« | Home | »

A Near Encounter

Tags: | | | | | |

David Cameron and I visited the Open University the other day, he to give a speech to the world, me to learn something about day-old chicks and biochemistry. Neither of us knew the other was going to be there. I was told at the reception desk to wait on one of the seats behind me and handed a label, one of those clip things I can never work out how to fix to myself. As I turned to go to the chairs, preoccupied with my label dyspraxia, someone grabbed me by my elbow and pulled me to the left. I dislike being grabbed so I pulled away and carried on the way I was going. But I’d failed to notice that the world had changed while I had my back to the room, and a semicircle of large chests in suits were claiming all the space for the man at their centre. Walking towards me, as I was towards him, David Cameron, slick as an oil spill, tailored to within an inch of all our lives, made his way to the reception desk to sign the visitors’ book.

The danger of collision only lasted a second or two before I swerved left to one of the seats, but as I walked directly in his path his face performed an expression – lit up, I’d say, except that even with what looked like make up, David Cameron’s doughy face is not designed to emit light. The smile came all of a piece, public smile number 3, the one you use when a voter is coming towards you and you’re not sure if there’s going to be confrontation or congratulation, but you have to keep the look right because the fucking cameras are clicking.  Actually, I was just going where I was going, and hadn’t twigged that I’d landed in a Special Moment.

It appears that public figures like David Cameron have to walk in straight lines, from point A to point B, unlike regular folk who expect other people to be using the same world and learn to accommodate. Even penguins – which do have certain Cameron-like qualities – can manage it: if you stand in their way, they stop dead in front of you, conclude that you are a novel sort of rock, and then make an impatient detour around you to return to their chosen path. Unlike the penguins, Mr Cameron had his minders to make sure nothing got in the way of his straight-line progress.

In the event, we didn’t collide, I found a chair and waited for my friend, while David (I feel I can call him that now) continued his uninterrupted route to the waiting visitors’ book. But the thrum and zing of importance, of hot lights, of air-time past and future, clogged the atmosphere: a VIP was visiting and I now saw that everyone, the receptionists, his hosts, even his minders, were rigid with excitement and reverence. Strange, when you come to think of it, because the Open University is stuffed with illustrious, serious thinkers and educators, not least the biochemist I was going to visit, who finally arrived to take me to his laboratory. ‘I’ve just bumped into David Cameron,’ I told him. ‘Oh,’ he said.

Comments on “A Near Encounter”

  1. Doghouse says:

    Is it tolerable to stretch the imagination beyond banality and suggest that David Cameron is (in limited ways) much like a day-old chick? No, not really. But heck, why not?
    Growing under a media spotlight, clucking enthusiastically at expectant attention, franticly lunging at small grains of feed, which if consumed regularly and with great ambition, will eventually lead to the desired, plump state of henhood or (if he were a wee cockerel) maybe cockhood.
    Just like Jenny, as we find ourselves face-to-face with a potentially fowl subject, oven-ready, well-packaged and garnished, we ask the fundamental moral question, is he organic? Or is he suspiciously cheap and convienient, keen to satisfy the hungry, good for no other reason than because he is prêt à manger?

    mmmmm… Chicken.

  2. Phil says:

    I blame the cameras as much as anything. To walk in a straight line on TV is to Walk In A Straight Line, other human beings be damned; the path ahead should be as unpopulated as the road ahead on a car advert, or else something’s amiss. The situationists said years ago that the spectacle was a technology of isolation, and they weren’t wrong.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • name on Who is the enemy?: Simply stating it is correct doesn't make it so, I just wish you would apply the same epistemic vigilance to "Muslim crimes" as you do to their Hebrew...
    • Glen Newey on Unwinnable War: The legal issue admits of far less clarity than the simple terms in which you – I imagine quite sincerely – frame them. For the benefit of readers...
    • Geoff Roberts on The New Normal: The causes go back a long way into the colonial past, but the more immediate causes stem from the activities of the US forces in the name of freedom a...
    • sol_adelman on The New Normal: There's also the fact that the French state denied the mass drownings of '61 even happened for forty-odd years. No episode in post-war W European hist...
    • funky gibbon on At Wembley: If England get France in the quarter finals of Euro 16 I expect that a good deal of the fraternity will go out the window

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Edward Said: The Iraq War
    17 April 2003

    ‘This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology.’

    David Runciman:
    The Politics of Good Intentions
    8 May 2003

    ‘One of the things that unites all critics of Blair’s war in Iraq, whether from the Left or the Right, is that they are sick of the sound of Blair trumpeting the purity of his purpose, when what matters is the consequences of his actions.’

    Simon Wren-Lewis: The Austerity Con
    19 February 2015

    ‘How did a policy that makes so little sense to economists come to be seen by so many people as inevitable?’

    Hugh Roberts: The Hijackers
    16 July 2015

    ‘American intelligence saw Islamic State coming and was not only relaxed about the prospect but, it appears, positively interested in it.’

Advertisement Advertisement