Way Back When it Was 2002

Lifted straight from The Internet Archive, some pictures are missing, links defunct and text out of context. This though was 2002:
Hash Bar

 

Where I make occasional comments on life, what I’ve been up to lately and other such meaningless meandering, as well as conveying my general mood to the world.

This is my online diary.
 

I’m giving up, I swear.

Tuesday 31 December, 2002. In the mug to my right: tea.

Another month has passed since I was last here, so some catching up is in order once more: In a nutshell, I’ve been busy writing and at work, and I am attempting to give up smoking, more of all of which later.

It’s New Year’s Eve and so time for New Year’s resolutions again. Besides the annual attempt at giving up smoking, I have made four resolutions. The first two are to be more tolerant and to not allow myself to get so wound up about trivial things. Perhaps the two are the same.

In the case of the former, this will involve being more laid back in the face of trivial stupidity. I’m not a genius and there are countless subjects that I have little or no knowledge of and within those subjects there are individuals far superior to me. I am always willing to learn new things though and base my opinions on knowledge. Others are not and do not and it is they that I will try to be more tolerant of. In the latter instance, I have vowed to calm my temper when it comes to such people and to situations that would be avoidable were it not for various individuals’ incompetence. Adhesion to these two resolutions will make the third a lot easier, I believe: I intend to not swear and curse so much. It is anger and frustration that often drive me to smoking, so maybe giving that up in turn will be a logical progression.

Finally, I will try not to procrastinate so much and do things at the earliest possible juncture, even if they’re things that I don’t enjoy. With this final resolution in mind, I have decided to commit myself to all of them today, a day early.

To stop digressing is not one of my resolutions. I have digressed though, so I shall get back to the point.

The writing course that I am studying continues to go well and besides completing my latest assignment, I have also penned a couple more short stories, which I’ve posted on my writing site. The course covers all areas of writing and, as I’ve said before, is merely a complimentary measure as far as the fiction area is concerned. It is not my intention to sound snobbish but I am quite proud of the fact that I do have the natural ability to tell a good story.

People often say to me, “Hey you! What are you doing in my garden?” They also ask why I write this occasional snippet, to which I reply, “why not?” These questioners are invariably people without a place like this where they can opine themselves. Indeed, they are people who have no opinion and who read red-top tabloid newspapers and therefore have their opinions formed for them. Sad people.

I read a newspaper, the Telegraph in fact. I am of sufficient intellect though to be able to read between the lines, see through any political leaning, realise that a story is only newsworthy when it’s dressed up and maintain my own views.

This is not a political or opinion site though. This is a personal online journal and diary, first and foremost, where far-flung friends and acquaintances can look in and see what I’m up to without the bother of actually having to phone me to ask. It is also a kind of notepad, where I can write about anything that happens to be on my mind, relevant or not. When I’m not writing stories, this is a good place for me to get in some writing practice.

So, what have I been up to over the last month, you may ask? You might not ask but I’ll tell you anyway, because I can. What have you been up to? Sorry, I can’t hear you. You see?

Work continues to be agreeable and I am actually at my desk in London as I write this. It’s my turn in the barrel today as two of my colleagues and I decided to share the burden of the working days over the Christmas period between us. Many companies close down for the entire period but alas the Corporate Finance markets do not. That said, it’s just a matter of covering the phones and there’s very little happening here which is how comes I’m able to write this.

The journey in this morning was pleasant for the fact that there was virtually no one else on the train. This though was perhaps due to the fact that the trains are running to a “special” timetable over the holiday. Not a Saturday or Sunday timetable but a “special” one. The train that I and about four other commuters joined this morning was one that wouldn’t normally exist on any timetable so nobody actually knew about it.

I was reading a newspaper report at the weekend of the Government’s contingency plans should a biological attack be launched in the capital. Besides the obvious health service considerations (the hospitals have admitted that they would be unable to cope), the plans centre on keeping an infected population quarantined. This would involve placing a cordon around London and preventing people from leaving. The report said that the police and armed forces would be rehearsing for such an event during the holidays. Spookily enough, when I walked from the station to the office this morning, there were about thirty police in riot gear milling around in a side street that I passed. I can only assume that they were there for a rehearsal. I certainly hope so.

Once I’m done here, Helen’s meeting me at home and we’re spending New Year’s Eve together, staying in and having a romantic candle-lit dinner. We plan to be having sex at the stroke of midnight so that we can both truthfully state that we started a sex session one year and didn’t finish till the next. This is all assuming that I don’t get cordoned in.

When I was reading the aforementioned newspaper report, I romanticised to Helen that neither hill nor high water would prevent me from getting to my love should I get caught in London, post-biological attack. My bonfire was quickly pissed upon when she said in her best put down tone, “You can fucking stay up there. I don’t want your fucking diseases.” A romantic meal and a night of passion at home could yet become a Pot Noodle and a wank in the office.

The reason that we’re spending the evening in is not just for the sake of romance and being together, although we both believe that the latter is what New Year’s Eve is all about. The fact is there’s bugger all else to do or places to go. We object to paying to get into a pub, or to shelling out for an over-priced, mediocre, set menu meal in a restaurant.

I still remember with a passion, Millennium eve and the fantastic night that I, and six million (give or take) others, enjoyed in London. If only the capital could pull it off again but alas, too many authorities are involved and the arse doesn’t know what the elbow is doing.

As I said above, this is not a political site and although I have political opinions, I have never voiced them here. I do despair sometimes though of what this once great country has become: we have health, transport, justice and education systems that are crumbling; this year we let in half as many asylum seekers again as the United States, a country hundreds of times larger than Britain. The National Health Service has 199’000-odd beds and 211’000-odd administrators. There certainly isn’t anything like one nurse per bed. What do these so-called administrators actually administrate? Themselves, I believe. Like so many other areas of the public sector, these are self-invented jobs to sustain bureaucracy.

This is a society where asylum seekers are given housing and medical treatment before the rest of us. And myself and every other decent, hard-working national insurance and taxpayer indirectly finance all that those less deserving soles get, while we ourselves are denied a proper health service and will probably have to whistle for our pensions, which those payments are meant to guarantee us.

Despite what I said about not airing politics here, I realise that I just have. Sometimes, having a potential world stage to vent one’s anger from can be a great way to let off steam, provided one’s arguments are presented intelligently enough to be taken seriously and that one doesn’t resort to bad language.

I shall keep my thoughts on Tony Blair and his cabinet being a bunch of cunts to myself.

Now, fuck this. I’m going downstairs for a fag.

I’ll resolve to start my resolutions tomorrow.

Wednesday 01 January, 2003. 00:15 – Current mood:  Happy new year!

Moving on up

Current mood:  In the saucer to my left: Milk.

Thursday 05 December. Once again readers, it’s been a while since I was last here. Apologies to you both. A lot has been going on since my last entry so I shall attempt an abridged update.

This week didn’t start too well when Helen and I had the mother of all bust-ups. It was one of those stupid arguments that started with a careless remark and escalated into a full-blown battlefield. Without going into detail, I shall merely say that Helen is a worthy opponent when it comes to battles. Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein with their regimes of terror and dictatorship respectively are nothing compared to Helen scorned.

An argument with Helen is like an argument with a woman in the full throes of PMT: Everything is taken the wrong way and seen as an accusation or a slight of character. I’m not saying that Helen was suffering from PMT, rather that the argument with her was as impossible to win as it would have been if she did suffer from said affliction. As I said, I will not wash our dirty laundry in public but to draw a parallel, my frustration and anger was heightened at every turn as it might have been by the following exchange with a PMT sufferer:

I: “Would you like a drink dear?”

She: “Are you saying I’m fat?”

Like I say, impossible.

Helen admitted in retrospect that she might have taken things a little too far. I in turn admitted that I was wrong in certain respects. She was right and she’d got the better of me. Bitchiness is not in either of our natures where one that we love is concerned. Anyway, we agreed to bury the hatchet. We moved on and so now shall I.

The reasons that I’ve not written here for a while are numerous but boil down to three things. Firstly, the new job that I am now two months into is going extremely well. I’ve made comparisons between this job and my old imprisonment before and apologise if I slip from time to time here and continue to do so. I’ll try not to but sometimes when you finally make good I guess it’s difficult not to see the comparisons once they’re made so stark. I’ll try to keep my bitchiness at bay.

