Observation

There’s an interesting French word, “flâneur”. Translated it could mean: stroller, lounger, saunterer, loafer. An idle wanderer having no particular destination or objective. Flânerierefers to the activity of strolling and there are people in France, especially in Paris who are flâneurs. It sometimes seems as if the entire city is populated with them. And while they strolled, they observed and while they observed, some of them took notes. Sherlock Holmes once said to Watson ‘you see but you do not observe’. Most of us just ‘see’, most of the time.
The extraordinary slides imperceptibly into the commonplace, gliding past our consciousness as if non-existent, or it only existed as a fleeting, half-remembered impression, instantly forgotten. What colour was the coat the woman was wearing? What was curious about the dog across the road? Why did the man in the car seem to be waiting too long before turning?
Writers sometimes sit in cafés, watching. They fleetingly devise scenarios, stories about the people that pass them, who never notice that they are there. The mental filing cabinet fills with thoughts and ideas. It’s easier with individuals. An impression crystallises almost instantly, a collection of information about gait, facial expression, dress and a multitude of non-verbal signals which are assembled at lightning speed, the limbic and reptilian brain assessing threat, fear, anger or desire.
By way of explanation, I was turned loose in the city yesterday for a little bit of flânerie and found myself sitting at the interface between two arrondissements, drinking coffee. There was noise across the street. Several men, Afro-Caribbean in appearance, were talking loudly amongst themselves. Arms were waving, fingers being pointed and a few pushes and shoves exchanged. To Western eyes, this looked close to the breakout of a violent, possibly drug-fuelled confrontation. Very few stopped to watch. Parisians don’t. After a few minutes, as swiftly as it had started, all was quiet. People went their separate ways.

I found myself wondering what were the circumstances that led to the small window of events that I had witnessed. Possibilities flitted ephemerally through my mind before I just filed it all away in the mental lockup. One of these days, I might pull all the files out of the filing cabinet, put them all together and call it a novel.

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Work to Rule

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This isn’t altogether my own. In fact, it’s shamelessly plagiarised from somewhere or other with a bit of my own creative editing to bring it up to date. To the individual who first produced it in an obviously gin-sodden haze, I raise a metaphorical ‘l’chaim’ to you.

From a pillar of British journalism. The facts on the ground.

“The unrest began last Tuesday when Hamas announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber or other mujahid would receive after his death will be cut by 25% after Eid, from 72 to 54. The rationale for the cut was the increase in recent months of the number of  battlefield casualties whose sacrifice falls into the ‘martyrdom’ category and a subsequent shortage of virgins in the afterlife. Other terrorist groups followed suit, including ISIL and Hizbullah. The subsequent demonstrations stopped short of burning Palestinian flags, so a few Israeli ones were burnt instead.

The suicide bombers’ union, the British Organization of Occupational Martyrs (or B.O.O.M.) responded with a statement that this was unacceptable to its members and immediately balloted for strike action. General Secretary Anjem Choudary (no relation) told the Press: ‘Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of jihad. We don’t ask for much in return but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth.’

Speaking from his five-bedroomed house paid for with jizya from the British taxpayer, he explained: ‘We sympathise with our workers’ concerns but we are not in a position to meet their demands. They are not accepting the realities of modern-day jihad in a competitive marketplace.’

‘Thanks to Western depravity, especially in London, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It’s a straight choice between reducing expenditure and laying people off. I don’t like cutting wages but I’d hate to have to tell several thousand of my staff that they won’t be able to blow themselves up.’ Spokespersons for the union in the Northeast of England, the city of Aberdeen, the whole of Ireland, Wales and the entire Australian continent stated that the strike would not affect their operations as “..there are no virgins in our areas anyway”.