What happened to the amber light ? The crossing near me has become a much less organised affair with red for longer, green for longer and open to the interpretation of the wheelwackos, who target anything in their way “because I am riding a bicycle” – ie flavour of the clean air month, no registration or licensing system and cannot be held accountable: file under “can’t catch me !” Transport for London recently asked for feedback on a cycle super highway : it’s a waste of public money. Large numbers of cyclists only ride to dodge in and out of the traffic. They don’t want a special highway. They want to dice with death, trespass into the bus lane and demonstrate their personality defects masquerading as psychic musculature.
The amber light did not deter them, they rode through it to green – but then they ride through red too.
The amber light was a combination of warning and getting ready. Do we no longer need to be warned ? Visitors from places where jay walking is more stringently forbidden freeze. I watch people, hesitating, obviously confused or nervous, simply unable to interpret the signals as to whether to run across (some lights display a ten second countdown) or delay. Why is it presumed that everybody with a vehicle is in a hurry while everybody on foot can just wait ?
Ours is not an amber light culture. Pause, thought and action is an unfashionable sequence. We do go/go/go or stop/stop/stop or “I know it says stop but go anyway”. Is this latter the amber light de nos jours ?
As politics has moved increasingly towards a glutinous mass in the middle with extremes at either end, in daily life any kind of middle has been increasingly eroded. There used to be cheap shoes, expensive shoes and shoes for what was called a reasonable price. (The fishermen who evolved espadrilles would have hysterics if they saw the price of the fashionable edition.) Clothes prices were cheap, dear or bearable – this last obviously varies widely. Books seem to be relatively sorted out (you can either afford hardback or you can’t) but any toiletry or cosmetic epitomises “how much can we get away with ?” For example, shampoo ranges from £3 to £35 a bottle. As men have become users of carefully marketed preparations above and beyond soap and a reliable deodorant, the market has widened and the prices have gone up again because men have more disposable income.
The recent price hike by British Gas is best described by a friend who said:” It’s disgraceful but where I live, it’s a fight to find a reliable plumber so if I change my utilities supplier,
what is the service guarantee ?” (Which is why I still have a BT landline. It isn’t that their engineers are wonderful, it’s that others are worse. In an attack of good citizenship I once wrote to Virgin to let them know about a vandalised terminal: all replies came from a computer with late stage alcoholic confusion. “Oh yes” said the BT engineer “they’re the worst, we’re always being called out to them.” I mentioned it to a friend who knows Richard Branson. “Hmm” he said. “Afraid the company’s got too big.”)
And there is no amber light anywhere in sight in the purchase of food or anything for the home (paper products, laundry requisites etc.) It’s one thing if there is one or two of you to provide for but people with families are really feeling the pinch. I know people who have gone from everything at Waitrose and M&S, to embarking on their very own product-to-basket research into Asda, Aldi, Lidl, old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. The grocery version of the car boot sale is upon us.
I suppose the idea of an acceptable middle ground is a remnant of the rise and rise of the Victorian middle class, a notion of acceptable aspirational fulfilment, what you could afford that would make you feel better about where you’d got to in your life. In the present economic climate, it’s about something much more prosaic: making ends meet and not getting knocked over by a cyclist.