Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Holly holly day!

Well, on slightly more cheerful thoughts, I've got a day off tomorrow. Woo!

There's no real reason for it, and I have to admit, I don't feel good about leaving my colleagues alone after all we've been through lately. But I didn't sleep very well this weekend, I haven't had a day off in months, and I have so much stuff to get together it's not even funny. Well slightly- my hair's gone huge, and I spent ten minutes cutting a comb out of it this morning! I also need to sort out a Hallowe'en costume and do some boring personal finance, oh, and get my eyes tested, buy shoes, and go to college. Because I'm broke, blind, got holes in my shoes and I'm undereducated.

But at least I get a lie-in. yay.

Mankind's learning disability

People are full of hate, prejudiced and easily lead. Discuss:

Exhibit 1:
An hour by hour account of the day in 1938 when German Jews were murdered, synagogues burnt and homes destroyed - a terrifying day that started the descent into the Holocaust.
A 'civilised', western society turns on a scapegoated minority. Probably the most depressing programme I've watched in a very long time.

Exhibit 2:
Gypsy effigies burnt on bonfire
Patricia Knight, who was at the bonfire with her seven-year-old daughter, said: "A caravan was wheeled down the street which portrayed women and children inside, with 'pikey' written on the back and the image of a scantily-clad woman standing in the door.

Villagers, who have asked not to be named, have said the effigy was chosen after the recent eviction of travellers from a nearby field.

Exhibit 3:
More thinly veiled hatred of foreigners. Whipped up by a powerful media force- this from the Sun's 'letters' page.

THE Government admits total incompetence by allowing 60,000 asylum seekers to remain in Britain.
We are gradually swamped by foreigners and if we offer any resistance to this we are labelled racist. I believe this is Tony Blair’s way of eroding our national identity and pride so no one will care if we join Europe and lose the Pound.
He is a very dangerous and devious man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Tenbury Wells, Worcs

IS it any wonder we are under threat from terrorist attacks when we allow 60,000 asylum seekers to remain in this country?
How do we know who these people are and where they came from? Or do we just wait for them to strike at us?
Hayle, Cornwall

Anyone remember what happened to the Reichstag? And who they blamed?

Is it wrong to force people to watch a television programme? Because they should, and see where this scapegoating and bullying leads to.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Alight from the dark

God, things have changed since I was li'l. Going into the Post Office just now, I've discovered that the world of fireworks has become, well, militarised. In the display case I helped him build (I passed him up a hammer), Post Office Bloke's got all these parcels the size of a car battery with names like 'Heavy Bomber, tank blast, and, my personal favourite, atom bomb.' There was the Twister, with the warning/tag line '18 shot barrage.' It's definitely a step up from 'emits showers of sparks'.

I just know I'm going to be witnessing quite a lot of these devastating effects. With the rat boys looking for a handy patch of land, you get the strange feeling that my back garden's going to fit the bill. And assuming it's not 3am and they don't burn anyone's face off, why not? Bangs and unexplained flashes are as part of the Autumn tapestry as leaves, frosts and car crashes.

Brother thinks fireworks should be banned, but the liberal in me hates that. True, there's no good reason to let off fireworks, but there's no good reason to do a lot of things. And yes, people misuse fireworks, but a bottle of wine is fairly deadly in the wrong hands. It just seems such an authoritarian, heavy-handed measure; ban fireworks, solve the problem. Lock up heroin addicts, solve the problem. Outlaw vagrancy... Why not make it a crime to misuse fireworks, rather than use them.

Besides, there's something deeply primal about our need to let off explosions at the start of winter. Maybe its the need for sound and light, to repel the silence and darkness of winter. Diwali's all about light, and so's solstice, and it's no wonder Christianity had to adapt to this need too. Perhaps in setting off a firework we're echoing the first moment homo habilus made fire, in his control of nature setting himself apart from the animals he lived among. In lighting the blue touch paper we're striking those first flints, scaring those first mammoths, cooking our first bit of buffalo. Maybe by finding out that fire has been one of man's oldest friends (those fickle dogs knew a good thing when they saw one), rather than something to fear, we find ourselves understanding a little more the mystery of what it means to be a human. Both me staring at a candle flame and the rat boy setting a car alight are just exploring our common humanity in the cold winter night.

