There’s a man in the house. He carries a hammer in his toolbelt and shows the crack of his bottom over the top of his worn workwear even when he’s not crawling around on the floorboards. He’s been sent to repair a few bits of Earth, our perpetually-falling-apart house, and to quote for a handful of further improvements that he’s hoping to persuade the landlord to let him install after we’ve gone.
He repairs the wobbly floorboard in my office while I try to get on with some work. The floorboard sinks considerably when it’s walked over, and feels like it might at any moment send me plummeting down into Paul‘s room. It’ll be good to have it repaired, even if this does occur only weeks before we are due to move out.
I’m listening to a Radio 4 program about disenchantment with contemporary financial establishments and cyber-trading and the recent growth of interest in gold trading as a “safety net”. A panellist says that for the first time in recorded history, the majority of gold is held by private investors, rather than by central banks. At some point, another panellist describes the expertise required by financial traders and a post-capitalist economy as being esoteric.
The builder pulls his head out from below the floorboards and speaks. “Ee-sow-terick?” he says, “I don’t even know what that means!”
“That’s subtly ironic, then!” I reply, not sure whether or not he’s being serious.
The builder makes a grunting sound that I interpret as being a derivation on the word “Huh?”
“Something esoteric is… something known only to a few; to an elite minority, perhaps,” I begin. “Like the word itself, it turns out,” I add, after a pause.
The builder grunts again; a sound that expresses his disinterest even more thoroughly than did his last utterance. He rolls the carpet back to where it belongs, and – by way of demonstration – jumps up and down. Somehow, in the last two minutes, he’s managed to repair the fragile floorboard. I didn’t even see what he was doing: one moment there was a hole in the floor, and now… everything was fine. I’d have been no less surprised if he’d produced the Nine of Spades from behind my ear. Perhaps I was merely distracted by the radio, but I’ve got no idea how he did it.