To speak in metaphors, if my previous job was a sentence in a story, my current one is a very interesting chapter in a book that I intend to finish. Actually, fuck the metaphors: now I have a career where previously I was serving a sentence (sorry, couldn’t help it). Now I work for an institution run by adults, who treat their staff as equals in that respect, whereas previously it was as though I was in a young offenders’ institution, or that was how it felt.

How nice it is then to be free. Free to be trusted to come and go as one pleases and to further be trusted to be doing one’s job whilst doing so; one’s job being to win new business and to come and go as one sees fit in order to achieve that end. In short, I’m doing well working for a professional directorship as opposed to being frustrated by the restrictions of a misguided and untrusting unprofessional megalomaniacal dictatorship. (Meow).

Over the past two months I’ve even been allowed a couple of days off (sorry! Sarcasm is the sister of bitchiness). During one of these, Helen and I visited “Body Worlds”: Professor Gunther von Hagen’s travelling “freak show”, as some would have it known. More on that in a moment.

The second reason for my abstinence here is that I have renewed my studies on the writing correspondence course that I enrolled on just over a year ago. I think it not unfair or conceited to say that I have a degree of writing ability and have indeed achieved minor success with the publication of one of my short stories in an e-zine. I do aspire to greater things however and like many others, feel that I have a novel within me. The writing business is an extremely difficult one to make anything from financially, and so competitive that sometimes a helping hand is required. Personal study and membership of online writers’ groups can only help the aspiring author so far, so I decided to seek professional help, with the writing that is.

The course started out fine as the first few modules were grounding exercises and I excelled in my first assignment. I felt like Stephen Hawking might if he were asked to recite the two-times-table. When I submitted that assignment my tutor’s comments were those of a teacher who’d been given an apple tree, complete with surrounding orchard and planning permission to build on the land, rather than one that had been given a mere apple. Then, however the course moved onto non-fiction and rather than a fish out of water I felt like a pilchard on a climbing frame might.

To cut a long story short, I requested that my course be rearranged so that I might study fiction further before embarking on non-fiction. This has now been done and my short story writing ability accepted to be of sufficient merit to warrant an attempt at a novel, to make a short story long perhaps.

Writing a novel is the biggest project that a writer will ever undertake, obviously. Now that I am properly schooled in the methods of doing so the prospect is a daunting but exciting one. I shall provide updates of my progress here as the project unfolds. At the moment I’m at the early stages, deciding on plots, characters and settings. Next will come the synopsis and eventually, chapter by chapter, the novel. It’s as though I’ve assumed the role of god: I have a little world that I’m creating, populating it with people I’m indulging myself in making and controlling their destinies. I’m doing this in my spare time of course and am sufficiently of sound mind to differentiate between real life and fantasy (stop it!)

The third, final, not least and most important reason for my silence is my wife-to-be-one-day. We’ve enjoyed many happy times together recently as I’ve not been stressed about work, and days and nights out together have been just that, as opposed to the day release from the institution that they were previously (there it goes again, sorry).

As I said earlier, we visited “Body Worlds” a couple of weeks ago. All that I’ll offer by way of review is, judge not those that go, nor their motives. Go for yourself and formulate your own opinions rather than adopt those dictated to you by the red top British tabloid press.

Besides “Body Worlds”, Helen and I have visited Tate Modern again, to view Anish Kapoor’s current installation, and Tate Britain to view the Turner Prize exhibits. We found all three of our excursions educational and fascinating in turn.

I have neither time nor inclination to opine and dictate, so again, just go. The latter two are free.

Continuing the mutual appreciation theme that is Helen and I, and our appreciation of things aesthetic, as recently as yesterday evening we were enjoying a drink in one of our usual haunts and discussing architecture. The conversation centred at one point on Sir Norman Foster’s soon to be completed “Gherkin” tower in the City of London. Old romantic that I am, I told my love that if I were an architect, I would name my greatest, indulgent, megalamaniacal building after her.

“Are you saying I’m fat?” she asked.

I must stop. I’m going on.

 

“Eeenin Stanard”

Current mood:  /

Sunday 20 October 2002. In the mug to my left: Filter coffee. In the CD player at the moment: “Untouchables” by Korn. Never let it be said that I’m a musical snob. My musical tastes are eclectic, as borne out by my CD collection. Added to it this week are the aforementioned Korn album, along with “18” by Moby, “The beginning Stages of…” by The Polyphonic Spree, “Intergalactic Sonic 7″s” by Ash and “Finisterre” by Saint Etienne. The CDs were five of many purchases made yesterday when I treated myself to a little retail therapy, a pleasure denied me recently by my financial circumstances.

This week’s entry doesn’t have a specific subject. Instead, it’s by way of an update for those outside of my inner circle who may have found the last couple of entries here a little cryptic. This is a brief update on what’s been happening with your correspondent.

Three weeks ago I resigned from the job that I had here locally in Tonbridge. It was not a pleasant experience, more of which later. The job was given to me as an obligation on the part of my boss to offer me alternative employment within the company, following my redundancy from another post as a result of downsizing within the organisation. In taking the new post, I took a quite considerable reduction in salary. Cutting a long story short, I could not live on that salary and so was obliged to accept an offer made to me by another company.

I’ve been in my new job for almost three weeks now and having found my feet, am in a position to make a few comparisons. For a start, the salary is considerably more than my previous one and on a level to which I am accustomed. The new job is in London and although I’ve bemoaned commuting before, my working day now is no longer than it was working locally. The reason for this is the simple fact that if we’ve done all that we have to do at 5 O’clock, we can go home. We don’t have to stay politically late, nor do we have to ask if we can leave. We don’t have to ask to go to the toilet either, nor switch off our mobile phones as the management realise that they are integral to our jobs. We are free to come and go as we please as we are trusted to be doing our jobs and not suspected of taking the piss whilst we’re out.

My previous company had an annual turnover of around £2.5 million. My current company turns over £160 million. Previously, I was selling at the arse end of the industry, to the trade. Now I’m working in Corporate Finance and selling to the Financial Directors of PLCs. The main comparison that I can make though is that I’m truly happy in my new job. As a result of being trusted and allowed to do my job, last week I closed my first deal and won the contract to produce the Annual Report and Accounts for a PLC. Most importantly, this is a new career. My last job was just that, a job.

As I said above, my resignation was not a pleasant experience. In short, I was not given the opportunity to speak and instead was subjected to a torrent of verbal personal abuse. Rather than stoop to the level of my aggressor, I merely listened and left quietly. Had I been given the chance to speak, I might have been able to explain how my joining a new company could be beneficial to the company that I was leaving. For every event in life, there’s an equal and opposite one. I’m happy now and am going to do very well in my new job.

Despite my general feeling of wellbeing, the equal and opposite aspect is that this has been the first weekend for as long as I care to remember that I’ve been without the love of my life. Helen is in Warwick on a field trip. She’s been there since Friday morning and returns tonight, although alas I’m not seeing her. I saw her last on Wednesday and am due to again this Wednesday. It’s only a week but when you’re as in love as I am, a week can seem like an eternity. Last Wednesday, as the time approached for us to part company, I began to miss her. On Thursday I missed her intensely, as I always do when we’re apart. Every day since then the emptiness that I feel whenever I’m without my spiritual other half grows greater. Come next Wednesday I’ll be a desperate man but both of us will relish relieving our desperation for one another on all levels. Only she and I know how that feels as only we know the depths of our true love.

Having had the weekend to myself, I’ve achieved a lot. As well as my spell of retail therapy, I’ve spent a great deal of time on some DIY (I spent most of this morning putting up one hi-fi speaker bracket), as well as completing many other domestic chores. I feel pleased with myself having got so much done but would far rather have spent the weekend in the way to which I’ve become accustomed: spending Saturday night with Helen, lazing in bed on a Sunday morning, reading the weekend papers and interspersing things with some fantastic sex.

