Sunday, December 11, 2005

The hectic build up to Christmas 

All I want is a large room of my own. To sit in the middle of it surrounded by my own junk; organised, sorted and displayed. To feel clean headed and to have some space in which to think, plan and create.

What I have is a small room cluttered with my own junk, and no space to think. Small cluttered space cluttering my thoughts and ambition.

I can leave, but only through never ending, unfulfilling travel.

Here is my advent calendar:

Two Fridays ago I got up at 4am and drove through the snow to the train station. I had no change for the parking meter so had to drive back and return on a bike with frozen fingers and snow in my hair.
I took the train to London and changed at Reading for the Waterloo train. All the trains in my direction were delayed due to technical faults and all trains in the other direction were delayed due to some faults in someone’s life. (The trains are bad enough without people choosing to jump in front of them. Please Samaritans can you advise against it and suggest something a little less disruptive to the public transport system?).

On the way home I ran into the most crowded train carriage I’ve ever been contained in. I sprinted to catch the train in time and threw myself past the closing doors before realising there wasn’t really any room for me inside. We were packed tightly, forced to stare at each other ears, noses and throats as there was no room even to tilt head back slightly and gaze upwards. It was fun though. Forced into such personal space invasion, people had no choice but to talk. To make jokes, throw away comments about our predicament. All talk was addressed to everyone and most people joined in (Unfortunately I wasn't able to as my witty one-liners always come to me too late). A middle aged city type and an old man teased each other like they’d been friends for years, and we all chuckled. When the train stopped and the doors opened we all joked at the people on the platform trying to board. We were part of the group, we’d lived through something together, and they were the outsiders, jealous of what we had and desperate to get on, to become part of it.
When a major stop came and people started to leave and the crush started to ease, the older man joked goodbye, "I'm not being rude, but thank getting away from you lot, goodness knows what I've caught off you", then became serious and thoughtful and said, "Actually it's been quite fun, talking and all that. It's been nice. It's a shame it hardly ever happens". And I think everyone knew what he meant.

The next day I went to watch the rugby, and then went out with Rhys for beers afterwards.

I got up at 4am on the Sunday to take a taxi to the airport. The young polish guy serving coffee asked me if I realised that Espresso is strong and very small.

From there I flew to Moscow via Amsterdam.

That evening I was walking around Red Square.

I worked in Moscow the next morning then took a 2 hour metro ride back to the hotel before going out for a 4 hour walk.
In the end I got frightened by the size of everything. The roads, the buildings, the endlessness outside the inner-ring road. My imagination was in full flow and it terrified me.

The next morning I visited the offices again before getting a taxi to the airport.

I flew to Holland.

I worked in the offices in Holland on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They have a new coffee machine with a steam nozzle. On one occasion I spent five minutes heating and frothing a small cup of milk, fascinated that I could make a spoon stand upright in my creation. It tasted divine.
On Wednesday night I went out for Mexican food with some friends then tried to play snooker. I got back late.

On Friday I flew to Newcastle. I arrived about 9pm and went straight out to some pubs. I went to bed at 4am (I felt I was meeting myself getting up).

On Saturday I looked at some houses and put an offer in on one (that was later rejected).

On Sunday I went shopping for clothes. Very traumatic, rather expensive, and I don’t like anything I bought. Give me house hunting any day. I also went window shopping for espresso machines.

On Monday morning I got up at 4am. I took a taxi to the airport and flew to Bucharest via Amsterdam.

I felt sick and tired when I got there and decided to go to bed. I woke up later to get some food and do a little work.

I worked in the office on Tuesday. I went out for Hungarian food in the evening. Then back to the hotel to bitch about work.

I worked in the office on Wednesday before leaving directly for the airport and flying back to Cardiff.

On Thursday I worked from Cardiff. I had been blocked up all week, I managed to blow a marble-sized ball of black and green snot out of my nose, I was fascinated by it.

On Friday I woke up at 4am, biked to the train station and took the train to London.

I'm on my way home now.

Tomorrow I will drive, or take the train to Leicester. I will drink too much. I will eat curry and sleep in a cheap hotel room with another man who is always smug after having a poo (this really annoys me). I will wake the next day and drink too much. I will watch a game of rugby that we will loose (although there is always the remote possibility we will pull off the result of the decade).

I will take the train home (cross country on a Sunday, I must be mad).

I will work from Cardiff on Monday, Tuesday.

On Wednesday I will get up at 4am, take a taxi to the airport and fly to Holland.
I shall do a little work during the day then attend our Xmas party where I will drink a little and eat enough.
The next day I shall fly back to Cardiff.

I'll probably be assassinated by a Greenpeace hit squad on the way to the airport.
Taking a return flight to the continent just to attend an office Xmas do! I am a hypocrite if nothing else.

On Thursday I shall work from Cardiff.

On Friday I will get up at 4am and take the train to London.

On Saturday I will rest, wash clothes and pack.

On Sunday I will get up at 4am and take the taxi to the airport. I will fly to Los Angeles via Amsterdam. I will be tired when I arrive but I will hire a car and drive south for two hours in traffic (being a Sunday it will at least keep moving). It will be dark when I arrive at the hotel. I will sleep and wake very early the next morning.
I will go to the office on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday I will only stay there a few hours before leaving for the airport.

I will arrive back in Cardiff midday on Xmas Eve. Later I will drive to Swansea. I will probably not buy presents for anyone, but every year I care less and less. I will think myself clever and enlightened for not participating in such a pointless exercise (I will smugly give everyone 50 quid). But then will feel like a guilty, undeserving scum when I open a present bought for me with thought.

So what is the solution? The idea of shopping for consumer crap with 1000s of other brainless zombies wasting precious brain activity on stuff that probably nobody wants and certainly doesn't need, grates with me like running nails down a blackboard. The idea of being compelled to do something just because nobody has the balls to question this great big consumer trick that shops and marketing men and branding experts are playing with us (that I also fall for time and time again), upsets and annoys me. However, maybe it's just the fact that I hate being compelled to do anything.

So I hate shopping for other people, while other people thrive on it. Let's pretend for a moment that you didn't buy presents for people at Christmas. Instead it was tradition to write a computer program for them. You could do a good job and write a useful and thoughtful program, or you could make a token effort. You’d be subconsciously judged on how good a person you were by the effort you'd put in to this task. Now I wouldn't mind writing a few computer programs for people, I may have a few good ideas and come up with some good ones. Most other people would hate the idea. Tough shit, it's tradition and this is what you are expected to do. If you don't do it then you are thoughtless scum.

Maybe the computer program writing isn't a good idea. You'd need some sort of training or idea of what to do. I'll try again with something that other would find offensive and repulsive, maybe as offensive and repulsive as I find the act of shopping. Let's say that for Christmas you were expected to cut and arrange animal faeces and offal into amusing shapes, and that's what you present to your 'friend' or 'family member' on Christmas day. You'd start in November thinking about what shapes would be suitable for a particular person, and how you could go about creating them. This is a rather repulsive and pointless idea, but it's still somewhat better than the idea of shopping for crap made by Chinese slaves and containing a whole rainforest of packaging; and remember that this crap is only available to you because some fat rich people want to get fatter and richer and will do it by happily screwing you, and the environment, and the rest of the world. Any system responsible for putting families of giant animated teddy bears wearing Christmas hats and singing crappy Christmas songs in shopping centres at the end of October!! has to be evil right?

So my alternative could be to open a bank account and put fifty quid in it for each of the presents I should have bought. I could continue to add to it for birthdays when I couldn’t find a suitable present. After a few years we could use this money for something like going away for Christmas or giving to charity.

I’m tired and just want to stop moving.

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