Posts Tagged ‘union’

girl with green eyes

I’ve been walking from supermarket to supermarket all day again, chasing rumours. It’s the last thing any of us were expecting, this run on toilet paper. I always imagined the end of the world would be aliens or crashing meteorites. But this? Well now I’m down to my last half-roll, my feet are killing me and if I don’t score this time I’m going to be needing new shoes as well.

Of course by the time I reach the next place the shelves are empty, except for a single pack of twenty-four. It sits there, fat and fluffy, taunting me. They’re asking thirty quid for it, but I won’t see that kind of money until payday, unless the bastards dock me again, in which case I won’t. And I don’t need twenty-four – four’s plenty for now. Anyway, I’d likely get mugged for them on the way home, a big pack like that. So I’m standing here, weary from the search, and this girl comes up looking like she’s after the same thing.

She’s dressed cheap, but she’s pretty, like a princess in rags. I’m dressed cheap too, but not worth a second glance. When she sees the twenty-four pack she lets out a sigh, no doubt thinking the same as me. Then she weighs me up, wonders if I’m going to make a grab for it. But I shrug, step back a little.

“Too steep for me,” I tell her. I’m smiling my best ‘I’m harmless’ smile, but that doesn’t always cut it with girls. Man, she’s pretty. Did I tell you that? Looks sad though.

So then I say, “we could always,…”


Hear that? There’s a sharpness there, like she’s at the end of her tether. I suppose we’re all a bit that way now, what with one damned thing after the other. But she’s short of more than toilet roll, looks pinched and hungry, like she’s not eaten for days. Sure, I’m skint, but she’s worse off.

“I was thinking we could go halves.”

She shakes her head. “That’s still fifteen quid on bog roll, innit.”

I know what she means. Fifteen quid. Take your choice: try to feed yourself all week, or wipe your bum.

So I say, “Well, we could always wait a bit. See if anyone else turns up. Split it with them too. That way we get the price down a bit more.”

“Worth a try, ” she says, then sits on the floor, lithe as a dancer, shrugs. “Nothing better to do anyway.”

So I join her on the floor, drop the goofy smiles. Sure, some girls prefer a guy to come across like a sour git, and maybe that’s worth a try as a last resort, but it doesn’t exactly come easy for me.

Then the security guy comes along and wants to know what the problem is. She’s a feisty one, tells him to f&@k off and leave us alone. But he’s only doing his job and I can see there’s no real malice in him, so I apologize and explain our plan. He weighs us up and decides we mean no harm, tells us we’ve got twenty minutes, then we’re out.

Her name’s Ella, and she’s a student. I was a student too, once upon a time. Now I’m a zero-hours slave with no prospects and fifty grands worth of uni-debt I’ll never pay back. And right now I’m sitting here looking to organize a union all so’s we can afford the dignity of some bog-roll. Hey! Small beginnings, right?

Ten minutes though and nothing, but then this guy comes along, well-dressed, looks like a high roller. I’m worried he’s the type who can splash thirty quid on the twenty-four pack – rip-off or not – and not think about it.

“You guarding those or what?” he says.

Hear that? Assertive type. Boss class.

So I explain the situation. He thinks on it for a bit, then grabs the pack and walks off with it. Look at me. I’m dressed like shit. Who’s going to listen to me? So what am I supposed to do? Ella calls him an effing bastard. I’m thinking the same thing, but say nothing. Then he comes back, looks contrite, says he’s sorry. So I reckon I’ve misjudged him; he’s a middle class salary man, that’s all. It makes him a sitting down slave rather than a standing up one, like me, and he’s desperate for bog roll like the rest of us. Okay, so I’m a soft touch.

“I’ll split it with you,” he says. “Eight each. Eight’s plenty for anyone.”

I explain to him that while that’s a good idea, and very decent of him, a tenner’s still too much for the likes of me and Ella.

Then the security guard comes over again, tells Ella to mind her language, checks his watch, tells us we’ve got five minutes. I’m worried the high roller will divvy up the thirty quid now and leave us to it. After all, the middle classes have only so much patience for the precariat, and who can blame them? Man’s got to wipe his arse, hasn’t he?

“Four will do me,” I tell him. “You pay the thirty quid, like you were going to. We’ll give you a fiver each. Then Ella and me get four rolls apiece.”

He has to think about this. Basic maths isn’t his strong point, and he’s looking for the trap. Ella’s not happy either.

