The office is still stress-filled and tense. The Boss is worse than anyone, but for some reason decided today to bring in his dogs to the office. So, as well as harrassed, worried, scared staff running around barking at each other, we had an office of dogs joining in.
There are some scenes, that, in comedy, you can see coming a mile off. As soon as two particular elements have been introduced, you’re thinking: ah, set-up. Our offices, you see, have very new carpeting, and we have lots of strict rules about always carrying drinks on trays, and suchlike, to make sure that the new carpet stays new. The dogs, clearly, know the rules of comedy as well as I do, because it didn’t take long before we heard The Boss shouting: “No! Bad dog! No!”, and saw him dragging a whining dog to the door, a dark trail of liquid on the carpet behind it.
Ten years ago, I knew I would be moving away from here, so I spent a while travelling round the area with my camera, taking photos like these two. I travelled round the whole area, as much as I could by bus and on foot, taking pictures of everything I saw, or at least as much as I could afford to get developed.
Now, I find myself doing the same thing again. Of course, I’ve just got a new camera, which gives me a bit of an excuse. Because I’m too mentally exhausted to write anything constructive, here are some photos I took, of this area, the other day.
Work is not good at the moment. We are supposed to be doing impossible things, in tiny amounts of time. Our contractors are getting angrier, and our management is refusing to manage. We’re sending warnings upwards, about things that don’t work, things that we don’t know work, and things that haven’t even been tried; the management isn’t listening, so later they can claim they didn’t even know. Our department is becoming less and less popular by the minute, because of the black hole it’s creating. The work is leaving me lightheaded, tired, and listless. Then again, that could equally be explained by the bad ventilation in the office.*
Me and Big Dave are in a game of chicken at the moment. A game of chicken, to see who dares send in their resignation letter first.
* The feelings I have by 5pm every day – anger, irritibility, tiredness, listlessness, light-headedness – are all symptoms of hypoxia, or blood oxygen shortage.
In the news today: military musicians are having their bagpipe practise time restricted for fear of giving them hearing damage. You’d think that if they joined the army they were willing to risk physical injury to start with, but there you go.
Bagpipes, apparently, are as loud as a chainsaw. As anyone who’s put up with Edinburgh buskers knows, though, chainsaws are rather more musical.
I’ve been thinking about having a new feature on the site: Readers’ Letters. I get you to write in with questions that aren’t suitable for a normal comment-box entry, and I answer them. I was thinking of doing it today, in fact, but I couldn’t be bothered to make all the questions up as well as the answers. So, if you have anything you want to ask, email my usual address: feedback at symbolicforest.com
I also should get around to rearranging the post categories. As time goes by I find myself referring back to previous posts more and more often; and spending more and more time searching for previous posts that I know are in the archive somewhere. Better categorisation should mean less searching, hopefully. After all, all categorisation systems change over time – look at how libraries work.
Big Dave has a new car. Not new new, but new to him – he bought it off his dad at a bargain price. “You know what,” he said, “it does 140mph, and it still had some power left in it. And that was just up the London Road – I haven’t tried it on a motorway yet.” I’m going to be staying indoors more from now on. I’m happy to trundle along at the speed limit myself. If I want to drive something that can do that speed, I’ll try and get a job as a train driver.
Listening to people chatting about What Was On The Telly Last Night, I suddenly realised – I haven’t watched a thing all week. Instead I’ve been listening to music, largely because I’ve been playing with Last.fm, the website that shows everyone else what you’re listening to. In my case, it largely shows the world what a twee indiekid I am, but that’s because my record collection is heavily biased. There’s an awful lot of music that I like but don’t own, because I don’t know enough to know what to get.
Anyway, that’s enough nonsense for this week – there is a cup of tea cooling in the kitchen, and I need waking up.
There are little routines you get practised in. Little things you do automatically. Taking things in and out of the oven, for example. Oven glove on one hand, open door with the other, stand back from blast of heat, pick up tray in gloved hand and shift it.
