I don’t always see the difference between children and adults. Rather, I don’t see adults, only children. Children everywhere, shopping with pushchairs, snoring in suits on morning trains, smoking outside bars of an evening: children all. I see them now with tinsel and antlers on their heads, Santa hats, stressing about the last days at work, meeting up with family, squeezing in their end-of-term office drinks with suitcases and bags of gift-wrapped presents, rushing round the supermarkets, loading up their cars with their own children. No one gets much beyond childhood. But some have the chance to live for longer.
The little man at the side of the road where the hearses do their U-turns is pointing at passing pedestrians and shouting ‘You’ll never get out! And you’ll never get out! But you’ll get out! But you’ll never get out!’
I fall into the ‘Never get out’ category.
My coffee has gone cold and I am hungry, having skipped eating again. A caffeine/calorie trade-off. I should know.
Later, as I leave for home, water gushes from a pipe, soaking the reinforced concrete embankments by the train station where I spot a new piece of graffiti. It says, ‘City of sludge’.
The reporter speaks to camera from the steps, recently swept, across the churchyard where huddles of tourists peer at maps and hold up camera phones, squinting into screens.
A TV is being watched.
The camera’s banal gaze focuses on the grey flagstones. Everything is clean as if a uniformity has returned, a natural order resumed.
Laughter is heard.
[Off stage a tented green, colourful banners, cups of tea. But the cameras will not travel and the gaze will not turn. Attention is fixed on the clean stage. The question is how to depict what is not ever to be presented.]
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?