Saturday 27 July 2019

#503 Exhaustion

I was exhausted. For five months I'd been logging my sleep patterns. What time I woke up, when I went to bed and how tired I felt.

I used crayons to shade in the days on the Year Planner at the back of my diary. Green for feeling fine, orange for a bit tired and red for very tired. The first few months had been an even mix of all three.

You could probably extrapolate that pattern back through my whole life. Even when I ran the marathon, I once went to bed at 1am and ran sixteen miles the next day on 6 hours' sleep. I wasn't in my twenties anymore though.

Last weekend, I'd turned 35. I couldn't celebrate. Actually I did meet my dad and sister for pancakes but I'd been trying to think of something I could do for myself. Nothing came to mind. And I was exhausted. I hadn't had a green day since May and had only had one orange day since June. I didn't really know why.

There'd been a run of nights earlier in the month where I'd stayed up later than I should have. Then I'd had a week off work and continued with the late nights. For a week following all that, I'd been really disciplined and had gone to bed at a reasonable time and slept reasonably. Yet I hadn't caught up. For some reason, I was still tired. Physically and mentally. All the time.

After missing two days of work, I decided to see a doctor. I knew she'd suggest a blood test. I feared doctors. I feared blood tests more. But I went and did it anyway. My GP was a real peach. In fact the first two letters of her first name and the first three of her last name actually spelled the word "Peach". It was written on the blood test form. She asked me a few questions, including whether I had any friends, in case it could be psychological. "No", I replied, enthusiastically. I almost wanted to ask Dr. Peach if she'd be my friend but that seemed a little direct, plus I didn't have any energy.

She sent me for three tests. I'd asked her if they could all be done in the same jab and she'd said yes but then later in the hospital, I reacted nervously to the first one. I sweated a lot and my vision went a bit blurry. I had to take a few minutes to cool down. After a while, I went back to the room but couldn't bring myself to get back in the chair. The nurse suggested I come back tomorrow.

So the next day I went back. It was easier the second time. I asked her to draw one sample, just as before, and she agreed but then sneakily took two while I wasn't looking. I felt very pleased. Her explanation was that she didn't want to see me again. Now I was waiting for the results. Googling things like "What if I have severe kidney disease?" and "If I find out I'm terminally ill, is it less painful to starve myself to death?" Apparently the answer's yes.

I'd messaged a few people, including my parents and my boss, to fill them in on how I was doing. My landlord was aware. My chores were taken care of and I seemed to be eating and drinking OK. It wasn't like I had zero energy, just not very much.

The weekend came and as Saturday lunchtime approached, I realised that I had about a day and a half of time ahead of me before Monday, when I would either go back to work if I felt better or continue lying around the house if I didn't. I wasn't quite sure how to spend it. Probably quite unremarkably. I'd watch some YouTube, maybe do some journalling. Perhaps walk to a cafe for some food. I sent my ex-girlfriend a message. It had been over a year since she'd decided to stop contact. I knew she might not reply.   

Saturday 11 May 2019

#502 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.