The Football Season

598D7629-77EE-4538-AED1-0DBCBD19F6F1.jpegIt would seem that I have too much time on my hands today. I stumbled across this little story on my computer and thought that I should give it some air. Perhaps I have already done so in the past. I apologise if that is the case. I am beginning to go a little senile and tend to forget things.

The Football Season
It was a cold June Saturday morning in the kitchen when my father broke the news. He was looking me up and down as I stood in a singlet, new football boots, socks and shorts attempting to warm myself by the oven. I felt ridiculous and more than a little scared about what was to come.
“There’s nothing wrong with being dumb you know,” he said, by way of a soft opening, “Hell, I’m no genius, myself. Your sister is stupid. And your mother….. Christ, your mother, bless her, is as thick as two planks.”
“Oh,” I said.
“So,” he continued, “it’s a simple matter of genetics. You’re dumb too.”
“Oh,” I said again, “thanks for that.” But the sarcasm passed right through him. He just looked at me.
“Dumb as shit,” he added, to make it clear.
There was an obvious flaw in the genetics argument and I leapt upon it. “What about Uncle Wally and Uncle Stephen?” I asked, referring to my mother’s siblings, “they’re both doctors.”
“Your mother was adopted.”
This was a disturbing revelation. The sudden unveiling of a family secret was not provided for educational purposes. Clearly there was sinister intent. Secondly, and more importantly, it dispelled forever my optimistic half-belief that it was I who had been adopted. And, of course, it added to the mounting body of evidence pointing to my own stupidity. “Oh,” I said once more, “so that’s it then.”
But he had not finished.
“So let’s just hope that you’re half decent at football.”
He looked me up and down again as I stood, white knees shivering before him. And we both knew then. That there could never have been any such hope.

****

That one season of football was predictably awful. In the beginning things weren’t too bad – the coach was reasonably patient with my ineptitude and, to my surprise, even some of the other boys were there with an occasional comforting pat on the back when I made some dreadful error. The second worst player in the team welcomed my involvement with open arms.
And, early on, we actually won a couple of games.
I spent most of my time on the bench, of course, to limit the damage, but when, at my father’s insistence, a rule was introduced requiring that all boys be given at least ten minutes on the field per half the losses began to mount. My twenty minutes per game seemed to coincide with crucial shifts in the momentum of play. I am not sure what position I played – I think it varied quite a bit, but wherever that place was was quickly identified as an attacking opportunity by opposing sides. And as all hopes of a semi-final appearance began to fade my teammates began to look for somewhere to place the blame. I was the obvious choice.
One day late in the season after a particularly inglorious loss the coach’s son suggested (in front of my father) that I try my luck at netball.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re a fat fucking girlie spastic,” he said. Whether this was an attack on just me or whether he also had issues with women’s sport and the disabled was unclear at the time. I think he was just expressing his frustration over lost opportunities.
My father saw it as an opportunity to express his frustrations as well. He broke the boy’s nose.
This was at a time when assault charges were not so commonly laid and my father, on this occasion at least, escaped arrest. But we were not welcome back at the football club and I never again laced up a football boot.

Haunted

805280BF-E4E3-4A8E-BB8E-2E26E12DBC16

 

I was interested in producing something for a braveandreckless Challenge and had already jotted down a few ideas before returning to her post and realising that I had not really read it at all and had stepped well outside the guidelines (had never really stepped in them in fact). I encourage you all to have a look at it and have a go. It is a request for blatant plagurism – so that has to be give us all some chance of a strong voice.

In the mean time I thought I would post the thing I started, since it doesn’t count. The stolen words come from ‘Haunted’ by Shane McGowan, ‘A Fairytale of NewYork’, also by Shane McGowan and ‘Just Like Fire Would’ by Chris Bailey. I connect them all in that they share a somewhat melancholy view of the past.

As do I.

 

 

Haunted.

