It’s not my place

It’s gone nine a.m. and I’m in my dressing gown; I’m sort-of fixing breakfast for myself in the kitchen, behind me, sat on his high-chair, is the little fella. He’s worked out that the spoon is good for getting oat-based cereal out the bowl but hasn’t quite figured out the correct angle for the food to remain on the spoon as it approaches his gaping mouth. I discreetly watch him for a while, if I get busted the likelihood is that spoon and the bowl will wind up on the floor earlier than usual. The spoon and bowl always land on the floor. It’s the law.

I’m having another one of those ‘the fuck?’ moments. I get between ten and twenty a day when I suddenly see myself remotely doing stuff with my boy and wondering if it’s actually he and I: in nanoseconds, I’ll find my current predicament wholly unimaginable so my mind will attempt to imagine reality before actual reality returns with a ‘the fuck?’. It’s a wonderful feeling, sort-of like when you wake up thinking it’s a grey Monday when it’s actually a beautiful Saturday, sort of.

These moments aren’t just the product of my having a son, that I’m a dad, let me just write that again, I’m a dad (the fuck?) it’s also to do with the non-effective pressure of a nine to five world.

Thanks to technology most of us (note ‘most’, not ‘all’, so don’t write in) don’t need to be in an office anymore, most still get the job done despite spending the best part of their working lives dicking about with their mates on social media. When I was working the nine to five game I reckon I could’ve done my whole weeks’ work in a day and a half at most, so why was I wasting my time for the remaining three and a half?

From a very young age, our lives are structured around the nine-five-monday-friday model. Of course, there is nothing wrong in this per se but in the last twenty years or so it could be argued that this structure isn’t beneficial to an unspecified number of industries and could even be detrimental to them. I’d argue that being fresh and vital is of far greater benefit that winding up jaded and angry because you’re having to spend precious, spirit-sapping time with people whose lives are wrecked as much as yours… allow me to quantify that if you will, if you don’t like your job it’s not over the hill and far away to assume your colleagues aren’t exactly enamoured either. And if they are (i.e. do like crying in the loo) it’s fair to assume that, as far as you should be concerned, you’re spending valuable time with morons doing a job you despise. At some point I concluded that this wasn’t conducive to self-betterment, irrespective of the cheery salary, so I got out of the office game and began a working-from-home-job with a U.S. Employer.

I thought working from home as an employee would be a happy compromise but it’s almost worse. You may be working from home but that nine to five sod knows no bounds. Robert Frost said that, “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” but if you’re working from it (home) that simply reads ‘your home is a place where they can spy on you, you can no longer shut the door and leave’.

A few months after my son was born my U.S. employers gave me the boot. They’d started to monitor my work with such intensity it became effectively impossible to work for reasons cited aloft, but because I’d not breached any code of practice (and made them a considerable amount of money, I hasten to add) they had to pay me off. On the one hand, you could see this as a quite appalling act of barbarity bearing in mind my son was brand new, or an opportunity to take the writing work to the next level.

I don’t get paid for writing this, I do it because something within compels me to do so, but I do get paid writing XYZ for others, and it’s something I thoroughly enjoy. Better still, I just have to work off a deadline so I can manage my time as I want so, most importantly, I can manage time around the boy so we get plenty of time to hang out.

The fuck?


Pain Gain

I got my nipple pierced in the final year of my twenties, stood-up in a makeshift tent with a smiley long-haired man who declared that I had nothing to fear with regard to the impending pain as he was ‘very fast’. On the word ‘fast’ he hastily passed a needle through my nip; a creaking-popping noise, a lightning bolt of searing agony then a wobbly rush of endorphins. Done. Gary next.

Gary and I spent the day walking about the Milton Keynes bowl with our right hands suspended over our smarting teats for fear of physical contact with a fellow reveller, there were dozens of other people striking a similar pose on account of their recent surgery, eye-contact would solicit a nod, a cheer, even a beer from one especially lubricated out-patient.

We’d made the trip from London with a few mates to see Black Sabbath, I’d never seen them live despite being a fan from a very early age, nine to be exact, after my friend Gavin* gave me a tape that he’d borrowed from his sister. I remember he was very amused by one song called ‘embryo’ so I’m guessing it was Master of Reality.

It was a big deal they were performing, I don’t think any of us thought we’d ever catch them live, so we’d brought along plenty of provisions to ensure we’d be suitably annihilated when they came on stage. Apart from flashes of us all laughing our heads off and one of us throwing up on the train journey home (it may have been me) I can barely recall the day, save noticing that I wasn’t the only one having a little cry when they opened with War Pigs, and my being pierced, of course. I still have the piercing, unlike Gary who, after jumping in a swimming pool in Turkey, learnt that the valve from some inflatable animal had arrived in between his jewellery and chest as he descended into the water. The ring was ripped clean out of his flesh and the pool had to be evacuated.

Until relatively recently I’ve never really analysed this desire to look a certain way, especially when it’s physically painful, and I suppose by looking a ‘certain way’ I (somewhat ironically) conform to a stereotype of what people expect a ‘headbanger’ or ‘biker’ to look like. On the one hand, it’s probably a sign of something insecure (of course, you don’t need to look like a rocker or a punk to be one) but it could just as easily be the reverse. Back in the 80’s, before Nirvana and Guns and Roses taught the prols to rock, people that looked like me weren’t just targets for the media, we had a more tangible threat: groups of young white men that liked to drink pissy lager and listen to jazz-funk. I was beaten unconscious on a night out with my girlfriend in a pub close to my parents by three bastards who starting smashing me in the face before I’d had a chance to pint my pint down, they pulled out chunks of my hair after I’d passed out for good measure.

I didn’t go out for a year after that, because it’d been an unprovoked assault my brain couldn’t process the right way to deal with why what had happened and I became really paranoid. But despite the huge toll it’d taken on me psychologically it had an uncanny effect of reinforcing my identity, it was almost as if I felt I’d earned the right to my long hair and black leather because someone had beaten me up, not for something I’d said but for the way I looked. If anyone was going to inflict pain on me, it was me.

A tattoo was somewhat inevitable. I waited until I was thirty before committing the design I’d been working on for five years to flesh. I guess that’s the difference between now and two decades ago. Tattoos are passé these days, people get ink for the sake of itself, some (but certainly not all, so don’t write in) want to be associated with the having of tattoos to the extent that the aesthetics are secondary; take the faux-tribal craze that took place relatively recently where you could have miles of ink slapped on in a couple of hours, right out the book. Once upon a time tattoos used to be the preserve of sailors, criminals and outlaw bikers, ink, by association, was with loaded with unsavoury connotations -not millionaire football player or that nice Ed Sheeran. Tattoos found their way onto rockers and punks and, as far as I’m concerned, legitimised them for the likes of me. The fact that I’m a devotee of all things ‘motorcycle’ it’d almost be rude if I didn’t have tattoos, mum.

I can no longer contain the ingredients of the stuff that makes up the self so the excess pours out leaving traces of ink and hair in its wake. And it’s not just ink, it’s the rest of the garb, the leather, chains, skull-rings, studs… And a pram with a beautiful little boy sitting there, watching the world go by with his proud dad pushing him along.

*Gavin died of a brain tumour when we were in our early twenties, around the time I got that kicking. A week after he passed, his mum came around to my parents’ house and wordlessly dropped off two dozen heavy metal tee-shirts for me, many from shows we’d seen together. It blew me to pieces.