So, About Hats
"Why have you been writing about the government?"
"I haven't been writing about the government."
"You have been writing?"
"Yes. I write about my daily life, things…"
"So, for example, you say here, 'I picked up a tram ticket, pink, the ink smudged…' "
"Yes, I like to observe small things…"
"Why did you pick up the tram ticket?"
"It seemed interesting…like a signal."
"You do not think our streets are clean enough?"
"You had to pick up the ticket because the street had not been swept?"
"No, I don't mind litter. It interests me. The fragments of lives."
"What else have you picked up in the street?"
"No, not those. Cigarette packets, perhaps, shopping lists, a paper boat once someone had sailed in the rainwater in the gutter."
"Has anyone ever left you something to pick up?"
"I don't understand. In a manner of speaking, all these things were left for me to pick up."
"I do not know who left them."
"They don't tell you?"
"No-one left them for me specifically. I just meant that any stray piece of litter, though it may not seem much, may be a signal to us, to any of us…"
"A signal? A warning, you mean? Of what?"
"Only of a different way of looking, and thinking, perhaps."
"Different to the government's way?"
"Different to anybody's way."
"An Anarchist way?"
"Artist. An artist's way."
"So. You pick up things left for you by somebody you do not know. And they are signals."
"Why does it matter that the ink was smudged on the tram ticket?"
"It doesn't matter. I just noticed it."
"Is it your view that the tram tickets are not printed well enough?"
"No, I don't have any opinion about that."
"Why would you comment on it if it did not matter?"
"Because I just happened to notice it."
"You noticed it because you thought it mattered?"
"No, not at all. It didn't matter. It was just a…characteristic of the ticket."
"Do you notice good characteristics in things?"
"I suppose, sometimes…"
"Can you show us any in your writing? Your writing, that is not about the government?"
"Yes, I am sure…Listen, I am not writing anything about the government. Just about daily life."
"You do not think the government have anything to do with daily life? They are remote?"
"I did not say that."
(Reads). " 'I am not writing anything about the government. Just about daily life.' "
"The tram ticket you picked up was pink, yes?"
"What does a pink tram ticket mean?"
"To me? A sign, a journey, a lost moment."
"That is all?"
"Other things, perhaps."
"You were not in the services in the war?"
"No, I was too young at first…"
"I see. So you do not know that a pink tram ticket is for veterans?"
"A concessionary ticket, half fare…"
"No, I did not know that. It is a good idea."
"But you picked up a veteran's ticket in the street?"
"Yes. I did not know what it was."
"You didn't use it?"
"No, certainly not. It was already used, I just…"
"In the street, the gutter…"
"And made a note of it in your journal."
"I did. It seemed…"
" 'A sign,' you said."
"Yes, a sort of…"
"A sign that the government has left veterans in the gutter, is that it?"
"Well, so let me sum up what we have learnt about you. You pick up things that have been left for you by people you say you do not know. But you do say they are signs. However, you say they are not signs against the government…"
"You think the government does not know about daily life. That is what you said. And, though not a veteran of the services yourself, you pick up a veteran's ticket from the gutter, and you make a special note in your journal. Because it is a sign. But you deny that it is a sign that the government has left veterans in the gutter."
"How many words from your journal have we been discussing?"
"I don't know. Not many. You have taken them out of context."
"Out of context. You would like us to read more?"
"Yes. No…there is no reason…"
"Ten words. We have been discussing ten words from your journal. See how much we learnt about you from just ten words. Try to imagine how much more we could learn from the rest…"
"You can go. For now. We have all we need."
Later, he picked up his black-bound jotting book reluctantly, and opened a page at random. He began reading.
"The winds were so strong they blew hats from heads. People ran after them, laughing. They seemed happy at this disorder."
Then he stopped. Happy at disorder? It would not do. He thought at once of the questions this would raise, though it was only a note about hats, grey, dark, olive-green, rolling along the road.
Mark Valentine has several hats, and bus tickets.