“I’m not paying a fiver for four bog rolls,” she says.

“But it’s our best shot, Ella, and I’m fed up chasing this stuff around.”

The guy’s worked it out now, and he’s up for it, and Ella’s persuaded it’s this or nothing too. So we follow him through the tills under the beady eye of the security guard. He pays, and we divvy up our fivers to him. Then we split the pack on the carpark, and he lifts the lid of his Beamer to stash his take.

I’m wanting him to go now, so I can get a minute with Ella on her own – pop the question, like. I’m thinking I can afford to buy her a burger or something, but she’s looking at him with big eyes and doesn’t seem to notice me any more. Then he invites her for a coffee as if I’m invisible to him as well. Sure, that happens a lot.

Quick as you like she’s in his car, and they’re driving away. Okay, I don’t blame her. She’s got something to give a guy that I’ve not, and a girl’s got to live the best way she sees fit. Sure, a decade of austerity and skid row will do that to you, so who am I to judge? I only hope she’s the sense to get what she wants from him before she lets him have what he wants from her.

So in the end I didn’t get the girl, which isn’t much of a story I guess and no surprises there. But I plucked my share of bog roll from a system that seems ever more intent on denying me my dignity. I count that as a plus, and small things are important now. All it took was a little grass-roots organization, and sure as hell no one else is going to do it for us. So remember that. It might come in handy later on when things get really ugly, and we’re fighting over tins of beans.

[Thanks for reading – and I promise, hand on heart: no more riffs on the subject of toilet paper]

Graeme out.

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boxingThe life of every man is an heroic quest. Not all take up the challenge, not consciously anyway and those who do can still go badly astray. But the challenge is there, and how a man deals with it will determine the extent of his happiness and success in life.

By success, I’m not speaking in material terms of course, such as how much money in the bank he has, how big a house, how expensive his car, nor how beautiful the women he attracts. One’s success in the acquisition of such things is determined by external factors, and personal characteristics that are not always helpful, nor indeed constructive towards the greater good. And whilst compelling at first sight, even a cursory analysis will reveal the way of the material world naturally results in the nefarious duality of “me” and “everyone else” and a widening gap that separates human society into those who have and those who have not.

The lure of the material path is the first test faced by all alchemists: whether it be the glitter of a literal gold, or the promise of the purer gold of the soul, and life’s meaning, that drives one’s ambition. And in life, we are all alchemists, transforming the base substance of the conscious selves we are born with into something that can help us stay the course, while hopefully making sense of things and doing as little harm as possible along the way.

In the philosophical sense then, success in life is measured by the degree of a man’s emotional and spiritual maturity, which in turn yields such treasures as contentment, compassion for others and a lack of fear at the approach of old age and death. Such things are not acquired through competition with other males; they are more elusive; they require a man to back up a little and take stock.

Competitive masculinity is driven by egoic thinking. Ego is the layer of the psyche that measures and compares our status to that of others. Ego is that which attaches itself to the material stuff of the world, and the myriad machinations by which that stuff can be acquired. It attaches itself also to the mask of who we think we are and is the source of our fear, that we might at any point in our life lose our imagined status.

Some men are more driven than others in these respects, and such jostling and jousting with others does appear at first sight to have its rewards; their Mars-like attributes, their sporting prowess, and the sheer smell of their testosterone (a mix of stale cigarettes and beer, apparently) makes them naturally more attractive to the opposite sex. Flaxen haired girls with gym honed bodies, beach tans and perfect teeth find them irresistible. They swoon at their feet, and queue up to have their babies – or so I’m told.

As a materially successful man ages though, he faces a number of challenges, any one of which might defeat him, for it is his own mortality in every case that will let him down. Fear is foremost – fear of the loss those material things he has already acquired, so instead of slowing down as he matures, he is driven to acquire yet more self enhancing stuff – be it material wealth, goods, or power over others. Old age is another fear, with its loss of hair, teeth, and physical prowess. A man in the middle of his life might even look at his mate, who’s no longer looking so good, and decide to trade her in for a newer model, after patching up his own appearance as best he can. To a strictly material kind of man, women have no attributes greater or deeper than their material forms. Equally a material kind of woman has no interest in material men who can no longer deliver the goods. The poles become mutually repulsive. You can see where this is going.

In short then, a life such as this might leave a man feeing empty, because the man is so enamoured of his material things he has neglected his soul.

There is of course another way.

But is that any easier?

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