An Even Worse Day At The Office

The plywood door swung to; it was cheap and looked it. Behind the door the coats were still swinging, but they did not stop. Chris watched the movement, then he heard rustling. He looked closer, saw legs emerge. It was Williamson.

‘I thought you’d gone,’ he said. Silly stuff, but he had to say something. Williamson came out fully and stared at him with a glittering eye, his other was closed. It was a knowing, almost winking knowledge.
‘You know more about all this than you let on, don’t you.’ Chris said. He was being clever here; clearly he had my private detective head on. Williamson moved kind of sideways towards him, crab-like. He was a little disconcerted by this, blurted,
‘Well, out with it.’

‘There was a ship,’ Williamson said, his look far away. No, thought Chris, I hate the sea.  ‘And a storm-blast tyrannous and strong. It drove us southward ever south, far from shipping lanes, the current’s corridors. As though it was playing with us. It drove us on to places of many wonders. Then stranded us in a rotting calm of sea, the engines down.  A place of ice and fogs, and endless days. I had been drinking rain water since leaving port – better than that muck they bought in. An albatross found us. It used our ship for resting in the endless wastes of the nights; used us like a beacon, like a… toilet,’ he snarled suddenly. ‘So I shot the filthy thing. No meat on it neither. They all blamed me for that, my colleagues. Keep to your stations! the captain said. But they hacked me, the lot of them. Filthy emails, pop-ups, stuff, stuff…. . Reported me for the slightest slip. I was soon fearing for my future. What rescued me was those… little rats and mice about the place in those days.’

‘Couldn’t we skip this bit?’ asked Chris.

‘I cared for them, bedded them down in the warehouse, fed them, and mourned them when they died. It was as though a weight passed off me. I was skin and bone, but fed the little dears as if my own flesh and blood.’

‘You really shouldn’t be telling me, anybody, this.’ Chris said horrified, drawing away from him.

‘I have to. I have to tell it. And besides…’ he gave a cunning look, with both eyes this time, ‘You’re the bridegroom.’

‘What?’ Chris spluttered. ‘Have you gone soft on top?’

Williamson went scarlet, spitting fury, frantically combing and flattening a huge comb-over. Then drawing a utility knife for parcels, muttered, ‘We should have done this before.’ He put the knife between his teeth and made slowly towards him, scattering chairs with both hands. Chris backed away into the corner, and a filing cabinet. That bruise will stay with him forever. Williamson came on and on, a kind of wild look in his eyes. A part of Chris’s brain noted how he was heading straight for the pile of papers on the floor, and… the gonk.

Crunch, and slide. It was over in a fraction of a second, but the bruise had got his adrenalin going, speeded up his sense of time. Williamson was doing this kind of slap-stick routine of every time he put foot to floor the paper skidded out from under and he was down again.

Looking back he could not believe this – someone like him dived for the table between him and the door and rolled over it, landing on two feet facing the objective. In one stride Chris hit the door. It wouldn’t open. He rattled and rattled it. Williamson was snarling, threw the table over, and was standing. Then Chris remembered it was an inward opener, flung it open in panic – and in a bound he was free. It hit Williamson full in the face, though.

Chris heard his howls behind him as he took corner after corner among cubicles, doubling back to jump from where he last stood sideways, and off down the corridor outside, then another corridor. He felt like Danny in the snowy maze in The Shining. Except there was no snow and he was a lot older than Danny. And this was the admin section of a modern office. Ok and he was on the third floor. So no maze, no snow, no Dad with an axe (would old Williamson with a parcel knife do?) and he was not a kid.

Chris ended up in an empty office. Empty; even the carpet gone. Great, he thought. Now what do I do? But there outside the window, a window-cleaner’s cradle; if he just slipped out that window, past that post and…. No way. No way. I’d rather…. And it was then a phone rang. He tracked the sound down, behind, round. Behind the door, on the bare floor a connected phone.
Ringing.

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A Bad Day At The Office

‘You are supposed to be my friend.’ Chris said, struggling to keep a faux pleading out of his voice. Instead it took on a completely unintended sarcastic tone. He knew he was misjudging work-relations badly here. The sarcastic tone was one he could go with, at least. Surely it would give him room to manoeuvre.

‘There are no friends here; only colleagues.’ Anders stated, not unkindly. Then, ‘Franklin, work station six, reported you late those times. Estworth, at nine, reported Franklin for wastage. Peterson, at three, reported all of you for laziness.… I could go on.’

‘Franklin and Estworth are my buddies.’ Chris mumbled. ‘We always have lunch breaks together. Joey Franklin, Pauly Peterson….  .’

‘Anyway. I never reported anyone…’ he said firmly ‘… for anything. Ever.’

‘No, we know that. You don’t fit in.’ said Anders.

‘You’re a wrong ‘un.’ butted in Williamson.

