Sunday, 13 May 2012

Life gets in the way

Mother's Day.

My grandmother, my last surviving grandparent is lying comatose after a stroke that has rendered her no longer apart of our world the night before. She cannot hear or see. Even if she could wake up, she is gone.

This was not how anybody envisioned Mother's Day, but people wrapped up in life dont envision death all that often. Mother's day would go on, and despite the ache inside, it was a celebration. And it could not but highlight why we have days like these: to make sure that, for at least a little while,  we can express in all-too tacky ways how much we need and love those that are not here forever.

I cannot help but look for the signs of flagging vitality in my own mother. Is she slower or less sharp than she used to be? Am i losing her? No. But i am losing time with her like floating feather moments through my fingers. The lump in my throat threatens and my vision blurs.

I look at the garden and float with the conversation for the next while. Mum is fine. Mum has always been there and in some way i tell myself, she always will be. Deep breath and my heart settles. I drift back into the conversation.

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Pushing his way through the undergrowth and into a clearing, he pauses. The path, if you could call it that, seems to end on a rocky outcrop. He squints into the sun, its bright, harsh, but clean in an honest way. Its been a while since he sat in the sun and just rested.

And he needs a rest. Its been quite a jouney. He pulls himself up onto a smoothed large rock and pulls of his pack. Its a ragged thing, but very functional. Functional. Now there was a word he had learned to love and hate. Functional was never pretty, never the best, always hard and purposeful. He looked down at his shoes and the word "functional" came to mind again and he grinned sadly at them. They were good shoes. They had got him where he was and would no doubt take him where he needed to go and were comfortable in a heavy sort of way. But they were caked in mud and had cracks forming down the sides from hard use. He loved those boots, even if sometimes he didnt like them. They had kept out the worst of the cold and wet on the journey he had chosen and he would always be grateful.

Rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck, the man leaned back against the rock on his elbows and took a deep breath. The path did indeed seem to end here. He took another deep breath and looked around the rocky outcrop, the unexpected end of his journey. At first glance it looked desolate and lonelyand he felt from deep inside a small welling of sadness that perhaps it had all been for nothing, the struggling, the cold, the rain and constant hard slog.

Hi bit his lower lip and hugged his pack.

Deep breath.

He squinted back up at the sun and shut his eyes to the blinding glare. Slowly he let his eyes open again and looked back over the wilderness he had crosssed. He had known he was travelling uphill a lot of the time, but was a little taking aback by how high he was and how much he could see. He had come a long way. He leaned forward and put his head in his hands and gazed through the clear sky over all below.

He could easily see the long stony ridge he had spent months travelling along and his eyes hardened. Those had been hard times. But he remembered how warm his old jacket had been and how his shoes had softened the steps. He remembered the fish he had caught in the small sheltered pool next to the waterfall where he had swam, even though it was cold enough to be painful. He had shivered in his jacket afterwards and wondered at his sanity for diving into the small pond at the bottom of the waterfall but looking back he had never felt more alive. The frown-lines on his faced softened at this thought and he looked further.

He could see the sunlight glistening off lake in the distance. It looked beautiful. He chuckled ruefully to himself, for half a second sucked back into the beauty of the lake from afar. It has been so aluring and his mind had romanticized the notion of building a boat and skimming over the surface of the lake, eating and drinking and being provided for by the lake. "What a life of ease!" he had thought. He looked at his scarred hands, healed over now but still showing the signs of hard lessons learned. The boat had been a fantastic idea, but terrible in practicality. He remembered seeing the lake for the first time and excitedly planning the exotic jouney ahead. He imagined his father telling him what a folly it was, how he knew nothing of boats, how he was asking for trouble...and why borrow trouble when you had enough on your plate. And he would have been right.

First came problems with materials. The trees nearby were small and spindly things, the flax for rope inadequate, he had not enough nails, had to guess how to make sails and he had designed too big. Then, and even now this was hard for him to admit, he found he lacked the skills necassary to fashion the dream boat he had imagined. A hard month later he found himself with something that floated -but at what price. He had slashed his hands making rope one day, and had screamed in frustration at the ugly thing that he had strived to hard to create. Where was the sleek watercraft that was going to provided the life of ease, skimming across the water? What he had fashioned he was sure would plod heavily through the small waves of the lake. He had tried so hard, had spilt blood, worked lon hot days until his back was on fire, his lips cracked from the sun and his hands a mess of ropey scars. The tears had come suddenly after he pulled the boat up onto the sandy bank and set fire to it.

Remembering now, it all seemed quite funny and a little silly. But the lessons learned had changed him -some things cant work, no matter how much and sometimes in spite of the efforts you put in. It had made him bigger and stronger and wiser, had given him the hands he had now. But those hands now knew how to make the rope that had frustrated him, to sew the sails that in future might one day send him skimming over the waves of some other lake.