Failing that, we just like a good bang. And Atom Bomb is only a tenner.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

If only I could turn back time

By the time I'd finished lying in bed, playing the guitar and reading Rabbi Blue (who I heartedly recommend), I realised it was 1 o'clock. And then I realised I hadn't put the clocks back, so before I knew it it was only midday. Woo-hoo!

Of course, the only price I have to pay for that is six months of travelling home in the dark, a wasted hour of morning daylight I'm guaranteed to sleep through (I don't choose my working hours), and the increased risk of being killed, robbed or maimed by rush hour on the poorly lit streets of Hertfordshire. So why do we have to do this every year?

Something to do with Scotland, apparently. Well, here's an idea- put Scotland in the best time zone for the majority of Scottish people, and put England in the best time zone, for, um, me.

Or are winter muggings and traffic accidents all part of a great British tradition?

Comedy moments

Went to the newly-refurbished Jongleurs in Watford last night. Not as good as it was, obviously. And I can't help but shake the thought that the people of West Herts aren't quite ready for a sophisticated comedy club (bar the cock jokes). The comedians spent half their time telling people to shut up and listen, rather than telling jokes, which is what we (hadn't) paid for.

Even that time-honoured Jongleurs tradition of throwing out one persistant talker as an example to others didn't help. And we left after midnight, to be confronted by 3 police vans, 12 officers and an ambulance.

Just another Saturday night out in Watford then. 'Ibiza on acid' according to the Evening Standard.

OK, so I wrote the letter. I can't help it. It's Mr Fusion's fault, he made the fantastic point:

you're not presenting opinions that an old man would give. So
why let them have the voice?

But I did leave out my favourite bit, which I'll reproduce here:

"Maybe Mr Stockdill may wish to check his facts and form a coherent arguement, rather than relying on assumptions and personalised attacks.

The senile old nazi.'

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Grumpy young man pt II


I can't do it. I cannot write this letter. I cannot be the sort of person to write to the Watford Observer to point out factual errors. I'm only 23. But look:

Exhibit One:
"It's a fact
- Contrary to popular belief, there are almost no Buddhists in India, nor have there been for about 1,000 years."

Um, ever heard of Dharamsala? The capital of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile? Home of the Dalai Lama and over 80,000 refugees from Tibet. All fairly Buddhist, at least. As a percentage, it's probably pretty small, but 80,000 of them is not almost none. And that's just one town.

Exhibits Two and Three:
Taking Stock with Roy Stockdill
'There is surely an argument for asking why the majority shold stump up money for what is, after all, a minority past time.'
- Roy on why the council shouldn't be paying for a skatepark.
Um, hate to say it, but you could argue theatre and art are fairly minority pasttimes. In fact, short of shopping and driving, I can't think of a single majority (ie practiced by more than 50%) pasttime in watford. That doesn't mean we shouldn't fund the arts, it just means that it's not Roy's minority, so don't give them money.

'You've got to hand it to the French, they're always good for a laugh.

Did you hear about Monsieur Le Twit, some Gallic politician who wants us to change the names of two of London's most famous, Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Station, because they remind French tourists of their defeats in battle?"
- Roy off on one again
Actually, it was a British European Trade Negotiator. And he said maybe we should stop going on about beating the french, germans etc and start being just a little more forward thinking, like everyone else in Europe. But it's easier to just assume it was a frenchman, isn't it Roy?
'...and then there was that German fellow who was arrested for teaching his dog, Adolf, to give the nazi salute when he shouted 'Sieg Heil'!'
Er, Roy, there's a good reason why all nazi gestures and imagery are illegal in Germany. And that fellow by all reports was a nazi. What's coming up next week Roy? 'so that fellow was thrown out of the police for putting a white sheet over his head. What a classic case of political correctness gone mad!'

Exhibit four concerns the church group in Watford who have pulled out of the fireworks display in Cassiobury Park, as the theme incorporates Hindu themes, falling on Diwali night. Rev Guy Miller, of Watford Elm Church, says, "The Bible tells us in the ten commandments that we cannot serve any false gods or set up any idols."

