Saturday 29 July 2017

#204 Redemption

I never knew there was an app for mapping lightning. I saw a post about one on my friend Katie's Facebook wall. "That's cool", I commented. "All maps are cool", came the reply. Katie was a geography teacher.

Katie's friend had made the post following a large storm that had supposedly hit the south of England the night before. I hadn't noticed the thunder, yet I still woke up feeling like I'd slept in a tent. Read: exhausted, unrefreshed and grumpy. Maybe I hadn't slept through it as well as I'd thought.

Finding the will to spend days looking for jobs was hard enough without Raiden conspiring against me. Thunder gods aside, I felt like I needed some motivuhsation that morning, so I went cushion shopping.

The ability to control one's surroundings can have a catalytic effect on a person's overall sense of empowerment. While purchasing a grey cushion from Asda didn't have an awful lot to do with finding work, it did get me out of bed and by an extraordinarily long route, over to my sofa, which was where my laptop was, which was where the jobs were.

In the supermarket, I'd also picked up some green tea and a newspaper. The human mind is an awful lot like a cup. If you want to get anything out of it, you must first fill it up as much as possible. Or was it empty it as much as possible? I kept the newspaper anyway. Sometimes an article inspired me.

I once wrote a blog post on how best to procrastinate, the idea being to avoid whatever the chore is but to meanwhile pick an activity that sets you up to return to it. In a way, that's what I'd done with the cushion. I'd been getting fed up of moving pillows back and forth from my bed to the sofa. Now I had something to lean against and it made all the difference. I spent the rest of the day job hunting and submitted five applications.

I imagined being even more productive the following day. I did wonder though, what might happen if Raiden showed up again and ruined another night's sleep. At that moment, an even more terrifying thought came to mind. I'd just written a blog post about buying a cushion.

Saturday 22 July 2017

#203 Taking stock

I chatted to a career advisor this morning. I had a good idea of the type of job I wanted but figured it couldn't hurt to get some expert advice. Whether the National Careers Service employed any experts remained to be seen but it seemed worth a shot.

The last time I sought career guidance, I was fifteen. Our school had arranged for each of us to have a five minute meeting. In mine, I was told to flick through a humongous directory full of job descriptions. I did exactly that. I flicked through it. I don't remember spotting anything I liked. I murmured something about enjoying business studies and came away none the wiser about the world or myself. Wasn't the advisor supposed to advise me? Maybe this time, things would be different. I signed in to the free chat room and was greeted by an operator who called himself Adam.

My impression of Adam was that he was a very boring man. I based this purely on his conversational skills, which consisted of repeating large chunks of standardised dialogue and asking me, at regular intervals, whether what he was saying sounded ok. To be fair, he asked me a lot of questions and listened patiently while I told him my history. Towards the end of our conversation, he recommended some web links.

I gave Adam an easy ride, for the most part although I had hoped he would offer more insight. I asked him, in as nice a way as I could manage, whether he personally had much knowledge of the job market, or whether he often ended up referring people to a handful of links and leaving them to figure the it out themselves. I received a lengthy, rather political-sounding response, from which it was immediately clear that the latter was the case.

I was happy to check out the web links. What else had I expected? The man was not some kind of mystic. Maybe I should have seen a mystic. For now though, I proceeded to the first link. It was a three minute career suitability test. The test was designed to measure my desires, preferences and skills. I rapidly answered all of the questions. My reward was a gargantuously long list of job titles, grading each one out of a hundred, based on my answers.

I saved a copy of all of the job titles which scored 85 or above. It came to 140 results. Adam wasn't joking when he said I had plenty of options. Looking at the list more closely though, it was mostly useless. The test hadn't taken into account any practicalities, such as whether I'd go back to school, if the sight of someone's intestines made me squeamish, or how likely it was that I'd consider relocating to an offshore oil rig.

