Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The last annoyance of 2008...

...was in the local supermarket when a woman had a go at me: I'd had the audacity to say 'scuse me please to her child, who was blocking the isle. I'd rudely shouted down to him, according to this woman. He's only a child!.

Well if that's how she deals with polite, measured requests (I don't think the child had even heard me), I dread to think what her response would be to someone rude or aggressive.

These things are annoying because they're so completely and utterly petty: much ado about nothing.

Enough of that.

I'd like to thank everyone for their time and comments over here at the Press, and to wish you all a very Happy New Year. Cheers!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

End of year list type of post

That's right, this is the part where I list the best and worst of 2008 and all that kind of stuff.

Here goes:

Best Fall Album of 2008:

Imperial Wax Solvent.

There, that's it, I really can't be doing with any more.

Mind you, back to the first category, my other favourite Fall album of the year was Dragnet. Ok - strictly speaking, the year in question was 1979, I'll grant you that - but I bought it this summer and have played it almost as often as this year's winner.

My other main reflection on 2008 is that, regardless of all else that has been going on (and is currently going on) in the world, it has been 12 months which have greatly surpassed all expectations for me on a personal level. Maybe that's because really I didn't have any expectations at the outset, but I think that says a lot in itself. Whatever ups and downs there have been, it's felt like I'm heading in a better direction.

However, neither do I have any real expectations as regards 2009.

Well...maybe one.

A new Fall album would be nice.

Saturday, 27 December 2008


Well, less of the mania. There's something very soothing about making a fire, watching it take hold, gradually feeling the warmth, and then realising you've been sat there for the best part of an hour, utterly absorbed.

Watching shapes form and dance in the glow, and imagining.

It's just a shame there isn't a loop setting on the player.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Time off

I can't believe that I won't be rudely awakened by the sound of the alarm tomorrow morning. The sound is so familiar, and some mornings it's like a barb. Not so tomorrow. The daft thing is that I'm probably going to wake up around the same time anyway, and before long decide I might as well get up.

It's a very different kettle of fish though when I can then do things - or not - at my own leisure, with none of the pressing concerns that are usually occupying my tired little mind.

But something has potentially changed anyway: I noticed last week. Normally, in the few days leading up to a break, I'm frazzled, tense and fraught - especially when it's so long since I previously had any time off. I did have quite a busy week this last week, but by Thursday I realised I was actually feeling very calm and composed, and it was an odd (but not unwelcome) feeling.

In fact I began to think that I might be starting to feel better in some respects than I have done in months. I've previously mentioned that I have a suspected allergy: I've been frequenting the GP surgery to have blood tests and presciptions and all the rest, to try and get to the crux of it. We're not quite there yet, I'm awaiting more results - but I've switched from taking antihistamine tablets, to using a nasal spray. It seems to be doing the trick overall - less sneezing and other symptoms for a start. But I also wonder if it means I'm getting better quality sleep since my nasal passages are clearer.

Whatever the case, I'm starting to feel a little less tired and run down, and this week should finally see me getting the rest I need. Thank goodness!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A minute is a long time at this time of year

I know I posted something along the same lines this time last year: but today, round these parts, the sunset was at 1552.

Tomorrow the sunset is due at 1553.

That minute means a lot.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Thank goodness...

...I'm ten years older.

Otherwise, the likely scenario would have been:

** I would have had a terrible weekend.

** I would have probably called in sick today: my day at home would have been as terrible as the weekend would have been, anxiously turning over Friday's events in my mind and wondering whether I'd allowed myself - or rather my drinking - to get completely out of hand, and my behaviour with it.

** I wouldn't have been a good-natured drunk on Friday night.

** I would be looking for ways to blame other people for how drunk I got, rather than taking the responsibility myself.

** I would be feeling pretty low right now, as opposed to thinking about the good-humoured conversation I had today with my colleagues about Friday night.

** I wouldn't be feeling as good as I am about the arty things done in the group at work today, and how well they've turned out.

Yes indeed, thank goodness.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

"About me"


Morning, how are you?

Not too bad thanks, how's yourself?

Oh, you know, hanging on in there...

...and so on and so forth, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and other such latin phrases. Or, as well we know, how to commit to expressing absolutely nothing - at least in a verbal sense - about how one is actually feeling.

