online: 19 may 2004
modified: 19 may, 2 june 2004

(designed to be read with the window set to two-thirds of the screen width)

18 may 2004 meandering towards restart

11.25 Kensington Gardens. A sunny morning. Half-circle seat with stone back near to Renaissance style pavilion and fountains. This is the most expensive part of London. As soon as I sit, a feather (shed by a flying bird?) comes sailing towards me. It's white. I put it in my wallet. I prefer it to money.

A man with a jeep-like vehicle comes to sweep up the white petals on the ground. He says he's only been in the job a few days. Another man is wading in waterproof boot-trousers that go up to his armpits as he removes weed from the ornamental pond.

The traditional fountains and the symmetrical architecture are too stiff and too predictable for me. I came here to get away from my habitual surroundings while I think about what I'm calling restart.

As I wrote that, two fashionably dressed women with children in buggies sit next to me as they eat ice lollipops. One of them carries a new squeegee mop... and now another woman comes to sit on the half-circle seat and begins to read something.

I am certainly out of my habitual surroundings but I feel it's too much for me, I'm among people engulfed in role and privilege, high and low.

A man is doing press-ups on a low railing, his body and legs are stiff like a piece of iron... and now he strides away showing the enlarged muscles of his chest and arms.

Meandering, I revisit the Serpentine Gallery and buy a postcard of a painting by Francesco del Cossa - the Annunciation (of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, mother of Jesus - enacted in a tight composition of Renaissance pillars, arches, windows and vistas.) The replacement of the sexual act by belief in a God who intervenes in formalised physical reality.

An hour or two later I see an ingenious wheelchair - the manual kind but with electric motors in the wheel hubs and a small battery plugged in near one of the motors. It seems to be sophisticated enough to allow manual and electric power to combine. So there is some adaptability and progress, but only in detail, in the industrial culture as it is. The real need, I believe, is to change the culture itself (that is, to change our self images and our over-specialised economic roles).

I was in time to witness a test flow of water round the circular fountain (Princess Diana memorial). The men building it were paddling like children in the gushing water channel. A policeman and a policewoman stopped to watch and I asked if this was the first time the fountain had been turned on. They said yes.

These little stories - are they parables of something? They surprise me each time I find myself writing them.

My supposed purpose is to combine the sublime with the concrete, or to find them combined in each moment. But it may be wiser not to mention this?

What I hope to deliberately miss out, in my restart, is the world of specialised roles and hierarchical controls and commands that I believe is preventing us discovering the culture that is called for by our now more flexible technologies, and by the eventual disappearance of the rigid technology and management of the wheel and the boss... That's a bit of a mouthful (and indeed I've tried to pack too much conscious meaning into that sentence) but some day this thought will find itself in more poetic or colloquial words - by which time we may be wondering what the argument was about.

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