Monday, 1 December 2014

Why I Probably Freaked A Lot of People Out When I Was Growing Up

At age 8 I saw the Gregory Peck movie Arabesque. Supposedly a family friendly comedy thriller, this film had some of the most unpleasant violence I'd seen up to that point. First murder was within about 5 minutes and involved an optician killing a man by putting poison in some guy's eyes. The death was quite prolonged and painful. This was outdone later on by a scene where a man is drowned in a fish tank, having his head held under deliberately by an assassin who has one of the guy's arms restrained behind his back and nonchalantly tips the corpse into the tank once the victim stops struggling. Bit that freaked me out more than anything was that he then looked to a visibly horrified Sophia Loren (who'd just watched him do it) and said, "Messy business. Sorry you had to see it Miss." I was more upset about the fact that this cold blooded killer had manners than by what he'd just done. It basically went against everything I believed about "baddies" and definitely shorted out a fuse somewhere in my psyche.

At age 9 I was reading Lair by James Herbert. This is a book about man-eating, killer rats with graphic descriptions of people getting torn to pieces...slowly, plus some awesome shagging sequences including a line about a bloke's cock being so deep inside a woman's vagina that "their pubic hair was matted together."

At age 10 I saw the Sean Connery 007 movie Diamonds Are Forever. This wasn't the first Bond film I'd watched but it was the first time I asked my father "Why is he smiling?" as Bond drowned a mook in liquid clay, or pushed a helpless Blofeld head first into a big pit of boiling mud. My father replied "Because he's enjoying himself." This further eroded my fundamentally held beliefs about goodies and baddies. After a day of sulking that one of my heroes had turned out to be a spiteful psycho and making my dad giggle by calling 007 "smelly old James Bond", my brain adopted a coping mechanism and I then began to find suffocation by mud to be quite an attractive prospect for anyone I didn't get on with at school. If thoughts could kill I'd probably wiped out about 150 people via asphyxiation.

At age 11 I was reading 2000ad comic which had the uber violent story Rogue Trooper in it. It was a future war story which had all the soldiers wearing airtight suits as the air was poisonous on the planet they fought on. Cue many scenes of guys getting their oxygen tanks ripped apart (suffocation again) and the sea was so polluted that it was acidic and anyone who fell in would dissolve. Cue loads of bits of soldiers getting thrown into it or falling in, with the gory results rendered in tender loving detail. By this point I was starting to find this kind of thing thoroughly entertaining and not at all traumatising.

Age 12 my grandmother bought me the book Kajira of Gor for Christmas, at my request after an older kid from my Judo club had reccomended it. She thankfully didn't know what it was about as it had graphic sexual scenes and was not the sort of thing a sweet, grey haired old woman would buy for her pre-pubescent grandson.

At 13 I watched Zombie Flesheaters and while scary and horrific I thought it was a blast. It was the cut version so we didn't get to see the splinter going into the eyeball or the zombie banquet. Same age I was also writing very violent fiction in English class, mainly based on Logan's Run (novel, not the shit movie or TV show) and Death Wish.

Age 14 I began to fantasise about killing my classmates. Bullying can have that effect. Problem was that I was now so deep into my own head that I genuinely believed everyone else either felt like I did (but just didn't talk about it) or could understand why I wanted to do it.

Age 15 I was writing Death Wish style essays in English and vividly recall Mr Brown remarking that the line "You little cunt!" said from the vigilante to a baddy was OK with Mr Brown, but other staff might have taken offence to it. I was heavily into horror films, especially really violent ones with super gory special effects. Around this age I saw Rosemary's Killer/ The Prowler which has a scene of a bloke getting a bayonet shoved through the top of his head until the point exits via his chin. The killer's hand is clamped over his mouth the whole time so he can't scream and it takes a good while for him to die. I imagined how much this would hurt and thought it was glorious. To put the icing on the cake the killer then murders the guy's girlfriend by sticking a pitchfork into her chest while she's in the shower. Blood goes everywhere, she's blatantly in agony and her (very large) tits bounce up and down the whole way through.**

Age 16 and I was by now getting erections watching violent films. In art class I would almost always try to draw a ninja or Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers or Judge Dredd. I once made a badge in metalwork class that had "Death is Good" engraved on it and another with "Lance is Dead." I would regale people with that really cool bit in The Exterminator when the title character tied a paedophile to a mattress and set him on fire.

Age 17 I had posters on my bedroom wall from Fangoria magazine and its sister publication Gorezone. Two I remember most were the freeze frame picture (A3 size) of an exploding head from the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead and one of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th...who, at the end of the day, was a pyscho killer in a hockey mask***. I also had a Freddy Kruge plastic "toy" glove that my mother forbade me to wear in the house. My biggest hero was the character Severen from vampire movie Near Dark (about the biggest baddy in the entire movie).

So....that's probably why I freaked a lot of people out while growing up.


** I once attended a birthday party where this and Porky's were the two films we watched. My friend's 13 year old brother was allowed to see Rosemary's Killer but was sent to bed before Porky's as horror was OK but nudity was out. I still find this bizarre even today.

