Contemplating Rita

Jan 15th, 2010 | By | Category: International

There is a moment in the film ‘Educating Rita’ when Rita suddenly realizes that there must be a different way of living. Family and friends are gathered in a pub singing along with a song and Rita looks around at the assembled faces and thinks that another world must be possible.

Sitting on a barstool in an apres-ski bar at the end of the week, there is a ‘Rita’ moment. The bar is octagonal and it is fascinating to watch the faces of those who sit across. The old country and western song ‘Country Roads’ is played in some electronic form and people, who previously have demonstrated no awareness of the music being played, suddenly burst into song.

A group of morose looking young men become almost animated as they join in the words. Where will they be on Monday morning? Will the young man wearing a hat with cat’s ears be as flamboyant in his Monday to Friday life? As they sit and drink their sequences of beer and exotic cocktails, what goes through their mind?

Across the bar, a grey haired man with a similarly aged companion raises his face to the ceiling as he sings out ‘Take me home’. What does he do for a living? What office door will he go through at the start of the working week?

A twenty-something young woman with long black curls dances with a friend, long cocktail glasses in their hands. Where have they come from and where will they be going as the get into a car or board a plane tomorrow?

The single bond that held together the diverse gathering of people, who would ordinarily never contemplate joining in the words of a country and western song, was a mood of melancholy. Their week of escape was over and the reality they contemplated seemed to leave them unhappy.

Looking around the bar, it was a gathering of citizens of some of the richest nations in the world, yet the abundant wealth that had brought them to this resort and to this bar seemed not to have brought a vision of contentment.

What would Rita have made of the faces around the bar, had she sat looking around those gathered? Would there have been a thought that there must be some way of organizing the world, and of living individual lives, where people felt happy with their lot? Should living comfortable, middle class lives not leave people as happy at the end of week away as they were at the beginning?

Perhaps our economic system depends upon a permanent state of discontentment. Perhaps demand for many of the goods we buy depends upon a constant striving for more and bigger and newer and costlier possessions in the vain hope that having such things will make us happy.

Rita finds a different way of living through her Open University course. It was hard to imagine what might have transformed the mood in the bar, save telling all of them that they could stay for another week.

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  1. Perhaps if people didn’t strive for bigger and better all the time and just lived with the perfectly good model until it wore out, then perhaps they would be happier,,,,,,,A Land Rover Discovery 4 is very nice but I am quite contented with my Discovery 1, at least its simple mechanics not plug it into a computer..much more fun to be able to tinker with…..

  2. Oh I think you’re a little maudlin yourself today Ian. Who wouldn’t lament the end of a week in Austria . . .I think ‘contentment’ is a worthy aim, Happiness is too elusive . . .I am truly happy on the weekend!

  3. Contentment feels good……..Happiness? people would think I had wind if I smiled!!!!

  4. I studied Educating Rita at A-level, I was 29.

  5. Ian,
    When you were sitting in that Bar in Austria, what were your dreams for Monday morning?

  6. I’m not sure.

    I thought this an ‘Educating Rita’ moment!

    and then I thought, ‘I’ve got some difficult stuff to sort out when I go home’,

    and then I thought, ‘I’ve had a great day out with four people from Ulster, whom I had never met before this week and I’m not going to let anything spoil the moment!’

    (Thank you to Ernie and Laura and Alan and Lynn for a great day’s craic)

  7. I was just listening to Pulp – Common People – made this blog come to mind…

  8. I’d never heard it before. It’s a reverse of Sarstedt’s ‘Where do you go to my lovely?’ where her high class life cannot take away the memories of being poor.

    It has never been a conscious decision, but Church of Ireland stipends are around the level of the average industrial wage in Ireland – it keeps a firm sense of reality.

  9. I found the version of Country Roads sung in the bar:

    Lively stuff.

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