Talking of Helen, we have decided to marry. Some may think this a little hasty but we do not. We’re talking longer-term as opposed to immediately but both agree that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. A very close friend was a little surprised when I told her recently of our plans but conceded that having seen us together and having read my heartfelt feelings for Helen here, we are clearly in love in the truest sense. I’ve said it before and I make no apologies for saying it again. Helen truly is “the one” for me.

I feel I’ve achieved a great deal lately. Professionally, I have a job that I enjoy for life. I made a break and gained a break. More importantly, I have mutual true love with a special girl whom I’ll see the rest of my days out with.

I can think of no better note than that ultimately positive one to end this little meander with.

 

Part Deux

Current mood:

Sunday 06 October 2002. In the glass to my left: Ice-cold cider. In the CD player at the moment: “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, my personal God.

Following last week’s diary entry, I received an interesting and strongly-worded email from someone who believed that I was referring to someone they knew when I was describing the kind of people whom I often cast as antagonists in my stories. Two things struck me. Firstly, that no human being could be as evil as the type of fictional character that I described, and secondly that the sender of the email must be pretty unfortunate if they know someone like that. Perhaps they do though, given that my description elicited such a passionate response. Perhaps life really does imitate art, as the oft-quoted dictum would have us believe. Or perhaps it takes one to know one. Mine is not to speculate.

It is not in my nature to set out to deliberately offend anyone, any more than it is to libel. By not naming anyone specifically, I’m safe there even if anyone ever does see fit to read something into my writing which is simply not there. I do know that certain individuals have been slandering me lately but that is a separate matter as I never mix business with pleasure, in the same way that my writing never intentionally reflects real life.

As a result of the correspondence that I received, I decided to change the story that I was writing the draft for from a thriller to a science-fiction tale. In doing so, I figure that no-one can possibly form parallels between my story and real life. To further ensure this I even swapped my human characters for beings from another planet, in sticking with the sci-fi vein. What follows is that story…

Are we sitting comfortably? I can see a few people who might not be. I’ll begin anyway.

_____________

Once upon a time in a fictional galaxy, far, far away (you can’t get any more distant from reality than that), there lived young man called Bolb. Bolb had worked hard all of his life to buy himself a ship that he sailed across the oceans of his home planet, Egdirbnot, picking up waifs and strays and persuading many people that they were his friends along the way.

Egdirbnot was a mining planet first and foremost and the majority of the population were of the Eniuqe race, largely dependant on the self-proclaimed superior Icmian race but physically well-evolved for mining, with four legs for digging, large teeth for sifting the mined material and a mane and long tail for brushing away debris. Bolb was of the Icm race, a species highly-evolved in persuasive mental ability but gelatinous physically. There was a third species indigenous to the planet, the Tar. They resembled the rodents we have here on Earth, were generally considered scum by the two superior races and for the most part went unnoticed and unappreciated.

One day, Bolb chanced upon a female Eniuqe, mining for gold on an island he was visiting. They fell in love, married and went in search of a future together. Unbeknown to them at the time, three Tars had boarded the ship. The Tars were unnoticed for the most part, until Bolb discovered that the combined waste produced by him and his partner was food to the Tars. In turn, the Tars fed on their hosts’ waste and were able to power the ship. With this alliance forged, the Tars saw that they could travel to places they’d never dreamed of, as promised by Bolb.

The five sailed happily together for a while, even taking on a fourth Tar to power the ship to still further places. The fourth Tar was slightly unbalanced mentally, and dressed and spoke poetically at every opportunity. On being offered free food in return for the increased power he’d be able to provide the ship, he recited:

“If I had a cap sir, to you I’d doff it,

as being on your ship means I can make an extra penny in profit.”

He became known on board as the mad poet.

Time passed and unrest set in among the original three Tars as they realised that the places that they’d dreamed of visiting were eluding them. They spent many nights below deck in their quarters speculating as to why this might be. The mad poet didn’t share their quarters as he was allowed to live in Bolb’s pocket, often reciting a poem to him at the end of the day:

“Oh great Bolb, you’ve given me my comeuppance.

Today I made a profit of tuppence.”

One day, the three Tars discovered that the waste that they’d been fed all of the time that they were on the ship was poisoning their minds. They only discovered this by comparing notes and talking it over between themselves. In an effort to get off of the ship they started gnawing at the floor, a little every night.

Eventually, two of them made good their escape but poor Little Legs, the third Tar, was too plump to fit through the hole made by the other two. So, he continued to eat the food given to him and used his energy to gnaw the hole bigger. On the upper decks his plight was unnoticed by the three remaining crew.

Finally, the following week, Little Legs made the hole big enough to escape through. A passing spaceship no less, bound for a better planet, picked him up and as he was pulled on board and looked back over his shoulder at the ship he’d escaped from, it looked a little unstable, like it might sink because of the hole he’d made. It seemed to be going backwards. Life can be like that.

He just wanted to be noticed.

_____________

No-one of sound mind could ever associate this story with real life in my humble view. My view is humble though and often overlooked, so in the style of a Hollywood film disclaimer, I’ll just say that any similarities to any corporations or persons alive or dead is purely coincidental.

There, I said it.

 

To be continued…

Current mood:

Sunday 29 September 2002. In the mug to my left: Filter coffee. In the CD player at the moment: “This is Where I Came in” by The Beegees. Titter Ye not. Us Radio 2 listeners are above snobbery toward any musical genre. Except for my part perhaps the more conceptual forms of Jazz. And dance, innit?

It is often said that life imitates art and as many of my readers know, I write the occasional piece of short fiction. Often my stories are inspired by real life events or people I’ve met and sometimes I am similarly inspired to do something as a result of what I’ve written or read.

I’ve met many people who have inspired, encouraged or influenced me to write or to do something. When you meet lots of people and study them, you find that you are able to analyse them. The majority of the people that I’ve met have been pleasant, some even being the basis for the protagonists in my stories. The antagonist characters are always more interesting though and I derive a great deal of satisfaction in gaining victory for my little guy heroes and having them overcome and defeat their antagonists.

There are many kinds of people that I cannot abide, have met and who have become antagonists in my stories. Among them, the majority of my ire is reserved for the kind of people that talk about others detrimentally behind their backs, lacking the courage to be confrontational. At the same time these people will be as nice as pie to the face of the person whom they would otherwise be discrediting were that person not present. The worst of these hypocrites will even attempt to ruin friendships by discrediting one individual to his friend or colleague and then do likewise in reverse. These same people tend to display the other traits that I find objectionable, those of lying and cheating for self-gain with no consideration of others. They are inhuman, unable to form friendships as they are so mistrusting of everyone around them. Mistrusting because they think that everyone around them is getting away with what they would be getting away with were they in those individual’s positions. They see themselves as some kind of superior species but always think that the underlings are trying to get one over on them.

These people are often to be found in charge of failing companies, blaming all the incompetents below them for the company’s problems. The lower life forms that the self-proclaimed superiors elevate themselves above in the professional environment are usually far more intelligent than they are given credit for. They are able to forge friendships among their peers. They talk, and as true friends they tell each other if someone has been discrediting them behind their back. They see through the lies fed to them by their so-called superiors and they rise up and rebel. Once all of the low-lives have fled the sinking ship, only the super humans are left and they have only themselves to look at when assessing what went wrong.

So goes the plot for a story that I’m writing and that I hope to finish sometime this week…

 

Honey makes the world go round

Current mood:

Sunday 18 August 2002. In the glass to my left: Ice cold blackcurrant squash. I do limit my alcoholism to the evenings and it’s bloody hot here at the moment so an ice cold squash is just what the doctor ordered. In the CD player at the moment: Nothing. Musical entertainment is being provided by MTV2 via satellite TV.

I’ve been busy over the past month since I last wrote here, trying to improve my financial situation. I’m still in my “replacement” job following my redundancy and therefore remain on a reduced salary. Following many discussions with various companies, the improvement shouldn’t be too long in coming. That last statement is deliberately cryptic for the benefit of those who’ll know who they are when they’re next here as unwelcome guests.

This is the last day of what has been a five day weekend for me. It is the first day of the five that I’ve been alone, the previous four having been spent with the love of my life, Helen.

We had originally planned to spend a week together, during which we were going to spend a few days in London, sightseeing and doing tourist-type things. The recent events at work however meant that I didn’t have as much money as I’d originally budgeted to have in order for us to do everything I’d planned. Money is of no consequence to Helen though and we still had a great time during the two days that we spent in the capital, doing the things that can be done for free there.

