It was all light and gently amusing stuff and for me, as I suspect for many others, it was also good to hear again some of the very great words of the Bard spoken by some of our very greatest actors and actresses: Simon Russell Beale performing John O’Gaunt’s famous speech, “This royal throne of Kings.....”; Judy Dench being a wonderful Titania from Midsummer Night’s Dream; Helen Mirren reciting the glorious words from the Tempest “.....And like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep”; Roger Allam as Lear, Antony Sher as Falstaff and a truly memorable piece from Sir Ian McKellan whose wonderful voice stilled the audience as he spoke the words of Sir Thomas More castigating those who would mistreat refugees – a short piece written by Shakespeare to be included in a play he did not write. Wonderful stuff all of it.
But this blog is not about Shakespeare. It is about something altogether more prosaic – polishing my car! Bear with me!
For as long as I can remember I have loved to keep my car(s) clean. At one time, it was almost a Sunday morning religion in the UK – everyone, it seemed, washed and polished their cars and I was one of this merry band. In latter years, however with the advent of car washes and the like car washing has become, it seems to me a more opportunistic and erratic event, done on odd occasions and as necessary and as convenient. In my own case, I still like to keep my car sparkling both inside and out but I certainly do not clean it every week. On the other hand, I am keen that at least twice or three times a year it gets a thorough wax polishing – my reasoning being that the wax polish will give the paintwork some measure of protection through both the winter and the summer. Maybe I’m wrong in this belief but at this time of year I am anxious for that spring clean and deep polishing to take place.
There is, however, a small problem. My painful back and ageing bones mean that getting down to scrub and polish becomes an ever more difficult exercise and, unlike yesteryear, not something to look forward to! So, for the past week or two I have been giving this some serious thought: do I just take the car(s) – mine and my wife’s – around to the local car wash and forget the twice yearly deep polish, do I get the cars washed and risk injuring my back further by polishing, or do I get another plan? Paraphrasing the Bard “To polish or not to polish, that is the question!”
Having given this some thought I did come up with a third option – namely to pay to have the car(s) professionally cleaned and polished – a full professional valet service. I knew this would be expensive but, I argued, it’s only twice a year that I need to use this option so it might be worth it. In the interim, I can simply visit the car wash for a quick clean. I must admit this option had (and has) a huge appeal – to have the car gleaming on my drive as if just from the showroom, a high wax polish, gleaming tyres, scrubbed upholstery and the rest. Yes, definitely something worth considering. What the hell to the cost? I reasoned......as my father always said “You can’t take your money with you – there are no pockets in shrouds!” Mind you, Dad was always very careful with his money – a bit of a miser if I’m honest – so I’m not too sure his argument bears much scrutiny!
I had almost decided that this was the route down which I would go. I had trawled the internet and found two or three local companies who offered this service and all I had to do was to book an appointment for the work to be done. But then another thought, and a worrying one, hit me. All the companies seemed to be mobile valet services. They come to your home and do the cleaning and polishing on your drive. Now in one way that is very convenient, of course, but the more that I thought about it a small concern entered my thinking – namely, what would the neighbours think when they saw the valet service van appear on my drive and two smartly overalled guys scrubbing and polishing my cars! Maybe, I worried, I would be viewed by my neighbours as a rather lazy bloke – unwilling to use a bit of my admittedly large amount of leisure time to do such a basic task as keeping my own cars clean. And further, I thought, wouldn’t the local tongues wag?: “He must have more money than sense paying to have his car washed and polished when he could do it himself” I seemed to hear them say! The more I thought about it the more I came to the view that this was at one level an unnecessary waste of money but at another a rather telling show of my priorities.
So, my initial enthusiasm waned somewhat and I began now to ask not “To polish or not to polish” but rather “To valet or not to valet that [was] the question!” In the end, discretion got the better of me and I opted for the good old British compromise. I took the cars around to the local car wash and had the top of the range wash and polish. Not really what I wanted; Pat and I still had to spend an hour or two giving the insides of the cars a good clean out (which didn’t do my slipped disc any good whatsoever) and even though the cars looked good on the drive, deep down I knew that they hadn’t had that deep wax polishing to protect the paintwork through the coming summer months that I would have liked. In short it was a second best solution.
The whole thing, however, set me thinking. Mobile car valeting services are clearly big business – a fact that I discovered when I began looking at the internet. There can be no doubt that both the number of services available and the high tech that they use indicates that there is indeed a market out there of people who use these services. It seems that many people don’t have the hang-ups that I have about it; clearly many don’t mind neighbours knowing that someone else cleans their cars or that they have sufficient money to spend in this way. Maybe, I thought, some people might see this as a good way to advertise their financial well-being – a mobile car valeting van on the drive – a sign of their successful life, social standing and financial soundness!
|She constantly reminds us that we are deserving of all|
the fripperies, trinkets and luxuries that we desire -
even, perhaps, car valeting!
|Odysseus deaf to the voices of the sirens and keeping his|
ship on course.
|This seems to me to be a more realistic explanation of|
the real consequences of Thatcher and Reagan's much
loved trickle down effect
So maybe I shouldn’t worry too much about showing off my bit of “wealth” – such as it is! I can afford it so why not flaunt it. My children, I know, would be the first to say “Do it Pops” and after all the ads tell me I’m “worth it”. Maybe I can salve my conscience and justify it (as so many “fat cat” city bankers do their million pound bonuses) by suggesting that by employing a mobile valeting service I am in fact performing a social service, a service to the economy and a morally good act, for by doing it I am providing work for the men doing the valeting and so putting food into the mouths of their children. In other words, I am part of the much vaunted “trickle down effect” an economic theory rampant since the time of Thatcher and Reagan to justify their "free for all" markets and "have it all" societies. By me spending my bit of money I will have a positive trickle down effect on those “below” me in society. Mmmmm – it makes a kind of sense but I can’t help thinking there’s a flaw in the argument somewhere! As I think of this I am troubled because it seems to me that in using the trickle down effect as a justification I am also, by definition, acknowledging that there is a "pecking order" in society. It is almost a justification of inequality; I can only feel good about myself and my actions by knowing that I am in some way superior to others - it makes me a sort of "Mr Bountiful" dispensing little titbits to those less well off or less worthy than myself. By being able to do this I am, perhaps, subconsciously reminding myself that I am successful, have money, have standing, not one of the lesser mortals who have to wash and polish my car to scrape a living! Maybe I'm wrong - I just don't know! Or maybe, I fret, in being prepared to pay to have a gleaming car on my drive I am simply “inciting damnable avarice, sensuality, and pride." as the mediaeval scholar Heinrich von Langenstein warned all those years ago.
As I say, “To valet or not to valet that is the question”!
As I say, “To valet or not to valet that is the question”!