I would like to start the day with a rant. On my long walk to work in the morning, you know the deal this is the place that I go to in order to pay my taxes, I pass an odd building. I have taken to pondering what the building is, in fairness the clues were always there:
- It is a rather nondescript and ugly building
- It has NHS signage but no obvious mention of purpose
- The doors and windows are high security
- Bizarrely the lift travels two floors higher than the building extends
Yesterday two specific things provided my answer. For dramatic affect I shall detail them in reverse order. The last was as I passed yesterday I observed several of the centre’s clients outside, they were all jovial and deeply tanned as they smoked and passed their time outside. Before that, on the way to work early in the morning, when the building is shut I had noticed a small notice confirming that it was a dependency unit. Whilst I don’t believe in hiding people away this is a terrible advert to our young. Imagine the scene as some drug or booze baron directs his new advertisement*. The camera follows the hot and sweaty man trudging along the pavement with his rucksack and intones “They tell you that work is the only way”. Then the shot pans slowly as if the cameraman has just heard the laughter and is searching out the source. The shot comes to rest on the laughing, sun bronzed smokers, and nothing is said as a tag line rises from the bottom of the screen “your dealer says there is another way”
Catching sight of an unusual tattoo yesterday moved me to some memories from a younger time that I would like to share. When I was a young man, as an apprentice, I commuted to work. The journey was long but because I was a railway apprentice it was virtually free. Where possible I would align my journey to the ‘boat train’ since this allowed me to avail myself of the hospitality of the old style railway stewards. For a penniless apprentice a free cup of tea or bacon roll made all the difference and it was nice to feel part of something. The old buffet cars were like a bar; people had their specific seats and locations and service was offered in a pre-ordained order of preference.
As a young man I was befriended by a group that was mostly young men and one older gentleman. These people were city workers back in the day when all that conjured up was money and success. They were entertained by the growing ink that adorned me and would comment on how restrictive that would be in my career. I would respond that I never tattooed below my wrist and hey I was a manual worker they were the office types. They were genuinely nice people and would refuse any opportunity to reciprocate generosity simply because ‘we can afford it you on the other hand cannot’. It felt like two worlds coming together, I would never inhabit an office; my destiny was dirty hands and physical labour, they on the other hand would understand their car or get dirty hands simply because they didn’t need to. I think we all understood that the restrictions that they placed upon themselves were their choice for their career. On sunny days a three-piece suit cannot compare with the freedom of a T-shirt but then champagne is a very efficient means of cooling if you can afford it.
The older gent, it transpired, was the mentor of the group and very much respected amongst his young charges. After a couple of years of this routine the older fella decided to retire early and was happy to tell me in a conspiring whisper that it was because he “had too much money to spend”. By this time I was an irregular commuter but agreed that we would have to have a drink before he retired. And so it was that I found myself one Friday evening engaged in an impromptu party on the 19:00 service. Some beers in, the tattoo debate raised itself, as it usually did, and again I was told that such decoration would prevent me having a ‘proper’ career. The difference on this occasion was that the retiree, in his late 50s rose and unbuttoned his shirt. Opening his shirt he revealed a full and luxurious Japanese body suit, for those that are not familiar this is chest, back, upper arms and legs fully covered. It was clear to me that this was not an example of childhood silliness and when asked he explained it had been finished only three years previously. He turned to the younger group, who were aghast, and carefully explained that there are many pages to a book and they are rarely seen from viewing only the cover. His parting words to me were that, in his opinion I would be a success because of my ability to cross barriers and interact with all groups.
Sitting in my office this week and knowing the near collapse of the financial sector I wonder if those guys have started repairing their own cars yet…….
*Don’t believe that it will happen, check out the E-cigarettes being promoted in shopping centres now in the same manner as traditional cigarettes were before being banned.