Buildaburger Conference 19 February 2014 – Breakfast at Morrisons

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Being a seasoned event professional, I am used to having to kill time in a variety of places under different circumstances. It’s easy enough, especially if you always carry a camera, laptop, notebook & pen, diary, current reading and some disposable income. If pushed, I could get away with just a pen and paper, or else a book, although I like to spread the risk.

As you have probably gathered, I also like to know when and where my next meal is coming from.

Although not working on an event on this occasion, I found myself with an hour to kill in Hillsborough, Sheffield UK, and I decided to get breakfast in the nearby Morrisons supermarket. Morrisons is my supermarket of choice, although when eating, I would usually look for more particular dining.

Customer service is very good in Morrisons, and within my lifetime the UK has learned a lot from the continent. Large organisations, with a wide and general target demographic, normally provide good service these days and I often wonder whether it would suit me to work there. I work freelance as an event professional and media producer, and as such, shop work would not use my skills so it’s not really a sensible option. However, there are many good things about working for an organisation, rather than yourself. You get a lot of administrative support, and mostly get to work in a team rather than on your own. Working with other people can be a good thing or a bad thing, and the anti-social life of my own work is not for everyone.

Anyway, given that our ruined economy is based upon speculation, usury and warfare, the creative industries offer pretty lean pickings for most people these days. I often look at the workers in Morrisons and I wonder if it is common sense or just my own snobbery that stops me from working on the shop floor.

Ambition can be a deeply poisonous and destructive habit. Despite how our Prime Minister opines that we should be more “aspirational” and “buccaneering”, these words are carefully chosen to sound positive when they are fundamentally meaningless. Such phraseology sounds encouraging but is merely rhetoric to inspire a solipsistic arrogance.

What he is really advocating is avarice, and these days, greed is what fuels our economic model. Our banking system is a demonstrably corrupt failure and our government can barely draw enough breath to issue every lie it wishes in order to justify it.

This, of course, puts me in mind of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961 dir Blake Edwards), the film that introduced me, and no doubt many other maturing boys, to the ethereal beauty of Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York socialite, looking for a rich man to marry. It is a wholly grotesque set-up, only made palatable by the sheer beauty of its spectacle. I only recently discovered that the novel that the film is based upon was written by Truman Capote.

Although I knew the name, and have seen him on-screen as an actor, I have not ready any of his books. Coincidentally, the other day I watched the biopic “Capote” (2005, dir Bennett Miller) starring the recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman as the eponymous writer.

I don’t know how much of a leap it was for Hoffman’s own genius to jump into the character of another, but he delivers an astonishing portrayal of the effete Capote and he will be an actor sorely missed. Capote is portrayed sympathetically although he also shown to be a manipulative liar and an ambitious narcissist.

Those of us with more modest talents will have to satisfy ourselves with lesser achievements than such luminaries. But that does not mean our efforts are worthless.

The crux of the matter is that we can’t all be exceptional individuals with the beauty of Hepburn, or the literary imagination of Capote, or the imitative talent of Hoffman. Nor can we all have the riches of Croesus, and the wanting to, the aspiration to be, can be a destructive motivation. That is not to say that it is wrong to admire those that achieve great things, or to follow in the footsteps of great people, or even stand upon the shoulders of giants.

But aspiration is not an end in itself. One famous Nazi thinker (so famous I can’t remember his name) suggested that the image of a column of men marching was one of the most potent. It didn’t matter where they were going or what they were going to do, but the dynamism of that vision was enough to devastate half of Europe.

All based upon aspiration. Not just wanting more, but wanting what other people have as well.

Aspiration alone feeds greed and a sense of entitlement and this is the deeply invidious root of the insanity we see all around us. From David Cameron’s criminal advocacy of fracking, to the imbecilic apologism for greed that is Boris Johnson’s cornflake metaphor, or George Osborne’s willfully negligent help-to-buy (for his cronies) housing bubble, our country is run by people who attempt to excuse their own reckless mismanagement by blaming us ordinary folk for our lack of ambition.

Anyway, a small contribution to my own battle against keeping-up-with-the-Johnsons is to have a modest breakfast for a modest price in modest surroundings.

Tomato soup with croutons, bread roll and a pot of tea for £2.74.

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