Our little break started on Wednesday, when Helen came down for the evening, we watched “Ghost”, drank cider and I cooked dinner – A rather nice toad-in-the-hole, even if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, the pint or so of gin that I downed as a night cap (“What the hell”, I thought. I didn’t have to work the next day. Not that that normally stops me anyway) rendered me incapable… You know what I mean babe and I’m sorry. The rest of you shouldn’t find it too hard (as Helen didn’t) to guess.

Thursday was a glorious day weather-wise, and our first day in London. I should point out here that Helen knows very little of the capital, and it was my job as guide to show her all the best bits. So we started in Bermondsey. Not the most romantic or picturesque area I realise, but having spent so long working and drinking around there, I wanted to show Helen my old haunts. We had a very nice brunch in the Marigold pub and Helen met Charlie, one of my fellow Bermondsey drunks. He was quite taken by her, as are most men, and I gave him my “Yes, I am and don’t you wish you could?” look when he smiled at me approvingly.

From there we went to Tate Modern for a little culture. Having abstained the previous night, I was feeling rather randy and couldn’t help thinking that maybe we could get it on in the Tate and pass ourselves off as exhibits.

Like myself, Helen isn’t someone who tries to interpret modern art with a load of rhetorical bollocks. Rather, we both appreciate agreeable aesthetics and can differentiate between such and a random pile of shit passed off as art to a gullible public. We were enlightened, fascinated, intrigued and amused in equal measure by many exhibits and saw work by Damien Hirst and the Chapman brothers among others. Time at Tate Modern is always time well spent (and entry is free) and so it was doubly so on this occasion as it was Helen’s first visit. She enjoyed it very much and we were both glad I’d taken her there, even though I didn’t in every sense, in case you’re wondering about the outcome of my musing in the previous paragraph.

We walked across the Millennium Bridge (Helen taking in the views on either side, I walking in the centre and staring straight ahead as I’m shit scared of heights – such are the sacrifices I make to show a girl a good time) to St. Paul’s. From there it was a short walk to Cannon Street station where we caught a train home and reflected on a day well spent.

Pretty soon after getting home, we made up for lost opportunities the previous evening and were both satisfied and fulfilled as a result. The burgers that we ate hadn’t been defrosted on Wednesday evening so we had them on Thursday is what I mean, of course. Cleanse your filthy minds!

Friday was another glorious day weather-wise, and we decided to spend the day outside, just looking around and doing the odd bit of shopping. We started in Covent Garden, which is always a great place to be in nice weather, with it’s street entertainers and general ambience. While there, Helen treated me to lunch at TGI Friday’s. It really was a treat and such a sweet thing for her to do, she not having a lot of cash herself. She’d saved for this though and I can honestly say that was the best lunch I’ve ever had, simply because it was such a sweet thing for my sweetheart to have done.

In the afternoon we went to Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Soho and Carnaby street, stopping off for a little retail therapy now and again on our travels. Towards the end of the day we rested for a while on the grass back in Leicester square and people-watched: an activity far more rewarding when done in London as opposed to anywhere else, London having it’s higher than national average of nutcases and eccentrics. A quick revisit of Covent Garden on the way to Charing Cross for our train home rounded off the day.

Friday became Saturday far too quickly and alas it was yesterday that I had to say farewell to Helen till the next time I see her, next Wednesday. Seeing her off is always difficult but yesterday was worse than usual as we’d had the previous three days together and now it was all coming to an end. My bed felt so empty and lonely this morning when I woke up as I’d grown used to having Helen beside me. I always miss her when we’re apart but today the pain is so much greater as it’s our first anniversary and I wish we were together. We’d agreed before our little break that we wouldn’t see each other today as we thought that having been together for the last four days, we might be growing a little tired of one another. Nothing could be further from the truth as it turns out.

Every day I’m with Helen, I want to be with her more. I know that doesn’t make sense but it serves to sum up my frustration as I simply can’t express in words the extent of my love for her. What I’m certain of is that, having spent 365 days with her, I want to be with her forever. The last year has truly been the best of my life so far. With so much shit going on, Helen’s my sanctuary. She’s the best thing to have happened to me. She’s beautiful, physically and personally, she cares about me. She loves me and that’s the best feeling in the world: to know that the one that you care about so much feels exactly the same about you. Helen’s changed my life for ever. I’m the happiest, luckiest guy I know. Happy first anniversary honey. I know it’ll be the first of many. I fucking love you!

Although I’d planned to do a lot more in London with Helen, had we had more time and money, I really enjoyed the two days that we had. London is the city I love and is my spiritual home. To be there with the one I love, showing Helen all the places I know and sharing them with her, made it ten times better. Train fares and food aside, we’d had two days in the capital for free. We don’t need money. As long as we’ve got each other, we’re happy. It’s not money but my honey that makes my world go round.

I feel for those less fortunate than us: for the shallow, transparent people whose main love in life is money, or their partner’s money. They lack depth, imagination and true love; things that money can’t buy.

 

Found and lost

Current mood:

Sunday 13 July 2002. In the glass to my left: Cider. Gaymer’s Olde English to be precise, as opposed to my favoured tipple of Scrumpy Jack. The reason for this is that the former is the current cider on special offer at my local off-license. I am having to rely on special offers to procure cheap booze as money is a little tight at the moment. Perhaps I should give up the booze entirely and save myself the expense but quite frankly I’m dependent on its numbing effects to blot out what is currently a pretty shitty life. More on that later.

In the CD player at the moment: “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie. Next up is “Aladdin Sane”. I’m having a Bowie moment, finding comfort in the music that I grew up on and perhaps hoping that it’ll digress me to a former age and allow me to forget the crap that’s going on in my life at the moment Well, I can hope.

The main reason for my slightly downbeat frame of mind is the fact that this week I was made redundant from my job. I got another job almost immediately – albeit at a lesser salary – along the lines of the one that I lost, and have the opportunity to do well, and for that I’m grateful to certain unnamed individuals. What really sticks in my throat though is the fact that I lost my job partly through the engineering of other unnamed individuals and that there are now yet other unnamed and undeserving individuals reaping the benefits of things that I did whilst still employed and am unaccredited for.

The individuals concerned will know who they are when they stumble as unwelcome guests upon this site again, as they have done in the past. In the same way that I’m intelligent enough to be able to put this web site up, unlike those same unwelcome guests, I’m intelligent enough to be able to see people’s real agendas in the workplace, beyond the bullshit that is office politics.

Most of the week following my redundancy has been taken up with recalculating my finances with a view to maintaining a life of lesser excess, involving less or cheaper alcohol, and contacting my creditors to let them know that I would no longer be able to afford to repay my previous excesses run up on credit at my current rate. Almost all of them requested that I fill in a “necessary expenditure” form, none of which had an “alcohol” provision, hence my ongoing quest for a cheaper source of booze.

There’s a word for an individual that screws up other people’s lives deliberately but until such time as I’m sufficiently inebriated on cheap booze, it eludes me. I seem to remember that it has something to do with an English town which certain parental control programs on the Internet will not allow you to look up. It’s somewhere I want to go, I know. I’m sure I’ll remember later.

With apologies to the majority of my readership for that spitting of venom aimed at a group of individuals other than yourselves, I’ll move onto other news, concerning venom, appropriately enough: The escaped spider turned up this week.

I’d just finished some creditor correspondence on this computer and was very pleased with myself for having found an online supplier of bottle Metholated spirits whilst online when I nonchalantly wheeled my chair back and there she was, sitting by my feet as though she’d never left in the first place, home again.

A struggle ensued and now I have sixteen legs’ worth of Mexican Red Kneed Tarantula co-habituating with me but that’s besides the point. I considered this a successful experiment in animal loyalty, the fact that she came back.

I was reminded of the time that I felt sorry for a goldfish that I once kept, in a rather small aquarium, and decided that it could perhaps do with a little outside exercise. Harley (the cat), was in the garden and I decided that the two of them might like to play together. I scooped the goldfish out of its tank and threw it onto the lawn where it promptly got into the spirit of things by performing some sit-ups. I left them together, returning to the garden twenty minutes later to find Harley still there but no sign of the goldfish. Proof that a cat is more loyal than a fish.