I decided to leave the test results and put together my own shortlist of viable options. What was the time? 9:53am. Adam and I must have chatted for the best part of an hour. All he'd had to do during that time was run through a template set of questions, dish out a series of pre-written messages and send over some web links. Now that I thought about it, perhaps he'd been more helpful than I'd given him credit for. I rated him four stars, opened up my shortlist and added "career advisor" near the top of the page.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

#202 Friends you haven't met

Met a guy called Paddy earlier. You can guess where he comes from. I'm there munching on my moussaka outside Dulwich Cafe and he offers to swap seats as his table's better for eating. It's the most sensible thing that's come out of his mouth since I got there.

Fucking bellowing HELLO at the customers in a half friendly, half aggressive tone, which inadvertantly warns them that he's had a troubled past involving drugs and alcohol. Threw himself off a roof several years ago, broke half the bones in his body and hasn't touched a drop since.

Said he was planning on going on holiday next weekend. Do you have a valid passport? Lit me till yer abowt di toime I... ok, through you go Sir.

Old Paddy seemed to know half of East Dulwich. Little back and forths with the other daytime dragglers, including his ever so pretty lady friend, who he pays to "look after his cat". I couldn't tell what the hell that was code for. It could have been an actual cat.

The second "friend" I made was a lady trying to get to Stratford. Good old Dan knows the way but then how does she get down the escalator with her pram? I think out loud about this one. Well I'm going to offer to help carry the pram but you're going to say no because it has your baby in it, so I'll tell you to take the baby out of the pram and carry it yourself and I'll carry the pram. I've always liked carrying things. BLESS YOU! She cries. I couldn't believe it. I'm getting thanked for doing something I actually like? What kind of messed up world is this?

The good Samaritan was the craziest of the bunch. A lot of people abuse substances or don't know where the fuck they're going but when you see a group of guys setting fire to a bench in an East London churchyard there are numbers you can call.

This dorky, Mormon lookalike decides to walk up to the group and announce that they shouldn't be doing that. No shit. Why doesn't he just knife himself and save us all some time?

I couldn't resist tagging along next to him. There aren't really that many opportunities in a life like mine to pretend to be "the muscle". I stayed silent, of course. Turns out they actually listened to him and walked away. It was like the power of Christ compelled them or something. The bench was pretty well singed by that point. If you fancy reading book while sitting on some charcoal, head to Limehouse.

"You're braver than me" I told him once we were out of earshot. Either that or the man just really liked benches.

Saturday 8 July 2017

#201 Remembering how to dream

Back in 2014, I was friends with a Baltic girl. At her request, she remained nameless as far as my writing was concerned, an admirable salute to basic privacy. Now and then I happen to walk by an area of the city that neighbours hers and am able to peer over in that general direction. Doing so tempts me to beckon her to the nearest rooftop for the pleasure of exchanging a wave but we lost touch some time ago. I fear I may have antagonised her to boot.

An occasional topic of our conversations was the idea that she would one day own a small bakery. I've added the word small to make it sound cute although this particular girl had not once in her life thought small about anything. Chances are, she'll end up taking on Greggs.

It was her idea but I think I raised it more often than she did. She would design and bake the pastries and I would handle the bookkeeping, a task I fancied I could perform well enough with some basic training.

As adults we sometimes lose our ability to dream. Reality erodes it and places a higher price on fantasies than the child who thought of them would have appreciated. I don't remember having many ambitions in my youth. I did for a while wish to own a small shed that I could hide in. When I grew up, I wanted to become the man who clambered up the ladders in the Ikea warehouse to fetch items for customers. Perhaps there's still time.

I sometimes think about what I'd sell in a bakery, if I ran one. It disturbs me to visit one that doesn't stock this cake or that, or fails to make an item a certain way. I'd have muffins, cookies and doughnuts. Shortbread, flapjacks and gingerbread men. Then possibly eclairs and viennese fingers. Definitely brownies. I'd like to make an original bakewell tart, with a generous layer of jam and buttercream icing.

The bakery in my town when I was young always had bacon and cheese turnovers. They left the rind on the bacon, nestled it in tangy cheddar, threw in a well-cooked slice of tomato and housed it in fresh, flaky pastry. You could buy a side of roast potatoes to accompany it. Every dream has roots in a past experience.

"He who controls the past commands the future, He who commands the future, conquers the past."
- Kane