Thursday 27 August 2015

#119 Idiots ārzemēs

I'd walked a long way. Riga's main beach, Jurmala, stretches out and out and out... and out along the coast and is somehow evenly populated with sunbathers along its entire length, despite most of it being nowhere near the main street.

All I was looking for was a quiet spot where nobody would really notice that I'd be swimming in just my underwear. After learning the hard way that not all airlines will let you check in at the airport two hours before flying without charging you, I was really hoping that I wouldn't screw up anything else this week.

The fact that I had no itinerary or plans was excusable. I was on holiday alone; who needs plans? What I did need though were some swimming trunks and a towel and I hadn't thought to bring either.

At first I'd walked along the beach for a few minutes, contemplating how unfair it was that the hardworking, intelligent 22 year old taxi driver that drove me there, who would probably never forget to bring a towel to the beach, was in the middle of a 24 hour taxi shift, while an incompetent ass like me got to take a taxi ride out to the beach and hadn't even remembered to bring one. Maybe I really ought to get some kind of therapy. Any kind would do.

Turning my thoughts back to the immediate situation, I came back off the beach and wandered along the row of shops that ran alongside it. For a shopping arcade next to a beach, there were surprisingly few selling swimwear. I reasoned that it was probably bcause everyone who comes to the beach wanting to swim has probably already brought some.

I decided that I didn't want to throw money at this particular problem, firstly because that would be frivolous as I already had two pairs of trunks at home and secondly because I might never learn otherwise. Instead I decided to pinch myself hard several times on the arm and torso as a punishment. It actually worked quite well and I instantly felt a bit better. I returned to the beach and walked along, along, along looking for a quiet spot. When I got tired, I stopped for a drink and then carried on walking.

There was no really quiet place. Jurmala beach is never ending, like that Tube station program in the Matrix where Neo runs into the tunnel to escape but ends up back where he started. I decided I'd gone far enough and trudged away from the water to where the sand started to meet some patches of tall, thick grass and weeds. There I lay for some minutes among the other weeds, hiding. Waiting.

Eventually, I took off my tshirt, wrapped my wallet, phone and key in it, left it in the grass and strode into the sea in my regular linen shorts. A couple of other people were wading there. The beach has a slightly uneven surface so in parts you can walk quite a long way from the shore without the water being that deep. I got to about thirty metres. The water was eerily quiet. No waves, surfers, shells or sand worms. Just a lot of still, semi-clear water and seaweed. I plunged into it, swam about a little bit, got out again, collected my stuff and walked all the way back along the beach again. Then I lay on the sand for about an hour, waiting for my shorts to mostly dry so I could walk semi respectably into a restaurant for lunch.

Riga is a quiet city. There are no skyscrapers, tube stations or traffic jams. Cyclists ride freely on the pavement. The climate, value for money and miles of sandy beaches attract tourists from neighbouring countries although your average brit would rather get their sunburn closer to home and has little taste for Baltic food.

The city used to be a top destination for stag and hen parties but since the millennium, the government has near enough eradicated all drugs and sex, the only remaining form of fun being to eat and drink yourself into a coma, which can be done for about twenty quid and in quite pleasant surroundings.

The guidebook had warned me that Baltic peoples don't do chitchat and would be just as likely to respond briefly as not at all to inquisitive foreigners and their polite smiles. This really made me want to bring my friend Tom Sellen here but I actually found the people quite chatty, in particular my taxi driver Kris. He told me that when his brother moved to the UK, people threw rubbish at him and asked me what I thought about foreign labour. I said it was nothing new and that people had been travelling to London to work for a long time to the extent that in any team, in any line of work, the nationalities are mixed. I might have been ignoring the scale of migration from certain countries into certain occupations and the effect it had on localised domestic unemployment but it seemed like a diplomatic answer to give.

Maybe that's the reason it seems quiet here; there aren't even as many Latvians as there once were. Still, it makes for a safe and peaceful trip.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

#118 Home

“How was your swim?” I asked, knowing that the answer would be followed by five seconds of silence. To be fair, my housemate did have her earphones in. “What?” She said, pulling one of them out. “Oh sorry, I just asked how your swim was” I said. “Oh yeah good thanks” she replied, letting out a small sound followed instinctively by “excuse me”. “So, what do you think about this” she continued. “We were out last night and we were just chatting, just normally and we were talking about clothes and I said do you like my tshirt and he was like oh I don’t really wear tshirts and I was like, hmm that’s a bit odd and I guess it’s true, like I’ve never seen him wear a tshirt but still do you think that’s a bit weird?” “and rude and it annoyed you” I added “Yes! Exactly!” she said, pleased that I’d taken the bait. I quite often don’t. 