Actually the commandment in question says 'You shall have no other gods but me'. The organisers aren't asking him to fall down before Ganesh (each to their own- He's a lovely looking god), but merely, on what is *not* a Christian occasion, to take part as a community group and enjoy the fun, and maybe just smile at the work of local kids who have made laterns, incorporating the differing beliefs and backgrounds of those children, in what is, after all, a diverse community. Maybe some of the kids will have made lanterns incorporating some charming christian imagery. Like burning Catholics to death on a big fire.

Bigot. But I cannot write this letter. Can I?

DIY religion

I had a surprisingly religious thought coming out of work yesterday. And since then it's occurred to me that despite all the raping, smiting and bizarre rules, there really is some good tucked away in the Bible.

On the back of what's been an insane fortnight, preceeded by an insane Summer, Friday was actually quite peaceful at work. And I can't seem to shake the thought that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and maybe, assuming it doesn't continue at the present unsustainable rate, this might have done us some good. But Friday was different, almost, dare I say it, peaceful. And there was a feeling that we might just have made it.

And as I stepped out of the civic offices, the doors sprang open around me, and outside was the most prefect rainbow I've ever seen, and even the pretty soulless town seemed enthused with colour. Behind the rainbow were shards of light, stretching the whole way across the deep blue sky from behind the grey clouds. And I just stopped dead and looked up, the rain spraying and the wind refreshing my face. And for some reason I thought of the bible, which is not like me.

I thought of the point after the flood, when the waters abated and the earth was handed back to Noah and his survivors. And God sent a rainbow as a sign of love and hope, as a promise that he would never do that again.

Maybe I was just sleep-deprived and exhausted, or maybe we're past the worst. Either way, I plan do to as little as possible this weekend. And this doesn't mean I'm going to get all Christian on you, promise.

Concrete against the soul

I can't help but wonder about my state of mind this week. Reflected in the songs that I've been writing. Well, I say writing, but "just came out with" seems more appropriate.

Firstl, brother accused me this week of overusing mushrooms, as if this was possible. Where would I be without the soft embrace of shallow-fried garlic mushrooms in my carbonaras, bolognaises or paellas? So to be accused of overuse was a shock. In one of those all time Classic Freudian Slips, I tried to defend myself with 'Well, I tend to err on the side of mushroom'.

Anyone, to the song. It goes something like this.
"Mushrooms, you're my favourite fungi
You taste good in stir-fries, curries and sundaes,
Mushrooms, I never got to know you,
But now I'm making up for lost time'

And I started singing this one to myself on the number 7 going into work. To the tune of 'Big Yellow Taxi'
"They paved paradise
And put up Borehamwood
With a big high street, a tower block
And a ming-giiiiing town hall

Don't it always seem to go?
But I can't get out of this hell-hole
They paved paradise
And put up Borehamwood.'

Now I just need the second verse. And if you think that's bad, wait until I start on Christmas songs....

Monday, October 20, 2003

Cynic alert!

Mr Tony in hospital with what, by all accounts is a minor heart condition. Just cracked me up that the initial BBC news page linked to a story headed "The Blair Years". Which was definitely NOT a draft obituary.

You say 'conspiracy theorist' like it's a bad thing

Just had to buy the Mirror today. Sometimes you see a front page and you just know you have to buy it.

It's an interesting one. I'd hate to agree with al Fayed, but there definitely seems to not quite make sense. But, hey, people tell big ole lies to the public and get away with it Lone gunman, WMD, neo-liberalism. Just label your opponents 'conspiracy theorists' and suggest they probably think the moon landings were faked, and you're laughing all the way to Area 51.

Label someone a conspiracy theorist and you automatically label them paranoid. The Oxford (pocket, don't get me started...) dictionary defines 'conspiracy' as 'a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful' and 'theorist' as 'theoretician' or 'a person who develops or studies the theory of a subject.' So 'conspiracy theorist'= 'a person who develops or studies the theories of secret plans by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.'

Watergate was a conspiracy. TTEOSE definitely resulted from a conspiracy. In a way, the US achieved independence through a conspiracy (declaring yourself independent from Britain is a crime under, er, British law). So they're major, world-changing events. Surely something worth studying then. Like the media.

So unless 'theorist' has an extra meaning of 'someone who sees things everywhere' I'm not a big fan of people who use that phrase. Besides, it's amazing to hear about the plots that come out under the thirty year rule. Imagine what we'll be hearing in 2033. Maybe we'll even find out who really killed Diana.

