Sunday, August 21, 2005

Black and White

Four years ago I was walking through some woods when I found a woodpecker feather. It was black with white spots along the edge. I checked a book and it's probably from a great spotted woodpecker. I decided I would make a collection of woodpecker feathers.

I'm not sure this was a good idea because it's a long journey on the train and a bit of a walk to get to the woods.

Since then I've found two other feathers. So now my collection is three feathers. My fourth year is nearly over and if I don't find one soon then my average will drop to less than one each year.

Actually I found two last year. I just think I wasn't trying hard enough in the second year. It's hard to get motivated when you've only got one.

I keep my collection in a small jar. It's an old empty vaseline jar. All the feathers are about the same size, about eight centimetres. Now I realise that I'm not sure if they all have the same number of spots. I must count them soon.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Holy Smoke

When I worked on the building site most of the workers were from Eastern Europe. They had a thriving black market in all sorts of the things. I don't know where they got them. Well, for some it was obvious - the health warnings on the cigarettes were in various Eastern European languages.

A guy with a black bin bag used to hang around, outside the security gate, as they arrived and as they left. Lazlo we called him. This probably wasn't his name. He doled out packs of two hundred cigarettes to the chain smoking workmen in exchange for folding notes.

We weren't allowed to smoke on the site. It was a large tower block and a fire would have been a problem. But the workers were industrious in finding a corner for a drag. Most just vanished for fifteen minutes or so. Sometimes there were a crowd of them and a cloud of blue smoke hovered from behind a stack of gyproc boards.

One guy had mastered the art of not doing any work, we called him Keyser Soze, like in the film. I noticed this guy on my first day on the job. As I approached the site I could see down the side, below the portakabins, near the edge of the dock. There was a man sitting on a large tractor tyre, padded with old blankets, reading a book. Behind him there seemed to be a small makeshift shelter. He sat there all day every day. Dozing and lazing and reading and smoking. The only time I ever saw him away from his cosy little shelter was when I spotted him buying 400 cigarettes from Lazlo. Nothing better to do with his time than smoke I guess.

After a few days I asked, and it turned out that everybody knew about him. He spent his day down at his shelter. The book was apparently the bible. I asked if he got paid and nobody really knew but we guessed that he must.

One warm sunny afternoon I saw guys pointing down from the twentieth floor. I went to the edge and looked down. There was Keyser beating at his shelter with a jacket and trying to kick it down while orange flames lept from its heart. He must have dozed in the summer sun. His cigarette had ignited his comfortable padding and the whole shelter was now ablaze. He was anxious to grab something from inside the shelter and I thought he would ignite soon. But, after a daring lunge, he came out with the burning book in his hand. He frantically ran to the dockside. Lying flat on his stomach he plunged the smoking bible into the cold green soup of the dock.

Soon, the sound of sirens signalled the end of Keyser. There were Suits everywhere. Clipboards never mean good things. As I left the site that night, passing Lazlo with his black binbag I knew there would be no more smoking on site, for about two days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I Did It My Way

I went to Burger King today. I go every Tuesday. This week it was an XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

Smooth Operator. That's what Sade sang while I ate. They even had a video. I didn't watch it. Instead I flicked through the ketchup stained pages of a Metro left on the table.

It was early and there were only three other people in the whole place. After the metro I just started mindsurfing. Then a story came into my head and I chuckled. The chubby girl with the Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich paused her muching to stare in my direction. Then she went back to her sandwich. Her handbag looked like crocodile skin, but I knew it was plastic.

I had remembered a pub story about the Jobcentre. They were doing interviews with lots of people. Depending on the person and circumstances they had different coloured forms, pink, yellow, white. One day when a white form person came in they were out of forms. So the interviewer used a pink form. Later the interviewer had to be rescued from a very angry black man attacking him with the chair. He had written "treat as white" across the top of the form.

I think they've changed things now. The chairs are screwed down.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Red, White and Blue

Near my flat there's a street where cars park in bays. Lot's of fancy flats with people who can afford cars. Each bay holds three cars. Each space in a bay has a number.

A few weeks ago I noticed that two of the sets of bays had the same colour of cars in the same order. Red, white and blue. (One of the white ones was a van but that still counts.) Great. I figured it would be neat if all the bays were in a similar pattern.