Sometimes of course, it's a case of time and place: it would be awkward or inconvenient all round, in certain situations, to express anything more meaningful, honest or open than the above, ultimately coded language.

Other times, it's more a case of habit, politeness, unwillingness, whatever.

Well, I grew bored with that.

Morning trousers, how are you?

Brutalized. How's yourself?

Fine, thanks...what? Brutalized?

- after which there may be a frown, a pause, a laugh, or all three. Or all four if you can't count. There may also be further questions: brutalized? Really?

It just happens to be one of my favourite words, and I decided I would rather use it than come out with something which says absolutely nothing, at least nothing in a direct sense. It does seem to throw people off guard a little, not that my intention is to make anyone feel awkward - but one would hardly expect such an answer to an everyday question: said casually, according to the context of the conversation, it does admittedly tend to jar a little.

It just seems a little more honest sometimes, to say something so obviously, preposterously over the top, in such a context - it does at least have the potential to invite further discussion. In the end it can also serve to put people at ease, when the result is that it's clear that we've opened up a space in which we don't have to follow the usual codes. Namely those codes which allow us to make a habit of ultimately saying nothing with any real meaning.

Of course, I don't really mean that I'm brutalized: the prospect that I might throw such a word into the first conversational greeting of the morning as though I've got the thousand-yard stare thanks to all those inhuman scenes of suffering, mayhem and brutality that I've seen first-hand in some zone of combat, is ever-so-slightly far-fetched. It's not hard though to go from such silly extremes, to somewhere much more reasonable on that particular spectrum, namely what genuine stresses, annoyances or worries may be on one's mind (if indeed such is the case).

It also served as its own form of coded language when things were at their most Kafkaesque, masking certain realities with a veil of humour.

Certain individuals now respond to me in kind, which I think is brilliant - there's an understanding there - but I wonder if it's already reaching the point of having come full circle: brutalized being a convenient shorthand for avoiding any commitment towards expressing anything in particular.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

A bit of this and that

Yes, this could be one of those rambling posts about a number of things. But I've been sat here wondering if I've got anything to blog about, and keep thinking that I haven't - whereas, surely, I have.

Plus I don't want to keep blogging about feeling a bit rubbish, health-wise - it starts to feel tedious to me to keep going on about it, so I'm sure it's not a heck of a lot of fun for anyone else. Still - while we're on the subject of me feeling a bit rubbish: yes I am feeling a bit rubbish, thanks for asking. Not in any way related to guzzling a bottle (or two) of red wine at Fire Byrd's party at the weekend, it's hardly difficult to separate the signs of the after effects of alcohol from other ailments. Though having just had a week in which I felt run down anyway, then perhaps I would have been better off sticking to a more sensible amount.

Not that I was too bad afterwards, and was fine on Monday when I was at work. But on my way home my throat suddenly became very sore, and from thereon for the rest of the evening I had a sharp headache, mainly above my right eye. Plus attendant cold symptoms which exacerbated the binge-sneezing that the suspected allergy is still troubling me with.

I seem to be spending a lot of energy feeling angry about this ongoing slight dip in my health. But I'm back at the GPs tomorrow so I hope to be able to come out of there feeling a little more constructive about my current lot (and not thinking such silly thoughts as, Physician, heal thyself? More like, GP, fob thyself off).

Anyway - enough!

I'm pleased to report that things are getting better as far as my mother's condition is concerned: I've been - and continue to be - very grateful for the messages of concern and support that have been sent my way.

Talking of alcohol (well I was earlier, tangentially), I had a recurring image in my mind today which was a very comforting one: that of being in a very cosy pub. Not a specific one, but a kind of composite of the kind of places I enjoy: a good selection of real ale, a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, and - especially - a roaring fire. Somewhere (probably) up north.

This really is less about alcohol, and more about being somewhere away from the norm, something associated with holidays and relaxation.

Not that I'm counting the days or anything.... but I've seven working ones left until I feel like I can finally breathe out, wind down, and allow my head to fill up with thoughts of my choosing rather than those which are there to respond to the seemingly incessant demands of all the day to day stuff.

I'm avoiding the temptation to wish those seven working days away, though, as valuable and outright necessary as the ensuing time off should prove.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

I think I could do with a lie down

...but all signs and symptoms today are entirely self-inflicted, thanks to a lovely party over at fire byrd's place. It was great to meet up with her and other bloggers (you know who you all are!) for another get together with much fine food, alcohol, and a whole load of conversation ranging from the very silly to the deep and meaningful.