Remember, just because you're not paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Rules of the road

You might have noticed that I follow a couple of rules in writing this thing, so if I put them down in writing then I'm more likely to stick to them in future.

1. No betraying confidences. For example, this wouldn't cover my neighbour saying he was in AA, as that's something he freely told me, but it would include that time last night when Billy told me he was gya. Shit.

2. No talking about work. Except in the most general terms, which sucks as it's generally the most interesting thing about my week. Although I probably err on the side of caution, as even Jon Tickle sounded exciting when he used that old fallback "I can't talk about that."

3. No identifying other people. Various people who regularly crop up in my life, like Sassy Nurse, Raichu, Angela and Coughing Man get mentions, but only blognames. Some are slightly easier to identify, like Missionaries in 17, Rowdy Neighbour and Brother. But he's not allowed to read it anyway.

4. Don't take it too seriously. Particularly when it got posted at 3am.

It's not often BBC online changes my opinion on something, but to give them their credit...

A council has apologised for cancelling a children's Punch and Judy show after claiming it promoted domestic violence. Full story

At first appearance this seems like a typical loony left story, like "Labour council bans Christmas", and that's what I thought. Until one paragraph which really made me think. Or turn round 180 degrees at someone else's prompting.

In the traditional children's show the Mr Punch puppet regularly beats his wife with his 'slapstick' and murders his baby by battering it against a wall and throwing it downstairs.

Leading to the "Oh yeah, never thought of it like that" moment. So it's a bit like Tom and Jerry. But Tom and Jerry where they kill children.

So ban Punch and Judy. Or at least take out the murder and make Judy the smart one.

Someone for everyone

Coughing Man wasn't alone on the bus on Thursday. In case you haven't been reading this, Coughing Man is the guy who gets on my bus, gives me a dirty look, sits behind me and during the course of the journey covers the back of my neck with a fine, warm spray.

But Thursday, instead of sitting behind me, he sat in front of me. Next to a woman. This was too good to be true, surely. I'd get to hear his voice, find out a little more about his life, and, well, I couldn't be that lucky could I?

Yes, I was! Five minutes into the journey I heard a quiet feminine cough, and much to the bemusement of my fellow passengers (got a weird look from Pregnant Librarian) I broke into a broad grin. Within minutes they were both happily coughing their lungs up, loudly drowning out the sounds of the bus and the polite tuts from Shopping Lady in front of them. But it really was true, Coughing Man has Coughing Woman to keep him company. I started thinking about whether they were married, living together or maybe just friends. Did they have little Coughing Children? Maybe a Coughing Dog or Coughing Rabbit. Before I knew it I was imagining a glorious church coughing wedding, and of course missed my stop.

I'm so pleased he's got somebody. There's hope for us all.

I hate the smell of vomit in the morning

Angela (as will be her Blog Name) thinks I'm maybe bordering on being just a bit too easy going. I suppose there was a time when I'd fight against anything I could find, and I don't suppose it was much fun for anyone who had to put up with it. There's a few people from my felix days who will testify to that. I've just come to realise that life's too short to go round fighting everything, and you should pick your battles very carefully. Certain things (anything against a good friend, things you can't change, hegemonic global capitalism) there's no real point in starting on, and at work I'm more than happy to let people walk all over me as long as I know i) I have a choice, ii) they're invited and iii) it's someone I like. Besides, once you know the shit that happens in other people's lives, you can't help but be quietly thankful for what you have.

The problem is with this is that you risk being a doormat, and Angela's view is I should fight a little more sometimes. And if something really pisses me off, there's not much that can stop me really letting loose, and I do have a tendancy to win arguments in cases like that, or at least make the person regret annoying me. Problem is, sometimes you just don't know who to start the fight with.

OK, so against this philosophical background, I woke up this morning to see the pale, fragile beauty of the October sunrise obscured by a a huge brown smear across my window. Obviously, someone threw up from one of the upstairs flats very early this morning, and as nothing annoys me more than grown men acting like sixth-formers, next thing I knew I was pounding on the door of Rowdy Upstairs Neighbour. The conversation went something like this.