She had called to me through the snow. To say goodbye. And so I knew that soon the world would be covered with ice.
I sat beside her bed that night in the motel room. Her eyes were closed and mine were cast like steel. I drank the wine she had left on the table and I tried to think of yesterday.
Because I knew tomorrow was too far.
I looked down at her and let my hand brush gently over her cold skin. “Do you remember that sunny day,” I asked, “somewhere in New York in the middle of nowhere?”
Her eyes opened just for just a second as if to take in the memory and when she spoke her voice was as it had been all those years ago. “Didn’t have nothing to do that day,” she whispered, “didn’t wanna do nothing anyway.”
And I remembered. We had walked and talked and turned ourselves into what each other wanted. “You were so cool you could have put out Vietnam.” I said.
“Sinatra was swinging,” she remembered too, “all the drunks they were singing.”
We had kissed on a corner then danced through the night as the boys of the NYPD choir were singing ‘Galway Bay’.
And bells were ringing out.
It was Christmas Day.
“You were handsome,” she lied, but her voice was barely audible.
“You were pretty,” I assured her, “Queen of New York City.”

*****

But now it was a different time and as she lay there I could see the life slipping away from her. “Go back to sleep,” I told her, “you were dreaming.”
She weakly shook her head. “I wasn’t dreaming. You took my dreams from me when I first found you.”
My hand was now locked on hers. Our fingers intertwined. “Your dreams?” I replied. “I kept them with me babe. I put them with my own.”

And I know that I can’t make it all alone. I’ve built my dreams around you.

And then she was gone. I heard her last breath escape and I tried to inhale it. I had nowhere to go. So I sat there where she had been. I smoked my last pack of foreign cigarettes. I stayed there only to survive. I touched her then but we would never touch again.

And the ice is covering the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon being invited to a job interview.

img_0442-2I was recently approached by a young reader to tender my thoughts on the tricky process of surviving a job interview. I could tell, from his tone, that he had been personally scarred by the experience and sought guidance, for both himself and others, in navigating this hazardous course in the future.

 

So this is for you Matt

 

Upon being invited to a job interview 

‘Work’ is a generally unpleasant experience, and is to be, as much as possible, avoided. Ideally one’s lavish lifestyle is financed by a steady stream of funds left in the wake of wealthy departed relatives. The sad reality for most of us, however, is that one is forced by circumstance, from time to time, to seek paid employment in order to avoid homelessness or a life of crime. One is thus compelled to ‘apply for a job’ and is subsequently faced with the daunting prospect of a ‘job interview’, an experience even more unpleasant than the job itself.

There was a time when such an interview would be conducted by an expert in the particular trade within which you might be attempting to pass yourself off as possessing vague competence.

Not any longer.

 

Assuming that you are seeking employment within a company comprising more than six or seven employees the entire odious procedure will be orchestrated by the ‘Human Resources’ Department. The HR Department is, invariably, the most powerful division of the company and serves absolutely no purpose other than to render life both hideously demeaning and procedurally unfathonable for all other employees. If you were not already aware that you were about to be handled like a tradable commodity then the name alone should dispel any further doubts. You are a piece of meat.

Your first point of contact on this descent into hell will be with someone who goes by the name of ‘Talent Acquisition Officer’. The TAO is a recent school leaver with no qualification other than a natural talent for human cruelty and the benefit of having friends in high places. This repugnant individual will require, of you, several things before the actual invitation to interview can be issued. This may include (but not be limited to) the following:-

