Thursday, 18 March 2010


Mono (The Band, not The Cafe)

The support band are from Edinburgh. Two girls playing guitar, one of them singing. Accompanied by three guys, another guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. The singer is cheerful, talks to the audience a bit between songs. The lead guitarist smoulders, the shorter of the two, but by far moodier. Playing her guitar, her central parted long hair hanging over her face. Once or twice she’ll catch the face of a friend in the crowd, and slowly, carefully, the determined little pout transforms, a smile blossoming, shy and warm, before she goes back to the business of rock!

There is a couple sitting at a table in the corner, to the right of the stage. He is bald, a little beard, glasses, looks thin, but fit with it. She is shorter, a little heavier, but in a feminine curvy way. He wears a caramel coloured jacket, jeans. She wears a burgundy top, with a lace style white short sleeved cardigan on top of that. On either side of them, the odd couple, the friends who have tagged along. The four are laughing, having a good time, photos are being taken. He is heavy, perhaps unfortunate looking (not a million miles from myself, in case anyone thinks I sound cruel), a worn black band t-shirt. She has a regal nose, curly shoulder length hair, a nice smile, a black top with a plunging neck (and I mean plunging!). As the photos are taken the band shirt guy makes a comment about the cleavage, she tugs at her top, buffs them up with pride. A few more photos taken, some more comments, culminating in him leaning across, hand on her knee, talking in her ear. It all seems good fun. But when he sits down, she looks uncomfortable, emotions mixing across her face, her arms across her chest, a little tug at the top to cover herself, a little squirming. Later when I look over she has gone, later again, when I’ve moved with the crowd, between support band and main band, and I spot her again, sitting beside band shirt, so whatever was said before must be forgotten. Though at the end of the night she is standing talking to the guy with the glasses, who she seemed to be more friends with than the others. I wonder about blind dates, a girl friend of the guy with glasses, set up with a guy friend of his girlfriend? Who knows and that’s the last I see of them.

With support band done the crowd moves, some go to the bar, some were friends of the support band, and I move closer to the stage. I don’t like this venue; there is something horrible about the light, too much red light, which my camera seems to particularly dislike, giving some dreadful results. I find myself standing beside a particularly petite girl, a couple of bags sitting on the floor by her feet, which seems a bit rude so close to the stage, especially since when her friend returns the pair stand in protective circle creating a dead space that close to the band. But it’s a fairly immobile audience, and they get away with it, mostly. It’s a strange night, I feel strangely disorientated, it seems like I am surrounded by people chattering away in Spanish and Japanese – though between the volume of music, and ear plugs for my own good, everything feels muffled and dislocated. The two girls with the bags are Spanish, though in some ways are polar opposites of each other. The first is wearing a little black dress, has her hair carefully cut in layers to striking effect, she is skinny, wearing striped green tights, flat shoes. She has her nose pierced, two small, delicate rings tight together through one nostril, she wears an extravagant black butterfly ring on her hand. She has an agitated, expressive face, bursting into quick grins, little gasps of joy at the music. Turning to her friend once or twice she brings thumb and forefinger together against her lips and kisses away, that curious expression of excellence that you sometimes see people make on TV. She brings out a chunky camera once Mono are on, reaching over other people’s heads, tilting the screen, so she can take pictures. A couple of times she jumps up and down with delight. Her friend stands there, a hooded top over an average looking blouse, her hair cut shorter, perhaps the feminine end of boyish. She stands with her hands in her jean pockets, nodding at her friends comments.

Like any gig these days there are a load of people with cameras. The Spanish girl, another short haired girl, the two of them vying for space once or twice. Then the pro, the guy who has the pass that says he is a photographer, not that it appears to grant him much benefit that anyone else standing there has. I take photos too, trying to get over that red light, waiting for other lights, trying different settings. Periodic arms reach by me, cameras wielded for quick shots. Then there is the guy in the green t-shirt, off to the side of the stage, came down after a compact crowd was already in place, and is annoyed about it. He stands there snapping away. Till midway, he plunges to the stage, seeming to physically grab a couple of young guys with long hair and shove them out of his way. The security guy stands back, off the side of the stage chewing gum, for him it’s a quiet night, and nothing comes of this guy acting like an ass. He goes back to where he was standing before, throwing his camera on the speaker top, grabbing his drink, growling at the world – how dare it get in his way. Towards the end of the set he comes back, this time aiming for mid-stage, brushing roughly by me, nearly tumbling over the girl’s bags, drawing dirty looks. He takes a few snaps, having shoved the folk that were standing there out of his road. Again that done he returns to his place, this time practically walking over the bags, this time bumping into me. The chippier of the two Spanish girls is waving her arms in the air, shouting at him. He gets back to where he was and glares back with that expression that says, come on, make something of it, I’ll fight you. Our attentions return to the band, ignoring this asshole.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Snack Bar

