Archive for October, 2007

Lamentation for “Harrods worker”

October 25, 2007


The Guardian reports that a ‘Harrods worker was murdered by a “loner” on a south London common where she sunbathed and went jogging, the Old Bailey heard yesterday’, and that the “loner” denies the mentioned act. I find it a shame that this woman who has died has now been referred to as a ‘Harrods worker’. She is not introduced as a woman with other defining characteristics other than working for Harrods (her specific occupation not revealed, even), sunbathing and jogging. Even the word “sunbathing” suggests assumptions, that she enjoyed lying prostrate with a vague consciousness, being nourished by the elements. There is little suggestion that she may have read, talked or done anything else, apart from in the absence of mentioning possible characteristics. She is defined by her physicality, and by work/hobbies, almost ahistorical in a biographical sense (apart from later being named as an Estonian national). She is even described as someone who was “fit, athletic and strong”; she becomes encapsulated by synonyms. This seems to become more of an issue of outside fitness and a stereotypically “healthy” life being destroyed by someone who more easily represents death, someone who is presented as not leaving home, not being social. This story becomes not only about this individual human being with propensities and eccentricities, who has now died, but an ideal of freedom and strength versus a cowardly asocial being. The details are shocking – the knife bearing blood matching hers in the man’s bag, and the way she was buried in the common, spotted after her limb was seen protruding above ground. However, the Guardian reporter lets some ‘humanity’ shine through at the end. We read about the accused man being found with the dead woman’s mobile phone. In the penultimate paragraph, we read that “Police tracked down Mr Davies after he was found to have used the phone to send texts and photo messages of his dog, a black Staffordshire bull terrier, to a friend.” Ironically the “loner” is now presented as having a friend, and a dog, and a phone. This terrible story of a woman being killed is now turned into an inadvertent contradiction, a joke.







What’s that title all about?

October 25, 2007

Encouraging Vagrants and Beggars is intended to be a fairly ironic reference to the tanoy messages we often hear in London asking us not to do just that. I find the phrase offensive and amusing – encouraging could take many forms, such as writing a nice note saying that “things will be ok”, but these messages seem to ignore that with their somewhat Victorian phraseology. So, I’m defiant – I’ll encourage vagrants and beggars as much as I want, thank you very much. Obviously this blog isn’t really about that though, as not many ‘beggars’ have the internet, I’m guessing. It is supposed to reflect some of my interests in the tensions and interactions between institutions and individuals, deterministic attitudes and their disavowal, the published and unpublished, and much more. I doubt it successfully achieves this but I chose it a while back and I might as well keep it!