1. The Curriculum Vitae. Otherwise known as the CV or resume this is a weighty document containing gross exaggerations and, more commonly, outright lies describing what makes you absolutely indispensable to the organisation to which you have just come begging. It should give the impression of vast experience by it’s weight alone and you will know that you have got this right when your interviewer slams it down on the desk in front of you, looks you in the eye and pronounces, “Impressive CV.” The actual contents are unimportant. It is (allegedly) about you and is assumed to be a mind-numbingly boring read. No-one, therefore, will read it.
2. Online Psychometric Testing. This is a long series of meaningless questions and puzzles designed to force you into self-contradiction. The trick here then, is to focus on consistency. It doesn’t matter if you feel that your answers may be revealing you as a borderline psychopath (it may be to your advantage, in fact) just as long as you do not swerve from this course. The true purpose of the test is to identify liars. More specifically it is there to separate the good liars from the bad liars. I think you know which one you want to be.
3. Online, On-demand (one-way) Video Interview. This is where the humiliation really begins. You will be required to sit, like an idiot, in front of a screen and record your hopes and aspirations in response to pre-prepared (carefully pre-prepared) questions and then submit the embarrassing results online. We are all aware of the dangers of recording personal and possibly revealing photographs or videos of ourselves and then tossing them in the open sewer that is the internet. Think about it. You can NEVER erase this stuff. Unless you are applying for a position as a newsreader this recording has absolutely no bearing on your employment potential. It is there entirely for the amusement of the HR department, who will sit, as a group during friday afternoon drinks, to watch the week’s submissions. And roar with laughter.
****
If you are deemed as worthy, after this process, of further consideration then an email inviting you to an interview by actual human beings (or a close approximation thereof) will be received. Immediately dismiss any ideas that you might have had of a pleasant fire-side chat. Think more along the lines of Guantánamo Bay. The interview team, by this time, will have poked into your past and thoroughly scrutinised every word that you have ever written on social media. They likely have enough dirt on you to put you away for years. Your psychometric testing has confirmed you to be mentally unstable. During the next hour or so they will reduce you to a shaking wreck. They already own you.

There will be no questions about your technical skills. But there will be a lengthy and uncomfortable probing into the details of childhood friendships and of your reaction on the day that you accidently saw your mother naked. Eventually you will be reduced to tears. The timing of this mental collapse is important. If you are seeking employment in the area of social work it is perfectly acceptable to start sobbing within the first fifteen minutes or so. If you are applying for a position as an international airline pilot, on the other hand, it may be wise to exhibit a little stoicism and hold out a bit longer.

Part of the process may include a group session during which a dozen or so of you (there are about three hundred people vying for one poorly paid position) will be put together to demonstrate your abilities in a ‘team building exercise’. If you are in the habit of viewing ‘reality’ television shows then you will already know what this is all about. It is a gladiatorial contest during which you will be expected to form flimsy allegiances with those that you will later betray and slaughter. It is important to smile during this process whilst being simultaneously as cold-heartedly malicious as possible. You are dealing with the HR Department. This is the sort of behaviour they respect.
You may want to bear in mind, at the same time, that the innocent widowed mother of two that you have just stabbed in the back and rendered emotionally unemployable will be by your side the following week at your next interview.

For in the end you won’t get the job. It will transpire that the second cousin of a senior vice-president who has just been released from jail following conviction for child molestation has been adjudged as being better qualified.

You will be left with the choice of either killing yourself or applying for another job. It will be a difficult decision.

 

So let me reiterate. Do not attend job interviews unless absolutely necessary. But if your financial circumstances leave you with no other choice then do not shy away from the realities. You are engaged in the most basic of transactions. There are people that have something that you want (money) and the onus is on you to convince them that you have something that they want in return. This is what is referred to as ‘selling yourself’. It is called prostitution.

In this case it is prostitution with a peculiar S & M flavour (minus the nudity and actual physical violence) and if this is your thing then I wish you all the very best. Personally, however, I am far too protective of my dignity to engage voluntarily in such unsavoury activities.

Which may explain my consistent record of long-term unemployment.

Shinrin Yoku

Shinrin Yoku

We walked together, my guide and I, for four and a half hours in a silence enforced by our lack of shared language. Occasionally we exchanged smiles as a way of acknowledging our brief fellowship but the walk was all uphill and he set a demanding pace such that conversation would have been difficult even were it possible. Perhaps, in retrospect, the exertion, the jet-lag and the decreasing oxygen levels might account, in part, for the overwhelming euphoria that was to follow.