***Actually the poster was Roy Burns, the impostor from part 5. Yep, that's HOW much of a horror nerd I was. I knew that fact.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Enough Now

Arriving in the cold air. The door to the depot is scratched and faded, the combination key pad is icy to the touch. I turn off my music, push the headphones in the pocket of my garish, hi-viz storm jacket and traipse up the stairs. The air in the corridor is also cold. Ahead of me is a "Women only" staff room, to my left is an old uniform store, now fallen to neglect with only a few old, battered cycle helmets and some boots littering the floor. Lights flicker in the sub corridor that room is on, a strobing effect. With the exception of the staircase I'm on (which has nice, shiny new surfaces) the corridor, banisters and handrails are ancient, faded and grim. As old as the building itself, which goes back decades.

I make it into the main area. One saving grace is that I am on a later start time. The majority of people are gone when I arrive. The best analogy is that it's like that bit in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly when Blondie and Tuco chance upon a town, bombed to buggery in the American Civil War. It's peaceful but there are signs of the chaos that's gone on for the past 4 hours since business started. Bits of paper are scattered, along with rubber bands and trolleys pushed together in one big corner.

I find out what I'm doing for the day. One of the supervisors is a cute, female in her early 20s and having her as eye candy is one of the very few perks of this job.

I start to prep what I'm supposed to do. The cleaner is nearby, mopping and sweeping. His face is set in a curmudgeonly grimace. He faces each day with that grimace. It never changes.

The area I work at is cracked and broken, bits are missing. Years old coffee stains act at some kind of camouflage to what the depot may once have been, or intended to be.

The usual arguments with the supervisors about the work load being achievable within my 4.5 hours (5 hour shift, half hour break). We yet again agree that I will take it all and bring it back if I can't finish on time.

The van I'm issued with is filthy. The fuel card is valid for diesel, oil and a car wash but supervisors go bug eyed if you mention bunging it through a car wash. That 10 minutes could have been spent out working, even though the van may have anything from grime to mud to birdshit all over it. The side door is jammed, the lever that makes the seat move back and forth is broken. Footwells are littered with grit, rubber bands, muddy water and unnameable monsters. Behind the seats are a mixture of coffee cups, sandwich boxes, old food and soda bottles. A few hi-viz waistcoats are stuffed behind the head rests.

I drive out, there's no water in the screen wash tank. Bird crap in on the windscreen, beyond the reach of the wipers.

I set out on my shift. Five hours of boredom, pain and monotony. In winter I will eat about 4 candies per shift to keep my blood sugar up. I wolf down fruit and meat sandwiches. I gulp down hot tea or coffee. When I started this job I would sometimes come home and crawl up the stairs, shrug off my storm coat and fall asleep on the bed fully clothed. It took over a year before I came home in anything approaching an energetic state of wakefulness.

Nearly 3 years ago I got dumped by my ex girlfriend on Skype. A woman I had wanted to marry, have children with and spend the rest of my life with. I took this job for 3 months, to save up enough to be with her. I had already borrowed £1000 from a friend to pay for my beloved's plane ticket. 5 days after her flight landed, she told me she "didn't know" if she loved me any more. A short while later she argued that she shouldn't have to pay me any of the money back and, as I was still in love with her, I agreed.

I never heard from her again.

Doing this job in an English Autumn, Winter and Spring can really distract your self pity from the reality of a broken heart and take it in an entirely new direction of wallowing grief.

Nearly 3 years.

Enough now.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Despicable Pleasures

In life it's easy to just kick back and do nothing.

True pleasure, so I'm told, comes from raising children, setting a goal and achieving it or finally paying off your mortgage.

I, like many people don't indulge too often in pleasures that require planning and effort. I instead take my pleasures like instant coffee. Half (or less) of the fun but less hassle and less work.

I gained my 4th Krav Maga grading recently. It took a total of 7 hours of gruelling, hard, meticulous testing by both ruthless Israeli examiners and my own club's instructors, who while less poker faced, were no less demanding.

The pleasure is one that will live for a long time with me. It was a pleasure hard fought for and hard won. I had achieved something special. I felt proud.

Two months ago I had spectacular sex for about 12 days with a super special friend of mine. Far from being an actual girlfriend, she is someone that I do however have an emotional attachment with. The pleasure was sublime. We know and understand one another and can communicate emotionally as well as physically.

Pleasure achieved through actual human contact and forming a proper relationship.

Those are proper, real, treasurable pleasures.

Despicable pleasures are what we lapse into when we just cannot be arsed.

My despicable pleasures include: Facebook; wanking; chocolate; Candy Crush Saga;  TV shows; surfing the Net for hours looking at mind numbing garbage and trivial rubbish; most recently Candy Crush SODA Saga...and not least of all going over and over in my head about events from the past, either good or bad.

The despicable pleasures are the ones we fall back onto because we are lazy. We don't try to achieve the awesome pleasures. We just revel in those that are so easy to attain that we don't even have to try hard. To actually work for something and then run the risk of failing can tax the mind and body. The stress, adrenalin and fear of failure can tax you.

I have back pain and stiffness in my body. My core stability** is shit and recently I took up Yoga. This is a pure pleasure, albeit one that takes time to show any reward. After a month I can finally feel the difference and that my abdominal muscles are forming a wall to enable me to get up off the TV bean bag without groaning and grabbing at the table for leverage.

Despicable pleasures are ones that come on tap.

Ultimately they are 10% or less as rewarding as pure pleasures.

But they are so, so easy to get.


** Stomach muscles. Take the weight off your spine, if like me you like to lounge around a lot, you need a decent core. Nothing to do with making a half eaten apple stand up straight.