Friday, April 27, 2007

And She Closed Her Eyes 

"I'm going to ask you a question, Tim," shouted Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, above the rattle and drone of her walking machine. I wiped some soup off my desk with the roll of kitchen towel that I've started carrying around with me.

"Sure," I said. "Shoot." ("Shoot?" WTF?)
"Just supposing you died tonight..." she yelled.
"That's nice."
"Don't worry. It'd be quietly in your sleep. It wouldn't be anything violent or horrible."
"Oh. Thanks."
"So. Supposing you died tonight, peacefully and everything... How many people do you think would come to your funeral?"

Oh great. I stood up, shaking off my breadcrumbs as I wandered to her room, and did some totting ups.
"Well. Family: I guess there'd be about fifteen, give or take a couple," I said. "Friends: Hmmm. Half a dozen definites? Then I suppose another half dozen of 'maybe if somebody tells them and they're not doing something elses'. Rough estimate. Call it twenty seven with tolerances either way of, say, five. Does that answer your question?"
"Twenty seven?" she panted, switching off the machine and removing her sweatband. "Is that all?"
"Erm. Probably."
"God." She swigged from a water bottle. "I'm having at least eighty. Maybe a hundred."
"I'm not in competition with you," I said.
She took another swig and I passed her some kitchen towel.

"Is everything, you know, okay?" I asked. "Anything you want to tell me?"
"Yeah. No. Just feeling a bit morbid. I'm fine, honestly. You?"
"I'm fine too. We're both fine. Seems a bit early to be planning for the caterers then, don't you think?"
"Would you come to my funeral, Tim?" she asked.
"Well. I've never really thought about it. I don't know."
She sat down to catch her breath.
"I will if you want me to."

Outside her window Neil, my former team leader, was disappearing in and out of view as he played jumping off the ha-ha.
"Funerals aren't really for the deceased, are they?" I said. "They're for those who survive you. To help them come to terms, and that..."
Neil stayed out of view for a long time, then reappeared half a mile away, chasing a Friesian with a stick in the lower meadow.
"Ah, fuck it. Of course I'll come. Don't forget to tell them I'm vegetarian."
"Excellent!" she said, springing up to reach for her PDA. This was clearly what she wanted to hear. "Tim, plus guest. Eighty two!"
"And you can come to mine," I added. "If you want."
"Brilliant! Thanks mate." She noted this down too.

Tabs suddenly burst into the room.
"Come quickly!" she said, urgently. "Come into Reception now. Quick!"
We dropped everything.

Ivan the Terribly Thorough was performing tricks with his Dyson and the cherry blossom petals that had blown into the building. The blossom, pink and white, seemed to be dancing around an invisible maypole.
"Oh Ivan, that's so pretty," Tabs squealed with delight. A sizable audience had gathered, maybe twenty seven or so.
"Is very pretty. Yes," he confirmed. "And now they dance other way."
He flicked a switch on the Dyson and adjusted the angle of his extension pipe, and sure enough, the cherry blossom about turned and danced in the opposite direction.

"Clockwise!" he yelled, and people began to clap their hands in rhythm.
"Counter-clockwise!" and everybody cheered.
"Clockwise!" The mad confetti circus swirled around and around at Ivan's bidding, skirting the coffee table and the magazine stand and the displays of Company X promotional materials.
"Counter-clockwise!" Up and over the switchboard and Tabs' flatscreen monitor and around the visitor's signing in book and the piles of reports which had only this morning been through the scary binding machine.
"Clockwise!" Joyful laughter.
"Counter-clockwise!" More laughter.

Tabs leaned in towards Stella and said, "See! I told you it was important! Isn't it wonderful?"
"Yes," sighed Stella. "It's absolutely beautiful," and she closed her eyes and smiled for the first time in weeks.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Carbon Glacier 

We went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Friday to check out the Andy Goldsworthy exhibitions.
It was great, and hopefully we'll go again before it finishes next January to see how much it's changed.

We bagged our first Goldsworthy one Spring day when pottering up and down the lanes and byways of Cumbria. It was a grassy track, walled on either side, and we noticed an odd sheepfold with a rock in the middle. It looked vaguely pagan. We looked around, half expecting to catch sight of some witches monkeying around in the undergrowth, sacrificing frogs or something, but zilch. A hundred yards on there was another spooky sheepfold, and then another. It was intriguing.
Then we asked a passing walker, who explained they were by an artist, whose name I forgot by the time we got home.
That midsummer’s day there was a news item about a stunt whereby someone had dumped thirteen giant snowballs around central London. It was a Millennium Art Happening. We made the connection that this was the sheepfold bloke and have been big fans ever since.

