Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Brazil and A Lesson in Life

There are many websites and blogs concerned with the question "What is Style" and how can we define it, perceive it, assess it and even acquire it. Some people even seem to go so far as to suggest that they are able to can it and sell it.

But what is this Style, without grit; pluck, and courage? It is vapid; effete, and risible. Today I had a shock and, with the shock, a serious lesson in life. A Brazilian plumber/electrician (he is incredibly efficient in both activities), arrived to mend a leak in a roof void that can be entered only through the roof tiles on a second-floor roof. This man is about fifty five years old; five feet seven in height; not especially muscular, and normally wears shorts and a pair of flip-flop sandals; he is scarred, on one side, from his face, down across a shoulder on both front and back and, taken with a protruding shoulder bone, it all declares that he must, on some occasion in his life, have been nearly sliced in half.

He assessed the leak a few days ago, and decided that a 24 foot ladder was the only solution but he had to borrow one. Here there are two types of ladder: there are light, aluminium ladders and there are ladders made of Brazilian hardwood, of a similar density and weight to mahogany. He told me on the telephone that he had managed to borrow a hardwood ladder.

When he arrived this afternoon, I saw him and his bicycle outside and my heart sank because, plainly, there could be no ladder today.

Imagine my case when I tell you that there was a ladder and that he had carried it, over a mile, along a road that is largely cobbled, with various (and hazardous), 'sleeping-policemen' speed bumps, on his bicycle. I can lift the ladder and I could walk a few yards with it but ride on a bicycle with it for over a mile? I could not possibly even contemplate it but I am unconvinced that I am better off for not having to do so.

Now I am left with the task of trying to find a way, tomorrow, to suggest that I could have the ladder returned to its owner, without injuring his pride. But it not an understatement to say that this fellow's grit in overcoming obstacles in his life and his job leave me in far more awe than admiring mere clothes.

I salute you, Brazil, and long may you remain untainted by the slovenly habits and half-hearted lifestyles that so many people in the so-called 'developed world' embrace.

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