Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mildly irritating thing #2

It mildly irritates me when people spontaneously urge me to ‘cheer up’.
‘Cheer up mate!’
‘Smile a bit!’
And there is a more refined version often reserved especially for me, but which I believe carries the same general message of vacuous encouragement, ‘you look confused’. I never look confused. I just look like what people think ‘confused’ looks like. What I am usually doing is thinking. They should try it occasionally. Confused is what they are, only they will never realise it.

These people do piss me off somewhat. They don’t bother to find out how I actually am feeling, instead being content to draw assumptions from their flawed perceptions of my facial and body ‘expressions’, and giving ‘encouragement’ to improve their own self-image. What thoughtless bastards nice people are.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Bloody Homeless

(No, I don't really think they're 'bloody homeless people', it's just a crude 'shock tactic' to encourage reading-on a little. Not that I'm saying it's worth your time, but ultimately the choice is yours).

One of London’s largest (and now defunct) indoor concert + performance venues, the London Arena, has been borrowed by the anti-homelessness charity ‘Crisis’. For one week the site is base for 24 hours/day volunteer-run services intended to improve the lot of the capital’s homeless and semi-homeless people. These range from a platter of basic services (the most basic of which are the feeding and relatively comfortable sleeping arrangements - and much, much more) to a buffet of services aiming for long term betterment, such as counseling and advisory services, yes I just used the word ‘services’ twice clumsily, educational services, medical facilities. Services. And I can’t think specifically what else there is at the moment.

I’ve just arrived home from the first nightshift of the week, and I’m too tired to do more than a couple of vignette thingies:

- without warning a random guy saw me randomly and thrust his mobile into my hand, asking me to give his mate directions for the London Arena from a random village in Surrey. I did my best.

- a woman asked me to kick a bloke out of one of the sleeping-tents because he was snoring. Right, so what am I supposed to do with the other 150 snorers in here? Huh? She settled down anyway.

- a fellow volunteer puzzled me with a well-structured but ultimately meaningless (to me) theory about reincarnation which she had devised over the year since we last met. I was delighted that she was willing to try explaining it to me, anyway. I like theories.

- another woman pissed freely.

And a question: is it morally acceptable for one to find amusement in the deadpan antics of a drug addict? This I have done. It doesn’t matter what it was exactly that amused me; I’m just wondering now if I find levity in perhaps a few too many situations. Oh homelessness, what a laugh.

UPDATE (can it still be an update if noone read the original version anyway?): Not all our guests are reaching us as efficiently as we would like.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Date with CRISIS

...tonight at 10.15pm, to be precise.

It's Crisis Open Christmas, the annual reception for London's homeless and vulnerable people (but it's all rather more complicated than that...)

I don't consider myself altruistic, but having helped at this event last year, I realised you don't need altruism to become so interested that you just can't help wanting to help.

More information from BBC news (but I don't know where they got the '3500 volunteers' figure from. I would have guessed a couple of hundred, but that's by the by).

Anyway, I hope it's worth something to someone.

Date with Bill

A sergeant at my local police station has agreed to have me join one of his shifts as an 'observer'. Apparently some forms are coming my way because they need me to sign away my life first (well, cover their backsides in any case).

Looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I am a beast

For any bar aficionados drawn to this ostensibly pub-based blog I will offer my excuses straight-off, as this post, like most, has little to do with barmanning. Because of my recent application for the position of awesome (for me) responsibility that is a 'Special Constable' (part-time volunteer police officer), I've been thinking a little bit about some of the wrongs I may have commited in my involvement with people. Specifically, not always doing my best to get along nicely with them.

I used to be a librarian in a university library, and one evening I answered the ‘phone to a female student who said she wanted to renew her books, and from there went straight into a monologue, that her books were rather overdue already and, well, she’d probably got a bit of a fine (well, yeah, probably) and she’d been so busy and too important and her employer had sent her on a training course without much warning and she’d not had a chance to do anything (right, so they lock you up when you go on a training seminar?) and when, after what seemed like interminable minutes, she paused (I don’t know if it was to catch her breath or to see if I was still listening) I took the chance to move onto business. Keeping my tone of voice relatively bright and friendly I said, ‘OK, whatever, if you give me your student number then...’ but I didn’t get any further. There was a blast of squealing that stopped me dead. The squeal stopped as suddenly as it had come. I listened. And a little longer. Her voice came back, shaking with offence. ‘Did .. you... just say... "whatever" ?’

‘Umm, yes,' I tried to bring us back to the world of sensibleness, 'if you give me your borrower number I can bring your details up on the computer and renew...’ Again, my attempt floundered.
‘It’s true!’ she screamed, in a manner that made the 'I care about your needs'-region of my brain quietly shutdown like a life support machine in a powercut. (And no, it doesn't have an emergency generator - that's reserved for the 'fuck you, idiot!' brain region, which is always active. Now I come to think of it, I have no idea what the hell she was claiming to be 'true'. I'm not proud).