“HI DAN!” called Marc ever so slightly louder than necessary but not as loud enough to provoke a reaction. I wondered why he never said hi to Naino. “How’s your evening?” I asked. “Right, so I ordered a pizza, ok?” he said, pacing into the room and perching on the side of Naino’s sofa. She kept watching her show. “and I ordered it at six cause I have to go meet my friend at seven so I wrote in the comments box, ‘please deliver by 6:45, meeting friend at 7‘ right? It’s 6:50 now, and they just haven’t got in touch. Nothing.” “Did you try call-” I offered “Yeah, I spoke to them a couple of minutes ago, they say it’s five minutes away and I was like well that’s not good enough because how am I going to eat a whole pizza in ten minutes, when your delivery time says 45 minutes and I wrote clearly in the comments box, please deliver by 6:45“. “Like, I know, I know sometimes things are late but they could’ve at least picked up the phone and rang me because then I’d know where my food was, so then I know that I wasn’t going to eat it until I got back” “Rrrrr... it’s just really annoying how they don’t even bother to ring” he said, frustrated. 

“How’re you?” Marc asked Naino, changing the subject. “How’re you Naino?” He said, slightly louder, looking at me to make sure I’d witnessed the fact that she wasn’t responding. Giving up, he got up off the arm of the sofa and walked back into the kitchen to look out of the window for the moped.

None of this actually happened.

#117 Work

This October, I will have been at PwC for nine years. It’s not a small amount of time. From that point of view, my first main job after university has gone relatively well. I think I am proud of that. I suppose I may as well be. Proud is a strong word though. Pleased might be a better one. A favourite movie quote of mine is from Ace Ventura When Nature Calls, where Jim Carrey’s character, after becoming a spiritually enlightened being, declares that pride is “an abomination of the soul”. I do like that quote.

During the last few years, my performance hasn’t really met the expectations of some, although not all, of my managers all that well. I enjoy certain elements of the job. Analysis. Technical writing. I’m less good when it comes to verbal communication and making decisions under pressure. 

When Autumn comes I might look at other positions within the company to see if there are any that better suit my skill set. I do hope though, over time, not just to change my role but through practice and awareness, to improve in some of the areas where I don’t do so well.

Sunday 16 August 2015

#116 Mouthwash

"Late notice but fancy a pint? I'll be at the Nell Gwynne at 18:15". It was about twenty to seven on Saturday and I was lain on the sofa as always. The fun of dating comes partly from the uncertainty. Sometimes she'll cancel. Sometimes it'll just be a regular date and sometimes it'll turn into the kind of night where all you're capable of doing the next day is lounging around eating cereal and blogging about the ingredients of butter. Until about twenty to seven.

I was starting to feel like a beer so I told John I'd meet him in about an hour. I got up, checked the bus times, threw on some jeans, switched Maria to flight mode to save some battery, brushed my teeth, grabbed a biro and headed out the door.

As I walked, I wondered whether regular mouthwash would have cleaned my mouth any better than the mixture of residual toothpaste and water that was swirling around in there. I rounded the corner before the bus stop, spitting the rinse out into the square of dirt surrounding the pavement tree. There's always time to gargle.

Saturday 15 August 2015

#115 Butter

I've been eating so much butter lately, I love it. I blame Liz. Switched from Flora to Lurpak almost overnight, you know what? I'm not going back. What does it taste good on? That's right, everything. Even value diet cola would taste good with butter on it. That stuff's not butter though. No. Potassium Sorbate. How is that butter? There's a lovely butter that has no preservatives in it though. That's right. Kerrygold. Also, their cows graze freely outside in the sunshine and roam around having fun before they get made to make their butter. I think Kerrygold might just be the most gorgeous and lovely product I've ever had the pleasure of throwing into my shopping trolley. Why not pick up a pack today?

So. The blog. The blog the blog the blog. You know I did a word count earlier today. A word estimate. About a hundred posts. About two hundred words a post. So that's... 3,764 words I've written in total. Not bad for two years' work. I was always better at English than I was a maths. I was a little bit disappointed at the twenty thousand though, not massively but you know, wouldn't it be nice if it was forty thousand? Then all I'd have to do would be to write another hundred and I've got a novel-length set of posts. It's not anything interesting that anyone would ever want to read mind you but then neither was the book of Chronicles and that made it into the Bible.

Sunday 2 August 2015

#114 Liz

It was a humble affair in the end that marked Liz's departure from the house this week. Her looming deadline meant that drinks on Lordship Lane were scaled back to a takeaway and us cleaning her room. This was then further scaled back, with a little divine influence, to eating a casserole of chicken thighs, chopped tomatoes and peppers and cleaning the whole house. At 7:45pm, I took my place at the table and quietly cracked open a can of Fosters to accompany the meal. We ate together for the last time as housemates, talked and made some jokes. Once we were done with the chicken, each of us took for dessert a brownie, from the pile I'd made the day before.

After she'd gone I had a quick peek behind the bed and the wardrobe, looking for the black mould, that unrivalled yet largely unseen measure of how good a housemate a person truly is. Just a trace, around the bottom of the skirting board behind the wardrobe. It could have been mostly dust.

I was slightly surprised actually, as it was clear that the girl was very dedicated in her work, one of the more legitimate excuses that a person can have for seldom having the time to do much cleaning. Perhaps she had spent most of her time in the lounge or kitchen. Maybe she had kept the room well ventilated. We don't know. What we do know is that she has left the house.

Just in case that wasn't clear.

Oh and we liked her. She was an excellent housemate.