He got up and stretched. For the first time he looked around his immediate area properly. To the left was a small goat track down a steep path, twisted around a corner and disappeared. He settled his feet into his shoes properly and swung his pack back on his back. He ran his hand through his hair - he needed a haircut again, but he always seemed to need a haircut- grinned a little and headed down the path.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Back in 5 Minutes.

Ok, so it was a lot longer than 5 minutes.

I always thought this was a fairly self-indulgent idea blogging, but i think im happy to use it for me first and foremost. If my hand writing was better and i had an awesome looking journal i think id write, it has more appeal.


So lots is changing for me at the moment. What im causing to happen now is in preparation for next year. Next year is mine.

That gets said a lot, to be honest - "Next year will be better, next year is THE year, plans plans plans." However, im counting on planning for it, not just waiting for it to happen. As George Harrison said, its gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time. And money. And drive.

The impetus for this comes from my job, which has taken over my life. I think i write this more than anything to remind myself of what self-growth and free time and choices are worth and what having them taken away costs. Not next year. Not ever would be stupid to say, but i think i can set a few things in motion to at least stave off that mental inertia and emotional flatspot iv been feeling this year sometimes. And so the countdown to job change is on, 3 weeks and hopefully i can start on some if not all of these ideas.

For now, lets confine "these ideas" to learning French fluently and travel mid-way through next year. The rest will come later on. One thing at a time. In essence, i suppose id like to use this to track how im going. Its too easy to say "Tomorrow, im busy today" so im hoping to be a lot more proactive by guilting myself into action worst comes to worst.

P.s. if you havent seen The Social Network, get to it!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Not in My Job Title (extended)

More! Theres always more. My job never endeth, and neither does the range and fluidity of the position. Included some of the most pointless, inane and just silly conversations.

"How deep is the lake?"
(Me) Well, its low at the moment because the pump isnt working, but its about 5 foot at its deepest.
"It looks deeper than that."
(me) Yeah, well, theres muck on the bottom, so, its acrually deeper than it looks.
"Yeah, it looks deeper"
(Me) Wait til it fills up. Deeper still.
"Yeah, that'd be deep."

Shoot me now.

"I cant find a bin."
(me) Oh, there arnt any. We like people to take their rubbish with them, the house would never have had bins around anyway, so its original fabric."
"Well, its really inconveniant. Can you take this?"
(me)........ the rubbish? I.....just give it to the gate house when you leave, sorry, i have nowhere to put it.
"*SIGH!* Fine"

Im not a bin! Im not hiding one in my pockets either you horrible harridan, christ.

Maybe these are amusing and maybe they arnt, but it saves on therapy so....cheers! And sorry if i offend anybody.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Dead Work

Ok, so Luke inspired me to finish chpt 1 and put it up, hopefully with the view that it will push me to finish more. Comments and critism most welcome.

Its 2014, the world financial crisis has gone beyond crisis and the Depression into Super-crisis. Countries have retreated behind their borders to look after their own and food stamps and rationing is imminent. McDonalds still holds out as a provider of low cost food, but most multi-national corporations have faded in to giant empty office blocks, testament to greed and “good times” that may or may not return. Zac is a young man who wanted to be an accountant like his accountant parents, but in a world with no money, what’s a budding accountant to do?

It was possibly the plainest office you could imagine, with every skerrick of personality sucked out of it like it had been designed by Ikea 20 years ago. No, 30 years ago. Zac sighed to himself quietly as his potential new boss John looked over his amazingly short resume again. There was only so much you could pad out a resume when you're 18 and Zac hadn’t felt like he could add anything more. Being the employee of the month at McDonalds looked like a pitiful best achievement and he knew it.

“Best employee at Maccas eh?”

Groan. Zac nodded, unable to put into words the “i’m 18 and iv studied full time up until now and id rather be at university, but im a solid realible guy!” he wanted to say. Plus, Uni was for people with money.

“This doesn’t seem like a people job, but if and when you meet the deceased’s family that would come in handy. Nothing like the harsh reality of McDonalds clientele to ready you for emotional storms.”

Zac blinked. McDonalds. A good thing. Right.

There were a whole list of words he’d have to get used to if he got the job, like it wasn’t a body or a corpse, it was the deceased. People were bereaved, you mourned, and it wasn’t even a funeral in most cases, it was a celebration of somebody’s life. None of this occurred to Zac when his parents explained to him that “food on the table” was the aim now that the planet had finally gone bust and a full third of people in America had lost their jobs by 2012. By 2014 people realised that the financial system of the world was beyond repair and the World Bank, out of money and ideas, disbanded.
Both his parents had lost their jobs, his mum a few years ago and his dad just a few weeks ago. Food on the table was becoming more of an imperative.

“You put here under hobbies reading and hiking. Anything else?”