Now, I had no wish to be taken as a librarian-hardcase. In fact, I usually tried to act as though the customer was always right. Even the ones who were wrong. It just seemed like the polite thing to do. But there was one moment where I had to be true to myself.

When this girl tried ordering me to ‘apologise’.

I don’t like that.

Slowly, taking my time to relish each consonant, vowel and fricative as my lips formed the sounds I said something which I sense may have pierced the wafer thin armour of her soul. I deeply Whatever'd her and this time, I meant it.

The rest of our chat passed in a happy blur. I gathered that she wanted my name, which I gave, although she didn't seem very sure of her intentions. I tried to help by offering the name and e-mail address of the library manager, because I always enjoyed sitting down for a chin-wag with him or one of his coterie. For people who rarely ventured out from their offices they had a surprisingly detailed knowledge of 'best practice' and how these 'procedures' should be carried out by the librarians dealing with the students.

I even made one last attempt to get her student number so we could renew those nasty overdue library books, but she seemed rather distracted and I think someone else needed the phone. In any case, she stopped taking up my not-so-valuable time.

I conclude that I am patient, but not that patient.
I enjoy arguing with my superiors. What? 'Superiors' ? Fuck off!
I believe that some people are just asking to be wound-up.

Can I make use of these qualities in the modern police? The interview panel didn't mention it, and I didn't think to ask in the heat of the moment.

There are some who suggest that the police are cunts. There is part of me that would like to agree - it may make it easier for me to get along in the service. Although it is probably nicer if the police are seen as trustworthy servants of the community, which I shall of course present as my official view. We shall see.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Steaming hot in winter

We’ve had followers of the inspirational Scaryduck in our pub. And I think there must be something about my own demeanour showing me to be a fellow disciple. In the wake of a less than successful Christmas meal, a distinguished sounding gentlemen emerged from the bogs to approach me and boldly announce that someone had done a poo. His voice trembled with pride. In the toilet of all places! Would I care to inspect? A regular, although not owning up directly, did agree that there was indeed some impressive forensics on the scene. Please, would I care to inspect? At least we don’t have a Masonic handshake.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Run away!

Bystander recently commented on the British public’s rubbishness in the face of the omnipresent threat of random, mindless violence. (I paraphrase somewhat; see his original post for a more lucid appraisal of the situation).

As a fit - but I think not predatory - young man, I would like to be able to offer myself as a small part of the solution. If there’s some random, mindless violence on your street, you should be able to simply whistle, and lads like me will come and send the thug packing.

But to my shame, I am also afflicted by exactly the impotence that Bystander speaks of, and possibly worse.

His father’s generation were hardened by their National Service background; these men weren’t shy of a little fisticuffs, and knew how to handle themselves in a scrap.

Bystander himself at least has the will to win, but not the means.

As for my generation… some of us are the thugs, yes. The rest are the ones walking head-down, hands in pockets, trying our best not to become prey for the packs of feral teenagers and other worrisome people that come out at night.

I can’t speak for others (although I will probably take it upon myself to do so at some stage in this blog…) but my own rather feeble attitude to low level harassment and intimidation was formed by experiences at school.

There were countless scenarios rather like this: another kid would be annoying me for the fun of it. Kicking me under a table. Stealing my things from under my very nose. Grabbing my testicles (yes, it really happened). I would passively endure it for ages (not the testicle incident, mind), but eventually my restraint would break. I’d send him sliding on his arse, or whatever I could do to stop the kicking, theft, perhaps groping. Then a teacher would intervene. Typical reaction: ‘Say sorry, now!’ Of course there was no point in telling them what happened first, no notice was ever taken. If I’d expected the teachers to do anything about it, of course we wouldn’t have reached this stage in the first place. The only teacher who openly shared my sense of justice/belief in self-defence, or at least was close enough to retirement that he had not succumbed to the fluffy-hugginess edict, was an old, ex-National Service man.

Since becoming ostensibly a grown-up, with the exception of two incidents, I’ve succeeded in walking fast enough, and with my head down far enough, that almost noone has bothered me. In the two violent incidents that I failed to escape, the police (the teachers of the grown-up’s world) were absent.

What does worry me is that if one of my juvenile fights is re-enacted one night, on a grown-up scale, and the police happen to see me in the latter stages of my defence, who will be lifted into the ambulance, and who will be bundled into the meatwagon?

It’s not simply a case of what can we do in our defence, but what are we allowed to do? Pre-emptive strikes? Do we try not to whack too hard? Or do I have to behave the same as I did at school, and let myself get stabbed a little bit first? Bystander suggests that we have only to learn how to defend ourselves or others for a few minutes, just long enough until help arrives. I find that rather optimistic. My own experiences, limited though they are, have taught me not to expect help. I don’t know if others’ apathy is a malady of our modern times, or have there always been fools like those teachers, loading guilt onto victims and defenders? I share Bystander’s desire to do something - I can feel my residual testosterone being pathetically stoked-up inside me as I write this - but when the thug and I are dusting ourselves off, will it still be clear who’s who? Will I be made to ‘say sorry’ ?

