Excuse me sir, is this 1898?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s unusual pencil sharpener is the one shaped like the sound of a moth in a lampshade.

So, when I switched on the newly constructed time machine…
I reached out and gripped the two charged silver electrodes and immediately felt a tingling, and then I heard a loud, but very slowed down repeated popping sound…
I suddenly dropped about six inches onto a hard slippery cobbled road surface and almost lost my balance…
The road was narrow and lined with terraced red brick houses with little shops on street the corners which were just closing up for the day; there was the smell of smoke from coal fires in the air; it was evening, there was a pale half-moon hanging above a thin blanket of soft yellow-grey fog; down the street a lamplighter was going round igniting gas street lamps.
I quickly looked around me, there was no danger. I thought, I must make the most of my time here; the machine was set to take me back after only a few minutes; it had worked though!…
A middle-aged man smoking a pipe was striding up the flagstone pavement towards me; he looked like a working man; buttoned up heavy tweed jacket, cloth cap, waistcoat, and heavy boots, their studded soles sounding and echoing on the flags. He looked like a joiner or perhaps a builder. He paused, puffed on his pipe, and stared at me, I stared back at him noticing the glint of his watch chain, his large grey moustache and his piercing blue eyes. I greeted him and decided to engage him in conversation.
He was friendly and, apart from occasionally staring down in puzzlement at my odd clothes, he seemed very happy to talk to me. After a few moments I decided to take the chance of informing him that I was from the future. After an immediate reaction of wide-eyed surprise, he suddenly smiled and informed me that he had coincidentally been recently reading of such strange things in Mr Wells’ new novel, which he had borrowed from the new public library just up the road. He was very inquisitive about the future, as you can imagine, but I thought it best that he shouldn’t know too much of it, that’s not good for anyone, but as my time was nearly up I asked him if there was any one thing in particular he would like to hear about from my century before I departed.
‘Yes!’ he exclaimed, ‘Tell me about the buildings of the future! They must be so elegant and beautiful.’ He went on to explain that he himself was a master builder and had studied proportion, scale, entasis, appropriate detailing of doorways, balance in windows sizes and shapes, types of roof, string courses, the bonds of brickwork for different styles, mouldings, and all things that have been found to be naturally pleasing to the human eye.
He asked, ‘Do you have any pictures of the architecture of your time with you, that I could look at, and marvel at? There must be a myriad of pleasing things to see all around, considering the progress in aesthetics and building that will have been made over the passing century! Please, do let me see!…’
I took out my phone and found some pictures that I happened to have, I showed him streets, apartment blocks, shopping centres, houses, and views of 21st century city centres.
He stared at them with a look of horror on his face and in a choked voice, he gasped, ‘What happened to, proportion, elegance, style, taste… and… beauty?…’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘we don’t bother with all that any more, it’s all about economics, throwing things up cheaply and quickly – in my century it’s not worth bothering with what buildings look like – people wouldn’t appreciate it anyway…’
Tears filled his eyes, and as the machine started to suck me back and I began to fade in front of him, I heard him shout, ‘Was it the Morlocks, or the Eloi that took over and ruined everything?…’
‘No,’ I shouted back, ‘…it was the bankers and the accountants that did it!…’

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
This entry was posted in architecture, art, books, brain, conversation, design, history, learning, reading, style and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Excuse me sir, is this 1898?…

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Good god! What a mess!
      Imagine the embarrassment of the structural engineer – I was on the road to being one of those many years ago…
      They ought to get the people who stopped the tilting of the Pisa Tower in to have a look at it…

      • Dana Doran says:

        Oh that’s not the way things are done here in America….first the attorneys take half of all the money available to fix the problem researching case law and taking depositions, and (2) then the court assigns degrees of liability (or not) and then they’ll come up with a fix, maybe if none of the parties decide to appeal to the State Supreme Court….but don’t discount the odds that an earthquake will come along in the meantime …rendering all those legal fees moot. Haha!

      • Dave Whatt says:

        Me, I think I’d just get used to the slight tilt and live with it…

  1. My first thought was that you had been at the cheese again! But nice piece of writing!

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