Life in another country


After a day like yesterday, much of which I spent riding the edge of my nerves, the reaction sets in today. I’ve done enough thinking for one week, I could do with a day off, to not think about things, to just mindlessly watch undemanding TV or listen to personally compiled CD collections.

I’m at work now, waiting for the start of my shift, when I will make myself available to listen to, and resolve, the problems of people whose telephone and/or broadband is not working correctly. Many of these people will be ordinary, decent folk, frustrated that things aren’t working correctly, understanding that I am there to help them, to the best of my ability, in the fastest physically possible fashion. Some of them are self-entitled gits, convinced that they are entitled to perfection in and around them in every way, and that the failure of their service is a personally directed breach of their human rights that you, personally, have organised with the intent of causing them harm.

It’s never easy dealing with this type of customer, but I have nearly forty years experience of talking to people unhappy about one thing or another, and I have long since learned to stay calm, to not mirror their aggression, to project empathy with their frustration, and to apply myself to what is needed to make their issue – and them – go away.

It’s not going to be any easier dealing with that kind of call today. I’m mentally drained, mentally less flexible than I normally am and have to be.

I’m still watching Person of Interest. The final episode is broadcast in America next Tuesday night, but I’m still working my way through the back half of season 3: episodes 15 and 16 this morning, fast-paced, tense stories, one a standalone that I found very effective but which was slagged off by the idiot who’s pulled the job of reviewing the series on tv.com, the other a thoroughly absorbing episode that tinkered with the mythology of the series: ninety-five percent an extended flashback that filled in a lot of background, and the final scene a contemporary tip towards the series’ future.

It’s ideal stuff for my state of mind: it’s not dumb, it’s not mindless. It requires attention to detail, it invites thought about where it might go, but the crucial difference is that I’m not blogging this, and I am watching it just for fun. I can devote my full attention to it without having to give screen-time to that part of me that is analysing what I’m seeing for the purpose of commenting upon it.

That’s the kind of stuff today demands. Things that make time pass without my really being aware of it, things that only demand my attention in the here and now, things that don’t require interaction.

I’m sat on my own, at the end of a row. Most of my colleagues are arsing around to one extent or another. The bay is being decorated with England favours in honour of the European Championships and the football will be on later on the overhead screens. Three games, but I have sat away, can only see the nearest screen at an acute, picture-invisible angle, whilst the next screen down is sufficiently distant that the reading glasses I wear for computer work won’t allow me to see what’s happening.

Later: I’m not as obsessive today about keeping up with the news. I have learned that, as a mark of respect, the Tories are not going to offer a candidate in the bye-election to find a successor to Jo Cox. On the one hand, I find their refusal to try to take advantage of situation both decent and human, not things I normally think about that party (though as the suggestion has come, publicly at least, from Grant Shapps, it should be examined for absolutely everything).

But I have to disagree. The bye-election should be contested. Jo Cox’s killer was afraid of democracy, of people having a choice. The biggest refutation of his evil is to give the people the choice he has denied them. Do everything we would have done if she had chosen to step down for personal reasons. Don’t let the bastards win, not by a single degree.

Later still: I’m functioning ok when I’m working but, as is only too often the case when I’m receiving inbound calls, there are long waits between calls into my speciality, and insufficient new things on the Internet to fill in time whilst I’m sitting there.

I came out early today to book train tickets to London for another visit in July. Stockport to Euston means booking at least four weeks in advance and booking separate singles. This has the disadvantage of tying you to specific trains, which means guessing at when I’m going to be ready to come home, but an all-day return is literally almost exactly twice as expensive.

But there was some sort of muddle at the booking office, when the woman told me that Saturday 23rd was actually Saturday 25th. And I had this horrible suspicion that the exhibition I’m visiting ends 24th July. Which, when I checked back at work, it did. So that meant Saturday 16 July instead (which in turn meant £5.00 extra on the fare.

Just in case the ticket office closed, I had my lunch half hour swapped 30 minutes earlier and went back to the station (the approach to which is currently being reconstructed at endless waste of time, making it hardly easy to reach). This time, a different lady tells me that Saturday 23 is a Saturday, so I can book the tickets I originally chose, for the original cheapest rate.

Go figure.

Evening: For one reason or another, it’s at least a month since I last worked past 7.00pm on a Friday evening. It’s quiet, I’m waiting again for incoming calls, and I’m counting the time down to 9.00pm and going home.

I still keep checking the news and my regular politics-oriented forum, though not with the same anxiety as yesterday. I’ve had a 1-2-1 Session over my current performance which, statistically, checks out better than I was expecting. On all but one of the touchstones, I’m way above the minimum standard demanded but I still couldn’t bring myself to self-assess my month’s performance as better than ‘Good’ (the higher options were ‘Great’ and ‘Outstanding’ and I’m sure ‘Great’ wouldn’t have been challenged), but I have had issues with self-belief all my life and these won’t let me award myself the higher accolade.

It goes back to the years after my Dad died. I speak far more often of him, or rather the massive hole that he represents, than I do of my mother. I was much older, in my mid-thirties, when she died, and I had issues with her about many things that went unresolved. One of these was the way she acted towards me in those difficult years of growing up without a father at the most important time to need one.

I was made to feel clumsy, and useless so many times and in so many ways, that I have never been able to take pride in something I have done. It doesn’t matter what it is, or what it represents, there is the automatic assumption that if I can do it, then whatever it is is of pretty minimal value in the first place.

The thing I’m most proud of in life – excluding certain personal relationships – is completing the Wainwrights. I am proud of that, genuinely proud, because I know of all the time and dedication that went into it, and because it is a genuine personal landmark that isn’t diminished by the fact that other people have achieved it.

I know that most people around me couldn’t do it, not physically, not mentally, that I have done things on the fells that would bring a touch of fear to the eyes of people around me. It’s the only thing I recognise as an achievement.

This has been a despatch from another country, the one into which we were all pitch-forked yesterday.

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