cruel and so we take precautions. We slow down, we don't park on inviting stretches of private land which are suspiciously empty of cars, and we don't get caught.
All those people moaning about the injustice of their getting fined just need to do what I did concerning the dents in my car inspired by my fake moth-eaten jumper and just change their goddam attitude.Reuse content