Mayday

Once, in the driving rain in Rossio Square in the centre of Lisbon, I saw someone who looked like a caveman devouring a pineapple in the driving rain. It was May Day, mid-afternoon, and the annual demonstration was dispersing. Through the deluge, from fifty metres away, I could just see masses of unkempt bedraggled hair and the manic gleam in his eyes as he hacked into the flesh of the fruit, like a primitive sculptor trying to destroy his artwork with his incisors, or as if the pineapple were freshly-killed red meat and fire had yet to be discovered.

On another occasion, cutting across London from Marylebone towards UCL one drizzly Monday lunchtime, I happened to notice three separate individuals standing in the rain, without umbrellas, eating sandwiches they’d bought from the supermarket. I’ve sometimes mentioned this in class when a student was struggling with the distinction between ‘standard of living’ and ‘quality of life’.

It’s 2012 or 2013. I’m in the octagonal café outside Turnpike Lane Station. Outside the rain is pelting down. Someone has ordered a pizza, maybe one of the taxi-drivers on the other side of the busy road. I watch the waiter carry it on a plate across the pavement and hold it up while he waits for the traffic to stop. The boss or whoever is in charge really should have told him to put it in a box first.

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