Life Blues – A Perspective.

It was my intention last night to write a drunken ranting blog post about the vagaries of my day, and about how nothing seems to be going right.  I was going to be cursing my luck, cursing the gods, cursing fate, and just cursing in general.  But something happened on the way home from the pub last night that made me think again.  I stopped and chatted to a homeless chap and remembered all my problems are not actually that bad when put into some perspective.

I was a wee bit drunk as I staggered home last night.  It had been a long day, or a “cunting shitfuck motherfucker of a day” as I had posted on Facebook earlier in the evening.  The primary problem was the car breaking down, and this was compounded by the fact it happened on the road between Totnes and Dartmouth, which is almost the middle of nowhere.  And of course I don’t have breakdown cover…

I was supposed to be in Dartmouth to do a job for a guy, and I had to phone him and ask if he would come and pick me up, and possibly help tow the car back to Plymouth.  He agreed to do that once I’d sorted his boiler.  By the time we got back to the car it was maybe 6 hours later, and the hazard lights, on all that time, had drained the battery.  This meant it would be difficult to break and steer while being towed.  Still, that didn’t turn out to be a problem as the steel tow cable snapped after about 100 yards!  I came back to Plymouth car-less last night, leaving my poor wee motor to be recovered today.  At the cost of £70.  God knows what it’s going to cost to fix the car.  Or even if it can be fixed.  One mate tentatively suggested it might be the cambelt, and it might be a scrappage job!  Eek!

I was already going to be on a very tight budget this month, so as you can imagine I was a little upset by these developments.  Hence my desire for a rare beer, and my intention to rant about it last night.

I bumped into ‘James’ outside the Spar on North Hill in Plymouth.  He was sitting huddled against a wall, looking cold, miserable, and hungry.  Before I went into the shop, I fished out the shrapnel from my pocket, and told him to get himself something to eat.  In a further act of drunken compassion, while in the shop I decided to buy him a hot sausage roll.  As I handed it to him outside the shop, he said “no thanks, I’m a vegetarian”.  Which just seemed to sum up how my day was going.  So I went back into the Spar and got him a cheese and tomato sandwich.

I sat with him for 10 minutes as he ate, hungrily.  James was from Plymouth, and he had been on the streets for at least ten years, since both his parents had died.  He indicated that he had been through some unpleasant experiences, and that possibly accounted for for what seemed to me his rather nervous and skittish appearance.  Or maybe he just wasn’t used to loud and slightly intoxicated Scotsmen being nice to him.  Who knows?

Anyway, I came away from this encounter cursing my luck a little less than I had been.   My luck is not as bad as James’.  Or of countless people like him.

How I Became a Black Sheep.

I watched the film ‘Broken Arrow’ on television last night.  Despite the fact I went to see it at the cinema in 1996, I could remember nothing of it.  After watching it again I realized why – it is absolute garbage.  Still, the film did get me thinking.    It started me off on a nostalgia trip to my salad days, and in particular my life in 1996, and how it evolved over the following few years.

In 1996 I was 24 and earning VERY good money with British Gas as a service engineer.   I had a pension, and was also the regular recipient of dividend cheques from a multitude of shares that British Gas kept throwing my way.  I also had a £21,000 mortgage on a little flat on Castlegreen Street in Dumbarton.  Life seemed a complete doddle.

Broken Arrow was released in the UK during April of 1996, and it would have been there or thereabouts that I first saw it.  I remember going to see it with my then girlfriend Fiona, at the UCI multiplex in Clydebank.    I’ll admit now that it wasn’t one of my better ideas for a date.  Whether she had a thing for John Travolta I can’t recall, though I can’t imagine anyone fancying Travolta in that movie.  His girning alone would be enough to give any woman nightmares.

Life seemed so easy in those days.  The only clouds on my horizon were generally the product of my lovelife.  I had no real awareness of the wider world outside my own social circle, and had no thoughts or opinions on anything ‘political’.  My life revolved around work and beer, with increasing forays into dope, and guitar-generated rock and roll.

It was in about 1996 that I started to become a regular concert go-er.  Looking at my collection of ticket stubs, I can see how my musical tastes gradually changed.  In 1996 I was paying to see Bon Jovi, Oasis, Del Amitri, Reef, and Ocean Colour Scene.  By 1997 I was watching the Verve, Skunk Anansie, Live, Primal Scream, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, and Beck.

The late 90’s went on to become, for me, something akin to a ‘perfect storm’.   I had moved away from Dumbarton to live in Rothesay on the sunny Isle of Bute.   For the first time in my adult life the Labour Party had won election to Government.  My formerly apolitical nature had been eroded by exposure to the music of Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine.  And possibly most significant of all was the new time I found for reading.   I started reading broadsheet newspapers, particularly the Glasgow Herald, and a new work colleague was introducing me to the works of Noam Chomsky, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Waits, and Hunter Thompson.  I developed strong views on nuclear weapons, on the 1998 Gulf War, and the 1999 Kosovo bombing.  Almost despite myself, I was slowly turning into some kind of political black sheep.

And suddenly life seemed not so simple.   I saw in the millenium listening to Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai.

Before long I was resigning from British Gas and getting arrested in front of nuclear submarine bases.

I wish I’d never saw that damn film 😉