I was glad for the opportunity also of a decent walk the same morning - in stunningly bright sunlight - and the whole day was a most welcome change from recent preoccupations. So thank you fire byrd for being an ever-genial host, and to fellow guests for being such fine company (and for putting up with that strange chap sat guzzling red wine and sporting a bloodshot eye).

Plus, finally, here's a picture from the previous walk that me and fire byrd went on, two months ago already.

Friday, 5 December 2008

I think I could do with a break

Last time I had any holiday time off work was my brief sojourn in Edinburgh, back in late August. Still, only ten more working days until I've a week off (and I'm not even thinking about the fact that a few friends are currently visiting one of my favourite places, and I'm not. Grrrr) - a decent break can't come soon enough.

I thought my eye felt a bit weird, and then someone pointed out how bloodshot it was: I hadn't even noticed.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Mixed Emotions (2)

I've mentioned, I do believe, just how fulfilling and downright necessary (and many other adjectives besides) the art group is for me at work, for many reasons.

This week and last week in particular, it's offered something else which also feels crucial to me at present: containment. Today's group was hectic, demanding, intense, as it usually is when we've a certain amount of attendees: so many people requiring input and guidance right now - usually 3 or more at any given moment in time. Like a nest full of baby sparrows (why sparrows? I dunno) all straining their beaks aloft for the promise of food.

That could make it sound like I'm getting a little grandiose about my own position in this regard - and I was sorely tempted to replace the word food in that last sentence with some kind of preposterous phrase like the worm of artistic guidance, but I couldn't stand the tension in thinking that anybody reading this might think I'm being serious.

Well the serious point has already been made: it's hectic, very hectic. A couple of hours of relentless activity, usually trying to do at least three things at once whilst contemplating a fourth and vaguely weighing up a fifth. So I'm left exhausted, and - especially at the moment - all the better for it.

The weekend, I went to see my mother and grandmother, the former having just come out of hospital. It doesn't feel right to go into any detail here, though I'll go as far as to say that she has some injuries to recover from, which will take some weeks at least: and given that she has other health conditions which don't exactly make life straightforward...well at the very least it's fortunate that things are no worse than they are.

I was glad to be over to see her, and not make a fuss of her. We don't really do fuss: I think she would be embarrassed if not annoyed if I was constantly asking if she was ok and if there was anything I could do for her. Nonetheless I asked her to tell me whenever something needed to be done, and she did so.

Clearly she was in far less discomfort than in the first few days after this situation came to pass, and that was a relief. She will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

What is currently exercising my mind though, is that - whatever the short term prospects - it signifies the potential for change in the longer term. It wouldn't be true to say that things won't be the same because really, things haven't entirely been the same for some time. Little differences very gradually, almost imperceptibly chipping away at whatever I'm referring to as being the same. This latest is very much on that continuum, but shockingly tangible in its immediacy, its rawness. What kind of a shadow it serves to cast beyond that, remains to be seen.

So it felt less easy to see my grandmother also, since I was carrying such thoughts.

(Perhaps I'm being morose - but I think this is also about starting - and only starting - to come to terms with what may be a period of adjustment.)

She (my grandmother) makes herself tiny these days, I don't know how: she crumples herself into the chair, hugging the cushion and keeping warm in front of the fire. In response seemingly to nothing in particular, her sturdiest moment was when she fixed me with a stare and informed me that she doesn't feel like dying just yet - and then she smiled.

These are precious moments, all of them. I'll make reference to another which I don't feel able to fully share here. It was as I was leaving: letting myself out, rather than her getting up to walk me to her front door, which is more of an effort now. She shouted something after me, which stopped me in my tracks, so poignant was it.

So. The art group today did a heck of a lot for me in terms of containment of my thoughts and feelings and I've come home feeling tired but energised, if there's any sense in such an apparent contradiction. I feel ok right now, regardless.

Well.....ok apart from one thing, about which I feel very annoyed. Annoyed? No, absolutely fucking furious. I need a rant, but I don't want to do it here, so I'll be ringing a good friend. Sorry to be so cryptic, but I feel it will be better done verbally than written down.