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Posts tagged ‘life’

The day I gotten decluttered

A while ago, while consulting one of those smart-arse American websites that has all the answers about productivity, the Internet gave me the following advice:

If you’ve got a pile of clutter on your desk, put it in a box and set it to one side. You’ll find out what’s important when you need to dig it out. When you’ve done with it, put it back and keep a clean desk. This will increase your productivity ten-fold, and make you a Better Person.

Okay, I’m paraphrasing. And possibly exaggerating slightly. But that was the gist. For authenticity I could have included the word “gotten” in the above paragraph, but I’m afraid I can’t see that word without feeling like I’m going to vomit.

Any road, I looked at my desk and realised it was a considerable mess, so this seemed like a good idea. I duly took all the crap from said desk and put it in a box. This variety of items included a stapler, staples (wrong size), cables, half a packet of batteries, some rawl plugs, a blank DVD (or it might be a CD and it might not be blank…) and miscellaneous other items too tedious to name here. I put the box on the floor where I couldn’t see it and had myself a nice clear desk. Great, I thought. Let the enhanced productivity begin.

The thing is, now there’s another pile of detritus on my desk: a component from the car my wife recently sold, a yellow tape measure, some post-its, £1.15 in loose change, miscellaneous pens and pencils, bits of paper that presumably have something important on them, a pile of mail that I need to deal with and the elastic band that held the mail together until the last time I looked at it, as well as numerous other items.

Having considered whether to put all this stuff in the box, get another box, or get a bigger box, I’ve decided that, well, quite frankly it can all stay just where it is. The study of every half-decent writer I’ve ever seen has been chaotic, so I’ll satisfy myself with the possibly delusional notion that this indicates potential on my part.

The previous box remains on the floor. It’s hidden under a roadmap, a couple of Jiffy bags, an empty DVD cakebox, a sleeping bag in a stuff sac, a two-thirds used ream of printer paper…

Tweet me.

A lollipop man without a lollipop, is just a man


On the Rednal Road by West Heath hospital there’s a lollipop man. A wizened, grumpy old sod who looks like Albert Steptoe. He wears a fluorescent yellow jacket and cap, both of which are at least two sizes too large for him. Almost every day as I approach he makes me stop to allow various mothers and kids to cross. I know he waits for me. I can see it in his eyes, shining red from beneath the peak of his cap. Waits until he sees me coming, then shoves out his stick.

At least he used to.

For some reason a pedestrian crossing was recently installed at his point of responsibility. Maybe it was just too dangerous when he wasn’t on duty. At school time he’s still there, though. They’ve just taken away his stick. Now he only has to press the button and wait for the lights to change, whereupon he escorts people across the road, with everyone concerned clearly feeling a bit daft.

I can understand that perhaps they don’t want to make the guy redundant. Not yet, anyway. And maybe they never will: there are loads of people in our neck of the woods who can’t operate a pedestrian crossing properly. Despite his miserable demeanour and quite obvious grudge against me and my 1998 Nissan Almera, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for this bloke, in his oversized coat. I suspect that he may eventually be forced to retire due to RSI of the right index finger as a result of repeatedly pushing that button. No doubt suing Birmingham City Council for thousands.

My sympathy is only tempered by the fact that even without his stick, he still waits until he sees me coming to press his button. He’s just had to hone his timing a little.

Today’s interesting observation

Young mother with three to four year-old child at her side. Rowing very loudly with her own mother in the street. Fucking this and fucking that. Still checking herself out in car window reflections.


Yesterday evening I spent a few hours in A&E at the local hospital with my daughter.

We walked in to find a pale woman wearing pyjamas collapsed on the floor at reception. She was in the company of two police officers and an equally pale boyfriend. A queue of people waited to register. I encouraged my daughter not to stare at the pale woman. Tried to keep out of the police officers’ way.

A while later, with the woman wheeled away somewhere and the police officers in a nearby room, we registered at reception and were told to wait.

