For ten weeks every term, my daughter attends a drama session in the Maddermarket Theatre in central Norwich. Consequently, on many Saturdays I get and hour and a quarter to wander round town ALL ON MY OWN. Not being overly into shopping, I mostly watch the buskers (photo is of 'puppet man' - not exactly a 'busker' but well known and loved in Norwich. He plays pop tunes on his cassette player, wiggles hand puppets around to the music and places all the coins he's given in neat lines on his cardboard box), look at shops (they are quite pretty), lap up the atmosphere and enjoy bumping into people I know.
The other thing I love to do is sit at the 'STUDY ONLY - no drinks or food allowed at this table' table in Waterstones and read books from the Oxford 'Very short introduction to....lots of interesting subjects' series. (That is after I visit the education section and force all my books into very noticeable positions). The table is very near the till, so I think I might have become a familiar view for the staff. I have been known to buy these books too (I own one on Jung and another on racism) but I enjoy perusing them all. Every time I pick one up - whether it's on consciousness, the brain, sexuality, design, socialism etc - I always find something thought provoking. I have taken to asking for a pen, so I can copy bits. I have a reputation for returning the pen, so they are happy to lend me one. I have never been known for dressing smartly I so hopefully they think I am poor and possibly a little simple and the pity this assumption arouses evokes tolerance. I haven't been asked to move on yet.
Yesterday I copied this from 'A brief introduction to the meaning of life, by Terry Eagleton' who by his own admission knows such a book could not be taken entirely seriously. Anyway, near the back he wrote:
As for wealth, we live in a civilisation which piously denies that it is an end in itself and (I think that 'and' should be a 'but' shouldn't it?) treats it exactly in this way in practice. One of the most powerful indictments of capitalism is that it compels us to invest most of our creative energies (sadly so true - do we have much energy left for something more remarkable?) in matters which are in fact utilitarian (hours spent in the acquisition of more clothing, food, recipe books, footwear, soap dishes, door mats, crockery...!) The means of life become the end (oh how shallow and uncreative we are - there must be more to it). Life consists in laying the material infrastructure for living. It is astonishing that in the twenty first century the material organisation of life (washing, cleaning, etc) should bulk as large as it did in the Stone Age (isn't it just). The capital which might be devoted to releasing men and women at least to some moderate degree from the exigencies of labour is dedicated instead to the task of amassing more capital. (which we then spend mostly on laying down more of the 'material infrastructure').
It does make me think we should have moved on a bit by now.
And do you want to know what he nearly concludes is the meaning of life after one heavy and involved philosopical debate?
Love and happiness.