…there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats-the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill-The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it-and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.
- JRRT, “The Hobbit”.
Sounds OK. I mean apart from the Sky dish and broadband that’s nicer than my gaff - and I like my gaff. So… What is the Mainly Fail on about with Mrs Bilbo. She looks a sight and lives like a scumbag in a way that annoys me (because she thinks herself “righteous”). We clearly all can’t - all 62 million of us Brits can’t afford to live like that - even if we wanted to! I mean I live in a house first built c.1600 but it ain’t Hobbiton (it’s on the outskirts of Manchester which was one of the places modernity was invented). More to the point why consider that living in a mud-hut can be compared to Bilbo’s gaff? Shifty Failish churnalism - again. Yet again.
Soon enough I shall wire-up the TV (downstairs) to the router (upstairs) for internet TV. This will involve an electric drill and language that would put Viz to shame. As I said, it’s c.1600 and I’m c.1973 so God knows what you drill into. Or what ineffable Geordisms may occur. I am no longer taking monies on the frequent use of “buggerated piss-flappery”.
Bilbo lived the most comfortable life imaginable (without electricity) (I can’t imagine life before Nikola Tesla stole lightning from Al Gore* or whomever because Tesla was a nasty man and made us modern.)
Admittedly I don’t have wizards and dwarves coming round with offers of quests. The lack thereof is a bit of a downer about living in the C21st. I would give up my comfort in an instant mind and dash out of my gaff, without a handkerchief, on an adventure (it’s my “Tookish” part). But whilst part of me would love to go into Wilderland with an Elvish blade in the company of dwarves I am still in Bag End. Hell’s teeth I want to be in the first Éored storming the fields of Pelennor. But it ain’t going to happen.
I am up for offers for anything utterly outrageous even if it means missing second breakfast. Usually that means somebody has a buggered Dell which can be fun but it’s not exactly dragon-slaying is it?
It is though civilization and not some sort of (quasi-sexual/quasi-religious?) kick about daubing the walls with horse shit. Because you see I am a Geordie and that means engineering and making life easier and more pleasant. But not just Geordies. Oh, no! Lots of other folk got into engines and abandoned the cute life - look at the “Good Life” - would the Goods have survived without continual help from Margo and Jerry? It is only slags like Drew Barrymore…
Barrymore: I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal … awesome.
Diaz: (laughing) I’m so jealous right now. I’m going to the woods tomorrow.
Barrymore: It was awesome.
And E.T. told her to be “Be Good”! That’s Cameron Diaz by the way who once plastered the inside of someone’s gaff in Nepal with cow shit - on a show for MTV - whether they asked for this or not I dunno. Do you see a common thread here? I call it “Marie Antoinette syndrome”. You only aspire to play milk-maids and such when you don’t have to. For the really poor of this World in Africa and India and such places motorbikes and mobile phones make the difference not Hollywood A-listers who probably spend more on a set of bathroom taps than it would cost to drill a well for an entire village for people who can only dream of having a bathroom let alone the palatial ones Ms Barrymore and Ms Diaz have in their mansions.
So how does the humble phone and the motorbike help? Well, imagine you are from Kerala and fish for a living. There are several ports you can land your catch at. You got a mate shore-side and he texts you which one is short on fish and he’s got his bike (so he can find out) and your fish will be delivered by him on his bike. It all works out beautifully. It minimizes waste and ultimately forces down prices so it ain’t just good for you and your biker pal but for everyone.That makes a difference. Drew Barrymore crapping in your mango plantation doesn’t. Unless of course the canny owner puts it on EBay quick-smart, as a “Genuine Hollywood Turd”! Some deranged loon would buy it. If the internet has taught us anything it is that there is always one…
Oh, it undoubtedly made her feel good for a certain value of good. But so what? If she really wanted to help she could invest her millions in a Kawasaki dealership in Angola or an Indonesian mobile phone merchant or something.
We could save so much water if we all “hunched over like an animal”. It would make dog-walking perilous mind. “Watch out Rover! Charlize Theron is taking a dump behind that bush!”. Oh, and we’d have endemic cholera. Which of course they have in the poor countries. There is nothing noble about being a savage. And there is nothing decadent about having indoor plumbing. If you want a suggestion for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square how about Joseph Bazalgette?
Or Drew Barrymore squatting. I shouldn’t have said that because that is precisely the sort of thing the Arts Council would fund. Not a distinguished white, male, be-whiskered Victorian engineer. Oh that would never do! The Bazalgette sewer system still works for an enormously larger London. He built quite a bit of slack into it. Basically he based the diameters on the maximum expected and then doubled them. His argument for this is they were only going to do it once so… And that is how we have the magnificent city we call our capital. Because of people who had vision beyond shitting in St John’s Wood and calling it “awesome”. Joseph Bazalgette lived a large chunk of his life in St John’s Wood and God alone knows what the great engineer would have thought if he’d found a Hollywood starlet “in the position” whilst out surveying. A sewer system for the (at the time) largest city ever on the planet is an awesome achievement. An arboreal defecation, less so.
And Bilbo wouldn’t approve. He liked his comfort (who doesn’t?). He liked a well-stocked larder and a mug of ale with his pipe by his front door. He was, in short (which he was), disgustingly middle-class. And fair play to the fellow. He was (is?) what half the World aspires to be and what a very vocal, though considerably less than half the World, aspires to demonize.
To put it bluntly. I suspect that a huge swathe of enivro-mental do-gooders want Africa and (other places) to remain “authentic”. They don’t want ‘em to develop because that means they can’t go over and patronise them and feel good about it. And of course development means certain people will make loads of money which is clearly evil unless you make loads of money from being one of “Charlie’s Angels”. Of course that is fine. Digging sewers in Lagos or putting Wifi into Mumbai is obviously evil. You know in much the same way the greatest philanthropist (and he does look a bit Hobbitish) of all time is an evil man. That would be Bill Gates. Of course he was never as cool as Steve Jobs who never even flicked a dime towards research into the cancer that killed him (look it up - it’s 2:32am by this Win 7 machine here). But he wore jeans and a black polo-neck so he must be cool and therefore good.
I am now going to sit down with a pipe of Longbottom and discuss roots with The Gaffer…