“Frances, have you got any change? I want to get the paper.”
“My purse is on the kitchen table. There should be some cash in there”.
David scrabbled for change, grabbing at an approximate amount which he thought would suffice for a copy of The Observer, quickly replacing any coppers in favour of a handful of silver. His eyes rested momentarily on a new twenty pence piece in amongst the rest but it disappeared into the depths of his pocket whilst he pulled on his jacket. He yelled a form of goodbye as he walked out the front door.
His weekend consumption of current affairs normally revolved around a brief online browse of all the newspapers whilst vaguely concerning himself with BBC News24 or the Today programme. This tended to be interrupted by breakfast, children and his wife organising them all but he was quite content with just a cursory glance at the headlines leaving the obsessive analysis to his wife. He never could quite understand why she wanted the constant updates of whichever media was convenient to her: the radio in the morning; Twitter and various websites on her laptop during the day; twenty-four hour television news in the kitchen; weekend breakfasts spent poring over all of the papers. This insatiable desire to learn about the horrors of this blighted world was incomprehensible to him: they both worked in the public sector (she was a teacher; he was an NHS doctor) so he felt that they both dealt with quite enough awful reality every day without dwelling on more than they had to.
But this morning he felt guilty. He felt the need to consume and discuss, hence the early Sunday morning walk to the local newsagent.
His face bore a look of deep concentration as he made his way to the corner shop. He did not allow the blossom laden trees and the arrival of a sharp, fresh, spring green in all the gardens to distract his thoughts as he purposefully turned into the pathway and pushed open the door. He checked his rudeness when he realised that he had returned the polite greeting of the shop owner with an indistinct sound; he apologised and said good morning before turning to scan the newspaper stand. David reached for The Observer and grasped for the coins amongst the fluff and keys in his trouser pockets. Noting that he had taken more from Frances’ purse than he had intended, he picked up The Telegraph too and walked to the counter.
Clutching both papers under one arm, he returned to his thoughts as he headed home. They were a mixture of TV news footage and half remembered conversations at work, all of which focused on the public sector march in London which had taken place the day before. David and Frances had not attended but they had watched the serried ranks of thousands of protesters on the television news. They had both been impressed by the assault of colour from the banners and placards, as well as the variety of clothes and skin colours which was reminiscent of the Notting Hill Carnival or the London Marathon. He always felt a little in love with London during big events: it showed it was capable of togetherness and beauty, despite the daily problems of a modern metropolis. The thousands who had attended the march looked like they were part of an enormous street party despite their predictions of gloomy days ahead and the anger levied at the government cuts. David had watched these images guiltily, feeling that he should have attended having bemoaned every announcement the new health minister and chancellor had made about the future of the NHS. He had never been one for protesting and, more often than not, thought it futile except, of course, in extreme circumstances in some countries. But, on this occasion, he had this nagging sense of weakness as if he had foolishly missed an opportunity to do the right thing.
The images of violence which had subsequently dominated the coverage were also invading his head. His guilt was offset by anger towards a minority who did not represent the nurses, doctors and teachers he knew who had marched. The anonymous, black clad and faceless figures seemed to have erupted like an ants’ nest, spreading themselves amongst the crowd in an undefinable formation and then swarming over key landmarks. The destruction was childish to David: it was the temper tantrum of his three year-old who threw things to make a point he could not articulate but it also exhibited a frightening aspect of society. The fine balance between a workable civilisation and anarchy was temporarily and visibly broken and left David mulling over the ease with which order could disintegrate. He linked it with the rebellions and revolutions of repressed peoples his wife was so intent on watching on the news or the subject of novels and pondered whether Britain was heading to some kind of political catastrophe.
“Bloody Lord of the Flies,” David said as he laid out the papers on the kitchen table so that Frances could see the front pages alongside the unspent silver coins.
“It’s all over the TV this morning”, she replied, returning the money to her purse and noting that he had spent that shiny new twenty pence coin. She wondered for a moment who might have it now or if it was still sitting in the till drawer before she redirected her attention back to breakfast.