Saturday 27 May 2017

#195 Use it or lose it?

Most of my friends are voters. They scream at their peers to partake. There's no discussion, they just tell everyone that they should or they must. "You have to vote!"

I have to?

In that case I'm definitely not going to.

I might though.

Without really trying, I can think of three reasons:

1) The vote was hard-fought for, therefore we should use it, lest it be snatched from us and suffering ensues to get it back. It's a sensible point.

2) Not voting is like getting in a car and hoping it will go where you want it to without ever touching the steering wheel. I don't think it's as dangerous as that but it illustrates the principle.

3) As important as the vote itself are the mechanisms that facilitate it. Near-universal suffrage is underwritten by near-fair administrative processes. Should those be lost, there's no guarantee we'd regain them. In corrupt countries, the call for democracy is often met with a pretend answer.

Would we have to suffer to get the vote back? Maybe. The efficiency with which the population can cooperate and mobilise itself in the 21st century means that strike action and consumer boycotts would be easy to execute, however any kind of revolution would probably be accompanied by violence, so I feel that point 1) is valid under scrutiny.

What about the lack of a credible candidate? Hear, hear! Verily the contenders have some shocking stances, which means it's almost a good thing that they won't deliver on all their promises. Who would vote for such a bunch? To be fair, I don't always do everything I say I will either.

Do I have to vote? Not really. I reckon enough people will that I don't have to worry about point 1). Do I want  to vote? The psychological benefits of feeling somewhat, albeit very loosely, involved in the fate of one's country seems worth the short walk to the polling station. Especially if they weather is nice.

I like the idea of going Green this time around. It's a snap election, so... I know, I know but just think for a minute: they're actually taking factors like happiness into account. I hear they're discussing a three-day weekend. It's not going to start raining emerald anytime soon but they belong ahead of UKIP.

I will leave you with one of the more entertaining fruits of the electoral system: dancing and rapping politician videos. Because if life isn't enjoyable, there's no point in any of us voting.


Friday 19 May 2017

#194 Water

Twenty five years ago, a shipping container fell overboard on its way from Asia to the US. Its contents? Rubber ducks. Tens of thousands. The floating toys washed up on beaches around the world but two thousand became trapped in a circular pacific current. It seemed likely they'd remain there, rotating around. Forever trapped in the water.

Buckets of it crashed down as I sat peering out from the usual spot. The seat of my shorts was soaked from the flooded marble floor. My T-shirt and the rest of me were catching up. The rain never stopped me running. It would reduce my sitting time that afternoon but not by much.

Basking in my volitious shower, I relished the thought of passers-by being impressed or curious about my ease and passivity in such a climate. It distracted me from the ankle I twisted fifteen minutes prior.

I wasn't the only one caught in a downpour. I had a friend whose mental forecast was often gloomy. She'd been messaging me about her family, who seemed to contribute to it. As usual, dismal observations poured out of her head and into her phone. Like the rain, I enjoyed letting it reach me, without affecting me. Getting wet without getting bothered. A bothered person can't do anything. Whatever they try to do, they'll ruin. Rain doesn't ruin anything. Unless it bothers you.

The current I was caught in was different. I'd been making applications for several weeks and had only heard back from a few. I guessed that was the nature of finding work. I resolved to make more calls and push on with the applications. If that didn't work, maybe I could get a temp job. Something would need to change though. I'd need to get more fed up of job hunting. Or more excited about temping. When would that happen? Why?

A quarter-century since the rubber ducks were lost, they're still washing up on different beaches. Despite getting trapped in the current, the remaining ducks can still be dislodged by a sea storm or the movements of a whale pod, which means there's always a chance they'll break free. Even after years of being trapped in the same water. It's possible to find a way to shore.

Friday 12 May 2017

#193 Stationary

I needed a place to sit. To eat lunch or contemplate. The riverside was an obvious choice but metal railings hid the view.

I made my way to Cabot Square, plonked my ass down on the marble floor and sat facing the fountain and the iconic tower behind it. Mist danced around the pyramid at the building's peak, like snow blown off a mountain.

I wouldn't have done that last year, or the year before. A person can forget how to just sit. If they ever knew.

I used to be so impatient I could barely watch a film. To sit there for that long with no other stimulation. For Star Wars I just about managed it. x2 speed on Youtube felt frustratingly slow. Bedtime felt unreasonably early. Everything felt unreasonable.

It was that sense of stillness I'd missed. Some people got it as they were drifting off before napping. I rarely napped. Even before blue light came along. The few times I'd daytime-slept, I woke up groggy. Like I'd eaten chalk.

I'd stopped taking the time to listen to music. To discover it. It became... the lemonade top. Familiar tunes from the past, sometimes added as an afterthought to whatever stream of videos I was watching. Why would anyone do that to music? Or lager?

I needed to get into music again. It was therapeutic, unlike binge-watching series or Youtube. Maybe I could check out some of fellow blogger Cath's tunes. She incorporated one into every blog post. Over a hundred in 2017 so far. It was a lot of music.

Cath also piled on the pictures, taking heaps of photos herself. Most bloggers used stock sites. I hated those places. Row upon row of smart, low-cost images. If they were any more soulless, the sites would have to open a cafe selling cheap Swedish meatballs, just so visitors would have something to rave about.

I could draw more pictures. Another way to externalise thoughts on top of writing. I wished I had the time and talent to illustrate the blog. The best example I'd seen was ThunderPuff. I couldn't compete with that. The self-doubt maybe, not the drawing.

