Pro-waiting

The boy is sixteen months old. We’ve settled into a definite routine which revolves around my flexible work schedule, the better half’s nine-to-five one, two days at nursery plus the contribution of the parents’ who have him for one night a week. Including the composite day on account of my parents’ that give me three solid workdays, if I’m overloaded I’ve early mornings, late nights and the weekend at my disposal too, so it’s all good. But if someone is ill, for example, the whole shebang falls down on its arsehole and being ill is nine tenths of being a parent.

Initially, I was resistant to the idea of my parents’ having the boy for one night a week, as much as I was anti the whole nursery thing. I suppose this was because that for the first nine months of his life we spent every waking hour together and, without realising it, had stepped into a self-perpetuating bubble of Fam. In hindsight it’s a very peculiar environment as everything is dictated by this new entity and one’s inability to deal with it confidently; everything is a learning exercise consisting of an indefinite, unspecified menu of challenges and rewards. This makes it almost impossible to be anything but introspective, aided and abetted by friends and family who’ll accept this new state of being unconditionally and do things like visit when you want them to, with wine.

I’d have remained in this bubble indefinitely if it wasn’t for the issue of money. Nine months after he was born the better half returned to work part-time and three months later she was back to the N to F. Now the parents/nursery role became essential factors in our schedule, so when the nursery closes for a training day or the parents can’t make it I suddenly find myself playing daddy day care to the point of saturation (don’t get me wrong here, spending time with my little boy is just about the best thing, like, evah, but I’ve got shit to do as well, like take an actual shit without having to keep a toddler at bay with a bog brush) as was the case when he was fifteen months old when I was responsible for my son for nine weekdays out of ten because the nursery shut for some training thing and the folks took it in turns to get sick.

It’s pretty obvious that everything you do when you’re in charge of a baby is baby-related, so if you’re not feeding, changing or weakly trying to make ‘em watch CBeebies so you can sit down for a couple of seconds, you’re preparing food, cleaning-up or taking another trip to the shops in the hope they might fall asleep. After four solid days of this, I realised that it wasn’t just the doing-of-stuff that was killing me, it was all the waiting-for-stuff in between the doing-of-stuff.

Waiting is insidious because it exists on so many levels it hides in plain sight and it’s one of the fundamental reasons that parents of young children are permanently shattered. You’re either waiting for them to get hungry, sleep or shit, or for them to stop eating, wake-up or shit again, and all the while you’re doing actual stuff effectively draining the parental battery at both ends.

Then of course there’s the waiting for the missus to come home, the folks to drop by, the nursery to start and finish and within that all the aforementioned elements of the sleeping and eating and so on so forth (and that’s before we’ve even touched on the waiting around inherent with freelance writing) coagulating into a continual never-ending bollock of horror. Nothing is achieved by waiting, it lurks in the background waiting to catch your eye and has the uncanny effect of making the doing-stuff pointless because as you’re doing it you’re waiting for the next thing to do… But there is a pleasant caveat.

Waiting is the mother of procrastination, a catalyst that fuels a creative spark, without waiting until bored the mind would never have a chance to wander into profundity or stumble onto unknown shores. It’s not just a useful device to inspire, solve or reconcile a bit of copy or a design, it’s great for inventing practical stuff too. Virtually all the safety devices around the house, things to stop stuff falling over or out onto a toddler, have come about after identifying an issue and the brain just resolving the matter while waiting for the washing machine to stop or the Naproxen to kick in. In most instances, I’ve been able to actually carry out the work with no more than a drill, a couple of brackets and an old bit of floorboard

I’ve become so efficient in using my waiting moments to procrastinate that nowadays I only have to feed a quandary into my mind box and, as sure as eggs is eggs, rewarded with a solution in a matter of hours, even minutes. Which is why I’m just about to attach a bass guitar to the wall of his bedroom with a length of shoelace.

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Disc Go

I first rode a motorbike at Dave Taylor’s Trial Park over 40 years ago and haven’t looked back, though obviously I did just then, and while I’m here make a note of ‘back’ as well.

Dave, who for the most part has been consigned to history, was a prominent figure in the 70’s. He was a vociferous road safety campaigner having become famous for, ironically, pulling huge fuck-off wheelies; the dude even rode the whole of the TT course (37.73 miles) on his back wheel. My hero, though, was Barry Sheene. In the 70’s he was mega famous, and for most kids growing up in that decade part of the cultural landscape along with strikes, flares and Spangles. He was vivacious, charismatic and cool, he shone through the brown and grey of the decade and made other sports and their protagonists look prosaic and banal.

