Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Cool Britannia

Life is a very curious thing. The more I experience, the more pointless it seems. And I've decided that this can only be a good thing, because it means that nothing matters. Absolutely nothing. I don't believe that it is meaningless, but certainly pointless. Perhaps that's how I was able to survive. I have spent the last two days in a most unexpected and uncompromising position. Amidst the bright lights, the chaos of traffic and tourists on Piccadilly Circus, I stood. Absolutely statuesque - or something scarily close, I hope. I seem to remember wishing, not so long ago, to be noticed. Clearly some higher power heard me, and so sent me the uniform of a Grenadier Guard. Complete, of course, with Bearskin. 

Uniforms are an amazing invention. They speak to all people on behalf of the wearer. Whether an informed observer or not, a uniform will tell you something. It also speaks to the wearer. In many ways it dictates; it keeps the wearer, literally, in-line. It affects personality, thought, judgement. The simple act of "dressing" will effect this change. This particular uniform was an extremist version. Being tied into the uniform, the force pulling back one's shoulders and therefore delivering an exquisitely erect frame, was very nearly metamorphosis. It made one suddenly very serious. I had always wondered how those wonderful Palace guards were able to maintain their composure, particularly during the public's best efforts at breaking it. Suddenly, the question was answered. In that uniform, any form of speech was made near-impossible. Every facial movement became very forced and uncomfortable. The uniform wasn't in favour of any of that smiling nonsense. The final flourish of the Bearskin made it difficult to see much anyhow.

Perhaps I ought to explain what brought me to this position? Nothing much to tell, really. Sort of friend-of friend-of friend rubbish that flavours most of these stories. Suffice to say, I was asked at short-notice to fill in for somebody, effectively to promote a new-ish, and wickedly kitsch, souvenir shop on the Circus. But my, did I take my Method Acting seriously. The work supposedly entailed standing about and looking pretty, encouraging the punters inside. But to me it was oh so much more. The chance to be resolutely still, unwaveringly so. The chance to be completely silent (an unusual state for me) and the chance to people-watch. Relentless hordes from all the corners of the globe passed before my eyes. With the Bearskin, it was quite easy to completely ignore the passers-by, or pretend to do so. As one might imagine, this was not the same reaction meted out to me by the hordes.

For several hours - odd tea-break excepted - I stood. And the attention people paid me was fabulous. The image of me will now be found on countless cameras, destined for countless tags on Facebook. Ladies held my arm, gentlemen would copy my salute. The people's faces lit up with obvious delight as their turn came to pose. Most would try to make me laugh, or at least smile. I made an effort to do so for children (a tall man in a furry hat and red coat I imagine to be somewhat intimidating), but mostly I remained silent. This, I think, excited them all the more. But, as previously mentioned, speech required a concerted effort. I felt I owed it to the uniform to do the job properly. Several people wanted directions, the best I could manage was a muffled go straight on, complete with hand-signals. Had I doubted it, yesterday would have confirmed the true insanity of most of the world's people. My foot soldier was shouted at, prodded, told he was too skinny, that his cap was made of bear, that he should salute like an American, hugged, kissed, groped, offered copies of photographs and told that: "It'll be all right, mate". Will it truly? I very much doubt it.

My legs certainly were not. Absolutely anchored down by the lack of movement, they were nearly impossible to move. It felt as though they had swollen to the size of tree trunks. Those poor older ladies must suffer terribly. I found myself lying on the floor of the changing room, pedalling my legs in the air in an effort to make them workable again. It was a very strange feeling, and hardly executed in a very dignified way. I don't believe the Uniform was all that happy, but then we cannot all be happy, all the time. How dull.

I'm sure it goes without saying: the relief I felt at shedding the uniform and returning to me. Will I do it again? I'm still unsure... Perhaps with some Dutch courage. But, did I enjoy myself? Absolutely!


  1. Welcome back, dear L.W. Did you wear a uniform at school?
    Your faithful reader,

  2. I did indeed have a uniform, still sometimes wear the blazer to certain events.
    LW x

  3. Brave, brave you, Lewis! And thinking that I might have actually stumbled past you... Sabine x