Friday, March 22, 2013

I don't seen Tony Falshaw for years, then all of a sudden he's everywhere I look.  Turns out he's got divorced and moved into a flat somewhere the other side of the railway bridge.  Tells me about having both his hips done.  He's not a lot older than me and it makes me shudder to think.  Says that they don't even knock you out when they do it and that afterwards you encounter loads of new challenges in life.  Like going for a shit in comfort. 

Their Dale's not up to much, he says.  "Can't do owt with 'em these days, can you?"  There’s nothing resilient in him.  Resigned.  Beaten.  Then Tony says “What's your lad doing?"

I tell him Jack's got an apprenticeship at Mathers Engineering down Shawside.  Like a lot of people, he reacts as if I've told him Jack's got into Oxford University.  Forty years ago there'd have been two dozen of them down at Mathers.  And another thirty or more each going to the docks, the pits, on the sites.  Not now.  Not ever again. 

Tony says "He'll know Steve Barker then?"  He looks at me like it's something important. 
"I think he sees him here and there, but he’s not shop floor."  Tony waits for what seems like two hours and then says
“They make a lot of stuff for the American military at Mathers, don’t they?  Top end stuff.”

I hadn't got a clue.  I was just starting to get used to Jack coming in knackered every night with a faceful of soot and eating his tea like he'd never seen food before and hearing stories between mouthfuls, of burrs and drilling and drawings, and canteen tea like witch piss and magazines in the bogs and blokes called Eddie and Smackers and Mr Fresh.  Just assumed the metal he’d been polishing and shearing and cutting, was bits for gearboxes and pipelines and industry.  And maybe rotors and casings and blades.  But not military ones.

Tony doesn’t say anything else.  Just gives me a smile that says “Where’s your fucking left wing credibility now, you twat?”  Then he rubs his hip, widens his smile and limps off.  

Martin C 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

English as a Second Language.



Arh great, just what I need. 8:00 a.m. Monday morning and Jesus turns up with a completely new crew.
"Jesus, what the fuck man? Where's the regular boys?"
"Hola John."
"Jesus..."
"Wha... These guys mucho better."

"Better for you maybe, maybe work for less but what the fuck do they know about demoing an apartment in a building like this?" We are stood outside an apartment build on Central Park West and 84th Street. Jesus is my demo guy, he is also a cheap fuck. A Peruvian who hires guys on an as needed basis for as little as he can get away with. He does all my demo, I pay him, he is legal, his men are his concern. Me, I'm a GC, a General Contractor. I specialize in high end apartment refurbs.  My average job is around $5m.  I've a lot of money tied up in business and I've worked hard to get where I am. Getting here was the easy part, it's staying here that's hard. I try do things by the book but it's not easy when the competition will cut every corner they can. I still use union electricians and plumbers, the HVAC guys are all licensed but when you're up against some of the low life's this business has attracted it's getting harder and harder to make a buck.

There's one guy, new on the scene, wears leather trousers for God's sake, he hires Chinese day laborers for everything. They will work for half the price of a Mexican. I don't know how he gets away with it but he does. Palms, obviously, are getting greased. I have one guy, Jim, he's from Trinidad ( you ever met anyone from Tobago? Me neither. It's always Trinidad) he did a few weeks with this guy, told me he had 35 guys doing demo, dragging cans out into the street. No dumpsters just dragging them. All these guys wearing sneakers, no boots, no helmets. Said half the guys came back the next week reinvented as carpenters and laying out the stud and sheet rock. Said he quit when two of them declared themselves electricians and kept shorting everything out. Bad enough working in those conditions; think about living in the apartment when it's done?

Demo is one of the areas I try compete but Jesus has really fucked me this time, these guys look fresh off the boat. This is tricky demo, I want a lot of the walls to remain, I don't want the water lines disturbing, I don't want all the electrics ripping out.

