31 January 2006

Fresh Air

For years now I have breathed mostly conditioned air. Occasionally I have tried stale air, hot air and even rarefied air but mostly conditioned. Perhaps I was conditioned into thinking this is the only kind of air there is, the only worthwhile air. Two weeks ago I turned off that dubious life-support system and I have since inhaled nothing but free air. Any change of diet takes some getting used to, right?

When the Corporation chooses humidity level, temperature range and fan assistance you just accept your air how it is served up. But what if they've been providing you with the wrong kind of air all along, what if they've been slowly poisoning you is it possible to recover? Yes, but slowly. I'm not expecting to feel ten years younger overnight.

In some countries I think there would be a law against passive air-conditioning. Not in the UK though, the Nanny State tells us what is best for us and our Corporations duly obey. Windows are screwed shut lest we should breathe the intoxicating air of freedom.

In my house we have a new air freshener in the form of a shiny white plastic box complete with discreet, green blinking light. At pre-set intervals it delivers a charge of scent with a wheezy cough. The cat's head swivels towards it in surprise every time and I stare wide-eyed at the cat wondering if it has flu! Within seconds the air is tinged with lavender. This is all well and good but I find the alarming delivery method vastly more entertaining than the fragrance.

Anyway does a delicate smell count as fresh air? On balance I think I prefer to open windows and admit the regulation mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen!

26 January 2006

These are the Days of Our Lives

So I fell unceremoniously back to earth...

Ten days on and I'm still feeling somewhat detached from reality. I watch a TV banking commercial and think - I don't work for that household name any more. I can please myself today; what shall I do, where shall I go? Well I'm varying my routine and doing what takes my fancy. Domestic chores are fine by me, I like cleaning, washing, polishing and tidying. No one organises my day, not even me.

Blue skies and a thin watery sun entice me into taking the bike out. Although dry it is only deceptively fine and the bitter cold soaks into my bones. A ten mile round trip to the DIY Superstore was sufficient today. Swirling leaves caught my eye this afternoon so I unexpectedly spent two hours with a noisy toy blowing them into a giant drift and filling sack after sack after sack. I ate no lunch because I wasn't hungry.

Where have all the bloggers gone? I trimmed my blogroll a couple of months ago but I need to do it again. Don't be offended if I drop a link - so many have ceased posting and commenting and moved on that I need to have a clearout. I'm not very good at doing peripheral so I am sticking to hardcore from now.

You'd have to be deaf and blind to miss Arctic Monkeys, the hype machine is in overdrive. The debut album is smart and very self-assured and their lyrics will stand up to close scrutiny. British influences abound but the result is individual. Hard rock meets Indie, intelligent, articulate and acerbic and I'm going to sidestep any thoughts of comparisons.

The other new CD on my hi-fi is the debut from The Kooks. This is instantly accessible and inevitably will be seen as the album The Libertines should have made. Gritty tales of urban life over scorching melodies and slabs of guitar. My kind of twenty-year-olds, enough said.

Good heavens look at the time! I need to crack on with planning a lazy itinerary for tomorrow.

18 January 2006

Returning to Earth

Iron boned fingers clamped over the wing's leading-edge. Head sideways, cheek flat against the frozen flight surface. 90,000 Rolls-Royce horsepower propels three hundred and ninety tonnes of steel to the roof of the sky. Why can't I hear the engines? Sound is battered behind at ten miles per minute. Cracked brittle eyes detect smooth grey rivets. Headwind bludgeons my skull, trailing feet batter a horrific tattoo, shoes and toes are long gone. Backpack safety net in case.

A child's expressionless face appears in a porthole window. Five plump fingers wave slowly. Then I am gone, grip released streaking backwards in the jet's contrail. Yet still forwards Einstein-like, relatively speaking. Spinning and twisting, a human bullet slowing by degrees. Gravity's insistent tug is vaguely evident. Consciousness swims. Freefall death-defying escape. Right hand grips rip cord, more by luck than judgment. Final effort, sharp pull, violent upward yank.

One hundred shades of patchwork green revolving slowly below, gently spiralling landscape two miles down. Big lives await my return. I see sweet perspective from beneath this crackling canopy. No pain no remorse no anger. Altimeter eyes gauging safe descent. Specks become trees and dots become cars. Green handkerchiefs become fields and the blue ribbon is a stream. Ground rushing up now but England's earth conjures up a soft landing.

How did I get here from there?

