There is something really amusing but also slightly uncomfortable about listening to the conversations of two workmen replacing a boiler in your flat. They spend over half of their time moaning about your house and the problems with the installation of the pipes and electrics. As I hear this I tense, thinking that this will be the problem that they can’t resolve and irrationally strategizing for never having heat in my home again. They spend part of their remaining time gossiping about colleagues and mocking each other.
It reminds me a bit of one of my favourite television programmes of the moment, The Secret Life of 4 and 5 year-olds. They follow children as they interact with each other in a school playground. It’s amazing how simultaneously brutal and loving children can be to each other, how they constantly form and then change their alliances, how they work with and against each other and how much power they hold over each other’s emotions and experiences. It all proves that in many ways we never really grow up; at best we just learn to cover our emotional responses a little better to fit in with societal expectations. The plumber and electrician battling with my boiler installation are no different.