So then, why, making dinner last night, did I manage to get it wrong? Open door with ungloved hand,* pick up hot tray with same hand. OWWWWWW. And it was my writing hand, too. I can still type, but it might be a few days before handwriting is on the menu again.
* the handle on our oven door is too small to open if you’re wearing an oven glove; you can’t get a grip on it. Which is silly in itself.
This post has been a long time coming. Ever since I read her obituary, I’ve been meaning to write it, and been putting it off; and that was back in January.
Jan Mark is probably one of the writers who has meant the most to me over the years, at least in terms of understanding writing, and storytelling. She was mostly known as a children’s writer, producing prizewinning, wonderful work such as Thunder And Lightnings. My own favourite piece from her children’s books was a short story, “Nule”,* about two children who treat one of their house’s newel posts as if it’s human, then start to worry that it’s becoming slightly too human.
My favourite book of hers, though, is her single “adult” book, Zeno Was Here. It’s a love story, a very touching one, but it’s mostly about writing itself. It’s about the writing process, the nature of writing, and the feeling of being written about. It’s a novel about the structure of novels, and it’s the book which introduced me to the works of Flann O’Brien.** It’s about coincidence. It ends with the kind of bone-jarring unexpected coincidence that just doesn’t happen in novels; and then you remember that a hundred pages earlier, the characters were discussing just why those sort of events don’t happen in novels, when they crop up in real life all the time.
It’s quite an obscure book, and – as far as I know – has been out of print for ten years, at least. I found my copy of it by just the sort of coincidences that don’t happen in books: finding out that it existed, and going to my local library to see if they had a copy, I found it among the fifty or so tatty things on the “Withdrawn, For Sale” table. It’s only right, I suppose, that you should find a book about coincidence in that sort of way. If you find a copy yourself, read it, because it deserves to be better-known.
* from the collection Nothing To Be Afraid Of
** Another writer I’ve been meaning to post about, but haven’t
Big Dave’s latest plan for self-improvement has been under way for a few weeks now. He’s decided to study the martial* arts, and has been going to ju-jitsu classes on a Monday night. Which means that every Tuesday, when we come in to open up, he’s groaning at every aching muscle.
To be fair, he’s getting better. After the first night, he was groaning with every tiny movement he had to make. Now, after a few weeks, he’s mostly quiet but for the odd pained expression on his face.
From all the stories he tells, Big Dave can already look after himself. Most of the tales he tells of nights out end up with him coming out on top whenever a fight breaks out. Of course, maybe he’s being selective about which tales he tells us, and maybe they end up embroidered in the telling. Clearly, though, he’s not that confident; or at least he feels like he needs an extra edge when it comes to fights in the street on a Saturday night. Or maybe he’s just concerned about the size of his waistline; the classes are billed as “ju-jitsu and self-defence”, but that doesn’t have to be the only reason for going. Maybe he’s planning on a definitive wrestle with the management when he finally leaves.
* Yes, I did double-check that I’d spelled that correctly.
One of the events from my trip to London recently: a gig by the band Montoya, at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon.* I have an interest to declare, of course: John, Montoya’s lead singer, is someone I’ve known for years, and don’t see at all often enough.**
I’d not seen them play before, but they really were rather good; and I’m not just saying that because John’s a friend of mine.*** Lively, bouncy indie-rock with intelligent lyrics and intelligent chord progressions; look out for them.
I shot off a whole roll of photos, but – like the Shimura Curves gig a few days earlier, I’m not really happy with them. The Shimuras photos had put me off doing natural-light photos; so I went the other way, and produced a roll of brightly-lit shots with horribly detailed backgrounds and hardly any atmosphere. The few I did with natural light were by far the best. Here are some of them; I also didn’t get any good shots at all of the drummer, because he was hiding away at the back.
* Directly above the Widened Lines, and almost above the Ray Street Gridiron bridge – if you look at this 1860s picture, the Betsey Trotwood is above the tunnel mouth on the left, now the Circle Line.
** He’s a regular reader, too – hi John! – and there are photos of his daughter
Piglet Jaime elsewhere on the site too.
*** or because he’ll be reading this.