Trains, Pains, and Automobiles…

It appears that my poor little car is buggered.  The mechanic has suggested it might be worth the gamble of spending £70-£100 replacing the belt, but apparently it is quite common when a cambelt goes for further work to be required on valves and pistons, which could cost about £500 or more.  Considering that the car has just had a new exhaust fitted, and is probably only worth £500 or so anyway, I am disinclined to spend more money fixing the thing.  Money, this month in particular, is something I just do not have.

This creates for me a bit of a pain, namely with regard to getting to and from work.  Yesterday I got a lift to Newton Ferrers from a colleague.  On finishing my shift I decided to walk to Brixton, a stroll of about 4/5 miles, and then catch a bus.  The walk took a little over an hour, all uphill, and the bus cost me £3.90!

Today I am working in Ivybridge.  The first train direct from Plymouth was at 0809, arriving at 0824.  Sadly for me I had to be at work by 0730.  So this meant catching the 0625 train for Glasgow, and changing at Totnes for a connection which got me into Ivybridge for 0724.  A journey of just about an hour!  I finish at 4 tonight, so it is anyone’s guess what time I shall get home tonight….?

Wish me luck.  The rest of this month I am going to need it.

Gasman No More!

It’s true, I’ve only gone and changed ma career.  Apart from the odd emergency call outs for friends and relatives, I have hung up ma tools.  After 20 years, your friendly neighbourhood gasman is no more!  I now work as a care assistant, working with the elderly.  And it’s great.

It’s 18 months in now, and I wish I had taken it up sooner.  You might not believe it, but remarkably the two jobs, gasman and carer, are very similar.  As a gasman for all those years I am no stranger to sitting and listening to the preoccupations of my elders over a cup of tea and a biscuit, after I have done some wee turn or other for them.  I’ve gone from maintaining the boilers to maintaining the people.  And there is still tea and cake involved.

Old folk are fascinating, and I have always enjoyed a good rapport with them.  In fact I have oft’ lamented the fact that the grandmothers think I’m lovely, while the granddaughters think I’m some kind of strange, lunatic, pain in the ass.   Of course, the only explanation for this must be because the granddaughters lack the maturity and the wisdom to make a reasoned and sound judgement on the matter…

When I first started this job, I was immediately impressed by my work colleagues.  I have a vivid memory from my first week of watching two of the girls helping an old chap to his bed.  I watched in awe as they gently fluttered around him, helping him undress and into his pyjamas before they carefully assisted him to spend a penny and have a quick wash before gliding him into bed.  It was a quite beautiful example of genuine human care and compassion for others.  I recall telling them afterwards that I had seen their wings, and that I had fallen in love with both of them a little.  I told myself that if I can be half as good at this job as they are, then I would be quite content.  It is quite a pleasure to work with such people.  I think I can be forgiven for not missing the old days of soot, mud, wind and rain, builders sites and bums.

Next week I have been asked to ‘mentor’ a new start.  In no way will I be able to replicate the impression that was was made on me, but I’ll give it ma best shot.  To paraphrase the protagonist from God Bless You Mr Rosewater, “goddam it you’ve gotta be nice”.    I don’t know if I am half as good, or half as nice quite yet, but I’m working on it 😉

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 😉

Blame It On The Sun, Sunshine

Woke up at one minute to twelve today, relieved to find that swine flu had not killed me in the night.  I have been suffering with this blasted bug for several days now, but at least it has given me a few days off from a much despised job.

Had a cup of tea – milk, two sugars – took a shower and meandered along to the Co-op for a newspaper and some ciggies.   Buying a copy of the Independent always reminds me how uncommon I am. Most shops only get in one or two copies a day.   It never ceases to amaze me that there is a pile of Sun newspapers 4 ft high.   It regularly irritates me that much of the flock are being kept informed of national and international affairs by a semi-pornographic scandal sheet.  If I had my way those relying on the Sun for their knowledge of the world would be barred from voting in elections.

And some still wonder why the country is going to the dogs?