I work in a high-rise office block in the centre of Brighton. I love the view across the town, it never ceases to bring me joy on the most tiresome of days.
The west side of the Queens Park ward is in pretty much full view from this vantage point. It serves as a reminder of the steep hills that Brighton is positioned upon. I’m not entirely sure which one is the steepest- I will have walked up all of them at some stage. Not so long ago a friend of mine suggested that Bear Road would take some beating, although having lifted myself up Sussex Street after a hard days work I may be inclined (pardon the pun) to disagree.
About four years ago, on a grey and miserable autumn afternoon, a wave of boredom must have directed my eyes towards this eastern view on intermittent occasions. It was then I began to notice that Kingswood Street, which appears to be used as a short cut from Grand Parade to Edward Street, always seemed to accommodate a white van travelling in some direction, sometimes as many as three or four.
Now this wasn’t just an occasional appearance that made for a footnote in the days analytics.
I could almost be guaranteed that every moment my eyes cast in that direction at least one would be moving up or down. If not, I think the longest wait was about a minute. Nothings changed in the subsequent time, even when I took the above picture, two vans of the white variety passed, and it was a Saturday afternoon…
Now perhaps this observation may have a ‘so what?’ tag attached to it, but Its got me thinking about ‘White Van Man’. It even became a subject of conversation in the break room. I’m not sure where the phrase originated from, but there is a profundity attached to it.
If ever I hear that phrase I think of the Sun newspaper, reader though I am not. In fact it may have been in use around the time of the 1996 European Football Championships in England, you know, when the Union Jack was swapped for the flag of St George and an English identity was truly born…
Is White Van Man a conditioned soul? Has he no control over his destiny? Does this famous term for these pidgeon-holed drivers have the equivalence to that of a racial description or that of inherited religion? Or do we wish to apply a stereotype to the man munching his sandwiches at the traffic lights and sneaking a peak at the tabloid on his dashboard ?
When I gaze in the direction of the Kingswood Flats most days it’s as if the vans are moving up and down like mice in a colony. Not thinking, just instinctively meandering through a series of movements that form the working day. Then again, perhaps that is a summary for many our lives.
I’ve come to a conclusion that we are all ‘White Van Man’, or indeed ‘White Van Woman’. What Kingswood Street does is remind me of how ultimately we all go about our daily lives doing what is best for ourselves and our families, conditioned to do it even if in reality we don’t want to. Perhaps we go about our whole lives like this. Now that is a sweeping generalisation, and when I write it I get cause to believe that my view of Kingswood Street may just be to mirror my own robotic existence, from the same window of 14 years servitude, rather than others……..
For to most, there is less philosophy involved in this, and The White Vans Of Kingswood Street simply tell them that it’s just a short cut between Grand Parade and Edward Street that drivers in a hurry find rather convenient whilst they go about providing essential services we so rely on….