Friday, April 22, 2005

I am not too sure about children. Theoretically they seem like a great thing around. Fresh clear minds, seeing the world with new eyes, and all that. Yet, I am not too sure. Firstly, as an only child I have had no experience with children. Also, all my cousins are either fifteen years younger or fifteen years older than me. As a result, when relating stories about children I can only describe a child’s age by what container they could fit in. For example, a newborn fits perfectly in a plastic grocery sack. Hence conversations such as this;

“How old is their kid?”

“Oh. You know. Grocery sack sized.” This is said while miming the lifting of a heavy grocery sack in front of myself.

The neighbours have a kitchen bin sized child. You know. Screams a lot. Runs into things. Eats boogers. Real cute. Today he is being quiet and patient at his mother’s side as I talk to his mother. All of a sudden his eyes go wide, and he his jaw drops. He softy whispers an astonished ‘oooooooh’. We both turn to see what marvel he beholds. We see a man huge man. He is perfectly spherical. He’s dressed in an early twentieth century straw boater’s hat and sharp three-piece suit. He looked exactly like this. Except round. I had to agree with the kid on that one. ‘ooooooh’ indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I have been reading Shirer's 'The rise and fall of the third Reich'. I have also started preparing to move house and battling an impeding and stressful deadline. As a result, I have had the most bizarre dreams. You don't know fear until find yourself in 1930's Munich during a hard snow of packing peanuts has fallen and a mob of brown shirts break into your home to tear up your presentation and notes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Let me introduce you to our building’s porters. They are three. I am not sure what they are officially employed for but I do know what they do from nine to five. They run amok. There’s the tall one. He’s your average spotty faced tracksuit wearer complete with cheap gold hoop and greasy Caesar cut. He’s more criminally minded than the others. His brand of chaos usually involves throwing away odd building resources like spools of copper wire which he then fetches from the bin on his way home. For what purpose I could not tell you, but he is fairly brazen about his activities. All tall characters must inevitably have their dumpy partner. Don Quixote had his Sancho Panza. Laurel. His Hardy. The short round one of this pair is also wall eyed. Firstly, I love the word ‘wall eyed’. It’s one of my favourite English words. It’s descriptive. It’s funny. It has a great sound too. It’s fun to pronounce. For this reason, I have an affinity for all things wall eyed. This character is no exception, but he is filthy. The smells and sounds that emanate from him have more complexity than most symphonies. In a crowded lift, He was standing near the back except for one person who was between him and the wall. The lift was completely silent and most heads were watching the excitement of the numbers increasing above the door. Then, There is a squeak and a puff of air that obviously left the rear end of someone. The noise being undeniable, a good number of people turned to look at the perpetrator. He is standing there grinning from ear to ear. He gives a wink and a nod to an attractive lady as she looked in disgust over her shoulder. The poor soul who was behind him has a face I have only seen in Vietnam War footage. His face was contorted while he slapped away whatever foul stench was climbing up him to wreak havoc in his nostrils. That stench became familiar to all and the next floor saw the entire lift evacuated leaving the porter alone, still grinning, to continue the journey upward. There is a third porter who is less of a threat to the rest of us. His sole purpose, as far as I can tell, is to be abused by the other two. The other day, I came to the gent’s toilets to find the door propped shut by a mop. I pulled it away and entered to relieve myself. I was immediately confronted by the figure of the third porter who had his chin propped by his hand and his elbows on his knees, sitting in one of the stalls. He looked up at me, got up, and left with a simple ‘cheers, mate.’ I was completely stunned. It took me a few beats to return to the work at hand during which I could not stop wondering how long he had been locked in there.

Supposedly our office is where serious business done by serious and important people takes place. We’ve had first ministers and royalty pay visits. Yet, at the heart of this flagship of industry the antics of drunken monkeys occur without comment.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Being a Scottish Gaijin, you get questions of when will you’ll go back home. “Do you think you’ll ever go back to America?” When my reply is no, there is always the follow up question, “What do you like so much over here?” The Scots are very comfortable with maintaining a contradictory opinion of their nation. While being one of the most nationalist races in Europe short of putting bombs in bins, they revel in complaining about the Scottish weather, Scottish cuisine, Scottish proximity to England, and most of all complaining about the Scots people. So, when one comes from such a country so glamorous as to have invented both hip and hop and to house the greatest individuals of our time, i.e. Britney Spears1 It confuses them to think that this person would be more comfortable shivering in the winter darkness close to the North Sea.

My response is usually a glib “Everything I could get in the States, I have here. Plus, Haggis isn’t all that bad.” That’s the thing. It’s not that bad. If you like sausage, it’s damn tasty. The weather too. It’s really not that bad. I come from a place in America where the climate has a death toll. No one died from drizzle. Yes. It’s true. Sunshine is nice but not if it comes with 40 C (that’s around 100 F) for 4 months of the year. As well as humidity the presses on your chest like a stone. It was the ‘Everything I could get in the States’ part that was ill defined for me. What is that everything? I just know that I have never had the sensation of doing without except for the occasional craving for migas. Mmmmmm. migas. But, I think I have defined it.

Generations ago there was good reason to be in America. Even in the twentieth century Europe was a mess. When not slaughtering each other over colonial nonsense or the correct spelling of some tributary on the continent. They busied themselves still playing kings and peasants. It still exists to a lesser extent. There is a definite divide based on last names here. If your forefather helped some jackass king cross a river or win a battle, your life is pretty much set. It takes a fundamental amount of incompetence to fuck up your life if your last name has a hyphen2. America has a class system but its more fluid, floated on wealth rather than pedigree. I don’t blame my ancestors for packing it in and sailing on once they realized they lost the surname lottery. These days that advantage doesn’t really exist. Europe has similar levels of prosperity and meritocracy. A few cobwebs of the class system remain, but nothing compared to earlier times. It also has the same political stability that made the States the refuge that it seems to be forgetting it was3. These are the abstractions that make up the ‘Everything’ I have a hard time naming. My daily life is little different from that in the States. It has only been augmented. Why wouldn’t I stay? Just don’t tell my mother, she still thinks I am only over here for an extended vacation.

  1. You must forgive them this, the only thing they have for a pop star is an Australian Grandmother. See Kylie Minogue. And yes, she’s still alive.

  2. Yet, a good number manage the feat.

  3. It doesn’t say anything about white Christian huddled masses on the statue.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Deadlines that looked small upon the horizon of my dayplanner now loom like giants casting frightening shadows over my shoulder. I can feel their breath in the form of emails enquiring about the progress of work not started. Yet, today I drifted between naps, checking email, making half-hearted attempts to be productive, and fixing cups of tea. The first half of this week, I was on holiday. Or more correctly I was on someone else’s holiday. Visitors from the New World came into town and I happily played tour guide to my city. I showed them all my favourite places. It was an enjoyable time, but now the normalcy of everyday has taken their place on the air mattress. A part of me has refused to believe that I must return to the dull responsibilities that didn’t seem to bother me so much before the arrival of our guests. The end of their visit reminded me that the only chance to see the friends we left behind will come in weeklong bursts. Luckily, I live somewhere that is holiday worthy to draw them over. So, I am resigned to inactivity today and hope tomorrow I can slip back into the normal routine.