Saturday, June 24, 2006

Shaven Headed Bubble Seller

In the town centre of Nottingham today I saw a man selling plastic “bubble makers”, which caused huge foot-wide bubbles to form in the air.

Bubbles are whimsical beautiful things. Part of their appeal is their essential pointlessness. Their only reason for existing is aesthetic delight.

All of which made the shaven headed bubble seller seem a little incongruous as he had the manner of a man more at home kicking someone’s head in behind a nightclub. Indeed, the sullen brutal expression on his face suggested that he was imagining exactly that, as he pumped out bubble after bubble with all the joy of someone feeding their scrotum into a mincer.

read moreI have noticed this phenomenon before. As a rule of thumb, the more whimsical and childish the item for sale, the more scowling and hard looking the seller.

Perhaps there is an element of overcompensation at work, to overcome a fear of being thought of as “soft”. Thus, a man selling knives or nunchuckas will feel no threat to his masculinity and happily smile at his customers, stroke passing kittens and reminisce about favourite ballet steps from his youth, while a man selling dancing pink dolls will feel compelled to carry a severed head in his other hand which he will chew on from time to time.

Also today, and also on the theme of bubbles, I visited an installation by the clever people at Architects of Air. I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s effectively a big inflatable series of rooms, lit wonderfully with ambient sound from hidden speakers. I sat inside pondering – is it like being in a womb, a gut, an alien spaceship or simply a bouncy castle with illusions of grandeur? My lofty musings were brought back down to earth as I spotted a vacant looking staff member following children around with a trigger spray bottle of detergent.

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