This month I completed what the Australians call a ‘FIFO’ – a fly in, fly out visit to London. I was there to participate in a review of the ESRC-funded research centre SKOPE, based at Oxford University. The visit coincided with the funeral in London of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Reading through the UK press obituaries, I think that a fair summary of Thatcher political life was that while she loved Britain, she loathed the British. It’s interesting that if, as many of the right-wing commentators claimed, she changed Britain for the better, her offspring now live in the US and South Africa and also flew in for the occasion.
by Ben Fincham
Like Jeffrey Kidder I spent some time studying the bicycle messenger industry. In contrast to him I examined the European context and undertook an ethnography in the UK – working as a messenger for a couple of years – as well as interviewing messengers across Europe and conducting a European quantitative survey. As such I was interested in this article particularly as many key features of bicycle messengering appear to me to be present in both the United States and in Europe.
My experiences – a decade old now – were marked by low pay and a hazardous working environment. My colleagues, several of whom are still friends, were an eclectic mix of middle class idealists, cycling enthusiasts, people that had difficulty finding regular employment and a few people that seemed to revel in the performance of bicycle messengering and all that this entailed.