Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The girl at Paisley Gilmore Street (enjoying your life vs a fancy but miserable office)

When someone breaks down in front you, I mean mentally, yelling, hissing, looking much older than usual, as a sign of frustration, I tend to find the awkward silence that follows it be a lot more demeaning than the act. Demeaning not to me, I'm a big fan of hissing anyway, but to them, you don't get those seconds back do you? You've made the dramatic overstatement, now you have to take it, and seconds later, the momentary lapse of reason sets in as acute anxiety, and there's nothing you can do. When it happened today, I just shrugged, I was incredibly embarrassed for the person, and I moved on - more convinced than ever that blind, blissful apathy is a far more suitable and tangible course for me than stress filled middle age, and a pile of paperwork. Blue eye shadow girl, she kept me sane today, but there's nothing to me at the moment, not a tangible slew of emotions that I can define myself by - not the firey rage or cynicism of yore, not the hot tempered somewhat sulky immaturity of a few years ago, not even the passionate childhood love for life. I can't even hold a grudge properly. Actually, that's not true, there's a definite passionate desire to enjoy my life, enjoy the peace that life can bring me, but obviously do it without sounding like a Fruitopia bottle. She, old yeller, isn't enjoying her life, the wrinkles are mounting up, and they can give her all the money and fancy desks she wants, she is miserable. There's a weariness to her, which we contribute to with our apathy, but the tick tock of the rocket clock on her wall drives her ever closer to a meltdown, and if I'm honest is inspiring my novel The Devil has Meetings, and today it was just me who copped it. There's simply nothing more to be said, we're different people, and while I sit and ponder the texture and qualities of a chocolate hedgehog, she's left to ponder a to do list the size of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There's no right or wrong on the way you want to live your life, both positions are valid, but there are always consequences...and if I have my hammock and my Zero 7 tape, I know my life is going OK...in comparison anyway.

My middling ambition has had consequences of course, not least of which is that the first verse of the Lil Kim song about building a heliport nags at me that I should be doing something with my life. It's an oft explored theme - not least of which lead my parents to decide the best way to inspire me was to send me for some "dae yer homework ye lazy wee shite" style school counselling with a nun. Of course, this was the worst idea possible, since I'm a massive athiest, a limited attention span, am a terrible listener and obsessive about getting out of meetings and into the sunshine (much like Homer Simpson, woe betide any meeting if I see a dog with a puffy tail). So we sat in her office, as spartan and barren as her little black book, while she talked me through a series of Jesus related scenarios designed to inspire a man to go and find that inner desire to go and build a heliport. Oft, she would repeat the scenario about the man and the fish and if you teach a man to fish he'll catch a lot of fish a lot of...while she was talking, if I'm honest, I was trying to remember which Golden Girl she most resembled, and only much later settled on Betty White...she gave up after about 1/2 a session, particularly after a really bad awkward moment where she asked who inspired me, and I really couldn't answer (1994 wasn't a boss year for popular culture, where I normally draw my aspirational figures like...well, Lil Kim, without the violence). I should have just said my parents and been done with it, but she began playing idly with her crucifix as I hummed and hawed, the loud exasperating ticks on the Mary clock adding to her frustration. With unnun like posturing, she eventually let out a big mardy sigh of despair and said quite curtly "so no one inspires you at all!" - shaken, I tried to think really quickly, and said, I swear, Dannii Minogue. It was just who came to mind, and she clapped her hands in a satisfied motion. Then, in a tremendously rapid and sincere attempt to switch gears, she instantly became the kind of down with the kids counsellor every kid fears..."oh!" she said, delighted..."I read all her books!"...it was heading down the gurgler rapidly the idea that Betty White was going to motivate and inspire me, and eventually we went our seperate ways, me to smoke on the basketball court and chase dogs with puffy tails, and her to go and read the latest hard boiled crime thriller from Melissa Tkautz...boy, could she write an ending...

What I really think I learned from that day (and, if I'm honest, from my cousin dying) is that enjoying your life is what is important to me as a core value. My Dad and I earlier this year went to see St Mirren play Kilmarnock, in Paisley, Dads old home town, and I surprised him with corporate hospitality, and it was a fantastic day - I stayed in Paisley to risk a night out, not a long night out, but a night out with my cousin (one I like) in some of Paisleys dodgier nightspots. I went into Paisley Gilmore Street train station (wee neds, few dark spots, seventeen year old chocolate in the vending machines, is that man peeing?) to buy a return ticket home, and across the platform from me was this girl, who looked like she was on her way to a night out. She was beautiful in an unconvential sense, she had a pink T-shirt with a star on it, which was insane in the Scottish weather, she was self confident and aware, and most of all, she had a fantastic laugh, sitting talking with her friend about stuff and nonsense and in a rapid fire chain of Paisley drawled patter that only made sense to them in that fantastic best friends way. There was a motion in my head to go and chat her up, but she was a lot younger than me when I looked, and then of course, being Paisley, it began raining miserably and before I could get swept away in a tide of crisp pokes and old cans of Irn Bru, I went back to the pub. A middling karaoke singer was tearing into the KLF much to my best aghastness, and everyone found my incredible loathing of Scottish beer very funny. Since I'm far too old for nightclubs now (sorry lampshade fans) I prefer the animated conversation of pubs, and I love Scottish pubs, I love the way they seethe with danger and excitment, particularly if you get in the way of a local. What the night did do though was make me a bit, just a bit, homesick. One of my problems in life is the disconnect between my life in Scotland and Tasmania - as happy as I am, I can never re-concile the two parts of my life. Eventually, the melancholy of this overtook what had felt like a positive moment, and I had to snap back into the now, and enjoy the time for what it was. A million miles away was stress, and pen pushing, and a desk and a general public, but this was my time, and even though the hugs at the end of the night were regretably farewell hugs, I was still fully aware that right now, right at this moment, I was happy. Or drunk. Or stoned. Or just thrown by the cheek of the muffin topped women who did Justified and Ancient...the cheek of them....

