In one of my blogs last year I explained that a mixture of being extremely literal, having a vivid imagination and a tendency to wander off into my own head proved a lethal combination during my time in educational establishments, which often led to me Getting the Wrong End of the Stick
I thought I’d continue this theme; it turned out I completely misunderstood the entire Industrial Revolution which means Primary 6 was a bit of a waste of time. Up until that point I had only come across the word ‘revolution’ in relation to people e.g. the French Revolution, so I assumed that revolution always involved people uprising in some way. So, when I was informed the Industrial Revolution was about machines taking over from people I took this literally and understood this to mean machines took over from people in a Cyborg, being assimilated kind of way.
I admit I found this a strange concept but my literal interpretation of the Industrial Revolution was reinforced by a segment we did in our school play that year. The piece of theatre our teacher chose to delight parents in the audience involved three sections, each depicting a topic we’d been learning that year. The sections were the book Ann of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Brazil and the Industrial Revolution. In the section we performed about the Industrial Revolution, our teacher had us make cardboard bits for arms and legs and these were worn by some kids in the class who then moved them in coordinated movements to look like a machine, thereby reinforcing the idea that people became machines.
I think the idea that I could accept the concept of cyborg assimilation at such a young age is evidence I was a kid before my time. Or just a bit thick. You choose.
I amused myself by watching a programme about people who believe the Mayans prophesied the end of the world on 21st Dec 2012. Unfortunately, the programme was pants as it did that infuriating thing that documentary makers have got into in recent years where they summarise everything before and after the adverts, so in an hour-long programme you get about 20 minutes of original content. Treating viewers like complete idiots is de rigueur these days it seems.
Anyhoo, despite these annoyances I like nothing better than hearing about people who are preparing for an apocalypse. Their mindsets are so contrary to mine, I find them a veritable hoot. Firstly, the Mayans don’t seem to have predicted anything about the end of the world. They may have thought that some major change was on the cards for December 2012 but nothing has survived to explain what that might be. It fascinates me that the those interested in this kind of thing automatically jump to the conclusion it must be a majorly bad big change. How come it’s always doomsayers who get all worked up about prophecies? It would be really refreshing if prophecy believers thought something marvellous is going to happen like, maybe, getting invaded by incredibly helpful and groovy aliens. Or there could be a lunar eclipse followed by a major cosmic display that would put any firework show you’d ever seen seem like a damp squib and no harm would come to anyone except maybe a few cricked necks from looking skywards. Where’s your imagination prophecy people? Why has it always got to be meteors hurling into earth, unfriendly alien invasions or people paying for their alleged sins?
The other thing I find hilarious about apocalypse predictors is they all seem desperate to stick around after the destruction of the planet. Weirdly, the majority of apocalypse predictors seem to be very religious types who I’m given to understand believe in some kind of afterlife so I find it a bit confusing that they want to stick around in a toxic postapocalyptic world when they could be hanging out in Heaven strumming a harp or whatever the activities are in Paradise. If a meteor is heading this way anytime soon, I say, let me be standing right under it: let me be amongst the first to be obliterated from Planet Earth in a quick and painless manner. I’m the sort of person who falls apart if my central heating plays up so the idea that I could be of any use to man or beast in a postapocalyptic world is laughable. I certainly would not want to hang around to participate in the blossoming emergence of a brave new world; a new world made up of apocalyptic predictors. That’s a challenging gene pool right there. Personally, I can’t see the human race odds improving with that little gang.
There was a woman in this programme who was giving Powerpoint presentations on the apocalypse before taking the group out to the wilderness for a bit of foraging and other survival skills. Is it just me, or is there something deeply amusing about using Powerpoint for this kind of exercise? There was a guy who sold bomb shelters, the sales of which are increasing steadily in some areas of the States. These bomb shelters were set up like a dorm with two bunk-beds, a bit of kitchen, some seating, all in one long metal tube which is buried deep in the ground. The idea is you stay down there with your family to avoid the mayhem going on up above. Basically, you’re escaping the apocalypse so you can be driven slowly mad by being cooped up in a tiny space with your family, presumably so you can kill each other at your leisure. Oh, the rapture.
I got an email from my friend Margaret recently on the subject of moving a kitchen table from Scotland to England. As the conversation went back and forth I realised she wasn’t talking about any kitchen table, but one of the kitchen tables that looms large in my life. Actually, it’s one of those kitchen tables that looms large in many people’s lives. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but from memory, the table isn’t much to look at but that’s really not the point. Legendary kitchen tables seem infused with the ebbs and flows of humanity that go on around them, they seem to hum with life. During the email exchange I found myself getting quite emotional about the table and I don’t think I’m alone. In a quick vox pop about among people I know who sat around the table, the feedback was instant and evocative. Recollections and stories were offered of the lives that revolved around it, from ‘I giggled more around that table probably more than any other time in my life’ to ‘Lots of cheese and tomato sandwiches and lots of laughter’ and from Margaret ‘Thank God it can’t talk, that’s all I can say!’
In many ways I think of Margaret’s kitchen table as seeing us through the Thatcher years. We sat around that kitchen table for hours, the old aga belting out heat, drinking endless cups of tea. We lived through a time of mass unemployment around that table, at one point I only knew one person my age with a job. Everyone was totally skint. We saw her son learn to play chess at the end of that table. We witnessed her daughter, a freakishly early walker, toddle underneath it from one end to the other, completely upright. Her elderly father would come in occasionally, to polish his shoes beside the aga.
We had intimate girl talk delving into the murkiest of subjects before the strumming of a guitar would remind us that Margaret’s then partner, Willie, was still in this room. ‘Oh God, Willie,’ one of us would say ‘We forgot you were there. You heard all that!’ Willie would just look up and grin before going back to his unobtrusive strumming.
Other kitchen tables loom large in my life; my Auntie Viki’s; my mother’s; my friend Anne’s. Some tables just seem to have that kind of life, where a huge variety of characters meet around it and all aspects of human interaction, from the momentous to the trivial are played out over months and years. Surely, we’ve all got at least one major table in our lives? Is there anybody out there without at least one table full of memories?