Tuesday, 22 July 2008

No Time to Stand and Stare?

It's just after nine in the morning and I'm on a bus from Pensnett to Merry Hill, in the Black Country.

In between Merry Hill itself and the shopping centre we pass a cluster of old, council tower blocks. On a second floor balcony of one of these a very white man leans against the railing smoking a cigarette. He is middle aged with short greying hair and has no top on to cover his protruding gut. Beneath the railing the balcony is enclosed by thick glass, and through this I can see his bare legs, and white shorts of a similar enough shade to his fishbelly skin to momentarily give the alarming impression that he is entirely naked.

This is a summer morning in name only. There is a cold breeze blowing, which must be colder still up there. The sky is dark and it has only recently stopped raining. The rest of the world is in jackets and coats.

There is nothing about the man's appearance that suggests the kind of pride in his physique which might lead to him to consider the cold to be a price worth paying in order to have his body on display. From the way he leans, puffing on his cigarette and idly contemplating the world below him it is easy to believe that instead he considers the cold is worth enduring in order to avoid the effort of getting dressed.

Did you know that Ambition used to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins? The list was originally part of the ancient religion of Mithraism before being adopted by Christianity where Ambition was rehabilitated and replaced with Gluttony.

My man on the balcony seems almost immorally out of step in a capitalist society, but I can't help thinking that he would have made a good Mithraic

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