30 august 2003 social changes

17:58 Outdoor cafe. Many gathering with hampers and such for a lake side concert - an opera 'Barnaby' says someone I asked... 'I've only been to one in my life' he says...

[Later I asked several people and none knew what music was to be played though they were paying about 15 to 25 (say 25-40 euros or dollars) to listen to it. The women in the box office told me it is a miscellany of excerpts from popular operas like Don Giovanni and La Boheme. They told me it was the last night of the Kenwood Proms and would be followed by fireworks.]

Everyone here looks prosperous and I wonder if they are the (conscious or unconscious?) enemies of the social changes I am seeking - afternature, creative democracy, etc. etc. - changes difficult to imagine, let alone achieve, and threatening to all kinds of jobs?

But surely nothing new can happen without such people as these - nor without poor people. Can constructive realism be the whatever it will take to attract or involve everyone, rich and poor, in the transformation that is needed but which nearly all of us resist and obstruct, perhaps without knowing it.

An oldish woman, somewhat frail, goes by loaded with a huge back pack such as only a servant or a mule might have carried before industrialism. She looked like someone whose load, a century ago, would have been carried by her grandchildren, or servants.

The man who is clearing the tables tells me he visited my website - he wondered if I remembered giving him the web address. I did. He enjoyed it. He said he is doing a doctorate in chemical engineering and he is also the production manager in a rubber and plastics manufacturing company in Sri Lanka. He wants to keep in touch.

I am amazed to see so many educated people working now as servants. A good sign, I think, if it loosens social barriers and makes us readier to accept multiple roles of varying status. It could be the beginning of the profound social changes that I've always assumed must eventually happen.

At the station strangers were talking to each other because the indicator was showing only the times of trains of an hour or two ago. We were making fun of this unpunctual railway.

A woman asked me if I'd been in the total stoppage of trains when the electricity failed a few days ago. I told how I'd gone to central London only to buy a particular brand of toothpaste when the power failed and the underground stations closed and I found I could not easily return. So I visited a second hand bookshop and bought a book (which I found on an otherwise empty shelf) - it was by Alexander Herzen whom I'd never read, or even heard of, until recently. I'm presently reading Russian history, and theories of history, by E H Carr and R G Collingwood so this book is just right for me at the moment... He sounds like the kind of person I like - he puts human qualities before abstractions.

The woman told me that she is 'a superfluous person' (meaning that she is without a job) and that she writes poems in English. Her family is in Ghana and Britain and she says she is very anglicised but can also speak, but not write, a Ghanian language. I know the feeling as I can speak some Welsh but cannot write it. A modern predicament.

22:43 On my way back I gathered blackberries in my water bottle and now I am digesting an egg pie which contained half of them. I like the contrast between making a meal of wild fruit and the expensive-looking picnics on tartan rugs that I passed as I went from the outdoor concert towards the blackberry bushes. Romanticism? Yes! ...Social changes don't have to be entirely serious and can anything good be done without some idealism?

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