- (Oh God, what do they want?)
- Morning!
- Er, morning?
- Good night last night?
- Well, er, not...
- What I mean is, you didn't happen to get drunk and throw up out the window did you?
- Me, no. I've been sober for 8 months.
- Munh?
- I used to drink too much, but I've been going to alcoholics anonymous. I was in bed by 11:30.
- Oh right... Well, good luck with the twelve steps then.

It's either an outrageous lie and I've swallowed it like an idiot, or I've really unjustly pointed the finger. Thing is, Laid Back Aussie Upstairs Neighbour also denies all knowledge. So someone's lying to me, but who.

Well, whether he's lying or not, it's an important stage of any recovery to put your faith in a higher power. So I had a chat with the Missionaries in 17, and they've kindly agreed to pay him a visit. There's nothing quite like hearing the word of Jesus on a Sunday morning.

Meanwhile I have to buy some Dettol. And a sponge. Angela, your advice please?

Guess I chose the wrong day to quit smoking

This is really going to annoy you all but
- Friday was the worst day in a very long time.
- I can't talk about it.

But you've all had one; when you think you've encountered all the shit the world has to offer, and that everyone's handled it well, and that you're all, at least for another day, tough enough to handle it.

Then the world comes and slaps you very hard in the face. When you work with Good People, you'd do anything to make their day a little easier, and then something awful happens to someone you admire and respect who spends all their time helping others. The world really sucks at times, I'm fully aware of that, but it's never lost the ability to surprise me nonetheless.

I don't often pray, but I made the exception for this person. It's about the only thing I can do to help.

Monday, October 13, 2003


I made the horrible mistake of going into an "amusement arcade" on Saturday. I don't gamble, but my reasons for going in were pretty innocent- brother was playing poker, and he needed £10 worth of 10ps. I thought it would be so easy, and walked in past the burly looking bouncer and straight up to the change machine. Then I saw them.

A man and a woman, probably in their fifties, although they may have been younger. They both had a hungry look in their eyes that couldn't help but scare me. Like drinkers looking for a toilet, they were jiggling about on the spot as I put in only my second pound coin, which passed straight through. As I put in a third, the man said to me "Can you hurry up please. I need some change." There was a real note of desperation in his voice, and I just scooped up my money and backed away.

Later I came up to it again and managed to change a few more coins before the attendant said those magic loaded words, "Can I help you." I felt I should be doing something, so put two coins into a fruit machine. It spun, twice, and then went back to anonymous, feed me mode. I noticed it had a button marked "Auto play". If you so wished, you could just feed your money without another thought.

As I came up to the machine a third time the countdown screen said "00.50". It had taken the man's pound coin when it didn't even have enough change. The man looked edgy and sad, and before I said a word he said, "It ate my money."

And yet nothing of the rest of his money that had fallen into the other machines, never to be seen again. This place was just bleeding him dry, convincing him that he'd get his money back, sooner or later, just keep playing.

I got out of there as fast as I politely could. I had £4.70 for Brother to play with.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Coming home in the dark

It's been a weekend of unpacking the big jumpers and coats, giving the trees their last hug and saying goodbye to their leaves and generally walking around in the dark. The time of denial is over, and there's no doubt that I'm settling in for my second winter in Watford. And it may sound strange to say this, but I'm really looking forward to it.

I have fond memories of winter; everything seems just a little more of an adventure when it's cold and icey. Suddenly something as simple as a walk home from work can become a test of survival and endurance. I always feel more at home walking round in the dark and more alive with a freezing wind in my face. You come to value little things; a warm jumper, coming home when the fire's on, climbing into a big warm bed when it's snowing outside.

So you're welcome to your seasonal affected disorder and autumn blues. I always felt a sense of loss at this time of year, and a complementary sense of wonder when the first signs of spring appeared. But now I know Spring's coming again I feel almost excited about Summer's passing. The passing of the year is never going to slow down if you complain or deny it, so the only way you can be happy is to learn to enjoy all of it.

Yep, definitely off in my happy place. I'm going to go and look for my woolly hat!

You wouldn't think it, but...

I slipped on a banana skin yesterday.

I was walking in Kingsbury high street, at which point I nearly felt right over, and was surprised to find I hadn't stepped in dog poo but slipped on a nasty black banana skin.