The path under our feet was a crackling bed of red and orange leaves and we were encased in a chamber of rich greenery but I did not become fully aware of the colour of everything until we emerged out into the blue at the top. And then it was as though I was seeing colour for the first time.

It was not only the colour, though. The air was suddenly full of impossibly sweet aromas and when a bird’s feather fell on my shoulder from above I felt it as clearly as had it been a brick. I sensed the heartbeat of the universe, but it is not fully possible to put the experience into words. The planet stretched out below us in all directions and a thousand miles of sky likewise above. Yet I could see clearly beyond it all. I knew, at that moment, that my silent companion and I were the only two humans in existence, and that we were being permitted a brief glimpse into the universal enigma.

It was somewhere within that instant that I saw God.

I speak of instants when, in truth, I have no idea of how long I had stood there. And then my guide pointed to his watch before pointing back down the hill. He reached into his backpack and handed me a beer. I remember what an incongruous act that seemed to be, under the circumstances, and I carefully examined the labelling half expecting to find secret code revealing further insights into the universe. But it was just a beer. I drank it in one swallow.

I could not tell whether or not he was sharing any of the emotion that had mysteriously engulfed me. The expression of contented well being with which he had begun the day would remain with him until the end of it. I suppose that I was disappointed, to a degree, that as we made our way back down the track the impact of the experience was not as clearly visible in his demeanour as it must have been in mine.

I suppose he had seen God four or five times that week.

The light was beginning to fade by the time we reached the bottom. When we shook hands I realised that it was the first time we had actually touched and I could confirm that he was, indeed, human. He gave me one final smile and a nod that I took to be an acknowledgement of our shared experience. I suppose then that he caught the train back to his home and to his wife and children and would see no reason to think further on the matter.

Later a light rain was beginning to fall as I walked alone through the crowded Tokyo streets to my hotel and I felt the magic begin to wash away from me. That night, as I stood beneath the shower it was as though I was rinsing the remains of the truth from my body before dressing again in my disguise and returning to the world.

Infidelity 2

5E4916BD-28A6-4575-9634-BD6D6D9AF0AA.jpeg

 

I’m not sure why this delicate subject matter keeps creeping into my thoughts. Perhaps I am on some sort of guilt trip from a former life….

 

 

I can hold a smile
For a while
And pretend
It’s how I feel
But you and I
Cannot deny
The pretence is not real
We lie to make it meaningful
We lie, we cheat, we steal
We lie about emotions
Emotions we don’t feel
We lie just for the hell of it
We lie about the crime
But darling let’s not dwell on it
Let’s lie here one more time.

 

 

 

 

Infidelity

F4AC391E-5B08-455C-AB82-317804D67076
Drowning in a sea
Of passion
You and me
Pretending, in a fashion, not to see
Reality
My breath overcome
With rolling waves of lust
And betrayed trust
Knowing that we must
Touch
Suddenly
Before the magic dies
And our lies
Become the truth
That our eyes
Fail to disguise
And the ocean
Uncaring of our sins
Opens it’s heart
And consumes us.

M is for dickheads

A to Z challenge

I haven’t been participating in this fine challenge. But got out of bed on the wrong side this morning to find that our elected leaders had pooled their combined IQs and still decided to respond to violence with violence. Because it’s worked so well in the past, I suppose.

M, as usual

All about money

Drop a rock on Syria

Twitter like it’s funny

M, for maturity

Expected from the leaders

Who never admit to talking shit

Addressing bottom feeders

M, for masturbation

Within the pentagon

It must feel kinda special

With the kinda stuff they’re on

M, it stands for murder

And does in any frame

Puff out your chest and do it

But don’t do it in my name.