Saturday, 14 February 2009

Big Old Ideas

It's late afternoon and I'm walking through Strood, in Kent, on my way to collect a car from a firm of roadsweepers on a nearby industrial estate.

The walk takes me along the edge of the wide river Medway, down a quiet dead-end road, where yellow signs are stuck to the lamposts, warning that there are both visible and hidden cameras monitoring the area. I wonder what nefarious purposes people have been using this spot for.

The river is dotted with small old boats, rusting quietly away. Lurking in the midst of them is a large black submarine with a small red Soviet hammer and sickle on the side.

soviet sub

You might think that such a sight would leap out at any passer-by unfamiliar with the area, but I almost fail to notice it. It looks as old and rusty as the boats it sits amongst and seems somehow to be more in keeping with the area than you might expect, perhaps because this dilapidated place itself seems to be a reminder of another time, when we were a more industrial country and people were less averse to big ideologies (not just communism but any -ism).

Apparently as a nation we have managed to borrow four times our collective annual income, which would have been a neat trick if we had gotten away with it. But if the money that never really existed continues to vanish, and belts keep on tightening, I wonder if people will begin to decide that they really ought to start believing in something again?

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