As I was walking away from the venue this evening, I noticed the intersecting street was blocked off by paramedic cars. Small groups of people were standing around on the pavements watching. In the middle of the road, somebody was being rolled in what looked very much like a tablecloth. They were in the middle of the road. There was no sign of a fucked up motorbike from my angle, but the road had been cordoned off. I had no idea what had killed the person. But the human shaped thing wrapped in a cloth was very much not an alive person, and it was in the middle of the road. As I walked further I saw a full size ambulance approaching, sirens on.
Fuck knows what happened there. But there was a dead human in the road, right next to my work. There is a structure in this society that covers over death. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with it. Whatever happened to this human, the first reaction was to cover their remains. The road was blocked and a local business lent tablecloths once the paramedic cars had drawn a flatline – unless the paramedics have tableclothlike things. At the time I walked by, the paramedics were rolling the body in cloth. The ambulance came as I was walking away.
Maybe it could’ve been left for longer. Maybe more people could’ve seen the body. Maybe. Because we really don’t get death in this society. It isn’t seeded into our understanding of life when we are young. It should be. But death comes as a shock to too many people. I was young when it took my parents, but there are plenty who are younger and less prepared.
I think we shouldn’t be as protected from it as we are. I think that we should encounter it more closely. Halloween for instance. How much more healthy if it’s about the people we loved who are gone than if it’s about pretendy ghosties and skeletons. These tropes have come out of avoidance. It can still be about ghoulies and ghosties but you can set a place at the table for grandpa in front of the kids or something, and just bring in that helpful thing about memory and the fact that we are not forever.
Anyway, I walked across London today after another lovely show, and forgot to take any photos until I thought I might wait for a bus. The performance space is about an hour on foot from my house, and forty minutes by public transport. I tend to walk back, although it’s tempting to get a bus and write as we drive. Tonight the timings were all wrong though and I was on my own. I wandered past all the huge Christmas lights. Mixed in with all this brightness, young homeless women in supermarkets try to persuade you to buy them nappies. I bought two packs the other day. Why not. Angry eyed men ask for change. Others prostate themselves with signs.
We are into election fever. People are starting to polarise themselves. Liberals are idiots. Tories are sociopaths. Corbyn is stupid. Boris is dishonest.
Fuck the personalities. All I see is the NHS. Life vs Death. I see the American system. I see how extraordinary our system is by comparison. Yes, if you’re rich, vote Tory. They’ll help you stay rich. If you’re not rich though, don’t get sick or you’re dead.
That body in the road. Two paramedic cars. A full on ambulance. Without the NHS, the next of kin would’ve got a bill for actual thousands of pounds. For their dearest dying unexpectedly in an inconvenient place. “Remember when we lost everything because mum died in Mayfair at Christmastime?”
Fuck that. But it’s where we look to be going.