Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reduced to clear, but where will I get my books now?

So my local bookstore is closing down - in my blissful IPOD induced ignorance I didn't even notice until I went to look for a football book today and found myself face to face with one of those resolutely trying to be upbeat but failing signs that closing down businesses have, the ones where they try and convince you that the decline of the economy and the loss of jobs will at least allow you to get a cheap book. I guess this means the bearded guy with the classical music IPOD will fade from my life, curse this economic downturn causing me to lose sources of anecdotes. I wonder if he thinks - and I really don't know, they could just be relocating, the anti jolliness of the sign could be a trick - if only people like me bought the Popbitch book instead of reading it instore...the first business I can ever remember closing was this sports shop in Irvine, a really popular one - I might have mentioned it before, you could get really cool soccer tops and big boss shoes that made you look like a basketball player even if from the shoes up you were just a skinny white guy who certainly had no right to use any kind of black mans language no matter who stereotypical. Then one day, literally overnight without warning, it was gone, gutted of stock, and there were piles and piles of letters under the door. My friends and I would walk past it and remember the good times, perhaps the first genuine regrettful nostalgia I ever had. Not Sarah my first girlfriend or good times playing with my He-man, no, my first bout of nostalgia involved standing outside a broken sports shop with money in my hand going remember when you could get a South African soccer top at an affordable price? I'd say it was the first sign of turning old really, pining for 1989 in 1990. There was a woman in the bookstore today though, a Diane Craig lookalike in beige casual slacks, all spare time and high self esteem, who was actually bartering over the price off a book in her hand - it was really rubbing it in to be holding a book that was already marked for death, a stock item from a failed store, and demanding that more be sliced off the price. I thought the bearded guy was going to kill her, but he's a pacifist, and as he calmly explained that the sale price was final, I could see his thoughts drifting deep out the window, perhaps a beautiful piece of classical music filling his brain. Whatever happens, I wish him well. Maybe the next few years will be like this, just wandering around listening to Shanks and Bigfoot and seeing stores decline - it makes me think of the high street in my home town in Scotland, where you step off the minibus and it feels like tumbleweed should roll past your feet, the top end just a library and several faded dreams, boarded up shops and charity stores selling re-possessed and donated goods to those brave enough to venture. I don't think it'll get that bad, despite the alarmist tendencies of the papers. At least I hope not - if they make blue eye shadow girl head to the dole office, after all her paperwork based dilligence, that's just a crime...

The automon at work meanwhile continues her own special brand of martyrdom, unable to lead because she's too busy leading, if that makes sense - lost in indecision she takes the task of lowest common denomination, and does it well, and calls it management. There's a pile of work on her desk and she's fussing over pens. I have a pile of e-mails to get through, most of them about football - no matter what the world brings, I know whenever football season starts, we start feeling like better friends, simply through the medium of mutual understanding what coaches should do. The automon meanwhile will always have her pens - as far as I know, her partner, and I'm still old fashioned enough to call it her boyfriend if I had my way, still doesn't have a job. And he still looks like Mark Ridgeway. He wiles away his hours at home cleaning the house as far as I can tell, and probably feeding the dog. It's a little strange to think of his reduced circumstance, as in his field he was reasonably successful, and sometimes I think of him as I was when I was unemployed, sitting in an attic playing ATARI, eating rice Krispie squares and fending off midday Jehovahs, one of whom told me God didn't like ATARI - or was it slothfulness? I forget - one of those vices. As I drift into some kind of reminisce about the quality of those rice krispie squares, and they really were delicious, a friend of mine comes on the radio, purposefully donating with all ears on her to the bushfire appeal in return for them playing a crappy song. I donate more subtly, and I'd at least demand double Britney for such a donation. I know my Mum if she was listening to any thoughts I had on the decline of businesses and the prospect of job losses and the fact I can't get books anymore would say something like as long as you are alive you are winning, and she said it about 200 times while Kochie stood there dressed like John Howard on the Sunrise bushfire special. Whenever a major disaster happens, I think everyone feels a great appreciation for life and vows to not worry about the little annoyances, but then the little minor problems still grind - I know when, like, Beslan happened, I was so determined not to be irritated by minor issues, those poor kids and so on, and within hours was annoyed my toast was burned. At least I felt something I suppose, there's no appreciation for life with the automon as she fusses over the pens endlessly, procastinating the day away with trivia. The radio DJ makes a beseeching point of pointing out all the horrible things the bushfires have taken away in great detail and how lucky everyone is to be alive and all the things you should say- to my great embarrassment, I realise I've skipped over a page on the bushfires to read an online page about Chris Brown and Rihanna, and feel a bit guilty. The automon doesn't listen to the radio though - she genuinely believes she is in reduced circumstances as a single income family, as socially bereft as the owner of a burned out house, and maybe she's right in her own mind, but I know Mum would tell her to get a grip. Mind you, traumas are all relative - the mango juice I'm drinking at at the moment is absolutely terrible and it's annoying me. As this minor inconvenience turns briefly into the worst thing that's happened all day, another appeal flickers across the scene, another pre-montaged movingly themed montage of fire induced despair, and, well, what else is there to say...the juice it still terrible though...

