Out of the city they ran, with great speed and intent, to where the harsh rule of the little Caesars could not shackle them; where usurious debts were not counted and where all trading was banned. Rejoicing, they joined hands and soon found themselves at the foot of a sacred mountain. Climbing it, they, in their multitude, looked down upon their patrician rulers and vowed to forbid their merciless powers. Councils sat, tribunes were created, laws were passed and a temple of concord was built. The city was empty. Money was useless. The gentry became redundant. The plebs were victorious.
Even as the children danced and eyes were filled with tears of joy; even as hearts swelled with pride; even as the crowds clapped and cheered; even as the plaudits flowed; even as the hyperbole swelled and the superlatives thundered and the fireworks lit up the sky; even as a nation rejoiced; even as the world watched: they were busy sneering; burying their hands in their pockets; turning a blind eye; out on a limb, not having the stomach; cutting back staff; pulling away beds; dismantling the letters N, H and S, plunging the needy into a long dark night.
They do not listen to me and I do not care. They shout amongst themselves, deaf to pleas of order, order. I have a plan. They know but hardly share their thoughts. They only vainly oppose, and meek protestations coalesce into a sticky goo. I laugh, send deputations of sneering divisiveness: a ploy. Do my bidding, go on. They dance their merry dance even as the weight of disapproval comes, swinging low, the murmurs turn angry. But noise means nothing. It fades. I do not listen. I walk out of the door. I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.
“If in doubt… leave it out. That’s what they say. They mean, if in doubt… abandon. Resist. Take your leave. Disengage. Only fight the battles you can win. History only remembers a winner. These are the maxims of success. It’s a money, time, success thing – a ratio of sorts. If there was a policy of abandonment, rather than a policy of struggle, then the electorate would not see the party as struggling. A small success is better than a great failure. There’s nothing immoral about being modest. So let us abandon health, education, welfare, Europe, as we intended abandoning Liverpool.”
Stuffy and straightlaced, that’s a square. A word parents say, or are. Fearful, inward-looking, conservative, old-fashioned and boring. Boring most of all. That’s a square.
And the box shape of houses, dotted along roads. Little boxes with hats on, regulation size and order. Boring. Terraces and semis, square gardens, rooms.
Or the symmetrical flats and maisonettes, linked by decks of walkways, in rectangular slab towers of concrete. The sleek squares of modernity, left to crumble.
The squares where people meet, met, opening up the grey planning to communities. Puncturing repression and uniformity, letting people gather, think. What is square; who?
A light aircraft just dropped out of the sky, enmeshed, literally, in its own trail of propaganda. Over our own heads are helicopters and, down in the square below, hundreds of office workers have congregated for a fire drill.
We are booking my birthday meal and discussing people’s relationships: how friends are feeling; what might happen in future.
I have made an Earl Grey tea with an out-of-date tea bag. Now it’s back to work.
The sun is out. Tonight we will drink.
Things go up. Things come down. It’s how they land that counts; the state we’re all in.