I left work pretty promptly. My colleague is leaving tomorrow, I had things to pick up for her from town, and RMT members working on the Underground were striking today.
I took my USB stick to Boots at the bottom end of Tottenham Court road. On the first floor, in front of the window, arrayed in a jolly little semi-circle with barstools, were the in-store digital photograph printing kiosks. They do not use gelatine; they are vegan. I took a seat and printed out a screenshot I took of my colleague and me Skyping each other from adjacent rooms. It was the early days of Skype and in her state of excitement she had taken from her makeup bag a lipstick and eyeliner and done herself up like a clown. She’s looking at me and pulling a big face, and there’s a little inset image of me watching her. It’s one of the best photos I’ve ever taken, but you have to see it to appreciate it. It was delivered to my hands in seconds and because it had all gone so well, I printed out several more from the SD of my camera, including a sequence of my friend and her son throwing grass at each other which I’d snapped on Continuous setting, and a picture of Baby Rambo writhing with glee on my stomach as I ticked her ribs on the only bit of sand in the Dengie peninsula, Essex.
Then I took these treasures to Habitat and chose frames. Because of the RMT strike I got a highly personalised service (but that didn’t stop me being sold a frame with a crushed corner goddamnit).
From there to Tottenham Court Road at 7pm. What, still no service? I resolved to walk to Liverpool Street. At Chancery Lane who should I bump into but Baby Rambo’s father! We got on the bus and talked through our stop. Walking back, he told me no end of interesting things. He pointed out that the numbers registered to vote had fallen by a little over a million since 2004 while the population had risen by a 1.1 million, and suggested that we should be analysing election results as proportions of the population rather than share of the vote. Political engagement being what it is, and the turnout being the desultory 34% it was, he might have a point. He also had some other theories which I should talk to him more about. What else – he’d been reading about electoral reform, and expanded on the relative merits of different PR systems over a pint (there’s a lovely Fuller’s Discovery in the Telegraph off Moorgate). Most interestingly he exploded a myth I’d been entertaining which is that pure PR systems inevitably lead to horsetrading between candidates and to hell with the voters (think Israel, Italy). Apparently, though, Sweden has a pure PR system and none of these shennanigans.
Having long ago destroyed the surprise of the photo, I put it in the frame for him to pass on to Baby Rambo’s mum. We parted at Liverpool Street.
When I got to my station (having watched the most beautiful sunset over Roding Valley because the Central Line was only running clockwise round the loop), one of the RMT members was clocking on after striking for 2 days. I told him I knew too little about the strike to know if I supported it and asked him what he thought. He became exasperated. “We don’t even know what it’s about”, he said (for two days I’d been hearing the same thing from Tube workers). He fished in the inside pocket and showed my a diary. “All these years, we never hear from them”, he said “All I ever get from them is a diary once a year, and ballot papers asking me if I want to strike and lose two days pay”. If he’s right that 10,000 members were balloted, then less than a quarter of members voted for this strike. He was badly disaffected by TFL and by his union. The light at the end of his tunnel was his approaching retirement. Like his friend at another Underground station, he’d been learning French during the long nights on duty. In 6 years’ time he was buying a one-way channel tunnel ticket and following his friend to a small village in the south of France. I told him we were all Europeans now and wished him well. It sounds like he has it all wrapped up.
Maybe the south of France is where Papa Rambo’s million voters are.