Thursday, 24 April 2014

Second Thoughts; boxes

Over the past year I’ve been considering that life is a whole series of boxes. We are contained in one after the other, there is no respite. They come in a myriad of sizes, shapes but they are all we have. 

So, I’ve slept in my bedroom box. It’s as large as any bedroom box I have ever slept in with the possible exception of the garden box I've used in a couple of times when I have found indoor boxes too hot in summer time. The garden box is still confining though despite it’s open ceiling. 

I use the en-suite box each morning on waking, and then take the stair-box down two flights and into the kitchen box. It is a small box yet functions well. It has the basics of sink, oven, fridge (skinny), a little bit of worktop and the washing machine too. We cook every day, prepare meals, put ingredients together, that sort of thing. There is no microwave or dish washer, it is too small. And yet, it’s a much used box, it performs well above it’s relative stature, it should be proud of itself. 

The other ground floor box is our lounge which is actually quite spacious. Most of my day is spent at one end of this, parked at the dining table. I have a view out of this box, out to the road at the front of our overall box-house. Here I can watch people using the long thin boxes that are the pavement and the road. There might not be the physical box sides but it is obvious how these box-corridors work. We need to use them to get to another box where we will spend more time. It is rare that they are very wide, we do not need them to be so. Their transparent boundaries however, do let us have views of what goes on outside our immediate box. Views into other boxes.

Sometimes these corridors will be short and we’ll open the car-box, another cramped space that we all spend too long in. It can be a stressful box, tiring too. Yes it comes with a view but as boxes go it’s never going to be the most comfortable. Or perhaps we have taken a longer corridor-box to the waiting box of the bus stop or train/tube station. From which the transportation box will arrive and we clamber on board, taking a seat, hopefully. These boxes come with additional strangers that we must share the space with. Some become familiar and yet we rarely get to know them. 

On arrival at our destination station, or car park, we’ll resume the corridor travel to a box that might look bigger on the outside, but is in all likelihood, just another series of smaller boxes, and we will only get to use a few of them. If one is our office-box then we may have a few more corridors to traverse before coming to rest in a too familiar box for work. This is what I did for years. Lots of different boxes, the majority quite small, for three or four people. In some of the larger floors the boxes would themselves be divided up so that I would only need to use a small percentage of it.

In shop-boxes we are surrounded by items on display. These boxes often come with box supervisors who know from nothing, all the way through to being 'geniuses' about their wares. Thought is unnecessary in a lot of these boxes, formulaic scripts will do. ‘Can I help you?’ I was asked yesterday as I placed an item I wished to purchase on the counter and opened my wallet. Well, of course you can, I need you to take my money, give me a plastic bag I don't want or need and prevent me from being caught shoplifting. ‘Er, just this please,’ I said handing over a note. And that was it. The transactional box required nothing. Indeed the next one, the supermarket box had even less human interaction with my self-checkout skills being finely honed. Return the trolley to it’s box, load the shopping into the car-box. And it goes on like that, day after day.

Some boxes look impressive, large, tall, with many floors, balconies, large windows and I look at them with envy. I would like to live in that box. And yet, it’s just another box. Maybe it has taller ceilings, is larger in area? Yet I will still take up the same amount of room in that box as I do in this one. Perhaps it has a better view, wider, or of greater distances, yet that’s all it is. When we visited Thierry in Bayswater last week the private flat he'd hired for their holiday was such a property. In Central London in must be worth a fortune. And yet, it was just another box from the inside. The outer shell held greater potential.

I haven't mentioned gig-boxes, tour-van-boxes, hotel-boxes, stadia-boxes or wide open parks. They all do much of a muchness. I will only use the small area around me for a short while, it may as well be another corridor-box or a simple room box. Whenever I go swimming the box is flooded at the bottom so I wear my Speedo goggles. The changing cubicle is a tiny box. Over the last nine months I hate to think how long I have spent in those boxes. Would be like a prison box. There’s a Scarfo song called ‘Prison Architect’ with the refrain ‘Hey prison architect, design a box for living’. 

All in all, boxes are good. It’s all about how you connect those that you use. How long you spend in each one and whether you can make the experience as positive as possible. How big does your box need to be? What on earth are you doing in your box? I think it’s important to consider this more often, not take them for granted. Personalise your boxes whenever possible, fill them with sensory items, experience them, consciously. 

Lid on.


  1. Neil, for you.

  2. Thank you, that is a truly impressive video and a great song! Brilliant!