"Where'd you get these guys Jesus?"
"Take it easy my friend. These guys, good guys."
"These guys fucking cheap guys. Where's Hector, get fucking Hector here, he can read prints. I want fucking Hector here or you can fuck right off."
"Hector no work for me no more. Cordaro can read prints yes?"
"Cordaro? Which one's he? Guy's a fucking midget Jesus. Cordaro, you read prints?"
"Si."
"You do? Jesus stop nodding your fucking head."
"Cordaro where'd you work before? Speak English?"
"Si, poquito."
"Popquito? Where did you work last week?"
"Arh, arh, I dickwasher."
"Jesus, what the fuck? What the fuck's a dickwasher?"
"Si I Dickwasher!"
"Hey don't shout that too fucking loud pal."
"Si, Dickwasher?"
Jesus, get fucking Hector back here and the rest of the regular crew and get this fucking dickwasher out of here..."
"Si I Dickwasher!"
"Hey Cordaro? Where'd you was dicks?"
"John, John, John, he worked in the dinner...
"Washing dicks? Fancy place."
"Washing dishes."
"Arh dish washer?"
"Si, si, si, I Dickwasher."
"Jesus call fucking Hector."

JL

The Bane of Bairns





I hate children, all children from new borns to those on the cusp of adulthood; I don’t discriminate and happily include strangers, acquaintances and family members. I know, not a popular opinion. I should add that I don’t actively wish them harm, but the fact remains that children irritate me and as such I am looking to impose a UN sanctioned no juveniles zone. The actual mechanics of the zone have yet to be thrashed out but I’m doing pretty well so far in policing my own informal arrangement. I’m just hoping Ban Ki-moon will sanction some clips round the ear to complement my glaring.

I’ve never been interested in my own or anyone else’s progeny; as a young adult I never foresaw my family lineage doing anything other than halting with me. I didn’t ever imagine myself as someone’s dad, nurturing, teaching, helping a child grow into a functioning adult and then sitting back with pride at the not inconsiderable achievements of my loins and mind. No thank you. I know that it seems the most natural thing in the world to many but nature and I are at odds on this one. I’m not quite sure where this antipathy originated and there was a time when I assumed that maybe I just wasn’t ready and nature would give me a nudge when appropriate to take care of business.

I’m now at an age where the general expectation is that you should be having or already have had children, if not there must be some physiological problem precluding breeding in which case you merit great sympathy. Most of my friends now have children and insist on telling me all about them, sometimes sending me pictures of them and frequently posting photos on Facebook accompanied by hackneyed ‘sleeping’, ‘crawling’, ‘first steps’ statements. I assume that I’m being afforded great sympathy by them for my failure to procreate, the tacit ‘trouble’ I must be having; if they knew of my dislike and disinterest in children they surely wouldn’t insist on keeping me abreast of the minutiae of their spawn’s ‘progress’ and would come to rightly regard me as the selfish and shallow individual I am; qualities which I am perfectly comfortable with.

The sound of children elicits the same response in me as nails scraped down a blackboard. I bristle in the presence of them in much the same way that other people become tense and uncomfortable at the presence of a smoker or a hooded teen; preferable company in my opinion. I scan the area and plot exit stratagies like one of Andy McNabb’s fictitious heroes. I know that they can’t hurt me, not physically, but they can ruin my day.

I recently visited a bar with my father, an establishment we had enjoyed on many occasions previously. By pure good luck we obviously hadn’t had the misfortune of visiting on a Friday afternoon before. This particular bar is opposite a prep school where the aspiring middle classes part with their hard inherited cash in order that their offspring receive the best of starts. A laudable idea. A little after three thirty the formerly peaceful idyll was transformed by the arrival of squadrons of Ritalin starved apes ‘overseen’ by a small team of moneyed, negligent, clothes horses. It was dreadful, I hated it, my father hated it and the staff clearly hated it. The clothes horses seemed unaware of the chaos and clearly didn’t think that they ought to play any part in the disciplining of their children. Dad and I glowered into our swiftly consumed pints and the staff offered the sagely advice of avoiding Friday afternoons in future.

Children in pubs, this is one of my biggest bugbears, pubs are adult environments, for adults. I don’t ruin it for them by making the playground unwelcoming; the pub is my playground and they are effectively breaking the slide and smashing the swings when they enter a pub. How can I enjoy the sticky carpet, the company of the unhinged and the extortion in a child-friendly pub?

I know my stance will horrify and offend some, thankfully those known to me will be too busy with their offspring to read that I watch You’ve Been Framed purely to see children falling over and hurting themselves, it’s my rather benign revenge.