‘That’s enough of that,’ said Anders gently. ‘I can handle this… little matter.’ Williamson didn’t move. So they did; Anders took Chris by the elbow, a strangely intimate but peculiar grasp, and steered him further into the office. Williamson said suddenly,

‘We need The Machine. Now.’ Anders glanced up sharply but there was a gleam in Williamson’s eye, his long grey beard bristled as though alive. ‘We can’t afford any more slip ups,’ he hissed to Anders. ‘You know that.’ His hand was on Chris’ other elbow now.

‘Unhand me, greybeard loon.’ Chris said wryly, unhooking his elbows from their grasps. Williamson seemed to come to himself, a cold look swept across what could be seen of his face, like a Force Nine arctic blast. By that time the other people had left their work stations and gathered around them, blocking the door, the window.

They had all gathered from their work stations like beasts at a kill, or gnats around a no gnat-repellent sunbather. The strip lighting hummed; there was a strange bellows sound from somewhere.  ‘Still got that bad chest, then,’ one murmured to another.

Then Williamson burst back through the door, barging through them all on his way. He looked victorious. They all fell back; even the light went quiet. He glowered at the table where Anders and Chris sat. A prickling sensation of fear and sweat moved through the watchers, like a Mexican wave.

‘Now we’ll see.’ crowed Williamson. He approached the table and then with one sweep cleared laptop, papers and nodding gonk onto the floor.

‘I’m sure there’s no need for this,’ Anders said quietly.

‘Too late.’ crowed Williamson again. ‘I set it on the way back. It’s got to run its course now.’ An ‘Oh.’ went around the room. Anders looked defeated. Williamson went as if to place something on the table.
‘Well then. Come here you.’ Williamson gloated at Chris. All the while Chris had looked on a little perplexed. What was all this? What exactly was going on here?

‘There’s nothing there.’ he said, quite calmly. The room seemed to tilt for a fraction of a second; everyone gave a slight gasp. Or it was suddenly so quiet the one with the bad chest became very loud.

‘No. You’re not taking this away from me.’ snarled Williamson. ‘Let’s do it.’

‘There’s nothing there,’ Chris repeated. None would meet his eyes. He had spotted a CCTV camera blinking in the corner of the ceiling. ‘Look.’ he said, ‘I’ll show you.’ He uprighted the laptop, dithered over but left the gonk, then rummaged through computer programs. He found the Security folder, Camera Eight.

‘Now watch.’ They had to pay attention, he had used the instructor’s tone. His friend, Franklin, was an excellent mimic; he’d taught him the course tutor’s voice, on lunch-breaks. He knew it’d come in handy… somewhere.

They wouldn’t let him bring them over, it would mean touching them. Some even whimpered as he tried: grown men, twice his size, whimpering. He had caught their elbows to steer them; it was a peculiar gesture, he had to admit.

‘Look.’ he said, he rewound the footage then pressed Play. Williamson entered the room at a pace; they watched as several people lurched as he bounded into them. From the cameras’ angle all could see the extent of his bald patch. Chris glanced up, Williamson looked furious, surreptitiously combing hair over with his fingers. Was that a snigger from somewhere? They watched, all crowding round, as Williamson halted – they all counted the three seconds clicking by on the playback – then he approached the table, and cleared it. Chris noticed everyone look to the pile on the floor, at this. Williamson swept his hair over again. The play-back Williamson stood there before the table, looking triumphant; they could see his beard wag happily.

‘Now look.’ Chris said. ‘See, there’s nothing on the table.’ He looked around the room and they all looked aghast. Williamson looked horrified, shamed, embarrassed; he seemed to have shrunk a foot. Anders stepped forward and quietly cut the footage. He looked tired, upset. They all turned to him.

‘What’s it mean?’ someone asked. ‘We all saw it’

‘Obviously, I didn’t’ Chris said a little loftily.

‘It looks like we’ve been hacked,’ Anders said, almost to himself. He sat down, slumped in his chair, as far as the posture-chair would allow, anyway. The others filed out of the room silently. Chris watched them all disappear separately to their sections, an air of gloom, defeat, about the place.

‘It’s been happening a lot recently,’ Anders said wearily. ‘I hoped, I really hoped, it wouldn’t happen on my watch.’ He sounded old suddenly, a catch, a waver, in his voice. Then suddenly strong: ‘It’s too early. Ten thirty? Do these people never have the morning off?’ Chris looked at him; this was a side he had not seen before: Anders the Slacker. Well, well!

‘Who? Hacked? How? Why?’ Chris was all questions; his old day-release course tutor would have been proud.

‘The question is: Where?’ Anders said thoughtfully. He sat steepling his fingers as he thought long and deep. At last with a sigh he seemed to have come to some kind of resolution, stood up and moved to the door. ‘I’d better go and check on everyone,’ he said, more to himself than Chris. At the door he turned to him, looked him directly in the eye, said,
‘Whatever you do, do not leave this room. Do you hear me? Under any circumstances Do Not leave this room.’
Then he was gone.