I know when Dad was unemployed, he devoted his spare time not to the mysteries of 1980s game consoles, but to freeing hostages. He had a petition and signs and everything, and I had to go door to door one night risking life and Ayrshire limb to try and get John McCarthy out of Beirut. He never thanked me - John McCarthy I mean, Dad probably bought me some fruit creams from the ice cream van. It's one of the few things I've volunteered for, and I went out and about in my little shell suit with a clipboard with all the self righteousness of the professional do gooder, although I was rather uncynical in those days, and I probably believed my 6ix signatures and the one I made up myself - Didier Six didn't really live in my street - would really cause a hostage to be released. I wasn't long for thinking so positively - although Mum and Dad, despite Dads continuing merry go round of terrible supply teaching gigs, would always make sure I had everything I wanted, even that fancy expensive pair of FILA boots I wanted. So my reduced circumstances were entirely social, not financial. When we lived in Penguin we lived in a great house with a big hill you could roll down and it felt like you knew everyone in the town - it wasn't like that in Scotland, one street would feel completely alien to the other. I know that our street was determined by the people who lived there that it would be a great street, the people decided that even though it wasn't great, they would all get on and work together to sort out problems. So even though I was a little blinded by self pity, I did have good friends, and one day as we sat on a little patch of grass watching the world go by, the lead singer of a popular band drove past on the way to visit her mother who lived around the corner. We all waved, and she waved back, and it felt incredibly exciting. Six months of her so later, her band was completely out of favour, and when she drove past no one would wave and she looked quite sad. Her social circumstances were as reduced as mine, although she probably had groupies when all I had was Gary Linekers superstar soccer on the AMSTRAD. It was one of the first times I realised that people failing made people happy. In Penguin, at least to your face, people were supportive - the prospect of them being quite the opposite behind your back had simply never occured to me. So I would listen quite intently at the little mini bus stop, to peoples tales about what the fat stocky girl round the corner with the cross tattoo was really doing with her life or wee Wullie losing his rag in the supermarket and causing a scene. I was young and confused at the absolute glee these stories would be told with, and these days those people would be on Myspace with a special group set up for all the news of fat stocky cross girl, but in those days, they had Mystop...it was definitely a steep learning curve, steeper than trying to cling onto the size of the bus when the driver was late, and failed to apply the brakes because he was in a hurry...

