Still Life: Bedroom Scene

The guitar leans silently against the wall.  Both the pint glass and the cup are empty, the plate too is bereft of what was once resting upon it.  He is sated, fed and watered, content to watch videos streaming on the computer laid out in front of him.  There was no conversation taking place here, no exchange of ideas or of intimacies, no special spark between a bond shared.  It was as it was pictured.

That the walls once rang out with the thrill of love and the laughter of friendship was not deniable, that this would occur once again a known truth.  For the moment though this was a simple moment to relax, to enjoy the stillness present at this known time of deep changes.  For the walls did not move but the foundations surely did shake in their silent scream of protest.

CNV00071

Photograph by the author using a Pentax Super ME camera and lomography colour film (if I remember rightly), please attribute if used elsewhere.

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Clock In, Clock Out

The office I worked in dealt with applications from students and our daily targets were monitored and recorded for prosperity, and to check against what was and what wasn’t correctly documented in our individual tally sheets.  Of course these sheets were digital spreadsheets that were specially formatted for each different piece of work that was allocated to the worker.  The spreadsheets highlighted how much allotted time was given dependent on the category that the piece of work fell into, whether we’d have five minutes to complete it or ten minutes.  Simple pieces of work could be given only a few minutes whilst more complicated pieces, such as responding to emails with extensive trails or queries, were given a timing of a quarter of an hour or more.  We felt that luck was on our side when one such piece of work fell out of the electronic basket and into our caseload, we had time to breath, to relax, to look into the faces of the person sat beside ourselves and to realize that we each went through the same, day in and day out.

Many kept to this electronic tally, toting it up at the end of the night by memory or by scrolling through the master sheet.  I, unlike many of my work colleagues, kept a ink tally in Roman numerals of each type of piece of work that I had completed that day.  Towards the end of the evening, when we each heaved a sigh of relief and gladness that the working day was over, I looked down with fondness upon my scrap of paper to find an ever changing squiggle of lines, crossed and solitary, segmented by type and time.

It was the last action of the working shift that so pleased me, that I could scrupple up the piece of paper with my jottings on, tear it in two if needs be and thrice more into smaller pieces so that no readable piece remained, and declare that I was the master of myself once again.  No greater feeling of satisfaction came with the job then that final action of labour destruction, or rather rapprochement that my work towards the whole could be so simply and so justifiably torn up.  That my value as a worker was counted as so little that I needed to be constantly monitored for each and every movement within the workplace, each piece of work accounted for and judged against the character of my soul.  The residual of feeling of loyalty, that thinning pool of employee liquid that had somehow lingered through the various turbulent governmental changes and process improvements, now felt at a very low ebb indeed.  It could evaporate at any moment.

My action was, in its way, a minor everyday rebellion at the absurdity of employment itself.  That each man and woman shall spend a third of their life strapped to the face of labour so that the other third can be slept through and the final third can be lived in a state of fretful suspense.  It is perhaps not fair to categorize in this way what so many want, what so many need, but for me it is not enough nor is it a rightful use of the labour market.  To rebel, in whatever fashion is feasible or at least in which way is not detrimental to your standards, is to acknowledge that you recognize that this is so.  Such is life.

On Health and Safety: Part 2

Q.2. A fire has broken out in the building that you currently work in, endangering the staff present and the building itself.  What should your first course of action be?

Please select one of the answers below

a. The fire has broken out just at the right time as it is currently your break period.  Cracking open your little used locker you locate the marshmallows that have sat in the locker for the past 8 months and, using a fork no-one has cleaned within the past month, you head over to where the fire is and toast the marshmallows.  You laugh hysterically as your colleagues vacate the building whilst you sate your belly.

b. The fire is close to your desk, however you notice that Gill, on secondment from the Lancaster office, is trying to leave before you do so you accidentally trip her up and run over the top of her to get out of the office.  The cause of the fire, it is later ascertained, was your specially ordered fan from HR, even though you ordered it in November and the office air conditioning was to blame for the high temperature.   

c. Fire excites you!  It strengthens you!  You have become disillusioned with office life and believe that, just like the dragon queen from telly, you too can become tougher and more leader-like if you throw yourself into a fire and survive its red hot embers.  Your remains are later found cramped into a fetal position.  Nobody mentions the embarrassing porn magazine found in your smoldering locker to your mother at the work service. 

d. You locate the nearest fire alarm and push the trigger, indicate the nearest fire escape and help colleagues through before closing each set of doors as you exit the building and wait for the fire brigade to turn up.