Speaking of loyalty, Helen and I are approaching eleven months together and I owe her thanks for sticking by me through everything, including my latest trauma. True love is made of more than casual acquaintances, such as those made at work.

I’m just pouring over the “necessary expenditure” forms from my creditors that I mentioned earlier. They have a column marked “Car maintenance”. I figure that this refers to petrol. Whilst filling them out I’ve employed a certain element of creative accounting and used this area to allow me to procure petrol, solving my other problem of how to procure drink. Not having a car to put the petrol in, I’m drinking it and feel somehow enlightened.

It’s as though I can go anywhere I want, like a car must feel when it’s full of fuel.

And I’ve remembered that place: Scunthorpe.

 

Lost and around

Current mood:

Sunday 07 July 2002. In the cup to my left: Earl Grey tea. In the CD player: Nothing. VH1 via satellite is this week providing the musical entertainment. It’s “80s weekend” and they’re playing “80 songs from the 80s”. How long did it take them to think that one up I wonder? So far the offerings have ranged from the toe-tapping “Ghost Town” by The Specials to the toe-curling “Lady in Red” by the ever so up himself Chris De Burgh. Strong words perhaps, but Chris De Burgh doesn’t scare me and if he wants to come round here and have a go, he can if he thinks he’s hard enough. That said, I would point out that I’m not afraid to speak my mind and certainly never attribute my views to an imaginary friend (“my mate says…”) when the repercussions from them may be disagreeable.

So, England’s allergy to major sporting finals continues to afflict it with Tim Henman dropping out of Wimbledon and leaving us to hope, yet again, that next time will be ours. Something that occurred to me whilst watching this year’s Wimbledon was that a significant proportion of the Henman / Rusedski supporters seemed to think that they were still watching the football World Cup. I refer to the painted-faced element of the crowd that were wearing / waving St. George Cross flags. Being a proud supporter of any representative of my country taking part in a sporting event, I understand such patriotism. What I did find slightly uncomfortable however was the vocalism of these people, not in their support of our players but in their cheers whenever an opponent made a fault. It’s almost tantamount to the repulsive habit of our football supporters booing the national anthem of an opposing team at the beginning of an international football match. My mate says that it would seem the thick heads who cannot differentiate between patriotism and racist nationalism around the football pitch are now in residence around the tennis court.

My friend also says that these people are perhaps confused, their lack of intelligence and consumption of alcohol during the World Cup leading them to believe that perhaps they are still watching the football. He would like to point out that although they may think they can see 22 players out there through the bottom of their pint glasses, there are in fact only two. Furthermore, the ball is smaller and there is only one net, in the middle of the court (it’s not a pitch). Okay, so it’s rectangular and green but there the similarities end. He hopes that clears it up.

Anyone, drunk or not, could have been forgiven for thinking that yesterday’s ladies’ final was in fact the men’s. I have always preferred ladies’ tennis from the spectator point of view. Not for the obvious short skirt reason but because the ladies are smaller and weaker by nature (my mate says). Therefore there aren’t the constant 150mph ace serves as in the men’s game. Instead there are more sustained rallies making for a more interesting game. Watching the Williams sisters yesterday was not the enjoyable spectacle that a ladies’ game normally is in either a sustained rallies or a short skirt way.

Talking of ladies that can easily be mistaken for men leads me nicely onto my next subject: my spider (the Mexican Red Knee Tarantula) escaped this week. This was a particularly riling event as I’d just bought her, at considerable expense, a new home, complete with a rather fetching faux tree branch three-piece suite. This new spider house (a “Tarantularium” in Arachnid Estate Agent speak) features floor-to-ceiling windows on all four sides in real glass and an integral light in the lid. It was this lid that was to blame for the escape as, unlike the previous housing, it didn’t fasten closed. I had raised the spider over two years from a spiderling a mere half inch across to an impressive beast measuring six inches in diameter. I’ve searched the house for her to no avail and have therefore had to conclude that she’s out there in the big wide world (I have reassured my neighbours that she is not dangerous and that her sheer size is of benefit to anyone who may fear spiders as you can actually hear her footsteps as she approaches). I never though for a moment though that she would be big or strong enough to lift the lid of her tank. Nature can be full of surprises.

Having an affinity with inanimate objects, probably because I spend much of my time as one when I’m drunk, I took pity on the lonely-looking empty tank and set out yesterday for a new tenant for it to play host to. As luck would have it, I found a two year-old female Mexican Red Knee Tarantula offered by a local breeder. She’s more attractive than the last one in that she’s slightly larger and has more prominent coloration. She’s now sitting in the tank, looking very pretty indeed and isn’t going anywhere due to the loft extension I’ve built for her home (a heavy weight on the lid). If any neighbour unaware of the escapee were to find it and point accusingly at me for being irresponsible and letting a venomous animal loose, I can now point responsibly in an it’s-been-there-all-along way at the tank.

I’m not sure if Helen was too keen at first on another spider as a replacement for the last one as in some ways she can’t quite understand my fascination with a spider’s beauty and the way that I coo over a Tarantularium in much the same way that a more balanced person might do a bird cage. Helen admitted though that the new one is very pretty. A lesser girlfriend might have been jealous as some are sometimes of their boyfriends’ hobbies, thinking the hobbies mean more to their men than they do.

Talking of Helen, it’s my beloved’s birthday today. I wish I could be with you on your special day babe but I’m loving you from afar as I always do. You’re one pretty little lady I’ll never lose.

And please, no-one think that I’m making comparisons between Helen and the spider in any way other than metaphorically. The spider may be pretty but Helen’s far prettier. And the spider may have more legs than Helen but Helen’s legs are nicer.

 

Oh dear…

Current mood:

Sunday 23 June 2002. In the glass to my left: Cider. In the CD player: Nothing. MTV2 is again providing my musical entertainment as I continue to allow the joys of digital satellite TV to seduce me. CDs bought recently: “Heathen” by David Bowie. This was his 25th studio album and although perhaps not of the ground-breaking level expected of such a landmark recording, it is still very good. Also, “The Raven” by The Stranglers, a late-finisher in the race that is my attempt to replace all of my old vinyl records with their metal brothers before they are deleted from the studios’ catalogues. The track “Don’t Bring Harry” on the latter has actually inspired me to write a short story – something I’ve not done for a while – so watch this space.

So, we’re out. England, that is, out of the World Cup. Oh dear…

I must admit to being just as upset as anyone else who was as upset as me on Friday when Brazil beat England and sent us packing. Over the last couple of weeks, I’d been drawn into the great national hope that perhaps this year was “ours”. This tournament has been so full of surprises that one more in our favour would have been the proverbial icing on the cake. Alas, it wasn’t to be. But of one thing we can be proud: the behaviour of the England supporters in Japan was exemplary and a credit to the vast majority of this nation that see football as a game and not a battlefield. Perhaps it was the hospitality of the host nation, perhaps the fact that those able to afford the trip to Japan were a better class of supporter. Whatever the case, we can remain proud of our country, whatever our feelings toward our national team.

Which brings me to another point: around here and everywhere that I’ve been in the last couple of days, the flag of St. George still flies from flagpoles, house windows and cars, despite the fact that England are out of the competition. I shouldn’t be surprised as this is how it should be. Historically though, every time that England have been doing well in a competition – specifically football – St. George flags have fluttered proudly in the wind, only to be brought down in shame as soon as we are knocked out of said competition.

This year though things are different somehow. We are still proud, perhaps not of our sporting finesse, but as a nation. The football is perhaps to thank as a unifying influence but there is something far deeper ingrained in the national psyche that has somehow allowed us to cast off what has in the past been a feeling of shame in flying something that was branded racist by left-wing politics and be proud of our national flag and what it represents: history, heritage and unity. I have always been proud of what I am and am glad that right now we are all proud as a nation to be “us”. Sometimes associations with an image or a word, say, run far deeper than the immediate association. My St. George cross still hangs, as it always has, in the corner of this room and I’m proud of it.

