I should say we – in our household – are not abnormally flippant and shallow. Far from it. Intimidating, many think. We come across as kind of serious. People apologise for swearing when we’re around (hahaha – little do they know). Occasionally when we’re out and about, random strangers approach us in the street to observe, “You’re not from here, are you?” Or ask us “Where are you from?” And we say, “Hastings” and they say “Yes, but where are you really from?” They guess, bizarrely, Germany or South Africa (why?). I guess we should say “Narnia” and be done with it, but it seems facetious and impolite. The one I like best is when folk coming through from the chapel to the flower hall, after I’ve conducted a funeral, pause in the concrete covered way that looks out onto the fishpond, to shake my hand and ask, wonderingly, “What are you?” I’ve often wondered the same thing.
So anyway, you get the drift – we aren’t airheads.
And the world is by anyone’s measure in a serious condition. These are somber times. The UK government tearing up the statute book because they want to frack under our homes and soak the land with poison. Scientists calculating the human race has a hundred years left and when it comes to destruction and disaster we ain’t seen nothing yet. The United States deciding its war habit is going nowhere in a hurry – got the taste for it and sticking with it. The poles melting. The ebola virus on the loose. Genocide and misogyny and fundamentalism and climate change and leaking nuclear reactors and dead oceans and war, war, war. There’s surely enough going on to make even an unusually moronic zombie sit up and take notice.
So then, I wonder this. How does it come about that for such people in such a world, earrings and shoes, fluffy cardigans and pretty tops are still an attraction? They are a frequent focus of conversation. Our coffers do not overflow, but eBay and the 70% sales are of intense interest. And it’s not just us. I’ve heard it said, in disaster zones, where war has decimated the population, if they can see to it that traumatised orphans are given a teddy to snuggle and love, they do better than if they merely had shelter, food and meds.
There seems to be something in human nature that is soothed and rested by a dose of the frivolous – and this is healthy, and not to be despised.