16 January 2006

Dignified Exit

How do you bow out gracefully when you don't feel very gracious? The bustling hectic office became quiet and treacherous. Having been sent firmly to Coventry for undisclosed reasons, this final month has tested my stamina to the max. I have had little or no work to do for three months and time has hung heavily. Imagine the convicted inmate on Death Row with ten days until his execution and only four cell walls for company. Every tick of the clock is amplified, every minute an hour.

It finally hit me at the weekend - I don't need to do this. I don't need to be laughed at behind cupped hands. Accordingly I drove to work as usual this morning, emptied my desk of personal belongings and announced my departure. After twenty nine years slaving for the same employer this was not the way I would have chosen to leave but I felt backed into a corner. Too much time and not enough to do is an unhealthy mix.

My doc will supply me with a certificate to prevent deductions from my pay. Twenty nine years ago I wore a suit for the first time and travelled proudly to work on a double-decker bus wearing shiny black shoes and a sober tie. Today I sat at my desk for the final time between 9a.m. and 10a.m. wearing leather jacket and trainers. Those who bothered to look would have noticed I shaved my head over the weekend.

At 10:01 a.m. I said goodbye to my friend and left the office.

05 January 2006

Library on a pin head

I'm feeling somewhat disjointed. Picture, title, text and lyric have only tenuous links. Things are getting smaller and thinner and have fewer obvious controls. Soon we will operate stuff by merely thinking about it. Anyway this year's batteries have worn out and the new gadgets are broken so I watch the swirling dry leaves and gaze at the ice blue sky and think about winter. Somehow I need to restart the generator and drive some effort into the New Year. Will this be the year that brings contentment? Let's get through to spring first, nothing much happens before then.

I don't go to the cinema because it is full of people and the films are too long. I like to watch in the comfort of my own home with a pause button. I loved "X-Files" when it first screened on Sky TV in the UK in 1993. But by Season Three it was given a primetime slot on BBC1 and cult status had definitely worn off. "Quit while you're ahead" doesn't seem to apply when there are commercial pressures being brought to bear. I sweated out a couple more Seasons with diminishing interest as the golden goose dropped base metal eggs until director Chris Carter let loose his creative attention on "Millennium." It was deliciously dark, shadowy, moody and unfathomable, in fact everything "X-Files" no longer was.

Carter had the opportunity to start a new cult and he took it. He continued to churn out Nine Seasons of "X-Files" to appease the masses but sneaked "Millennium" onto our screens with almost no fanfare. I like this form of gritty, realistic drama with a trace of the paranormal. Episodes are delivered in manageable one hour packages, each with a beginning a middle and an end, yet sufficient continuity for me to develop an affinity with the characters and situations. The postman just delivered me a nice chunky boxed set of the complete "Millennium" Seasons One to Three. Something to look forward to.

Each of us has opportunity, we just need to nurture our ability and develop a motive. I started reading blogs over a year ago but barely a handful of my original discoveries survive. So for many there was opportunity and ability but the motive failed. Isn't that the hardest thing, to keep going? Then to keep going and keep going...

We talked about music lately. There are very few artists where I can stick the proverbial pin in their discography, not many cut gem after gem. I chose to review the Bowie album simply because it had a big early influence on me but there are others I could have chosen by different artists. Top of the shortlist might be Pink Floyd, Radiohead or REM there are very few duds in those archives.

For most their star burns brightly and briefly. Sales figures never lie, take a look at any catalogue of hit albums. Run your finger down the "number of weeks on the charts" column and the zenith of an artist's career becomes very apparent. The buying public only parts with cash for months on end when the product is worth it. I won't name names but consider various dinosaurs still lumbering around today and now look at their performance in the 1970s. I think you’ll find a string of two or three number one albums each spending over a year on the charts followed by umpteen releases barely making the lower reaches of the top forty for a month.

The creative peak is very high and very pointed. Very few can sit at the top continually breathing the thin air of success. For the rest I am thankful because they bring variety streaking in low, hard and fast into our mundane lives. They light up our existence and bring inspiration, all credit to them for "burning up on re-entry."

A long, dark January evening stretches out ahead so I’ll settle back into my armchair, laptop close by and perhaps watch an Episode of "Millennium." Later I could surf the music channels to try and catch the next skyrocket, who knows I may enjoy the ride.

"Can you take me back to that
Place where stars glow
Comets swarm like fireflies
Outside your window"
The Stills – Lola Stars and Stripes