I make no secret of the fact that this diary entry is written with one person in mind: that person is my Helen and the reason for the dedication is that we had a little misunderstanding earlier. Oh dear…

…and far more important this one: whilst talking to my babe on the phone, a friend of mine called on my mobile. I took the call and called my friend “babe”. This is a term of endearment that my friend and I both use and have done for many years, in the same way that I generalise among my friends with the term “mate” and among other female friends with “dear”. There is a difference though between the recipients of the generalised use of the words and the one true deserving individual to whom I say the word with heart-felt love: I call all of my friends “mate” but my true best mate is the person for whom I reserve the feeling of the word when I utter it.

“My” is the operative word here. The word “dear” is applied in my language to many people, “dear” only really taking on its true meaning in the context of “my dear Mum”, for instance. By the same token, “babe” is only truly heartfelt in the context of what I said above when I referred to “My babe”, that being “My” Helen. So to her I say: babe, I hope this makes sense and I hope that you realise that the true meaning of that word is reserved for you and you alone.

Far be it from me to desecrate the flag of the country that I’m so proud of but if there were some way to proclaim my love for you in the form of a national flag, I’d paint an “I” in the top left white corner of the England flag, a heart in the top right and your initials in the bottom two corners. Then I’d fly it for the world to see because I’m that proud of you and of “us”.

And this diary entry is going out there with all the others, for the whole world to see how proud I am that you’re my one and only babe.

 

Miss understanding

Current mood:

Before I go on, I have to warn you that I need to be a little careful about what I write here from now on as this site has had some unwanted attention recently. Certain visitors have seen fit to spread completely unfounded rumours about your dear correspondent without being big enough to check the validity of their “facts” with me before spreading them. Okay, so it’s a web site and it’s on the Internet for all to see. I would point out though that I am a writer of fiction with a sometimes warped, self-deprecating (look in the dictionary) sense of humour, both of which are virtues that I realise are wasted on those too shallow to appreciate them. I realise that what I write here is on public view and therefore if I accidentally let something private slip, I only have myself to blame for any repercussions. Apologies then if this diary entry is somewhat boring but like I said, I need to be careful. If I do accidentally let something slip, I’d be grateful if you’d keep it to yourselves. Thanks.

Sunday 02 June 2002. In the ashtray to my left: Crack cocaine. In the CD player: Nothing. My musical entertainment is currently emanating from the TV, courtesy of MTV2. ITV digital having gone tits up, I’ve had digital satellite installed: 350 channels of mind-numbing, time-wasting, vegetative state-inducing heaven.

This weekend is a very patriotic one, being that of the Queen’s golden jubilee and seeing England’s first game in the world cup. I’m proud to be both English and British, a fact borne out by my membership of the National Front, so this is a special weekend for me in that respect and in that it is a weekend with a “Helen element”.

I didn’t see the match this morning as although the Christian churches rescheduled their services, the high priest of my Satanic worship group is not a football fan and therefore refused to budge on the issue. I gather I didn’t miss much as the England team seem to have taken to Japan with them that great British adage that it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts.

Because of the jubilee celebrations, us Brits have two bank holidays tagged onto the end of the weekend making it one long, four day piss-up. For me the weekend started last Thursday, that being my birthday (thank you). Oh to live in a parallel reverse universe where every weekend is five days long and the working week two.

On Thursday, after reporting to the police station to let them know where I’d be, which is part of my parole conditions, I met Helen in Tonbridge and we went to the Hog’s Head pub where we supped alcohol while overlooking the River Medway. A most agreeable set of circumstances. More agreeable still was the meal that followed at Alishan’s, a splendid Indian restaurant in Tonbridge High Street. This is not your run-of-the-mill curry house, full of tanked-up wankers, but a proper Indian joint full of nice people, and me, tanked-up.

I was going to make the evening a bigger affair and invite loads of people along but Helen’s the only one I really wanted to spend my time with so I had all the company I needed. She and I get on so well, never arguing, never bitching or back-stabbing and that’s the kind of company I wanted. It was one of those “perfect” days and the many presents she gave me were the icing on the cake, each small but perfect, a lot of thought having obviously gone into the decision to buy each one. “Perfect” being the operative word here, it’s also the only word that comes close to describing Helen and how she makes me feel. She’s the redeemer of my life. A life which can sometimes be full of some real shit that few besides Helen know about. No-one could ever drive a wedge between us. We’re too close. More importantly, we’re too strong.

Our weekend continues tomorrow, when Helen’s down again for the night. Until then I’ve been using the traditional two days of the weekend to get all of the mundane stuff out of the way. I was quite pleased with myself yesterday when I applied a little lateral thinking to come up with a novel way of sorting out my finances once and for all and I robbed a bank. Today I’ve just been pottering around, tidying up, disposing of body parts and used syringes and snorting the occasional line of Coke to keep myself going.

Next week may be a short working one but I have a lot to do in the evenings which is another reason for getting all of my odd jobs done this weekend. On Wednesday I’m speaking at an international political dinner (hosted by the Nazis). On Thursday I’m going out for a drive with my friend Big Verne (something about a Securicor van, he said), and on Friday I’m at the dogs (pit-fighting).

Tonight I plan to spend a cosy night in front of the TV, watching the snuff movies that I managed to get unnoticed through Customs from Holland. I think I’ve got one of the girl next door’s kidneys left in the freezer, so that’s supper sorted as well.

I might even be a bit naughty and have a glass or two of wine but don’t tell anyone.

 

Anal-ysis

Current mood:

In the glass to my left: My old friend cider. In the CD player: “Free All Angels” by Ash. CDs bought recently: “Great Expectations” by Tasmin Archer. I’ve never been a fan but have always wanted to own her song “Sleeping Satellite” to be included on my “Life Soundtrack” if ever I get around to recording it. You know, that personal compilation CD of all one’s favourite songs? Films watched recently: “Curdled”. Having a Tarantino connection, in that he Executive produced it, I thought it would be good. Alas it was merely mediocre, using his name on the cover to inflate its worth. Still, I’ve seen it now. I often wonder how many films I’ve actually watched…

Sunday 28 April, 2002. This entry will be quite fragmented as (once again) it is the first I’ve written for a while and I have many things that I wish to update here. The same is true of my life as a whole but there are neither sufficient hours in the day, nor days in the week to address everything that needs to be addressed. Suffice it to say that the main areas to address are work and money, the former being in direct relation to the latter. I am of a certain age where I feel I really need to take stock of certain things. Plans are afoot so watch this space.

Being of a certain age means that I sometimes tend to be analytical about certain things. Helen would say that I’m being anal but I prefer to think of it as analytical.

One area of my life that continues to need no addressing is the very big one of the aforementioned Helen (metaphorically, not physically). Now into our ninth month together, things are just fine and dandy and we go from strength to strength. She’s always there when I need her and we grow closer with every day that passes. Although we have the occasional stupid disagreement, just like any other couple, we put such things behind us as our time together is too precious to dwell on such things. We both wish that we could spend more time together but we make the most of the time that we have.

This weekend has been one spent with my Helen. I took her home three hours ago and this place feels lonely now that she’s gone. I try to tell myself that I couldn’t miss her had I not been with her and that I’d rather miss her having seen her than not seen her and such philosophical shit but it doesn’t work. Last night we just did “us” things as only we can do, watched films and just generally loafed around, before going to bed and doing some of the many things that she and I do best. That said, we didn’t wait till we were in bed earlier in the evening. She really is the best in every way and I know that she won’t mind me speaking so frankly here. I really am the luckiest guy I know, to have a girl who is the perfect girlfriend in every department. Read into that last statement what you will but if you’re a bloke, you really should be jealous.

Before taking Helen home, I prepared a most splendid roast lunch, even if I do say so myself. We had a prime beef joint from my local Butcher with all the trimmings, followed by Profiteroles with chocolate sauce. It was most satisfying and much needed, just like other elements of the weekend.