There's no one shuffling about the Kingston shopping mall. I queue for my groceries, having indulged myself in the purchase of a tasty cake. I miss my reckless spending side - I wish I didn't have responsibilities and could just splurge on DVDs like a crazy person like I used to. Counting every penny has become the side effect of living alone. It's not reduced circumstances - it's just being a tight arse. My pizza shop is gone though, replaced by an extended bottle shop wall facade. The one that used to be suspiciously free of pizza ingredients, so it looked like a front for some sort of other business. The place looks in fading health, although most shopping centres look like that eventually. When I was in Harrods, surrounded by opulence and pets that needed a nap, there was someone who was complaining it wasn't as good as it was in the 70s. The supermarket is empty, but the queue is slow moving, as I'm being served by a part timer, a casual who is 1/2 the age of me, scared to pick up an orange unless she breaks a nail. It says a lot about the passing of time that instead of flirting with her I curse her lack of professionalism. Once you are thinking of the pace of the queue instead of trying to work in a chat up line, you aren't too far from a cardigan, although she's not as hot as she thinks she is, mascara failing to hide her Warrane upbringing. She doesn't look at me, or if she does, it's only to ponder the brightness of my Barcelona shirt. She doesn't realise her supervisor is watching her intently, just like mine did when I used to fail to tell the difference between a tangello and a tangerine. Her supervisor is only slightly older than her, but clearly takes things more seriously, her expression suggesting a serious talking to is in order, maybe with the use of a flipchart and a computer print out. Warraneblonde doesn't see it coming, she keeps filing her nails and taking her time in between scans. Dad says at school now, they can't write that kids are lazy anymore on their report card, even if they are. Warrane blonde is about to be told though, I can see that because the supervisor makes a not without taking her eyes off her, and I move on before the evaluation begins. If things go really badly, perhaps they'll part company there and then, decide it's not working out and she'll never scan another melon again. I think a lot about these little moments, and I have since I saw Jannie, her of the car park wisdom, storm out of an office, chest defiantly pointing towards the exit, refusing to let anyone see her cry as she left the building. And I was the one who was lazily scanning the melons, thinking what's she so upset about, she can just bag another job...I walk off towards my car, greatful for what I have, hopeful that it stays the same, and slightly annoyed that in all my thoughtful noticing, I forgot to pick up any bread...

That's the trouble with musings and observations on a blog, they don't really get you any bread...

6 comments:

Miladysa said...

Excellent post! Your observations are amazing.

My favourite line? "Once you are thinking of the pace of the queue instead of trying to work in a chat up line, you aren't too far from a cardigan,"

LOVE it!

Charles Gramlich said...

I always hate to hear about a bookstore closing. I've lost too many in my day.

Baino said...

Once you are thinking of the pace of the queue instead of trying to work in a chat up line, you aren't too far from a cardigan . . . Ha! Love it! Clearly I'm destined for cardigans.
But you dear Miles . . .better polish up those chat lines!

squib said...

I hate doing petitions Miles. People are so darn precious about what they sign, anyone would think you were asking for their blood or their souls

Love the image of you in the attic fending off the God botherers :)

the projectivist said...

yes, if life were fair
you'd have made a small fortune in bread by now. not just any old bread either. the fancy stuff, like French bread sticks and extra-white, extra-fibre TOAST-cut!

i'm not sure when you arrive-ved
(say it like that, for the fun of it)
as i was saying
arrive-ved in Tasmania - but previous to that, did you used to watch Lorraine on GMTV?

now THERE was a proper morning telly hostess, and a good Scottish girl to boot! not like those godAWFUL people on telly here every morning. honestly, i can't stand the morning television in this country. it makes me want to shut my head in the pantry, over and over again.

anyway.
sigh.

what cake did you buy?
mmmmmm...cake...

Miles McClagan said...

Thanks mate - I do my best. And it's true, as I will explain in the next post, it happened again today...I've got old people priorities at the moment!

It sucks doesn't it? It's really lousy. The place is depressing at the moment. Gaps are appearing on the shelf. It aint right!

I'm not good at chat up lines, I wish I was. I like The Cardigans, the band, but I don't think I could wear them...thats like matching tracksuits!

It's really really bad in Melbourne and Glasgow. The centre of Glasgow is divided, males with clipboards on one side, females with another, and they try and chat you up. I was a different person then going door to door! Bloody Jehovahs, they interruped my ATARI...

Do I know Lorraine Kelly? Of course! She's still going, she has her own little show after GMTV at 9 in the morning. It's full of fab fashions and her shaking her head and saying things are a load of nonsense - fab! And it was a choccy cake, very nice...