Should I go draw some pictures? Or should I stay sat there? Waiting for the thoughts to blow over. In case they ever would. My body would tell me when to get up again. It'd rise of its own accord and walk home. Thinking of dinner. A worthwhile change of focus. Meat and mash crept into my brain. It was time to leave.

Friday 5 May 2017

#192 My parents' impact

I'm not sure mother or dad would've got away with reviewing the influence of their own parents. I'm confident that I will, if I admit it's speculative and keep it balanced.

Both parents enjoyed serendipitously good health throughout their years. It's this inheritance for which, thus far at least, my sister and I can be most thankful.

Dad's arrogance houses a remarkable intellect. Mother's timidity shrouds her mastery of yoga. I inherited the timidity and some of the intellect.

His own father's lack of affection and militarily authoritative presence seemingly gave dad an unbound need to express himself freely and to be the centre of attention upon reaching adulthood. He meets these needs through music, sport and talking about himself.

Mother is the exact opposite. She seems to need to avoid the limelight and is modest about her accomplishments. She enjoys gardening, vegetarian cookery and rarely talks about herself without some reservation.

I was typically reminded that my upbringing was nothing like as unpleasant as that of the previous generation. As a consequence of this truth and the shyness of my mother, I avoided a portion of dad's need to be heard in person, preferring to write things down and make occasional attempts at wit. That said, I've always tested my parents' reasoning and patience. Both frequently handled disagreements with an inelegant brutishness and were entirely flappable.

I've dabbled amateurishly in fitness and music and have some biological predisposition to both. My metabolism and in my mid-twenties, a slender figure lent themselves wonderfully to aerobic exercise. I never experienced any pain or discomfort when running and tended to be limited more by cardiopulmonary capacity than anything else. I can generally identify if a song I know is being played in the right key and can sing an 'E' on cue without a reference note.

Neither parent was remotely academic. dad took little interest in subjects other than music or maths, which he aced at GCSE level despite breaking a leg in a motorcycle accident prior to the exam. In barrow boy-esque fashion, he left school at sixteen and headed straight to Barclays to become a banker. He remained there for over thirty years, invariably taking the 5:30pm train home and never having to worry about money. At fifty, he retired and would brag that he had never read a book in his life.

Mother enjoyed school even less. I was grateful that she worked part-time administrative jobs, as it meant she was able to raise my sister and me, rather than hiring a nanny. She relied on dad for money and he relied on her for childcare and housework, as was, I suspect, the norm for those born in the 1950s.

With some of dad's brainpower and some of mother's introversion, I happily read books across the academic spectrum. I lacked the mathematical prowess and bullishness that took dad into the city and like mother, was happy reading and being left to my own devices. I therefore had no intention of leaving school. I studied ten subjects and scored at least a B grade in every one of them. University was more normal by the time I reached adulthood, so I became the first member of my family to attend one.

After uni, I joined a large corporation and attempted to replicate dad's experience of working in financial services and never having to worry about money or work-life balance. I made some progress in these areas. Like mother, I was quieter and lacked dad's tendency towards and interest in project management, a skill that became increasingly necessary in my role. I decided to make a career shift and began looking for jobs in other areas.

When it comes to relationships, my parents did the usual house, marriage and kids combo at what was probably the average age to do those things at the time. I've taken longer to develop confidence in that area although I did start dating after moving to London.

Both parents have friends. Like mother, I limit my social interactions and take copious amounts of time to recharge in between them. Neither parent has enough political interest or religious pompousness running through their veins to turn their nose up at another human being based on their leanings in those areas. That said, dad will happily make fun of anyone for any reason. I occasionally join him in this. I suspect they both believe in climate change although I'm not certain. I suspect they both voted against Brexit although again, I'm not certain. When asked about either, I'm more likely to give an observation than an opinion.

If I had to rate my parents between extremes of 'worst parents in the world' and 'best parents in the world', I would put them somewhere near the middle, considering the relatively affluent area I grew up in. They are free to challenge me on that. I don't think either will. Clearly I had things better off than most people in the world at a more global level and have a lot to be thankful for.

I don't expect anyone will read this post and follow it up with their own analysis of their parents' influence though if anyone does, I'll happily take a look at it.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

#191 Piggy in the middle

A perk of being an introvert is avoiding house arguments about kitchen cleanliness. Did I say an introvert? I meant tidy.

I like Hellen. When she messaged everyone (read: Bruno) about the mess, I thought "Finally, someone is saying something". I never say anything. Like a grizzled prison veteran, I keep my head down and do my porridge.

"If anyone doesn't like something, they can leave" Bruno replied. I threw in a "lol" to show that I didn't take that seriously. I do respond when someone else says something. In fact I suggested a Big Brother vote to decide who leaves. It seemed to lighten the tone.

I messaged each of them separately. It's not that I'm playing both sides of the fence; I'd like to live in a Fairy liquid advert but not enough to fall out with anyone. I like Bruno too. If there's a clean pan and a free hob, I'm happy. In fact that's my entire ethical and political ethos. When there's a referendum concerning clean pans you can expect me to be vocal. Did I say vocal? I meant quietly bitter, presenting as aloof.

Simon's been out this week. Somewhere. Belgium probably. He's an international man. The ideal housemate. I have him pegged as a diplomat, even if that's not his real job title. I like to think he would've weighed in politely had he been here.

I miss having a cat. It was Keira's birthday this week. I think she turned double figures. She only received four Facebook messages. When you know any surface in the house could've had a cat's arse on it since it was last cleaned, it puts things into perspective.