As I got back to the train station, I went to climb up the steep and difficult to manage in an emergency. I had gone through a million emotions, and I was conflicted, or just in need of a packet of Chewits. As I walked up the stairs, the same girl from before was shattered, she was in tears, she had mascara streaming down her face, the sweet laughter of before replaced by a slightly heartbreaking, slightly hapless emotional state, one that seemingly no one could console. She was sitting next to a scruffy boy, covered in peach fuzz stubble, clad in designer beanie, aftershave and the distracted sense that he'd rather be anywhere else in the world. He was rubbing her back, but quite clearly staring at the pub, or the taxi rank, or anywhere that wasn't sitting on the step of a Paisley train station. He caught my eye, well, my eye caught his piercing, and he rolled his eyes in a "women" motion, and I did what I could, I shrugged, held my touristy palms out in a less than Jesus like motion, and went up the steps. While I acknowledged that perhaps the sobs were over dramatic, after all, this was the west of Scotland, our emotional gestures are suppressed except in times of beer shortages, I did wonder what had caused the dislocation of her happiness, after all, she had illuminated the horrible swirling greys just with her laugh, and now, life was crumbling outside a shut and barred up RS McColl newsagency. As I made it just about to the top step, she said, in a voice loud enough to wake up the dead (that'd be Greenock...wee Paisley joke there...) that she had nowhere to go, and why did he kick her out. The he in question could have been anyone, husband, Dad, stubbled ned, anyone...it was an incredibly strange and weird illustration of despair, theatrical in it's grimness, one that took the taste off my Snickers...at least, it would have been, had I not caught the final bit of the conversation before I left them to it, the stubbled ned saying in a rapid fire and somewhat emphatic fashion "Fucks sake wee yin, ye did break his fucking jaw...."

If you are on your way from misery to happiness today, or the other way around...take someone with you...one way or another...

11 comments:

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I'm all for a good hissy fit, though it must be said that enjoying life is, well, far more fun! And so much less stressful!

Miles McClagan said...

I can hardly talk, most of 2005 was spent in a permahiss, and it was fun, but now I have a hammock, so I'm all good!

Miladysa said...

You are such an amazing observer of people.

Another excellently spun journey through your life and experiences.

"is that man peeing?" LMAO

Miles McClagan said...

And some days it doesn't even need the question mark...

squib said...

enjoy my life, enjoy the peace that life can bring me, but obviously do it without sounding like a Fruitopia bottle.

lol!!

I've been there, Paisley I mean. I remember a big abbey and something about paisley

When you talked about the nun in her spartan office I mentally replaced spartan with tartan cos I once stayed in a youth hostel (in Inverness) where the walls were covered in tartan carpet

Kath Lockett said...

I *love* the way you dealt with your stress-head boss's hissy fit. I'm *trying* to be more like that myself, but there are still at least three people on my personal list that I'd dearly like to get into a headlock and drag towards the coffee bean grinder.....

Perhaps a trip back to Aberdeen (Far ye bide yer wee shite?) could be in order....

Miles McClagan said...

I could murder some fruitopia right now. Yeah, Paisley Abbey, there's a lot of wee neds outside it smoking, which rather dims the appeal, and there's paisley pattern everywhere. I wish the nun did have tartan carpet or wallpaper, it would have been better than my least favourite colour...off white...ugh...

Aberdeen beat St Mirren 2-0, so I'm trying to avoid the A word! As for the boss, well, I'm just more concerned with the lines on her face and the weariness in her slump when she talks, rather than what she says. It's some kind of maturity...until the day I snap!

Jannie said...

Miles, I've been caught up in the endometriosis cause these past two days but will read your no-doubt-fanciful and possibly football sprinkled post in the morrow and give ya right good wedgie of a comment.

Wow, past 1:15 a.m. already in Texas.

G' nite.

Miles McClagan said...

I wish they were fanciful, aside from the odd added punchline, they are all true...there's football in this one...look forward to the appraisal though!

Baino said...

Miley this was beautiful. I watch and make up scenarios about people all the time but you have an amazing ability to observe and recount. Your stories make me a little sad sometimes. Get yerself a nice young lass to share that hammock! And dont eat so many sweeties, you'll rot your teef! Haha, you're word veri is "bolkable"

Miles McClagan said...

My teeth are reasonably robust, although probably not as robust as they once were. Bolkable is a word I will be using in every day life from now on that's for sure. I can see myself using it in one of our tedious meetings today...