I took colour counts over the next few days. The problem is the white car thing was a freak. They were mostly silver, blue and black, with just the same couple of red ones thrown in. There were no white ones the next day.

There are five bays, each with three spaces, and it looks like people park in the same ones each night.

So I drew a map on a sheet of paper and wrote the space numbers on the spaces. Then I cut up fifteen rectangles of paper and wrote the car colours on the paper. It took me a couple of hours to find an arrangement I liked. There was an odd green one so that was a stand out for the middle. I had an odd blue and an odd silver and I didn't know if I should put them with the green. But the disharmony troubled me.

With my new plan I had to write the letters to ask the people to park in different bays. I told them to imagine themselves looking down on the ordered cars with a sense of satisfaction. It was hard to get the letters right. I had to ask space six to move to space eight. That was the green one, so it would be in the middle. I made a couple of mistakes and had to rewrite a few of the letters.

Once the letters were done I went round to the street. I had addressed them to "Driver in bay 6" and so on. I put the letters under the car windscreen wipers. Annoyingly two of the cars were missing and two others were different cars. I wan't sure what to do. Eventually I chose to leave the letters on the kerbs of the problem spaces.

The following night I went around to see the results. It was very disappointing. Nobody had bothered. I found a letter discarded in a rose bush. Number 4, one of the blue ones. I read it again. Then I began to see a problem. I hadn't said when. The poor uncoordinated souls.

I noticed a woman from an upstairs window pointing at me as I read the letter. A man joined her at her side. I left before the police came again.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Not Such Bad News

I read talking news. Free cassettes for blind people. Well, for my gran mostly. She's blind. I got into it because I had the hots for the girl volunteer who delivered our local talking newspaper to my gran. She was cute.

Soon after I started she met a geeky korean guy and started wearing headbands. I told her about some of my collections but she didn't seem interested. She's left now. So, now, I read the news.

My gran gets upset sometimes. On her own and blind, she says she doesn't know what the world's coming to. I know what she means. Sometimes I change the stories, just a bit, if I think she might get upset. I don't think any of the listeners will mind.

I do it on a Thursday night. There isn't much time. I read the paper and try and find the best stories. Sometimes it's hard. Last week a baby had been abandoned in a telephone box. I can't think why, because nobody uses these now we have mobile phones. It could have been overlooked for days.

It was a sad story really. I changed the ending a bit so that the baby was collected by a rich concert pianist and his lovely wife and taken to live in their large country house. He was going to have a miniature grand piano made for it and a baby black tuxedo. It would make gran smile, and the other blind people too.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tidy Mind

In the kitchen drawer there are plastic toys. Cornflake gifts.

I take them out and gaze throught the crinkled plastic. Cartoons made whole. They litter the work surface.

Carefully, I sort them. Three of them are the same. What use is that? I pick the best of the three and discard the others to the side. How best to arrange them? Themes? Movies? Colours? I opt for land, sea and air. I'm saddened to find none which can fly.

Stressing now, about the empty set, I struggle for a better arrangement. Breathing deeply I decide not to tackle the problem now. Returning them to the drawer I swirl them with my fingers. Breaking the order.

The discarded two? Duplicates, or is that triplicates? If I only knew people who wanted a small orange plastic fish.

I decide they must go in a different drawer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


They're coming towards me. He's got a lightweight plastic bag. The girl gets the bunny box. Actually it's a cat box, but I can't see the manufacturers suing.

The rabbit sees me some distance off. Its casualness fooling nobody. It's heavy. Grey furred folds of skin. A skin too large for its body. Been at the vets huh?

The girl tries to keep up with the guy. Half a step behind. Hot in the midday sun. Why is she carrying the heavy box? His feelings about the bunny leave a swirling wake. Bunny knows it too.

I stare at the rabbit. Now I'm a fox. He twitches and cares not. I slink and turn my head, glancing sideways to his gaze. Ice bunny.

Now I'm a dog, a big dog. Nothing. He whiskers me again. Damn. No opposable thumbs - that's the curse of my species. He knows I can't open the box.

Safe, he passes. I straighten, sandwich bound.