We work on an industrial estate on the side of town. Once upon a time
we owned all of this land. But sold it off and rented it back in that
corporate way that makes sense to someone. Between our buildings there
is a crappy little, almost home made looking, canteen. A ragged little
place, which raises eyebrows when visitors first see it – not quite
believing the sign above “SNACK BAR”. When I worked in Innovation the
newest member of staff came round the building some time between
9-10am. Going from floor to floor, with a trolley full of rolls and
crisps and sweets. Shouting “SNACK BAR!” as she comes to a stop, and
people jostling to join the queue, to see if they can get there first.
She alternated the route, so if she’d been to a busy floor before
yours then the trolley would be bare by the time you got there. Now I
am based in Technology. Here we have a little “coffee shop” – tables
and chairs, automated coffee machine, it’s called Connections. In this
building instead of doing the trolley routine, the woman turns up with
a cart in Connections, and unloads on to the counter. She is there for
a half hour. There is an official time, from which people will start
to line up. Though some days, particular Mondays, the real time is a
different thing altogether. Again timing is everything. Come down too
late and you’ll find an empty metal tray, or perhaps one last cheese

The man in front of me is the Chinese guy; he is usually one of the
first here, before the woman arrives, on the occasions that I come
down early. He fumbles to try and help, trying to get the tray up from
the trolley on to the counter, while she picks out the drink cans that
are rolling around, and the cartons of milk, and lines them up. The
guy in front of him kind of steps into help out of embarrassment.
Sorted, then the first guy takes a roll and gets served. The Chinese
guy rakes through the tray, reading labels, twitching and shrugging,
making little frustrated noises as he fails to find what he is looking
for. Finally settles on a choice and gets served. I follow suit, in
the mood for a roll today, a packet of crisps.

The woman that does the snack bar is a character. Its one of those
jobs you probably need to be. She ends up knowing the regulars quite
well, exchanges gossip, the kids, the hassle. Last time I was down,
last week, there was a young guy in work overalls, teasing her about
the price of Cadbury Crème Eggs. But then he says she’ll not see him
for a while anyway, going down south for a bit he is. So she gives him
the Crème Egg, a going away present, then grabs a Mars bar, gives it
to his mate, since that was the last Egg.

Then we go from there to join the line at the coffee machine.
Selecting paper cups, sachets, plastic lids, wooden stirrers, sugar
packs from the drawer. We put them in, and get our drinks, while the
weary looking man from the company that supplies the machine sits and
looks on. An out of order sign sits at the side of the machine; he has
just retrieved an ugly looking internal component. He shrugs, its ok,
he didn’t expect such a rush, but its fine. I think he needs to
diagnostics or something, but the dozen people making coffee probably
cancel that out anyway. Its done 90,000 drinks, he announces, that is
5 years work, in 2 years, and it needed to be gutted!

Sunday, 14 March 2010


Travel To Oslo

In Prestwick airport. people in line for flight to Oslo. Seems half of them have too much baggage. Two women pay the excess. A mother, with two daughters, is playing the rearranging game. some people use the scales at free desks to test theirs before they join the line. A woman in her 50s dressed like she is in her 20s. knee high boots, crotch high dress. She flashes all and sundry as she bends over to man handle her case in the least lady like fashion imaginable. That combination of white knickers and the black gusset of tights, so much for modesty. a couple who look Norwegian shout after their 5 year old, trailing his own case, the head of a bear peeking out of a pocket on the case's front. as expected my case is practically empty and I'm done. time to grab lunch before flying. food ordered. food arrives. And I take bite. And the fire alarm goes off. Everyone out! What am I supposed to do? People are taking glasses. Maybe I should take my plate? That would be daft. But with no answer I grab the plate and head for the door. Of course its at that point I am told that I can't take it with me. So I turn round to put it back on the nearest table as another member of staff appears to tell me that I can't come back, I should get out. Idiots. I manage to get my plate down and get out. We are out there on a wet October afternoon, retreat to the car park to watch the vast amounts of nothing happening. The fire brigade turn up, look around, and leave again. The staff go in first. We are supposed to wait for longer. Imagine if you had been going to have something to eat, a woman laughs to her husband, I was I pipe up, it had just arrived. Finally they let us come back in, my plate has gone, though my Irn Bru is still sitting. I grab that and wonder through to the service counter, looking concerned and lost. The chef is standing by the bar talking to the bar man, he spots me and calls – we'll get a fresh one out to you as quick as we can! And I sigh with relief. Take the same seat and wait, watching the time, hoping that this hasn't entirely thrown my schedule off. Food arrives, I eat, I get through security, I get on the plane.



