You kept drinking your flat white with a smug expression as though you’d won some sort of killer point in a crucial debate. Your colleague laughed. You expounded your theory by pointing out ‘how much tax you pay into ‘the system’ compared with, and I quote, artists and ‘layabouts’.
I briefly made eye contact with the barista. I strongly suspect that you’re never getting another heart-swirl on your coffee anywhere in London. We connected for a moment, she and I. A little artistic bubble of resistance against your nihilistic world view.
One of us was going to have to make a stand.
Or maybe we don’t. Maybe the whole world thinks like you do? Maybe all us arty types are just a drain on society like you said? Maybe you were joking? Maybe you’re a new type of YouTube star who makes outrageous statements in public places and pieces together outraged reaction shots from CCTV? Or maybe not, maybe you’re just a fool.
Manners maketh the man. Do you know what that means?
I didn’t jump up and slam you face first into a table. The sad reality is that I’m not that suave or coordinated and lack dexterity with umbrellas and other daily accoutrements.
But like a lot of ‘creative people’, I’m pretty good with words. So let me paint you a picture (sorry!) of your new world order.
Let’s start in here, in Starbucks. Looks nice doesn’t it? If not actually ‘nice’, then certainly in line with other Starbucks from around the world. Let’s remove all the colour matching and paint the walls beige. Maybe we could leave the brickwork exposed, and I don’t mean in that artisan new-age way. I mean in the factory way.
That chair looks comfortable. Enjoying it? Not any more, we’re replacing the ergonomically designed and carefully upholstered chairs with wooden crates. Grab a menu, take a look at what you want to order. Any by look I mean read the options from the plain piece of paper with options typed on.
Options typed in Times New Roman. The horror.
There’s no pictures of coffee, no advertising at all really — there’s only a basic menu. Not as nice in here anymore is it? Something about the ambience is missing. Oh…and whilst we’re talking about ambience, listen. Where’s the music? There isn’t any. Not here, not anywhere.
Across London there is only the boring diegetic sounds of reality. Sniffing, farting, footsteps, traffic and the wailing of children. Living in London is like being stuck in an amateur foley studio with 8 million other people. No Christmas jingles. No buskers. Nothing.
What sort of world have you created? Feeling bad? Don’t worry…. a cake or pastry will sort that, ah, wait… there’s only bread. Plain bread. Nothing from Bake Off.
Now you’re both dressed in hessian sacks, loosely tied around the waist with rope. This is necessity rather than fashion. What to talk about? TV shows that you’re watching? You aren’t. Films that are coming out? There aren’t any. Your favourite band? Not in this world I’m afraid.
If you’re lucky, there will be some sport on in a local park. You can huddle there with other fans and cheer on either sacks or skins. There won’t be any commentary though, nobody has the creative imagination to generate excitement when the play is slow.
You’ll go home to your bland box of a house, no architectural features. The most beautiful thing in your neighbourhood is the garden. Nature will never give up being creative even if you have. You and your girlfriend can eat a wonderful meal of plain bread before a night of passionless reproductive sex.
And then in the morning…
You’ll wake up to the sound of the radio. The smell of bacon and eggs being cooked downstairs. Thank God, you’ll think, it was just a dream!
You’ll pull on your designer suit adding the colourful neck-tie in a moment of exuberance. You’ll get into your nicely designed car, and drive yourself to work, bopping your head along to your favourite tunes.
Upon arrival you’ll high-five Janet from marketing who does a stellar job supporting your business success with her design work. You’ll chat with Brad about the episode of Game of Thrones from last night. He tells you it wasn’t as good as the book — you promise to read the books.
Then the news comes through. You take Brad out for coffee to celebrate landing the big contract. You sit in the Starbucks, you smile at the actress who pours your coffee. She’s just had an audition for a Netflix series, she won’t be putting hearts in soya lattés for much longer. Big things are just around the corner. You’d be surprised what a lot of your favourite celebs did before they were your favourite celebs.
You and Brad sit in some seats next to an unassuming man in his mid-thirties. He’s beavering away on his laptop, you wonder what he’s up to. Why isn’t he at work? You bite back a comment about ‘getting a real job’.
If you’d asked him, he’d tell you that he’s editing the plays written by some inner city London kids at a primary school down the road. Over the last few weeks he’s taught them how to write to the five act structure.
Next week some actors will perform their work to them. Their parents will watch, for some of the children, it’s the first time they’ve seen theatre. Sure he thinks, his job won’t change the world, but it might change someone’s world.
If you invited this man to join you, you’d find out his writing career began with a theatre company visiting his school when he was 11. You’d find that he’s the first person in his family to go to University. He’d tell you that the scope of his ambition before creativity crashed into his world was to work in a factory like his Dad and Grandad.
If you took him out for a drink he might get a little merry and tell you how economic success isn’t a good measure of how well society functions. Business and employment is necessary for society to function, but it is art and creativity that makes society worth functioning for.
You catch his eye and share a moment.Then, just as you go to say something glib about creative people not paying their dues, you remember that dream. You don’t say anything at all. You just sip your coffee.
I knock over my umbrella anyway and it falls into your leg. The narrative structure demanded it I’m afraid.