Tim Mac

The Fat Of The Land



The Fat Of The Land

Like many people I could lose a pound or two with little difficulty and look and feel better for doing so. Unlike many people, I am aware of this.
Now, I’m not an old man far from it, at thirty nine I may have passed the tipping point of my prime but I can still remember the great days of the early nineties when going on holiday meant sharing beaches with fine looking people; the Mediterranean coasts were literally awash with good looks and glamour, a perception admittedly assisted by alcohol but a fair reflection all the same. However, not enough booze exists to make many of today's Brits abroad look palatable. At holiday resorts frequented by the British the appearance of David Attenborough and a camera crew is half expected as you would be forgiven for thinking that you’d arrived at a seal colony given the abundance of blubber.  

We live in strange times when the majority of people sporting sports attire are those least likely to engage in anything that would even raise the heart rate of those of us able to see our feet and reach our genitals. They don’t look sporty just as I don’t look like a nineteenth century gold prospector when I pull on a pair of jeans.

The men generally opt for a trip to Sports Direct to pick up a few 4XL t-shirts and jogging bottoms. The women tend to adhere strictly to a different dress code that allows them free rein as regards their torso but mandates leggings on the bottom. Leggings, however comfortable, are rarely flattering, especially on the fuller figured wearer. White ones forgive nothing whilst black ones create a sort of giant black pudding illusion.

A friend recently started internet dating, he was seduced by the myth that it is normal (it isn’t) and being new to the whole thing wasn’t really up to speed with the jargon and various acronyms used on such sites. Thinking that a broad cast of his net would yield better results, he had to endure a number of dates trying to disguise his disappointment with his hulking fellow diner before he realised that BBW apparently stands for big beautiful woman; he felt MOPS would have been rather more appropriate - morbidly obese panting slug. Things didn’t improve a great deal when he got the hang of things and decided to refine his criterion. Average sized and even slim were the next lies being purported in the cyber love search. When did corpulent become average or slim? The problem is that many people who are indeed overweight seem to think that because they are part of a sizable and growing (in every sense) minority, their size is in fact normal and rather than being mocked for their porcine gluttony they should be considered perfectly acceptable specimens.

I enjoy eating, its a pleasant thing to do. What I don’t understand is comfort eating. I suppose that I must derive some sort of comfort from eating but only the comfort of no longer being hungry having emptied my calorie bank. As a rational, pragmatic individual I tend to look for solutions to any problems I may have rather than ways to compound them. Post-war Britain was a pretty miserable, austere place, did everyone comfort eat? 70s Britain saw massive inflation, the three day week, the winter of discontent, did our bulldog spirit lead us to chow? Thatcher dismantled the remnants of British industry, did we mewl into our microwave meals? See where I’m going? You’re a fat rotter, it understandably upsets you. Solution, eat more. Give me strength!

I’m not a body fascist (whatever that means), I don’t expect everyone to walk around taut and sinewy at their optimum fighting weight, I just want to see people with the general contours of people rather than sea mammals. Glandular problems, big bones? Nonsense. If glands were the problem more money would be pouring into glandular research than for both cancer and the common cold combined. It isn’t. Bones are hard, fat people are soft, I don’t think bones are the cause of their problems other than forming a scaffold from which to hang fat.

What happened to necks and waists? I’m struggling to recall when I last saw either, before too long I expect them be consigned to the history books, listed alongside dodos, mammoths and sabre toothed tigers but with more photographic evidence. We’ll become wistful and yearn for yesteryear when elders were respected, you could leave your doors unlocked and people boasted necks and waists and often both, great days.

What of the future? All of our signs would have to be modified as the stick figures currently used to denote human beings would no longer be a recognisable representation of the human form; fat folks would be in mortal peril, unable to heed that the warnings from unrecognisable signage.

I recently saw a guy on TV complaining that he had been refused a gastric band on the grounds that he wasn’t fat enough. Surely any right minded individual would breathe a sigh of relief at discovering that, whilst overweight, they weren’t actually morbidly obese and their very existence wasn’t threatened. Not this chap, he decided that the only solution to his problem was to gorge himself Henry VIII style until such time that he was considered fat enough to merit weight loss surgery. He’d managed to work out that eating more made him fatter but was unable to comprehend how cutting down would have the reverse effect.

Eat less and move more, it’s a simple equation which seems to befuddle our rotund friends. How about this one then? Substitute calories for pounds; if £4000 was deposited in your bank account each day and you only withdrew £2000 would you expect your balance to go up or down? If you can work it out you can lose weight, if you can’t happy heart attack.

Tim Mac