The park itself is beautiful. There are Barbara Hepworths and Henry Moores, and a rather pleasing Antony Gormley, and we especially like “Basket #7.Oxley Bank”, that you step inside, climb some stairs to the upper level, then go a bit scooty.
It's a wonderful place, brilliant and slightly bonkers, and next time we'll take a picnic.

We stopped for a wander around Hebden Bridge on the way home, had a drink in a trendy little bar/hotel and liked it so much that we booked a room and made a night of it. It was Girlfriend's idea, and the "Let's do something spontaneous!"-ness of it had me flummoxed for a moment. I was beginning to wonder if it was a meticulously planned distraction - visions of Charlie Dimmock and a team of crack nurserymen turning over my gladioli and re-landscaping the Victory Lawn - while Girlfriend got me drunk on fancy lagers and White Russians, like what the Dude drinks in The Big Lebowski. We had to go to Spar for spur of the moment toothpaste and brushes.

It's nice is Hebden Bridge. It feels like a frontier town - you sense that good hippies have worked long and hard to make it the way that it is, all artsy this and alternative energy that, and if it's something homeopathic you're looking for, you can seek it safe in the knowledge that you won't be sneered at.
According to the 2001 Census, it's the UK capital of lady builders, and all the better for it too. I could happily live there, I'm sure. What's so funny 'bout love, peace and gentrification?

In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast and stroll around - the TV news was urging to us apply plenty of sunscreen, it was going to be a scorcher. April! - then I remembered Dimmock and drove home like a loony. No sign of busty gardeners, sadly, but then again I quite like things how they are:
SweetPeaWatch - Day 15. Shoot!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Puppet On A String 

I’ve bought myself one of those Stay Hot For Ages coffee mugs.
I noticed loads of people (middle aged men, mainly. Hmmm) walking round with them in the Pacific NW and at the time I thought they looked stupid - “I absolutely must have coffee with me at all times! I’m pitiful!” - but I got one not long afterwards and haven’t looked back.

If I can drag my fat wobbly arse out of bed early enough, I like to park up by Grannys Bay on the way into work, to enjoy twenty minutes quality zen time - just me and my pint of Stay Hot For Ages Coffee, gazing sleepy eyed across the mudflats at the oystercatchers and dog walkers and the nudist cockle pickers. It’s relaxing and I should do it more often.

By the time I reach the office, of course, I’m totally caffeined out of my tree, and my legs are twitching uncontrollably, and I feel like a puppet on a string in the hands of a merciless five year old sociopath.
I'm a dead man dancing, the bloke in the Danger! High Voltage! signs, and my attention span - fragmented at the best of times - is completely shot to pieces.

The impatient hours and days and weeks squeeze by so slowly, punctuated only by the near constant "You've got mail" yapping of Stella's laptop.
Upon its cry, and regardless of what she's doing and who she's doing it to, Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, drops everything and skips back to her desk to catch up on the latest girly chat from Beijing. They seem more in touch now than ever.

"It's lovely to have my friend Becky always in my Inbox," she sighs, "but it's no substitute for the real thing."
"I used to think it was a load of rubbish," I reply, "all that about too much coffee making you hyper..." but then her laptop yaps again and my words are left to dangle.

"You're perky today, Tim," she says when she returns, and I'm about to explain that it's not perky but fidgety - agitated - when the laptop starts yapping and she's gone again. They are ticking off the days on their organisers, synchronizing their clocks.

Outside my window, Rex the security guard is deadheading daffodils, tying them up in knots. The sweet scent of cut grass rises up in the warm air, mingling with the petrol aromas of lawnmower; converging fragrances bumping into each other like old friends - "Hey! Where've you been?" "Oh, you know. Just watching the grass grow" - intertwining wood smoke in the drowsy morning sunshine, the aching limbs of lovers re-united.

Tonight at barbershop we will sing "You're as welcome as the flowers in May!" and I think I've gotten over my "This is all just so ridiculous" reservations. I pretend that I'm singing to a puppy, trying to amuse a mind even simpler than my own - because when you're playing with a puppy anything goes, you can never feel too daft. It seems to be doing the trick.

These are counting down the days days.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Back To The Garden 

This morning I did my Earth Daddy thing. Sweet Pea Watch starts here:
Day 1.
Day 1 + 10 minutes.

Girlfriend meanwhile blew bubbles.

In other news, hats off to Uncowable Catherine who stuck up for herself when it would have been a whole lot easier not to bother, and won. Pommes de terre! It’s a victory for common sense, etc.

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