One of the reasons that I’m able to spend time here writing this tonight is that there’s fuck all on TV, with the exception of the Embassy World Snooker Championship, which doesn’t require concentrated viewing and can be left on as “wallpaper TV” in the background. I am a subscriber to ITV Digital (titter Ye not) and despite having access to over 30 channels there is nothing on any of them that warrants me turning them on as they are all shit. Hence my decision this week (coupled with the fact that ITV Digital are looking likely to go tits up) to switch to Sky Digital. Much as I hate the idea of lining Rupert Murdoch’s pockets, Sky really is the only option around here if one wishes to view more than the four analogue channels available and not get tied into a rip-off phone line deal. My mini dish and digibox arrive two weeks yesterday and if I currently have insufficient hours in the day to get all that I want to get done, done, I will have less so then. Anorak that I am, I’m particularly excited about having the sci-fi channel and Bravo among my viewing possibilities. The film buff in me is equally excited about FilmFour Extreme.

Talking of films and referring back to my thought earlier, I’ve just done a very rough cast-off and have worked out approximately how many films I’ve actually watched in my lifetime. It’s not actually a particularly alarming or sad figure as I, or maybe you, would have imagined, based on my calculations as follows:

I’ve been interested in films since my family acquired their first VCR when I was 14 years old and have rented, probably, on average, one film per fortnight. That equates to 390 or so fortnights to date and therefore the same number of film rentals. I (again, roughly) estimate that I watch perhaps one new film per week, whether that be on TV or pre-recorded. That’s another 780 films on top of the 390, making 1170 films in total. Given that I have around 1000 films in my personal collection, this would seem to be about right.

1170 is not such a huge number of films to have watched although, considering that two hours is the average length of a film, 2340 hours, or put another way, 97 1/2 days, or just over 3 months is perhaps quite a long time to have spent cumulatively on one’s hobby. Some would even say I’m anal.

Tomorrow, being Monday, sees a return to work and I have to admit that I look forward to tomorrow even less than I do to Mondays normally. The reason for this is a factory visit which my Managing Director has kindly volunteered me to host. I am not normally in any way averse to public speaking and hospitality. Tomorrow’s visiting dignitaries however are a group of eighteen fifteen year-old schoolgirls. I have an itinerary of military precision planned but am aware of the potential for disruption from such an audience. Maybe I’m being paranoid or maybe I really am anal.

Maybe it’s being of a certain age that’s to blame but for whatever reason, I’m absolutely shitting myself. Helen, where are you when I need you?

 

Memories.

Current mood:

In the can to my left: Coke. In the CD player: “The Best Ska Album in the World, Ever!”. Sad, I know, that I should buy a “Best…” album but this one doesn’t have just the populist tracks on it like most of the others. It actually delves quite deeply into the genre.

Sunday 10 March, 2002. A lonely but productive day. Lonely because it’s been a “Helenless” day. Productive because I’ve had to occupy myself by other means and have got quite a lot done as a result.

This has been one of those rare weekends when I haven’t spent any time in the evening with Helen. I guess she sees a different side of me on these weekends as during the day I’m sober. I only saw her yesterday for part of the morning and most of the afternoon. As with any time spent with Helen it wasn’t enough but we made the most of the time that we had.

Making the most of my time is something I advocate on two levels, those being the good times and the time I have in the greater scheme of things, there but for the grace of God go I and all that. By making the most of my time with those that I care about, I figure I’ll be remembered and something that I believe is that a person is only truly gone when they are forgotten. But enough of my philosophising.

The day started well with me rising at 8 am, a ridiculously early hour for me on a Saturday, looking out of the window and finding it to be a lovely, clear and sunny day. I took a cab to the train station and engaged in the usual banter concerning the weather with the driver. He observed that although in nice weather he doesn’t get as many “fares” as people prefer to walk, the “fares” that he does get tend to be better ones as the pleasant weather somehow affects their generosity. If this was some kind of attempt at subliminal suggestion I was not going to be had, I decided. The weather does not affect my mood or generosity.

It really was a pleasant morning and I resolved myself then to rise early more often at the weekend in order to appreciate pleasant weekend mornings more. Arriving at the station I was very much looking forward to the day ahead and told the driver to keep the change from a five pound note for my three pounds fare.

The nice weather does indeed seem to bring out the better in people, even the usually miserable ticket staff at Tonbridge station. The one who sold me my ticket even managed a smile and a “Thank you” as he gave me my ticket, or perhaps this was just cynicism. He was polite enough though when he told me that he wasn’t allowed to “keep the change” from my ten pound note, although he’d have loved to have taken me up on my offer to “buy yourself a pint on me”. Emerging onto the platform, I bathed in the warmth from the sun and surmised that it couldn’t possibly be raining in Reigate today, although it always seems to be whenever I’m there.

Arriving at Reigate, the sky was full of dark rain clouds.

A rather touching scene had presented itself on the train from Redhill, where I have to change trains. The train to Reigate ultimately ends up in Reading and I guess Reading were playing football yesterday as the train was chock full of football supporters. Redhill is quite a busy interchange station and as well as myself, many other people boarded the train, including a group of elderly ladies. I found the atmosphere on the train quite intimidating, full as it was with big, hairy, tattooed football supporters shouting, swearing and drinking lager. As soon as the old ladies boarded the train though, they all lowered the tone and between them gave up enough seats to allow the ladies to sit down. Very sweet I thought, but thought it wise not to actually tell them this.

Not long after arriving in Reigate and meeting Helen, it started raining. Unlike Tonbridge, Reigate has no cafes to shelter from the bad weather with a cup of tea. Unlike Tonbridge though, Reigate has some very nice independent shops and it was in one of these that we took refuge.

Among other things, this particular shop is a second-hand book shop. On entering, one simultaneously steps back in time and into a veritable Aladdin’s cave. The shop is spread over two floors and books are stacked everywhere. As well as the floor-to-ceiling bookcases, there are books on the floor and all the way up the small staircase. Everything is packed in so tightly that anyone much larger than myself would have difficulty navigating the small maze created by the seemingly randomly-placed bookcases. The smell of old books fills the place and what a wonderful smell that is: It’s like the smell of knowledge and history emanating from all around. Here are all these wonderful old books, all have been read and served to educate many readers over their long lives and now they sit, waiting to bestow knowledge on whomever reads them next. Their aroma is like a calling to read and be educated.

As well as the books, in the back room there is a kind of gallery, filled with old paintings, prints and sketches, all arranged in some semblance of order in old filing cabinets. I found many interesting things there, including a woodcut of Toad Rock in Tunbridge Wells from 1855 which I bought for my Mum by way of a slightly original Mothers’ Day present. I also found a copy of Carl Sagan’s “Contact”, which the film of the same name starring Jodie Foster is loosely based upon, as well as a collection of short stories by Arthur C Clarke which I am currently reading. We could have spent a week in that shop and still not uncovered all of it’s treasures. A couple of hours with a break for lunch though and the rain had subsided so we decided to go off exploring, me feeling like a character from “The Secret Seven”, so many books of which were in the shop, having served their purpose of entertaining a previous generation of children with their tales of adventure, as they had me. I hadn’t been in a second-hand bookshop since my childhood and this was bringing back memories of that time. Helen had promised to take me to an abandoned house that she’d told me of and that was where we were headed now. I was having an adventure.

Clambering in through a broken window, the former use of the house was immediately apparent: With every other room being a bathroom, a stair-lift and a couple of abandoned commodes, this was clearly an old people’s home. It had an air of being abandoned suddenly and there was evidence of a fire. Vandals had taken care of just about everything that was once fitted to the walls and all that was once breakable was now broken. The one curtain that remained hanging was the cheap, thin, peach-coloured type normally found in hospitals. One room was quite disturbing in that a commode was facing the wall in the corner, as if in disgrace and there was apparent evidence of a struggle, with blood on the walls. Perhaps though this was a result of a visitor to the house after the old people had moved out. Perhaps a drugs dispute or a drunken brawl. It was clear that the place had been trespassed upon many times. Also quite intriguing was the old man’s vest strewn on the floor. It could have been left behind in a wardrobe when it’s previous owner left and subsequently thrown around by a trespasser. The other possible reasons for it being there, the signs of a struggle and the apparent sudden abandonment of the place are many and perhaps not so innocent. The writer in me was generating many ideas for dark fiction.

