Saturday, 11 May 2019

Bona Vacantia

"There are three old ladies on a park bench" Mendel started. I continued typing for a moment, then whirled around my wheelie chair to face him. "The first one says 'It's windy!'. The second one says 'It's not Wednesday, it's Thursday!'. The third one says 'I'm thirsty too, let's have a nice cup of tea!'".

My colleague roared theatrically with laughter. "That's very clever Mendel" beamed Laura, placing two Kit-Kats on my desk. "His talent's wasted here Dan isn't it?" she asked me. "Definitely" I replied and thanked her for the chocolate.

"Do you think I'm wasted here too?" she teased. "Laura you would be wasted everywhere" I replied. "Aww" she cooed and then went back to work.

It had been a year since I'd started temping in the grey government outpost. The building itself was situated at an undisclosed address in Croydon, due to the sensitive nature of the work. The irony was that Croydon, despite its numerous rail connections and shopping centres, was so scummy, that you'd have to be more or less destitute to end up there voluntarily. Yet among the scores of members of the public with whom we spoke between the hours of ten and four, destitution was not uncommon.

The journey was a pleasure. Being one of the few people weird enough to commute from zone two outwards, I was frequently the only passenger in a row of seats and sometimes in an entire section. I tried eating a takeaway on the train once but a passenger happened to pass through at the time and began talking to me about the smell of my food.

Bona Vacantia was a Latin legal term that meant ownerless goods. This was the place where, if a business bit the dust or a person popped their clogs, any valuable properties or unclaimed dosh could be promptly appropriated by the Crown. For, you know, safe-keeping.

It was the kind of of work in which a person could quickly build up unique expertise, since among the UK's six million hard-working and some not so hard-working business owners, virtually nobody had the slightest clue what would happen if the Registrar ever saw fit to strike Dave's Autos Limited or Sharon's Sheffield Salon off the register of companies.

Which was fine so long as Sharon and Dave were filing all their returns on time and never kept personal funds in their business account. And less fine when their health failed or their accountant failed or the post man failed and Companies House couldn't get through to them. Until eventually the owners realised their bank accounts had been frozen. And called the bank. Who told them to call Companies House. Who told them to call me.

I didn't mind the conversations. Years working on companies that had gone bust meant that I knew how to give people difficult messages. In fact, I almost liked it. Most of the time, they were grateful for the guidance and I occasionally found myself staying on the line when someone really needed a human being to listen to them. It wasn't glamorous work but I could do it comfortably, with minimal overtime. I wore a shirt and trousers each day even though I didn't have to. That way if I ever got another job that required it, the change wouldn't bug me.

Then there were my colleagues, Laura, Mendel and Gemma. They were so friendly and supportive. We didn't talk much as my role didn't require it. But every time I got a chance to catch-up with one of them, it was like a refreshing dose of humanity. It made the whole of my work life feel much more enriched. And made me feel less like ownerless goods myself.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

#500 Thank you Fizzfan et al.

Thank you Fizzfan for all of your wonderful comments. It's been an absolute joy seeing your responses every day. I remember standing on a cold station platform last year at the height of the miserable house hunt and feeling reassured by your uplifting messages. I'm sure I will continue picking up the phone to check them out of habit for a while to come.

I'm looking forward to finding new ways of spending the extra twenty to sixty minutes every day such as staring out the window of trains or in the case of the tube, looking blankly at the overhead map and trying to avoid eye-contact with the other passengers.

When I started blogging five years ago, I originally considered writing daily but quickly imagined it would require immense dedication and opted to write something more weekly instead. Contrary to that expectation, at no point did writing over two hundred daily posts feel too taxing. I think a part of me must have needed to do it and found it therapeutic. 

I tested out my ability to keep up the posts beforehand by writing for ten days in a row and found that fine. I thought perhaps I would write daily for a month or two, then it became a daily ritual and I carried it on. Now I've reached a point where I would like to see what else I can do with the time.

Thanks also in no particular order to Hetal, Cath, John, Liz and my family, who I know read at times and anyone else who has taken an interest during the last eight months and the years before that.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

#499 Winds in the east

The day after finishing the dust ball series, I sat down to write a blog post as usual. Something was different.

I'd been writing daily for eight months. The series itself had been a change in direction, preceded by a week's worth of posts on the theme of searching for a blog like mine. Which followed another week of posts about the university strikes. I'd started writing posts under themes because I felt like I wanted a change. Now I wanted another.

The journey through the blogosphere earlier in the year had highlighted the rarity of personal narrative blogs without a strong theme. They existed but were hard to find, at least among the ranks of the popular pages.

I wanted to explain that if I carried on blogging daily, the blog wouldn't grow and neither would I but I didn't know that. I wanted to say that the daily practice had become repetitive and that life wasn't supposed to be repetitive but I didn't know that either. It was what I liked to call playground logic. The kind that seemed to fit but was only half-true.

Maybe I just didn't want to write about my own life publicly anymore. Of course nobody just wants anything. I'd have my reasons. Boredom. Lack of reward. Lack of growth. Lack of change. A desire to do other things.

Bukowski famously said "If it doesn't come bursting out of you despite everything, don't do it." I'd felt guilty reading that but had done it all the same. Until I felt an urge not to do it. That was where I was at. I'd keep writing in some shape or form but for now, I only knew one truth. It was time for the blogging to end.