Written a couple of months ago on one of the far-too-many aeroplanes I travel on. I seem to be much vexed by the notion of civilisation of late. Hobbyhorses arrive in my head half formed, demanding analysis and completion. I think I am not quite there with how I want to express this to myself. Soon, I hope it will be coherent.
My plane is unusually empty, presumeably because this is a Tuesday and nobody wants to go to Stuttgart much on Tuesdays. Two portly lasses with a slightly irritated air are wheeling a trolley up and down the aisle, dispensing what seem like expensive sandwiches and ghastly coffee. I don't have to pay because for some reason I was given a voucher at check-in entitling me to a free feed in the "Sky-Deli". A grandiose name for two aluminium trolleys stocked with ready made sandwiches and instant brown stuff masquerading as coffee. Had I paid I would have felt somewhat swindled.
My sandwich is handed to me along with a cardboard cup of Gold Blend. Presumeably, silver or bronze blend would be even less appetising, probably suitable for removing rusted wheel nuts on trucks.
My sandwhich is apparently made by a man called "Brian Turner" who is some kind of TV chef, so I am told. (Presumeably) his picture beams at me from the wrapper: A man in his fifties, honest-looking enough to make one feel this is a wholesome morsel, produced personally by this man of solid integrity, using reliable, good quality ingredients. His twinkly-eyes engaging smile also present, informs us that he also has a sense of humour in his sandwich making. The label informs me it was "made specailly for you!". I doubt it. Brian certainly has no idea of my existence and even if he did, I am sure he is far too busy to make his own sandwiches. More accurately it would read "Made cheerfully but indifferently by Vaclav Podolski, for minimum wage in Birmingham, who is an amiable, hard-working music graduate from Gdansk." Truth rarely sells, although, in this case, had I actually bought, it might have swayed me more than Brian's stolid charm.
It tastes of cotton wool and something vaguely tangy and I struggle to find enough saliva to assist the descent of the bread.
The clouds are not a solid floor to us today, but tiny blobs of brilliant white, irregular in shape and distribution but somehow still regular in their irregularity, as chaos tends to produce. Like a lot of huge white sea-horses, they scud across the sky in their ad-hoc shoals, calm and stately in their passage.
Below now, is a huge city. I guess it must be London. Housing estates spread unfeasably far across the landscape. In patterns designed to maximise density, thousands upon thousands of houses snake around curly closes, like fingerprints on a grand scale. The red brick monster eats the countryside for as far as I can see. Such an enormous concentration of humanity, with its trappings of cars and consumer items, its voracious appetite for food, water, electricity, dwarfs the limited comprehension my finite mind can bring to bear.
The scale of requirement for these essential nutrients of civilisation dawns on me only vaguely.
The delivery of these vital commodities must be such a huge and constant undertaking, each consumer unaware of the scale of the infrastructure bringing them clean water, heat, light, ginger, tea-bags and macdonalds.
Just imagine the precariousness: A fuel protest for a couple of days saw the beginnings of the breakdown of the machine. Buffers depleted, larders grew empty. Imagine a sustained cessation of the turning of all the cogs of the machine, or even a few critical ones.
And how few acknowledge the precariousness of existence. To grow food is hard. Few know how to do it on even a personal level. To grow enough to grace the Sunday dinner tables of Surrey with roast potatoes, chicken, beef.
A few years ago, a pulse of charged particles from the SUn caused the electrical infrastructure of Canada to completely fail. Canada is on a large block of granite, a superb insulator. Currents induced in the overhead cables tripped out their grid and the electricity stopped.
Similarly stricken, most cities are only a day away from anarchy.
And from up here, it all seems so precarious and the universe so indifferent.
The gentle curve of the horizon is just discernable. The layer of gas separating earth from sky, is miraculously held here by gravity, an oasis in a universe of rocks and hydrogen clouds.
And some of the atmosphere conspires now to roughen our passage. Seatbelt signs illuminate as soft and fluffy turn hard and bumpy
And alas, I must end for now.