About half an hour later my daughter’s name was called. Well, that didn’t take long, did it? Good job, too, because we had no books or games or iPod or anything. Not even a drink. We followed the nurse into a room. Were given seats. She spoke to my daughter, asking careful questions. Is this your dad? What have you done? Where does it hurt? Was this at school? What were you doing? I didn’t mind. I just kept quiet until I was pretty certain the nurse was confident I hadn’t attempted to murder my own child. It just demonstrated the kind of things they have to deal with and probably face day after day. She made some notes, took my daughter’s heart rate, then said we should go back into the waiting room. Estimated time from when we arrived at 6:30pm: two and a half hours.

It was a classic A&E scene. I can certainly see why an emergency room makes such an ideal setting for a soap or drama series. It’s a convergence point for people from all walks of life in a variety of states.

A girl of about 20 wrapped in a blanket crouched in a corner, white-faced, red-faced and teary. She seemed to have got a mobile phone stuck to her ear. When she was called she glanced around as if expecting someone to attack her. Maybe that’s what had happened. Struggled to get stuff into her bag with one hand. Shuffled towards the waiting nurse. The staff didn’t seem to be able to do anything, because the phone was still stuck in place when she emerged hours later, looking pretty much the same as when she went in.

There was a teenage girl who’d been in a fight, accompanied by her parents. They veered between discussing the rights and wrongs of hitting someone to make a point. The girl couldn’t see what else she was supposed to do. Besides, didn’t dad hit her brother? Only when he won’t do as he’s asked. Then they’d sit and thumb their mobile phones, as if seeking advice from others regarding the morality of their argument.

There was a guy with a pot belly stretching a green checked shirt. A local celebrity historian. At least that’s what a nearby woman informed me: “That’s Jackie Chan,” she said. (Or was is Charlie Chin? Mickie Chin? – can’t remember; I’d never heard of him anyway.) She seemed rather excited. “He writes regularly for the Evening Mail.” She nodded enthusiastically, eyebrows raised. When I looked blankly at her and shook my head she seemed quite put out. “I thought everyone knew Jackie Chan,” she said. Sorry, love. Not me.

Half way through the evening a tall and very inebriated man walked in. Just about. He had a gash on his head and possibly the deepest voice I’ve ever heard; it sounded as though it came from just below his balls and was expelled from somewhere between his eyes. He spent some of his time slumped in a wheelchair, then wrestled with his jacket before the occasional totter around the waiting room to mumble unintelligible words to various females. He did a lot of vowels, not too many hard consonants. Sometimes he knelt and held on to their bag or chair. Refused advice from Charlie Chin to “take a seat, mate”. Everyone eyed him discretely. Those he approached tended to ignore him until he went away, or they moved. I wasn’t in the mood for him at all. Don’t think I would’ve been quite so patient. Thankfully we didn’t seem to interest him.

Opposite us a young couple waited and waited and waited and talked quietly and looked concerned. Then during the two minutes that one of them left the room her partner got called in and was gone when the other returned. “Has she been called in?” she said. Yes, said the woman with the stick. “Typical.”

All age groups and backgrounds and ethnicities of Birmingham were present. White, white trash, mixed-race, Hindu, Rasta. All age groups, all income levels.

The time seemed to pass relatively quickly for the first couple of hours, but the last 30 minutes dragged.

My daughter commented on the ambulance man standing outside smoking. “Not a very good example,” she said.

We played Eye Spy for a while. Talked about this and that.

The Indian guy’s Bhangra ring tone raised a few smiles.

There was a brief rain storm.

The drinks machine didn’t work. But then I only had one pound in my pocket and spent the evening hoping the car park machine took cards. (It didn’t, which meant I had to phone my wife to bring me some change when we eventually got out.)

The air ambulance came and went.

In the end, after about three hours, we saw a soldier (Selly Oak is a military hospital). He quickly assessed my daughter and established that nothing was the matter. It was just some kind of muscle spasm, he said. It’d wear off over a couple of days. Just do everything as normal.

So, a long wait in a crowded room with a bored child, nothing to do and no cash doesn’t sound too great, does it? But I glimpsed some lives. Appreciated the diversity of this country, and the fact that people who work in such places do a great job despite some of the people they have to face.

And most of all we got piece of mind, were seen as quickly as possible, treated well, and it was free.

It’s not like that everywhere.

Did You See Anything?

The roadside wreaths wither in the sun, a short-lived memorial to the dead mother.


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