We are at the theater, catching something as part of the annual Review of Live Arts.I come here often, so many familiar faces that I see at all kinds of performances, though have never spoken to. The group of us are working our way out from the seats at the end of the show. I stop to let a group of girls get by on the stairs, then we are walking behind them. I am familiar with the blonde girl, firmly in the frequent attendee category, I'm sure I even saw her doing an installation piece once a number of years ago. One of the other girls, long dark hair, glasses with red frames, a grey dress, from the conversation its clear that she stayed at the flat of the third girl and the blonde girl the night before. This obviously had not been planned, she aplogises to the familiar girl, tall, skinny, short blonde hair - I borrowed a pair of underwear, hope you don't mind, I didn't go through all your stuff or anything, just grabbed a clean pair. The blonde smiles, yeah thats fine, no problem. The thing is, the girl says, continuing, you are quite a bit slimmer than I am, and, she waves a hand at the blonde girls ass, then at her own, I'm a bit chunkier. From which she explains that while its great to be wearing clean underwear, they don't actually fit her very well, and to be honest aren't very comfortable. But its ok, she will wash them. As we walk round the side of the seats, out into the lobby, the girl with the glasses seems to be actually lifting the front of her skirt, as though showing exactly which pair it is that she has borrowed, and I have to say to G that I'll explain what I am laughing about after we have left here.


Mother's Day (2)

We are sitting at writing group, however many of us can manage to come along to the cafe on a Sunday afternoon. There is a woman at the table behind me, who is here every week, friends of the staff, perhaps more. Last week one of her friends sat and chattered for a while, she talked some about her family. Sitting this week a young man and woman appear at the top of the stairs to the mezzanine part of the cafe, where we tend to head because its quieter. They grin at each other - she is here! The woman looks up surprised, as they thrust a bunch of flowers at her. The girl mutters to the guy, you could at least have taken the price off them first. Embarrassed he jokes, I wanted her to know we didn't get cheap ones. And they sit down and chatter about what else they've been doing, the delays in getting here, having been struggling to find particular biscuits their mother likes. She jokes about them doing a hit and run, expecting them to leave again instantly now that they've delivered the flowers. But no, they tell her off, sit down and order coffees to spend some time with her.


Visiting the Doctor

I got up out of bed, having been off work for a few days, and decided that today I had better sort that appointment to see the doctor. The previous day they shut early, so I hadn't been able to. Unfortunately this day it has decided to snow, and it is already a foot deep. I phone anyway, and they offer me an appointment 15 minutes from that point, I look at the snow and know I can't make that. So they give me an appointment in the afternoon instead. Fine. I leave early, the snow half way to my knee as i make my way to the car. Things are going fine, until I reach the hill leading to the local football ground, cars churning up and down from th estate. Each is struggling, and making things worse for everyone that follows. I manage to make a charge at it, getting 3/4 of the way up before i start to struggle, and I start to struggle. A man coming down the way draws beside me – where are you going – doctors – probably better walking it from here – but i can't just abandon my car at this point – he shrugs and drives away. i make a couple more feet of progress and have to stop to let a double decker bus go down by me. I phone the doctors, already late by this point, let them know i am on my way, i will be there as soon as I can. A lorry comes up behind me, four guys getting out and they push me passed the bad bit and I'm on my way again. I'm weaving along the road, steering as best I can, hoping breaks will behave, its difficult, the surface is all churned up. But by this point the schools are out, and the kids are just strolling across the road, regardless of traffic. A half dozen kids are too close in front of me, i start shouting to get them out the way, afraid I'll try and brake and loose control. So they start throwing snow balls at me. Getting nearer the doctor's building the car park is snowed out, the road is mobbed with parents picking up younger children from the primary school, I end up having to just about abandon the car. I apologise for being late, sit for 10 minutes, see the dotor for 10 minutes, everything sounds ok. Get back into the car and it takes an hour to get home as well, the hill down by the football ground is fine going down, but its like a U shape, and coming back up the other side I get stuck again. Once home, the snow is too deep to get car back to where it was parked, I try to dig myself some space, but its not happening, so end up having to abandon it at an odd angle, mostly, enough, off the road.


Mother's Day

It is mother's day here today. So the morning is a bit of a family thing. My parents, my sister and her husband and kids. The floor is plastered with toys, with books, and the like. In one corner a blue teddy bear, and in the other a pink one, both showing the wear of age. My sister stands up and announces that she is going to the toilet. My niece shouts that she is too, and goes running for the door, my sister grabbing her, scooping her up and handing her to my brother-in-law. At which point my nephew shouts that he is going as well, and makes a dash for the gap. My sister wrestles with her son, in which time her daughter gets free again, and the pair go charging through the door. My sister shrugs, closes the door and sits back down again. Neither of them need, they'll be right back, and they are. My nephew becomes distracted by his dad, going through a pack of trump cards, my niece distracted by my dad and a board game. My sister stands and without saying a word this time, she leaves the room.

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