Matthew Bell: Rant & Rave (06/05/12)

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The Independent Online


Of the 58 stories about obesity in last week's papers, none mentioned the actual reason we're a nation of wibbly-wobblies. I hit on it when I arrived at a meeting and was told the lift was out of order. Would I manage taking the stairs up two floors?

As someone who spends every morning Benny Hill-ing up and down six flights because I've forgotten my keys, wallet or mobile on the third floor, two was a doddle. Nor do I understand people who stand patiently on escalators, waiting to be spewed forth like a blob off a production line, instead of taking the opportunity to halve their journey time by walking. The office escalator has been out of action lately, so we all perform a clanking chicken-step as we get on; turns out a non-moving moving walkway is weirdly unsettling.

So here's how to tackle obesity: ban lifts and escalators for buildings with fewer than three storeys, and bring back the sweeping staircase, except for the disabled. That should get those blobs off the horizon.


Nothing breaks the ice like a ballot box. In London, where on a typical day more people will elbow you than say hello, suddenly everyone's a village postmistress, all smiles and nods as you pass them at the voting station.

It's thanks to the brief suspension of modern life: you shuffle into a chilly hall, you report to a row of Miss Marples who aren't on Twitter, and you exercise your democratic right with nothing more hi-tech than a piece of paper, a box and a stub of pencil on a string. Never mind that you momentarily forget everything you believe in, and vote for the Alliance of Bringing Back Bendy Buses on a Tuesday.

The joy comes from being reminded, for the briefest of moments, that we live in a democracy, and we get to have our say. Sort of.