Queuing For Beginners by Joe Moran
|Queuing For Beginners by Joe Moran|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An academically rigorous book with mass market appeal which looks at the trivia of our daily life. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2008|
|Publisher: Profile Books Ltd|
Hour by hour throughout the day we do things through habit, sometimes almost unconsciously. We eat breakfast, commute to work, spend time in an office, gossip at the water cooler and queue up at lunch time in a variety of different places. Lunch is eaten at our desks, quite probably whilst we're checking our emails and before popping outside for a cigarette in anticipation of the office meeting. At the end of the working day we might divert for a drink with our colleagues, go home for dinner and then slump on the sofa using the remote to surf the channels. Just before we go to bed we'll watch the weather forecast.
Boring, isn't it? Even if you don't do it all in the course of a day you've probably done most of it at some point. They're the things that we all do with half our minds on something more interesting. It's the trivia of everyday life. In Queuing for Beginners Joe Moran looks at these actions which have become the unseen wallpaper of our lives and examines the way in which the actions have changed and what it says about our lives today. As an example (I don't want to steal all Mr Moran's thunder) let's just think about the weather forecast.
It might seem that there is little to say about such events as 'the weather', particularly as most people seem to watch it for the pleasure of saying how wrong it turns out to be, but there's been a weather forecast on radio and then on television since March 1923. It was suspended during the war in case it helped the enemy. Over the years the programme has taken many forms - not surprisingly given that most people want an accurate prediction of weather in a weather system which is essentially unpredictable. What shocked me most though was the spin that has been put on the weather.
The Met Office provided guidelines to television presenters which advised against overly gloomy descriptions of the weather. This lead to chilly in areas becoming warm for most and isolated storms being categorised as hot and sunny for most. The whole of the weather has been upgraded in much the same way that Leeds United Football Club will now play in Division One as it did last century - despite having slithered two divisions in the intervening years.
This book is a substantial step on from the Mass Observation Project of the nineteen-thirties where people observed what others were doing in their daily lives and reported on it. I'm never certain whether or not it was a good thing that Mass Observation petered out as the war intervened and it's founders moved on to other things but it has to be commended as the inspiration for this book. It's one of those rare books written with academic rigour (complete with source notes) which has mass market appeal. It's helped, of course by the fact that Moran has a dry sense of humour and writes with ease and fluidity. He's a good communicator. The book's a delightful mix of history, culture and what might loosely be called anthropology. Reading it we experience what Moran describes in another context as both the shock of recognition and the shock of the new.
I really did enjoy this book. It's excellent to read straight through as I did, but equally good as something to dip into on a whim. Being in the (cough) later stages of middle age I remember things as they used to be and it wasn't always as good as we like to think. Smoking was once almost obligatory, particularly for men. Train travel was decidedly uncomfortable. My side table here in the office is a pre-war typist's desk - solid oak but lacking much in the way of convenience. You can still see where the modesty panels used to be fitted. As a snapshot of how life used to be and what it has become this book can't be beaten.
I'd like to thank the publishers, Profile Books, for sending this book to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Big Babies by Michael Bywater which takes an irreverent look at the way our lives are controlled.
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