I saw my first one in the street a few weeks ago and was surprised. Sure, local teenagers walk down the street throwing off a trail of opal fruit wrappers or throwing off all the layers of their cigarettes. You even see half-eaten takeaways just dropped on a saturday morning when the buyer has got bored of them or somehow distracted. And it's messy and disgusting, I know. But dropping a banana skin is something else. We all *know* people slip over on them, even if we've never actually seen it happen. But in cartoons it happens all the time, and the unfortunate tripper will traverse a perfect arc as their feet literally lift off, before gravity calls them down again and they land painfully on their backs. (NB- If it's in a cartoon, this will be accompanied by motion lines).

So when I first saw one just lying in the street, I was genuinely shocked and assumed it was a freaky one-off. Maybe a practical joke, or a gorillagram gone wrong. So I kicked it out of the way, in case some tragi-comic scene be played out behind my back as I walked away.

But since that day, I've been running in to them at least twice a week. So this is more than just an isolated event; this is a trend. Why are people leaving discarded banana skins? Are they going to start wearing shorts and carrying catapults next?

This ties into another theory; my life is ressembling a cartoon at the minute. It's lucky I spend so much time looking at the ground.

But I've never seen anyone walking down the street eating a banana...

Social Services took my sex drive!

Disturbing but true... Young men are supposed to think about sex several times a minute, and yet lately, nothing. Even a walk through watford town centre on a Saturday night didn't help.

I can't go into the details, but it's been a very draining week, and, well, just a little bit disspiriting. Everyone tried their best, but sometimes the odds are just too high, and it all seems to come to nothing. I've surprised myself (and others) by working quite late and pretty hard, and at the end of the day just pretty much collapsed. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and I always feel that no matter how talented you may be, at this age what's missing is experience, and that's definitely something I'm getting in abundance here, and something I doubt I'd get in a call centre.

Of course, it has its downside. This must be what it's like to be a monk. It also explains why they have so much free time.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

'Simply take one kitchen...'

I do have an amazing ability to cook comfort food in the middle of the night, even if the cupboard's virtually bare.

Mushroom and Pepper pilau rice, anyone?

No U-turns

"lay down all your guns
Give them up and then move on.
It doesn't mean that you are dead
passing by the grace of God."

It's amazing how the past can still ruin your day. Which is what I felt this week when I got a letter from Imperial College, my old alma mater/unflushable. I arrived at Imperial five years ago this week, full of optimism, hope and just a pinch of arrogance. I left under something of a cloud, having failed what was clearly the wrong course for me. If I'd had any sense I would have left when I realised that, but was concerned about disappointing others, so stupidly I stuck with it. And failed, by one exam.

It's now coming up to the deadline to register for that exam if I want to take it one last time. My view is that it's ok to make a mistake once, but to keep on flogging away at it when I clearly don't stand a chance is just daft. And I've been told how important it is to complete this, and how silly it would be to just stop when I've worked so hard to get this far.

Except the thing I thought I wanted was really just a shadow. As it turns out, I didn't want a high class degree from my education; I just wanted an education. And most of all, I wanted something worth getting out of bed for. So in a way failing my degree was the best thing that's ever happened to me, because it made me realise that, and I feel that despite the scars of failure and the (huge) debt I accrued, it was all worth it if it brought me to a place like this. And what I do know is that if I'm ever to be successful, it will be based more on what I've learnt and done since leaving Imperial than on having that piece of paper.

Of course, everyone else who graduated earns about double what I do. But they buy me drinks sometimes.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Grumpy Young Man writes...

Grumpy Old Men wasn't a bad program- it had the effect of tapping into some of the things that really bug me. But I'm 23; I'm not a grumpy old man, I'm not even particularly grumpy. But here's some of the things they discussed:

- Ill-advised crop tops
- The "FCUK" thing.
- Clothes with a highly visible label.

The problem with this program is there's a lot of people who don't want to walk around with the maker's name emblazoned on their clothes, and thinks the whole things weird. That doesn't make those of us who disagree 'grumpy', it makes us people who disagree.

Besides, FCUK was never funny, it isn't clever, and anyone who wears it really needs to evaluate their priorities.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Click click BANG!

lovely chilled out weekend. Apart from a slightly unexpected 3 and a half hour journey to Sister's last night, nothing at all challenging. Makes a change I guess.

