July 17th, 2012


In Praise of Jobsworths

Just back from London, where preparations for the impending five-ring circus are well under way. It's all rather dispiriting, actually. I was nowhere near the Olympic site, but the whole city seems to have been transformed into a giant billboard for large corporations to preen themselves upon, while the populace shuffles wearily past in a never-ending security queue that encircles the capital much like the Midgard Serpent.

I believe there will also be some people playing games, over Stratford way. I hope it's all worth it, but the overall impression is of joyless micromanagement uncompensated for by any concomitant efficiency, except in the matter of brand protection.

I don't much like officialdom at its most officious, as you will probably gather - but there are occasions when I feel moved to cry, "Well done, that jobsworth!" London is currently up in arms about the man who shut off the sound system when a recent concert in Hyde Park was about to breach the terms of its licence by overrunning. The papers, Boris Johnson, and every bandwagon-jumper in sight seem to be piling in on this poor man, but personally I have a lot of sympathy for him. I've been kept awake by too many all-night parties to feel that loud music should always take precedence over peace and quiet, and I doubt whether the parents of young children in the vicinity of Hyde Park were too devastated about the licence agreement being enforced either. If they wanted to play loud music into the night, why do it in the centre of a densely populated area? Has Lincolnshire no muddy fields?

I really doubt whether there'd have been the same fuss had the concert been given by, say, Jessie J or Labrinth, to say nothing of one of the less well-known young beat combos at work today. I suspect it's because the musicians involved were Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen, bygone icons of an era when Boris Johnson and the leader writers were young, that so much ire has been stirred up. Some people are apparently peddling the line that they should have rebelliously played on and paid the £14,000 fine (I think that was the figure), a suggestion that brought to mind the image of the rich woman parking her Chelsea tractor on the double yellows outside the supermarket, and saying contemptuously to the hovering traffic warden - "Ticket me - I can afford it."

There is such a thing as Sticking it to the Man - but that ain't it.