Saturday, 13 September 2014

Respecting the Worker

To the Labour Exchange to discuss my stately-as-a-galleon progress towards work that doesn't exist. My new minder was rather self-deprecating - "I'd be quite good at this job if I didn't keep losing paper" - but I think she's rather good. She'd picked up an application pack for a potentially interesting job at a some sort of bunfight the other day, and put it in the post for me (on Monday, it arrived on Friday) and even found, but lost, a flyer about tour guiding. It was rather a nice feeling to be thought of in my absence, so that counts for something, even though I privately consider her task impossible.

And then a leisurely stroll through Oxford's busying streets, slowly crowding with shoppers, tourists, and students, until I'd had enough of them, and headed back to the bus stop. I prefer the back streets, for their charisma as much as their quietness, and was rather unexpectedly accosted by Mormons in New College Lane. Two of them, plainer than usual, and implausibly, given their youth, marked with the badge "Elder". One was German, I think, the other American. I've noticed before that it's rarely any use saying you're a Christian priest to these people, but I did it anyway. They wanted to talk about baptism and seemed very intense that there is only one correct way to do it, as it says so in the Book of Mormon. You could talk about symbolism, the authority of books, diversity of style and practice, and all the rest, but it would be like water off a full immersion. There was absolutely no respect for the fact that I knew abundantly more about the question than they did - obviously they weren't going to agree with me, that didn't matter (although of course, it does to people with that cast of mind), but a little respect would have gone a long way to prolonging the conversation. In its absence I went to find my bus.

Alighting in Barton, at the top of the hillside with the park, and playground, and the view over the fields, there was lawn-mowing in progress. I well remember when we first got a ride-on mower for the lawn in my parents' half-acre garden in Sussex, over thirty years ago. It was red, and replaced the big green petrol mower we had before, which, as it weighed a ton, was quite good exercise when you had to spin it round at the end of each stripe. But the new red toy was enormous fun, and quite clearly the chap in the park was having a ball too, whirling like a dervish.

But I didn't tell him how to do his job.

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
September 2014

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