In fact, watching Derren Brown risk death was as close as I got to experiencing any tension at all. For a minute there I thought he was going to give up, and long long pause before going for it. Certainly atmospheric.

Of course, there are several things we know for certain.
1) He's an illusionist. He didn't risk his life at all.
2) If it had gone wrong, they wouldn't have let someone blow their brains out on Ch 4, right?


Saturday, October 04, 2003

Atlas grimaced

Anyone out there recommend a good and affordable masseuse in the London/Hertfordshire area? I have this strange sense that what little tension I manage to take off my social workers goes straight to my shoulders. Certainly me shrugging my shoulders would seem much more nonchalent if it wasn't accompanied by a barely audible click and a camp "ouch!". Sadly the place across the road from me has just become completely unaffordable.

By the way, when I say massage, I do actually mean massage. That would be #104 in my list of "Misfortunes and misunderstandings whiche coulde befall the younge man adrist in London towne and the Home Counties". Hell, if that pretentious idiot Ben Schott can step back a century or two...

I can't help but think that if Ben Schott wasn't trying to court the Daily Telegraph market (the guy's a student), Schott's Original Miscellany would have oringinally been called "You'll never guess what?!" Or "Dude? Where's the can?". So what other books could use a Ben Schott Middle England makeover?

- Miss Smith's imaginative tales of west London immigrant communities.
- Adams' guide to space travellers and other oddities
- Mr Moore's On the Idiocy of the American ruling classes
- John Fowles The Magus

'And you've been so busy lately
That you haven't found the time
To open up your mind..."

It really doesn't feel like I've stopped for quite a few days; barely enough time to work, eat and rest, never mind reflect. Fortunately fewer crises than usual at work, but still busy. Fighting against buses and the weather I've been this flurry of defiant if sometimes misguided energy. When you really haven't had time to think you just set a course and hope it's right, and I think I've done OK this week overall, and although there's been situations I think I could have handled better, somehow I haven't gone that badly wrong.

Although it must be said, I came down a little heavily against Christmas. Inside this calm exterior there's a WOMBLE just trying to get out.

Counselling 102: Who are you?

Two central themes to today's lesson; identity and the nature of problems. It seemed easier this week, in some ways, as I knew what to expect on entering the room. In other ways we went deeper than before, and if I'm going to get the most out of this 20-week experience I have to fully experience and reflect on it one lesson at a time. The aim of the final essay seems a little daunting- it's to describe the way in which the experience has changed you. This worries me, as it formalises what had been a personal aim of the course. Can you give marks for personal growth? And if, looking back on these journals I determine that I haven't changed one bit, does that mean the course was a failure and I don't have what it takes right now to be a counsellor? All questions I'm not going to be able to answer right now.

When I came in a saw an unfamiliar face, a student who had missed last week's lesson and I did my best to help her catch up. But the nature of the exercises means that you can't just exchange notes and catch up academically; the best you can do is explain this and convey the most you can from the exercises. In that way it's a long way from physics.

So on to identity. When asked to identify yourself you focus on the aspects that are most important to you. And you make choices, or so we were taught; "I am political", "I like music" etc. Only the bits laid down in concrete "I was born in London", "I am 23" don't have an element of choice laid down. But this makes the assumption that you find it easy to know yourself. Earlier on in the week I determined I didn't like someone, which is a pretty rare experience for me. I didn't choose that, I realised that, and I doubt I can change that. But the main crux of the point I agree with, which is this;

If you say "I'm a happy person" for example, are you always going to be like that? Not necessarily, as events could challenge that and you could experience a whole series of miseries. So do you become an unhappy person and struggle to recognise this change in your identity, or continue to put on a brave face? Naomi only acknowledged these two outcomes, and I don't agree with that. The happy person experiencing misery could just be that; a happy person presently suffering misery. I don't see a contradiction in that, and that's something I should bring up next week. I suppose before I say I'm disagreeing with my teacher, I need to get it straight whether, when she says "either...or" she's excluding or overlooking other options.

I really appreciate the way Naomi includes literary references with her philosophies; it's certainly true that this course will include huge volumes of the human experience we divide into philosophy, literature and religion. John Clare's "I am!" being a good example of identity reinforced by suffering (Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost/ And yet I am! And live with shadows lost).

