The Philip Larkin Memorial “poor soul” emoticon

it is just a Monday morning writing exercise made public. Watch out for errors of logic and spelling. These posts are written speedily. 

Sitting, drinking coffee, on a platform at Darlington station, I heard a yelp and and a fleshy crash. I turned around and saw a woman in early old age lying on the floor, the rubber stopper on her walking stick having failed to prevent a victory for gravity. With speed, she had been surrounded by concerned passers-by and station employees, all cooing with concern. I wondered if I should get involved. Beyond any personal wish to aid the broken, I started to worry that if I didn’t get up and join the people saying, “Are you okay? should we call an ambulance? Do you know who the current prime minister is? Is this your chihuahua?”, then others may look at me with Lee Van Cleef eyes, whispering, “why didn’t that man come and help like the rest of us. Surely he knows more people should be standing around this woman making concerned faces if this poor old dear has nay hope of ever standing up again. He’s probably from the south, somewhere cruel like Stevenage.” So, it took all my will not to get up and join the rest, despite my fear of public scorn and judgement.

What could I do? I attended an evening run by a nurse on what to do if your baby has a febrile convulsion, but I don’t think that would be much medical use in this scenario.

“Quick, strip her down to her vest and hold her up by an open window”. Useful advice for dealing with a feverish baby, becomes an instruction that can sully a reputation when directed to a stumbling septuagenarian. 

 Should I rush forward, arms muscularly forcing people out of my way, “make room, make room, I have regularly worked with Professor Brian Cox. Now madam, if you just raise your head a little, i will explain the standard model of particle physics and what the top quarks in your bruised knee may be doing. If that doesn’t help, I’ll explain who you can theorise that in another universe you neither slipped nor came to Darlington. Now give me room!”

 Our 21st century traits can seem to veer wildly between, “I am not going to get involved, I’ll pretend I couldn’t hear the screaming over the noise of my Sudoku thoughts”, and a desire, especially in the virtual world, to show constant concern. We wear our impotent heart on our sleeve and decorate it with a bracelet of emoticons. Sometimes, we ask how others feel in the hope their reply will act as an opening sluice gate for us to pour forth how we feel. We can be more concerned with showing our concern over some issues than with the issue itself. Creatures hungry for narrative enjoy creating melodrama, and social media is a minute by minute melodrama machine. (While I write this, I can hear the sound of The Wright Stuff seeping from another room, where a panel gasp and frown and pontificate on this morning’s tragedies and fripperies with all the gravitas required for daytime viewing by people sitting in their pants with fingers in a jar of Nutella and sleep dust cracking on their lashes). There is a glee in the furrowed brow and hand wringing when a celebrity death allows us to show we are good because we publicly sad. 

 So aware of being observed, it can be a tricky path of self-aggrandising and self-censorship, and actions taken for fear of rebuke. At least free will is an illusion, I can put much down to my unconscious brain getting me in situations that my conscious mind then has to explain. “I am sorry I didn’t leap to inaction when you fell, it was my reptile brain again. My inner iguana is indifferent to human distress.” I want to be an activist. I fear I’ll be a busybody. Should I just stay sitting here? (and no, I have no Nutella and I am wearing trousers)

I am off to Chorley, Brighton, Newcastle, York, Glasgow and a town near you sometime in 2014. Dates HERE

The one and only London date of this tour is on Wednesday. Tickets HERE


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One Response to The Philip Larkin Memorial “poor soul” emoticon

  1. Usually any more than 3 people crowding around a person in distress are not helping, are in the way, and concernedly gawking.

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