Last night a stocky, jumpy little guy made an aggressive move against me while I was waiting to meet a friend. I don’t know what he wanted and I wasn’t waiting to find out. He was articulate in a nonsensical kind of way, and the scary thing was his attempts to move and stay within stabby stabby range. I skeddadled pretty sharpish. Technically speaking, I was rubbish. All I achieved was to pass a potential assault/robbery/stabbing to someone not so quick on their feet, like playing pass-the-parcel with a time-bomb, and it will keep on happening until he’s locked up, disabled or killed.

Previously I have phoned the police after being in or seeing incidents like this. They didn’t come. The guy isn’t going to be locked up, and we’re not allowed to disable or kill people.

The young, fit men may have the means for defence of themselves and others, but I, for one, am locked in indecision.

As I scampered for safety, I had to laugh inwardly at myself. The reason that Bystander’s post moved me to write all this is that I’m interested in joining the police. In the light of my reaction last night, and Bystander’s writings, I have been asking myself what I may be getting into… my application to join the Specials is now under consideration. I hope their selection panels and trainers are much wiser than me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mildly irritating thing #1

Being called 'sonny’ or ‘my son’ by peers and juniors, well, by anyone really. It's not so much the overbearing attitude of the users that irritates me, but rather their own cringe-inducing efforts to be taken as a certain sort of geezah who's alright ya know wha' I mean?

The latter phrase, instead of being actually 'spoken', is more often breathed at me through the speaker's phlegm.

I never said anywhere that this blog was going to be a fascinating read.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dunces (mostly)

I’ve just returned from an evening at the barface. Tonight we catered for a party of 35 teachers. They were one of the rowdiest crowds to grace our little institution in a long, long time. What could have been a set-piece public relations exercise - professional, respectable and well-behaved teachers coming out for their Christmas-do and my goodness, they're not such freaks after all - was reduced to barely more than an orgy of uncouth merry making and revelatory physical desires. 'Nice one', you may think, and so might I, if it hadn't been for one female teacher in particular doing her best to have me personally take her as an ill-mannered, crude and charmless slut. I appreciate the thought, Miss, but why don't you wait until the France trip or something? Then you'll have plenty of time to get off with a random boy, rather than getting kicked out in 10 minutes when I call time.

Although there are a number of teachers I admire for their cynicism and honestly expressed bitterness, tonight has only gone to reinforce my general pitying contempt for those that take up this child-warping profession. They had 12 years of compulsory schooling in which they could have shaped my opinion differently, but look what happened.

In their mitigation, I would suggest with an education system as silly to the core as the UK's, what can we expect? It's silly, silly, silly.

I was never expecting a gold sticker for this blog anyway.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Low Flying Jets

Listen. No, what I mean is... just listen. You’ll have to get down on the floor first, though. There’s something I want to tell you about. It’s something I found when I was on the floor. I quite often nap on the floor, simply for the sake of convenience. Sometimes, when I awake, I just luxuriate down there on the carpet, finding that once one is liberated from the domestic tyranny of a mattress, all laying positions are equally comfortable. Sometimes my ear comes in contact with the floor itself, or is pressed against my arm, which in turn touches the floor, like a spy listening with a glass held to the wall. And you know what I’ve heard, down there in the earth? Aircraft.

Can anyone else hear them?

If we can find an explanation, I will post it in this blog.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Catastrophe

This Christmas, for the first time in 18 years, the red red robin will be able to come bob bobin’ this way without being slaughtered. Our senior cat, a brown-black bonsai tiger, is no more. It happened on Friday afternoon. The only witnesses to the death were myself, and the two junior cats. It was that time of the afternoon where I should have started to think about heading off to work. But when I heard from the kitchen the sound of last breaths being exhaled, of course I went to spectate... I mean see if I could do anything.

Cat was spread-eagled across two floor tiles, and had released visceral fluids from both ends. More bloody cleaning. There were also spasmodic shakes. It was 'catatonic'.

Breathing appeared to be the main difficulty, so I wondered if I could clear Cat’s airway. ‘Ah ha, recovery position!’ was my first thought. I never liked touching this cat anyway, so I grabbed an ovenglove to use, but then had the disappointing and rather heuristic second thought: ‘is it anatomically feasible to put a cat in the recovery position? Not with my veterinary knowledge, no.’

The heir to the Senior Cat throne was still watching, so rather than humiliating us both, I decided to let Death take its time. Which was 25 minutes, give or take. And I admit that I knocked a few minutes off by mentally urging it to hurry up, lest I be late for work. A sort of 'catalyst', if you will.

There wasn’t time for a proper disposal without the risk of leaving men beerless, so I scraped it up with a shovel and laid it out in the garage-of-rest to deal with later. A small funeral was conducted the next morning.

A bit crude but there you go.