Contend Peacefully

This blog was named partly after a 2012 album by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend) and, until last weekend, I had never had the chance to see this magnificent band live.  Now that I have, I’m not too sure that listening to them on CD will ever be enough again (although it more than sates my appetite for the moment, as hauntingly beautiful as there music is).  There can be no comparison for just how good they are live, how truly monumental.  I’ve been lucky in the past few months to witness Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed live, amongst small local bands and friends bands (don’t ever forget to support your local bands and jam spaces!).  I haven’t wrote much about music recently on this blog but, along with literature, photography and writing, it is one of the strongest bonds of my creative life.  It is also a daily release from the grind of daily drudgery that is my current employment situation (something I am hoping to rectify shortly).

I also play the guitar and bass, albeit somewhat freely and only in semi-regular jams with friends where we all end up swapping instruments, but there is rarely a feeling like it when musicians lock together in a groove.  It’s hard to define and it is even harder to describe for someone that has never played an instrument, or has never played one with other people.  It isn’t like sex, where two bodies or more are locked in the carnal embrace, it is a feeling that is something different to that, knowing that you are locked in by the groove feels different – it feels exceptional.  It is even better knowing that you are a part of a community (a silent shout out to The Joyful March!), part of a rehearsal rota where you are all friends and invited to each others gigs, or nights sat drinking watching each other play in your rehearsal room of choice.  Even, like me, you play live exceptionally rarely (ok, almost never in the past few years) it is still a thrill to bang out some beats, some jams, and just to release.  To know that you are not chained down to the desk, that you are not a machine, that your job isn’t your life, that there are more facets to your character that can be defined by your daily feedback.  Anyhow, this is just a short note, a note I hope that makes you google the two artists above to discover their music and to entail your own meaning to theirs.

To grow as you hear, to hear as you grow.

On Health and Safety: Part 1

Q.1. A strong light has been misplaced so that it shines directly onto your computer screen.  What problems can this cause you?

Please select one of the answers below

a. The light isn’t warm enough to crack the dragon’s egg that has been
carefully placed on the desk.  The light needs to be turned around, with the
main focus of the beam on the top half of the egg, to ensure that the dragon
gets enough vitamin D.  This is so that the baby can crack through the toughened egg shell once it has grown enough.

b. The light has taken the form of a forgotten nightmare and thus
stirs in your soul a form of deep dread.  You break down crying in
the office, demanding that your line manager produces a bucket of drugs to
calm you down.  You lose your job and, eventually, your hair due to the
recurrent nightmares.

c. The light is so bright that it blinds not just your eyes but also the
eyes of the people either side of you.  You thought that this may occur at
some point in your much vaunted office career so you took careful
preparation and learned braille on your free nights.  You laugh in disdain
as your so-called office friends scream for help and you carry on with your
work as any good office worker would.

d. You bloody move the light!

Northern Lands

The sun beat down mercilessly on the small battered train station.  “The only people who will want that job are the people who have lived here all their lives and have family rooted here”, stated the businessman.  “Yup, and nobody is going to move here to start a new career whilst their friends and family are elsewhere, but the person who works here probably won’t move from this region”, agreed the other businessman.  Both did not fancy the surroundings, not for a permanent job here.  It was in the middle of a wasteland, a chaotic ruin of half demolished brick walled buildings fighting for a place amongst the weeds and the flowers.

Um, Nein Kapital

The world of work beckons.  Although I had always considered employment a kind of personal anathema, I have, and continue to give, my time and effort willingly for various volunteer causes.  Why is it then that the thought of paid work produces in me a nervous sweat of such mental magnitude that I fall and stumble in my own dreams, horrified at the thought of bonded labour?  Of course it is a juvenile and overgrown thought, as we all need to work to produce capital to sustain life as we know it, for rent, for bills, for the ever increasing price of food.  You may not like the system, of working during the best hours of sunlight and of living during the twilight minutes of a dying day, but it is a necessary state of life at this moment.  I guess education has been the backbone for me then, even during the numerous surgical explorations of my body, and not paid employment as per most of my age group.  So perhaps a shift of the paradigm to encompass the varied world of work will produce wonders for me, make me a tax paying fulfilled member of society.  Perhaps…  But it will not shake the jolt of freedom I feel when I think of running among the verdant grasses and lush green trees I spy as my contained car or train rushes past them.  No, that for me is a dream yet still to come.