Every Good Boy

February 11, 2012

I know I said I wouldn’t be writing blogs for a while but I found something I must share.  It is a short story called ‘Every Good Boy’ and it is written by one of my favourite authors called David Nicholls.  He wrote the bestselling novel ‘One Day’.

For escapism and some light relief, you must read this short story.  It is simple, evocative and totally delightful.  I have read it four times already and I am about to go in for the fifth.

By the way, I met David Nicholls at the Wimbledon Book Fair in 2010 and I like him as a person as much as I love his writing.  He is genuinely super talented and it is no surprise that he won the literary jackpot with ‘One Day’.  He participated in a forum discussion with two other authors and afterwards I overheard him asking the organiser if she was sure he did ok and was she happy with the way in which he conducted the session.  He’s humble, self-effacing and his popularity has not gone to his head.  He’s an all-round nice guy.  I can’t wait for his next book.

Here is the story or you can access it on The Guardian’s website using the link above:

Every Good Boy   

By David Nicholls

“It’s a piano!”

The black lacquered monster loomed in the doorway, my father and Uncle Tony grinning from behind its immense bulk, red-faced from exertion and lunchtime pints. “They were going to throw it away so I said we’d have it.”

My mother looked as if she might cry. “Take it back, please, I’m begging you.”

“But it’s free! It’s a completely free piano!”

“What are we going to do with a piano, Michael? You can’t play it, I can’t play it – ”

“The kid’s going to play it. You’re going to learn, aren’t you, maestro?”

At the age of nine I was remarkable for being entirely without ability. My sister was a gifted and influential majorette, my older brother could dismantle things, but at that time of my life I could – and this really is no exaggeration – do nothing well. Graceless, charmless, physically and socially inept, I lacked even the traditional intelligence of the nerdy. “But there must be something you can do,” my father would sigh as I fumbled the ball, fell from the tree, bounced clear of the trampoline. “Everybody can do something.”

And what if this piano was the answer? Mozart was composing concertos at nine, and surely the only reason that I hadn’t followed suit was because I didn’t have access to the same tools. With the piano still on the doorstep, I lifted the lid and pressed a key. It boomed, doomy and industrial, like a sledgehammer striking a girder. I smiled and decided that I would become a prodigy.

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Going underground (temporarily)

February 5, 2012

I have been slack on the blogging front recently.  I need to take a further break from it for about a month and a half.  I’m on a treadmill.  Work is ramping up and I have to travel on and off until the middle of March. This means I will enter a creative wasteland.  As I have mentioned before, work demands me to act as a submissive robot and so, in order to survive this ramp up, I must numb myself and put my soul on ice temporarily.  It is impossible to write decent blog entries in this state.

This will be a tough 8 weeks.  My work environment has become toxic.  In fact, it is the most toxic work environment I have endured so far, which says a lot.  Every morning before work, I stand outside the building and breathe deeply.  I say to myself over and over, ‘Julie you can do this my girl’ and then I put on my mental hazmat suit and enter the building.

I am not the only one who feels like this.  One of my colleagues said work has given him a nervous twitch that he can’t shake off.  I have seen it in action and it is sad to watch.  Another friend bust her leg while skiing and has been off work for three weeks.  She sees her injury as a gift from God.

I called a co-worker and was told she is off sick indefinitely.  I asked why and the answer was, ‘It’s mental.  Burnout and work stress.’  Another colleague has had bronchitis for over a month and she told me tearfully that she thinks her health issues are psychological and work-related.  She told me that when she gets off her antibiotics, she might contact a shaman.

I thought, ‘Why don’t you resign?’  But then again, why don’t I quit?  Why don’t we all?  Why do we sit still and put up with this shit?  The reason is that, in this economic climate, one has to bear a grotty job for the sake of a reliable monthly income.  We swallow our fate like a hard, awful pill because jobs are scarce and there is nowhere else to go.   I have noticed that it is not the job itself that gives people ulcers, depression and consistent flu, but rather the loss of hope in the possibility of finding something better.  People realise they are trapped and there is no way out and it is this despair that crushes people.  Fortunately, if things go according to plan, I have an exit strategy lined up for the summer (more of that in a separate blog) and this hope has made all the difference.

To cut a long story short, our company sees people as a pair of hands.  We are simply robotic cogs in a giant money-spitting machine.  I feel as if I work in a corporate sweatshop.  My work environment is a combination of The Office and Harry Potter.  The head honchos remind me of The Dementors that suck the soul, joy and creativity out of everything in their path.  In the mornings, our 6th sense kicks in and we feel them approaching the building.  Sometimes we will be having a laugh and a good bitch and someone will say, ‘They’re coming’ and we go quiet.  We hear the Jaws music playing quietly in our subconscious – da na da na da na da na – nothing kills a mood quite like an approaching boss.

I am very grateful to have a job at all and the extra money helps.  I just wish that work was not a constant battle to retain my sanity and sense of humour.  I am so grateful that I am not the only one who feels this way.  It is a relief that some of my colleagues understand.  It is cathartic to offload and whine together although it is a slippery slope and we could end up perpetuating dysfunction and misery.  We must be careful.

Bear with me.  I will resurface towards the end of March, bright-eyed and bushy tailed.