Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Shoe Event Horizon

I’m still working in a vague sort of way on the write up of my summer travels but I got a bit disheartened when I wrote about 1500 words and hadn’t even got to the part where I landed in the US. I’ll manage to write it eventually but it might have to wait until I have other work to do that I wish to avoid.

Today I was thinking about how strange the commercial development of towns can be. How some places become saturated with a certain kinds of shops and yet lack completely in others. The best example I can think of at the moment is Woodbridge in Suffolk; a town with a wildly disproportionate number of secondhand bookshops and tearooms run by little old ladies. It is much easier to notice a surfeit of a certain shop in a town than it is to discern the absence of one - or at least it is until you want to go into one. Canterbury, being a sort of hub of commerce for central Kent and a popular shoppytourist destination for Johnny Foreigner, is a town pretty damn well stocked with shops. It is not one, however, without its own strange absences.

Today I was wandering around town in search of either a knife sharpening stone or some really light gauge metalworking files – not for sharpening knives, but for fret levelling on a bass I’m having problems with. Whist on this course I remembered something I observed in the first year but forgot; namely that there are no hardware stores in Canterbury. There is just about every other kind of shop you’d care to mention but nothing that sells anything like that.

The closest thing that there is to one that I know of is the B&Q on the outskirts of town. B&Q is a fine British institution which prides itself on their very open, non racist, non ageist non sexist employment policy – it is always staffed by a fine cross section of society united only by their orange aprons and abject stupidity. Last time I went to B&Q I had to explain what sandpaper* was to a gormless little skinhead.

I’ve actually had some insight into why this might be though; when I was about 17 I applied for a job there and was given an application form that took the form of a large multiple-choice questionnaire. It was filled with questions like this --

-1- A man fires a gun at a customer you are about to serve, what would you do?

(a) Jump in front of the customer and take the bullet for him

(b) Take cover and call the police

(c) Laugh, put the boot in, and then rummage through his pockets for change

Now I look at this set of answers and think: “now surely they don’t expect me to lie that much, I’ll put B as that is sensible and plausible”.

Needless to say I didn’t even get called up for an interview, someone I know though - who couldn’t count to 11 without taking his shoes off - applied at the same time, answered A style answers for everything and got the job with no problem. They have a recruitment system so stupid that anyone capable of thinking with any kind of subtlety is eliminated at the first round.

As a result of all this though, to get back to my original point, I am still having fretbuzz problems on the 3rd and 6th frets on the E and A strings which makes me cranky.

Anyway. I think I’m going to go to the pub now, as I’m already bored and it’s only 8:30


*yes I know that it’s technically called glasspaper and I did try that one – I think it just confused him further

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I know what I did this summer

It occurred to me the other day that I have this blog and that I’ve been neglecting it rather badly. It’s not that I’ve been desperately busy these last few months, although I have done slightly more than I normally do during the summer holidays (the same, however, could be said for most coma patients) it’s just that I pretty much forgot that this thing existed and when I did remember that it was here I’d usually get distracted or run out of things to say before I could finish writing an entry. Since the last time I looked on here I’ve done a fair amount of travelling, got a tan and grown my hair about another 6 inches, so I should probably update the picture and write about what I’ve been doing.

The summer started as every recent summer has; with me climbing bleary eyed out of bed after a week or two of post-exam recreational alcoholism, jamming as much of my stuff as will fit into the back of my parents’ car and travelling back to London. I spent a few weeks doing the usual half-arsed jobseeking, settling back into my old routine and finding, once again, that my old sixth form friends are still a lot of fun to be around. If events hadn’t intervened I probably would have ended up spending my time doing the exact same thing I do every year – putting on weight, drinking too much and failing to get a job.

Things didn’t go down like that this summer though, firstly my older brother ended up in hospital in Durham with a collapsed lung. The collapsed lung was caused the fact that Ed is so thin that he can do hula hoops with a cheerio and would need a belt to wear a pair of 80’s rockstar spandex, seriously, he weighs about as much as my left leg. As a result he did a bit of enthusiastic air-drumming his lung popped like an overinflated prophylactic (that may not have been exactly how it happened). I went up to Durham to see him in hospital and had the scary task of meeting Ed’s girlfriend’s parents. They were very nice people but I’m always nervous about meeting people when I require the use of two possessives to explain their relation to me, it generally doesn’t bode well and makes explaining who they are very messy. I stayed for a few days in their giant Tudor house with more bedrooms than they know what to do with and was present for a rather unpleasant infection scare at the hospital where it looked like Ed might be stuck in there for even longer than he had been already.

He got better though, and has a cool set of surgical scars as a souvenir. I’m no medical man but I think the procedure involved supergluing his lung to the inside of his chest and gaffa taping up the holes.

It came at a pretty bad time for him though what with him and his girlfriend due to be moving into their new house pretty soon after the operation. As a result of the surgery he was very weak and had been forbidden to even think about lifting heavy objects for a few decades afterwards (at least that’s what he claims they said) so I ended up making the trip back up there to help with the loading of all their worldly possessions (which is quite a lot) into the van and unloading all the stuff when they got to oxford where eddie’s job and Lucy’s course are located. It was quite an entertaining way to spend a few days, although, due the way things go, had to take place during the hottest period we had this summer, so I ended up carrying furniture around in 38 degree heat. Which isn’t a lot of fun.

My memory of the chronology of this summer is really bad, I remember the events but I’m not too sure about the order in which they happened. I could probably rummage through my email records and figure out when this stuff all happened but that’s more effort than I’m willing to put in and it’s not particularly relevant. It was around this time that I unexpectedly got invited to go on a road trip across the US and my summer got much more interesting. The prospect of travel meant that I gave up what miniscule effort I was putting into gaining employment and devoted myself to the serious business of having fun. There were lots of friends with family who had gone on holiday and lots of good barbeques and, strangely and wonderfully, I managed to spend almost no money in this entire period – for some reason it was perpetually someone else’s round.

After this the preparations for my epic journey started in earnest and that is something that I think I will document another time, partly because there is so much to say and tell and also because right now I’ve got stuff to eat and a leaving bash that I don’t hugely want attend to try and weasel my way out of.

I apologise for the poor quality of the grammar and prose. I’ve not done any writing in ages. I dread to think what my handwriting looks like.