The 70’s was also the decade when the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers started to make serious headway into the UK market. As the British motorcycle industry dwindled to virtually nothing, streets and TV’s rung out with the scream of high-revving two strokes. In comparison to the British stuff, the Japanese bikes were faster, lighter and oil-tight. If the British bikes were Black Sabbath then the Japanese upstarts were the Sex Pistols and I loved both. My fate with all things motorbike was sealed.

By the time I was 10 I was doing motocross at a place near Slough. Dad got hold of a burnt out caravan that he converted into a trailer, onto which was loaded my stolen-recovered YB 100cc Yam [that my dad had] converted for off road use. It wasn’t really up to the job but I couldn’t have cared less, I lived for Saturday afternoons. Age 12, when my parents realised this bike-thing wasn’t a fad, and after dad convinced mum that I was learning important skills for when I was on the road, because I would be (he was right on both accounts, I could provide actual examples but this isn’t all about me) I got my first proper MotoX bike, a Yamaha YZ100e. The bike was pretty old by the time I got hold of it, they came with some stinking second-hand leathers that were so baggy around the arse that you could’ve fitted Hazell Dean’s chin in there, but as far as I was concerned I was living the dream, even when I broke my ankle on a post and wrecked all the tendons in my wrist after I hit the deck and a bloke on a CCM stalled and then started his bike on my arm.

For five, occasionally painful, years, I couldn’t have been happier than when I was riding my bike, until that day I was hit in mid-air by another bike, it knocked my front wheel south west so when I landed I was catapulted over the bar. I vividly recall hitting the ground and thinking ‘where’s my bike gone’ before it came crashing down onto my lower back. I don’t remember much after that save the hospital.

A month later I was back on the bike, as far as I was concerned I’d dodged serious injury and made a full recovery, but something had changed. Because the accident hadn’t been my fault I started to become wary, then paranoid, of other riders. I couldn’t ride with impunity as I was too busy checking to make sure someone wasn’t about to smack into me. One afternoon, after an hours riding, I rode into the paddock and told dad that I was done. Six months later the bike was gone. It was dreadful.

A quarter of a century passed, one totally normal day I was walking across the road with my bro when, all of a sudden, I went down like a sack of the stuff (I mean shit) and my bro had to scoop me up and carry me to the pavement before I was hit by an Iveco lorry. I was diagnosed with a perforated disk and required to hobble about with a stick for a while until a combination of the NHS, a chiropractor and some good old fashioned exercise sorted me out.

Until recently this was just fine, I had the measure of the condition and despite seizing up after Slayer at Sonisphere five years ago (my two dear friends had to drag me all the way out of the venue to get a cab, right in the middle of Metallica’s headline set) I’ve been pretty much okay.

But not all was well in lower-back land. The perforated disc was having an adverse effect on the disc below; having been charged with undertaking the additional task of managing a colleague’s injury it was somewhat inevitable that it would file a complaint. Sciatica isn’t as agonisingly painful as the perforated seizure (which would make a great name for a black metal band) but the constant pain running up and down the leg like a cow in heels wears thin after a while. I mean it never bloody stops and nothing over-the-counter relieves it apart from Co-codamol. The prescribed Naproxen merely manages the injury but it does cause agonising stomach cramps that the prescribed Omeprazole, designed to suppress the agonising stomach cramps caused by the Naproxen, fails to curb and all of this amounts to even less sleep than we weren’t having before the Sciatica kicked-in.

I ruminated on all of this lying awake one morning at 3.30 with my left shin and buttock on fire waiting for the umpteenth cody to kick in… Actually, this is bloody Dave Taylor and Barry Sheene’s fault, bastards, my innovative dad should’ve listen to my told-you-so mum and I should’ve stuck with Judo. Even if Brian Jacks was a monumental arsehole with the personality of a bread board.

Then I remembered, the only other time I wasn’t in pain, and this was true of both the perforated disc and the more recent Sciatica, was when I was riding my bike. Sure, I may have had an issue getting on and off but once there, the pain was gone. I guessed it must have something to do with the way the body is positioned on a sportsbike, you lean forward so the spine is relaxed, all the weight is taken by the limbs, bingo.

So there you go, another excellent reason to ride a motorbike.