The exercise again was a counselling role-play situation, where as client you had to discuss your identity, and as counsellor you must switch off your social instinct to say (and even think!) "A similar thing happened to me...", and in this case think about how the client is different to yourself. This is totally counter-intuitive and harder than it sounds, especially on a counselling course, where all are likely to have, to some extent, similar desires to help others and have a quiet life. My partner, in this exercise, I did find very similar to myself, at least the peaceful, non-argumentative parts of myself I like, but I did manage to find at least one way they were different from me. Already there's a reluctance in the group to discuss these exercises in too much detail, as we feel something very personal is shared.

I can't help but be concerned by the way it all floods out when I'm the client. I'm ascribing this to the fact that I'm relatively buttoned up during my work, but this theory needs reviewing; maybe getting my own counsellor wouldn't be a bad idea. I'm not suffering any major issues at the moment, but maybe accelerating the making sense of myself process would be a good thing.

Exercise: Whilst travelling through London this afternoon, think about how counselling is different from friendship.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Dear Arriva Buses,

From my previous letter, you shold by now know that I believe in giving credit where credit's due. And today is no exception. The way in which you destoyed my day, health and will to live with so little effort was, well, admirable.

At first I thought it was going pretty well. Running down Cavendish Avenue, I jumped onto a number 7. And I was incredibly relieved, as the number 7 had apparently disappeared. It was only when I actually tried to buy a ticket I found out it wasn't a 7, they'd just put that sign up for the hell of it.

40 minutes later there was still no bus. I then went through a series of phases; denial, sadness, anger and back to denial. And yet by the time the bus arrived I was numb, both physically and emotionally. I'd been there 90 minutes.

Fortunately, I have to complement your company. During this time people, divided by background, race, age and gender, were brought together. In shear hatred and loathing of Arriva Buses. I've heard it said many times that if there was a revolution in this country the people of Hertfordshire would storm Arriva Buses, drag the overpaid executives from their burning boardroom and hang them from the nearest tree. Of course, they'd probably just rough them up a bit, this is Hertfordshire after all.

But if anything's going to spark off a revolution, it's the act of paying £4 a day for this insult. And as it's a monopoly, I don't have the choice. What makes it even worse is that this is the second day in a row this has happened. So this has cost me 2x£4, plus the two hours of work I've lost (£12). I'm not impressed.

Please send the usual corporate platitudes and some *very* generous compensation to the above address. Because the revolution's going to happen one day.


A Customer

Thursday, October 02, 2003

...and another thing. Why sell Advent Calenders in October?

The Horror, The Horror

Yet another thread of glittery shit weaved into the already excrement heavy tapestry of the past two days. Tescos have their first aisle of Christmas Stuff.

Let's think about this shall we. It's October 2nd. There are (about) 93 days to get ready for Christmas. Is there actually anyone who thinks, "Oh, it's October. Better start getting ready for Christmas." The problem is, having totally vented my anger on my Lunch Buddy, as well as half the local population, I was accused of being 'Humbug'. It seems rather a taboo to say these facts, but it's true.
- It's October. It's *not* Christmas.
- Christmas is no big deal.
- Christmas is 95% crap.'

OK, here's a few more
- Santa doesn't exist. No not like that, he was designed by Coca-Cola.
- Turkey tastes horrible. And it's a big dead bird.
- Jesus wasn't born in December. It's most likely to be June/July time.
- It's a cheap hijacking of a perfectly good pagan festival, which is fortunately yet to be commercialised.
- It's generally a big anti-climax.

All I look forward to about Christmas is spending some nice chilled out time with my familiy. I don't care about buying things for it, and sure as hell I'm not buying tacky sparkly things in October.

The worst thing is, Lunch Buddy actually bought FIVE of the things. She said it was wrapping up an anniversary present, which she can re-use at Christmas. And that's just encouraging the bastards.

October 2nd. How much further can they push us?

Hump day

I think I've got a reasonable case for calling Wednesday 'Hump Day', even though I hate people who call it that. The problem is that what with work, college and work, Wednesdays and Thursdays virtually merge these days, and apart from a brief anomaly when I fell asleep, I don't feel like I've stopped in quite a long time.

Plus I ran out of money on Tuesday, so I've still got a while till pay day.