Magazine article The Spectator

Flying Circles

Magazine article The Spectator

Flying Circles

Article excerpt

Thinkers living in the nearest market town are anxious about something called 'Peak Oil'. Last week they held a public meeting on the subject: To Fly Or Not To Fly? The venue was a centuries-old meeting room beautifully decorated in the Tudor style, with an elaborate moulded plaster ceiling and monumental stone fireplace.

About 30 people turned up. It wasn't particularly cold outside but, to judge by the layers of fleece and fibre, and the number of hats, scarves and gloves being tugged off as they made their entrance via a heavy velvet curtain, many were as concerned about the temperature of themselves as they were about that of the planet.

Before we got down to business we played a game. A cheerful-faced woman described the rules, which were as follows. One side of the room represented 'yes'; the other side, 'no'.

The central area was 'maybe' or 'don't know'.

She then read out a succession of questions, and we went and stood in the part of the room that best represented our responses. The first question was: would we consider flying simply to enjoy a beach holiday?

Everyone in the room except two went and stood in the 'no' area. (A woman stranded in the 'maybe' area had been forced into it, she said, by the sheer weight of numbers in 'no'. ) The two rebels were myself and this tall bloke who looked like Jesus except for yard-long dreadlocks and an incongruously bourgeois jumper with a Scandinavian knit pattern. He was standing to attention with his eyes closed. Compared with the overcrowded 'no' side of the room, the 'yes' side felt like first-class, and I felt a kind of élitist affinity with him.

The next question was: would we consider buying a pineapple that had been flown to Britain from the tropics? Jesus and I remained steadfast in 'yes'. Everyone else, including the cheerful-faced woman, remained crammed like unhappy battery hens in the 'no' part of the room. Next question. Would we consider flying to attend an Here, a couple of faithful souls stepped uncertainly and apologetically from 'no' into 'maybe'. I looked at Jesus, who was fast becoming my own favourite guru. His eyes were closed. He hadn't moved a muscle.

The last question was this. Would we consider flying to the moon on one of Sir Richard Branson's space missions for tourists? Like a sleepwalker, or a man on a horse tranquilliser, Jesus stepped deliberately away from the 'yes' side of the room and selected a spot in 'maybe', leaving me the object of incredulous and baleful stares from the massed ranks in 'no'. …

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