“Not...really.” Zac replied.

“Books... what sort of books?” John was squinting at him, trying to deduce something from his face.

“Uh, anything really. Comics, novels, autobiographies. Anything the local library still has worth reading.”

“Sci-fi? Horror? Fantasy...?” John left those hanging in the air like something nasty or wrong.
Sensing John’s feelings towards the area Zac couldn’t help moderating his answer. He needed the job’ even if he didn’t particularly want it.

“Well, anything not partial to it. Infact, i can’t remember the last time i read something like that.” Lord of the Rings, waiting for the bus to the interview. 15 minutes ago.

“Good....good.” John visibly relaxed, as if one of his bigger fears had just be dispelled. “Just checking, no reason.”

Great, the guy had weird tendancies about books . What other personality glitches were waiting to be unveiled .. . hell, the guy dug graves for a living. Would he end up like that after a few years? Maybe weeks...

Putting his hands together on the table, John sat forward, his face becoming even more sober. This was it.

“What....what made you choose this line of work?” He stared intently into Zac's eyes with that suspicious-of-everything-young look that only people over the age of 60 can manage

“Um...well. There isn’t anything else is there?” It was out before he’d even thought it through. Why did people clean toilets for Christ sake? They needed cleaning and somebody paid that person to do it. Nuff said. Pay e-check in your e-mail. Food on the table. Then the horrible honesty of the statement hit home and Zac’s pale face got paler. “And, and im interested in...”

Zac faded out. He knew hed blown it, what a stupid thing to say. And now he just wanted to get out of there.

“Hah! Good, you’ll do. You start Monday, lots to teach, but not much to it. 3 days and 2 nights a week.”

Zac’s head spun. “I...”

John: ”Hired. As long as your not one of those nut jobs, Goths, Emo –revivalists or death-junkies your hired.”

Zac: “ Um, great! I mean, im not..any of those things. Great! Thanks.”

Zac was now an apprentice grave digger. Food on the table...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Not in my job title...

I think, not long ago, when writing about my job and what i do i explained that there were things expected of me that were necesarily in my job title. And not just that, but things that were as foreign to me as frostbite to a Sri Lankan. This week has been a lesson and a trial in patience and pushing general knowledge and common sence to its boundaries.

The following are phrases and very short snatches of conversations iv had this week:

"How are you with rats Tim? The cat next door just mauled one and im not sure how much is left, but could something with it?" -This older matronly lady said this with a look on her pinched face like "step on it, bin it, do what you like with it as long as its gone". Perhaps luckily, there was only a head left in the middle of the basement. Which leads to my next pearler...

"Tim, do you know how to cut carpet??" - As a matter of fact, i do. I spent a a summer laying carpet when i was 16 and knew all she would need wa s a stanley knife...the look on her face said "jees, a knife... and it will be heavy.." This lady, part of our collections team, put on a bright smile that told me i was coming with her, saddle up!

"Is that concrete slab all the way through or just a thin topping?" - It was made in the 1880's! I dont know! Nobodies knows! Thats why were hired you, the engineer! Followed closely by:

"Can you dig a hole?" - ........ Just because i dont have a crystal ball to see the past, doesnt mean im the mental equivilent of a paramecium.

"How much can they ute pull?
(my reply) Probably about 1 and a half tonne.
"How much is that?"
"...1500 kilos."
"So itl do it?"
"Do what?"
"Tow a horse float."
"...sure. Why not."

How heavy is the damn horse? How heavy is the float?? Is a shetland? A clydesdale? A foal? Iv ridden a horse twice in my life, how do i know?

"Why dont we let cars come up the drive way here?"
"Well, because of the pedestrians, mainly children and old people, and the wheelchairs for one, but also because they compaction WILL kill all the trees running the length of the drive (100 metres) and those are 100 year old oaks. That would be a shame."
"Surely not."
"Yeah, the compaction will kill them. 5 years, they'lll die. 10 max."
"Surely not.

- This was the worst. This was my field, my area, part of the reason i work there! Why even ask?! If you dont want a real answer just make it up in your head. Also, what about the people??

(this is me) "Hi, was was wondering how much new barings cost for my car?"
(service station) " What sort of car is it?"
"A late 80's bmw."
"Right...i dunno."
"Ok, could you give me a ballpark?"
"Well, not really..."
"How much is the part worth?"
"I couldnt say really... probably around a hundred or so."
Ok, and how long would it take you?"
"Maybe an hour..?"
"So, it would be maybe 150-170?"
"Yeah, about that."

As the bewildered Irishman who was band from swearing once said -Jesus Mary and Joseph!!
Part + labour = the end fracken price!!

Most of these incidents turned out to be light hearted and funny, but some induced a tight-smiled effect of holding ones composer til the idiot passed and eye-rolling and fist-clenchingly walking away.