In the kitchen we found something quite moving: A record of the treatment and eventual death of one of the residents. Edna Gibbs, it seems left no-one, her next-of-kin being given as her neighbour. How sad that the last legacy of her should be a death record that no-one saw fit to file anywhere, as if assuming that having left no friends or relatives, no-one would care. Her funeral was probably a DSS affair with no-one present other than an anonymous Civil Servant. Rather than leave the final legacy of Edna to the mercy of some teenage vandal, we took it with us. Helen and I, although we never knew Edna, feel that we know a little of her now, having read her file. We’ll keep it safe and at least now she has someone to remember her.

Gone but not forgotten.

 

The long and short of it.

Current mood:

In the mug to my left: Coffee. I have a new coffee percolator, the previous one having been consigned to that great Bistro in the sky. The one where the coffee percolator doesn’t work. In the CD player: Nothing. I’m having a quiet moment of contemplation.

Sunday 03 March, 2002. I’m contemplating many things at the moment, short and long-term. In the short-term I’m wondering what I’m going to do in a couple of hours when Helen goes. She’s here at the moment, in the bathroom. Even though she’s not right here with me, it’s reassuring to hear the splashing noises from the bathroom and know that she’s only next door. I miss her. Not because she’s in the next room and not in this one but because in two hours she’ll be gone again. I start to miss her before she’s gone in the same way that I grow excited with anticipation before I see her. We’ve enjoyed a weekend together but alas, now that weekend is drawing to a close. Tonight I shall be lonely and tomorrow more so. The day after is always difficult, especially when it’s the first day back at work. Work is the other area that has seen much contemplation but more on that later. Helen will be gone shortly and it seems like a very long time before I’ll see her again.

____

Three hours have now passed since writing that last paragraph as Helen returned to the room and quite frankly, there were many things better to do than sitting here and writing this, like spending a few valuable, precious minutes with my girl. This I can write any time. My girl’s gone now, till the next time I see her on Wednesday. Three hours ago seems so far in the past as I sit here, alone again, surrounded by reminders of the fact that earlier we were still together. Wednesday seems like an eternity to have to wait. Grr!

Returning to my other area of contemplation and as I said earlier, this has concerned work, or rather whether I want to. Quickly arriving at the conclusion that I need to, in the absence of a multi-million pound publishing deal or business plan, I decided that I wasn’t happy in my job and that there needed to be changes for the benefit of both myself and the company.

As many who know me will already know, I am happiest and at my best when out and about, meeting people. Mine is the only firm among much competition that doesn’t employ an outside Sales force. Given the fact that as a company we were experiencing trying times, I thought it about time that we rectify the situation. That was two months ago. Much arguing with and pressuring of board Directors later, I was invited to submit a Sales proposal to the board which was finally accepted last week. After nine months I had grown tired once more of office life and felt frustrated at trying to conduct a Sales operation from inside. I needed to flap my wings and much flapping generally has resulted in my now being the outside Sales force for my company.

Some of my time on the road will be spent in London, the city I love and know so well. In much the same way as I’d grown tired of being inside, I had also grown weary of being away from London, the city that I couldn’t wait to be away from nine months ago. Like so many things, I found that I didn’t realise how much I loved London until I was away from it. On recent nights out there, I was receiving my calling, it would seem. As the old saying goes, and one that I’ve used many times in the past, when a man is tired of London, he’s tired of life.

I have the best of both worlds now, in that I will be starting and ending my working day in Tonbridge still, with the London part being an excursion in the middle. Working in London but without the hassle of commuting, with the masses at least. What an ideal existence. Until such time as I do get my multi-million pound publishing deal or business plan, or until I win the lottery, this’ll do me.

So the long and short of it is, after much contemplation I have decided that work is okay, at least in the short-term and long-term I am happy as I have Helen and ours is truly a long-term and special thing.

 

A vanished friend.

Current mood:

In the mug to my left: Tea. In the CD player: “The Smell of Rain” by Mortiis.

Monday 04 February, 2002. As the more observant may realise, this is my first entry here this year. I have no excuse other than procrastination and apathy, as has been the case in many other areas of my life. Recently though, I’ve been setting those other neglected things right and now is the time to provide an update here.

A lot has happened since I last wrote on New Year’s Eve, including the evening of New Year’s Eve itself. The less said about that the better perhaps. It will certainly go down as one of the more memorable ones, for me at least. You know who you are and you know what I mean.

Helen is the one area of my life that has not suffered from my apathy and procrastination. She and I have spent many happy and fun times together and on 18th January celebrated being together for five months. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out then that this month will see us celebrate our semi-anniversary. This will be five days after our Valentine’s day. Again it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that Helen and I will be celebrating “our” Valentine’s day next Wednesday, the 13th. The main reason for this is that although we are very much in love and display public acts of affection sometimes bordering on the pornographic, we cannot tolerate “lovey-dovey” couples with all their cooing and such like. We figure that on Valentine’s day itself, any restaurant that we choose to patronise will be full of said couples being nauseous and quite frankly, if we go out to eat, we do so with the intention of keeping our food down. Most restaurants, as well as being full of these nauseating people will be serving overpriced set-menu “lovers’ dinners” on the actual night, so we figure we’ll do our own, slightly “alternative” thing. Triskadecamaniacs, both of us.

The reason that I’m writing this on a Monday, as opposed to the more traditional Sunday, is that I’m off sick from work. This is the first sick day that I’ve taken in over a year. The shit that I throw at my body daily in the form of cigarettes and alcohol dictates that my immune system is pretty accustomed to fighting off unsavoury things. On the rare occasions that I have a cold or similar ailment, I’m one of those who soldiers on, dosed up on “Day Nurse”. This weekend I seem to have overdone it though and my normally Asbestos-lined stomach is exacting its revenge on me. Since the early hours of this morning, the toilet and my arse have become very good friends. I’m blaming the curry that I had half of on Saturday night and the fermented second half of last night. I’m also figuring the Chinese I had on Friday night into the equation.

Friday night’s Chinese was at the end of a day out with my old friend Pete, whom I’d not seen for almost a year. Our Chinatown culinary delight followed a night of alcohol which itself followed a day of the same. The two of us, along with a few other old friends were reunited on Friday to bid farewell to a mutual old friend of us all.

The world lost one of it’s great characters a couple of weeks ago when our very dear friend Keith was taken from us suddenly when his body literally gave up on him. He was 52.

Keith was a true character. He had a wicked sense of humour and a heart of gold. He helped a lot of people in his time, including myself, taking me under his wing when I was having a hard time at work. To us “young ‘uns” who used to work with him, he was “Uncle Keith”. He loved animals, taking in many waifs and strays in his time. There was the time when a cat that had been knocked down by a car and left to die outside his house, crawled up Keith’s garden path and scratched on the door, as if it knew that the man who lived there would look after it. His love of animals was so great that he was unable to watch wildlife documentaries on TV, as the more graphic scenes of nature at work were too much for him to bear. He was a kind and caring man and one who will be sorely missed. Words cannot do him justice for those that didn’t know him. The world is truly an emptier place without him. His popularity was apparent at his funeral as he had no family, so the half-full chapel’s congregation was made up entirely of friends.

The service was fitting of Keith, taking a humorous form rather than a religious one and tears of grief were diluted by tears of laughter as we were reminded of some of his escapades, too numerous to recount here. I, like the others in attendance have my own fond and amusing memories and will always cherish them.

I had not seen Keith, nor any of the others there for over a year before the time came to say farewell. This was true of many of the others also, so before going our separate ways we vowed to stay in touch.

Too often we lose touch with those close to us, vowing to contact them “soon”. Unfortunately, “soon” is sometimes too late. I was reminded on Friday of a poem I once read: 

 

Around the corner I have a friend

In this great city that has no end,

Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,

And before I know it, a year is gone

 

And I never see my old friend’s face,

For life is a swift and terrible race,

He knows I like him just as well,

As in the days when I rang his bell,

And he rang mine.

 

If, we were younger then,

And now we are busy, tired men.

Tired of playing a foolish game,

Tired of trying to make a name.

 

“Tomorrow” I say “I will call on Jim”

“Just to show that I’m thinking of him.”

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes, And

distance between us grows and grows.

 

Around the corner!- yet miles away,

“Here’s a telegram sir-”

“Jim died today.”

And that’s what we get and deserve in the end.

Around the corner, a vanished friend.

 

 

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