‘No, no, no,’ he was thinking as he was waking.
‘Too early. Damn birds. Damn, damn.’
His protestations lacked the vigour to drive him up and doing. He pulled the covers over his head. But he lay there tense.
He knew; that was enough. Too much light. Too much… busyness. It was in the air. And it was stifling under his covers.
‘Someone turned on the heating? I’ll kill… the bills!’
But it wasn’t that. What it was, he knew, he had to shell-out for a new mattress. Sticking into his back again.
‘Memory foam. Not one one of these….with metal bits sticking up into you….’ But at least this got him up and dressed.
‘Something… was it King Albert? Edward? Someone who shoulda known better, died through … tetanus… septacemia… from a bed spring?’ And that had him washed and dressed, and presenting himself downstairs.

A cheer as he walked into the workshop. Sarky lot, he groused. He looked at their beaming, lively faces.
‘Come on granddad. Get this down you.’ A mug of strong tea. Too strong, His constitution… there’s a word from his younger days, when he had the gift o the gab…. Well, his stomach could no longer take it. They meant well. He looked at them again, felt a warmth for them. A part of him whipped out, ’Infectious.  Infectious good-will.’ And that part of him knew that bode ill.

And then they brought out the chair. The wheel-chair. He froze. That anger felt good, he felt better. Slightly. But he couldn’t sustain it. To his shame, and yet… relief, admit it… he slipped into it, as if into a made-to-measure suit.
He thought about it, his old wardrobe, those suits up there. Maybe he could donate them. The styles, well. They same it all comes round every twenty years or so. So….

They were all looking at him. Their young, eager, and innocent expressions. It was an unhurried, but expectant look. Does that look have a name? He no longer cared… cared to follow through, find the lost connections. Is youth an expression? It’s… an age… thing…..

‘Let him rest,’ they were saying, looking over to him. Benevolent, he thought, that’s it. That’s the word.
He’d slumped. They’d left him near a window, and it was too bright, too hot.
‘Has one o yous put the heating on?’ But he couldn’t get the tone right. It came out like a snarl. Had he upset them now? But the bills…!

‘Come on, old man.’ They were saying, gently, like to an old pet? No, there was respect in their faces, their manner. His students. And suddenly he felt proud of them.
‘Just this one last job, eh?’ ‘They wheeled him to the engine room, lifted his hands to the iron wheel.
‘Easy, now.’ they soothed, ‘Just one last slow, steady push. Then it’s all over, eh. Plenty of sleep.’
‘Those daisies don’t push up by themselves, Mr Winter.’

 

http://www.inkpantry.com/

For some time I have been searching for an uplifting text, something that affects one’s in-most being.
It may be this, Canto 23, of Dante’s Paradiso.

You need to ignore the Christian references, characters – and read it as an uplift of spirit.
Can this uplift still exist outside of established religions?
Were not all religions originally attempts to address this need in a person? Before they became political, dictatorial, self-serving, and down-right corrupting, that is.

Canto 23, in part

Even as a bird, among the leaves she loves,
settles upon the nest of her sweet brood
throughout the night, which hides things from our eyes

and then — that she may see their longed for looks,
and find the food wherewith to nourish them,
in doing which she deems hard work a pleasure —

comes forth betimes upon an outer branch,
and gazing steadfastly with burning love,
waits for the sun till break of dawn; so stood

my Lady, toward that region turned intent,
’neath which the sun
appears to show least haste;

hence I, on seeing her absorbed in thought,
became like one who, yearning with desire
for other things, contents himself with hope.

But little time elapsed between each ‘when,’
I mean from when I waited, till the sky
I saw grow more and more suffused with light.

Then Beatrice exclaimed: “Behold the hosts
of Christ’s victorious triumph, and all the fruit
ingathered by the circling of these spheres!”

To me her countenance seemed all on fire,
and so replete with happiness her eyes,
that I must pass without describing them.

As, when in cloudless skies the moon is full,
Trìvia among those nymphs eternal smiles,                                Trivia/Diana
who deck with light the whole expanse of heaven;

so I, above a thousand thousand lamps,
beheld a Sun which kindled one and all,
as our sun kindles all the stars on high;

and through the living light the Shining Substance
was so transparent, and so brightly shone
upon my face, that I endured it not.

O Beatrice, thou dear and gentle Guide!
“That which o’erwhelms thee is a Power,” she said,
“against which nothing can defend itself.

This is the Wisdom, this the Virtue is,
which opened wide the road ’tween Heaven and earth,
which was in olden times so long desired.”

As fire is liberated from a cloud,
when so dilating that it finds no room,
and falls, against its nature, to the earth;

even so my mind, as it became enlarged
among those viands, issued from itself;
but what it then became, can not recall.

from
http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/alighieri-the-divine-comedy-vol-3-paradiso-english-trans

…………………………………………………………………………….

For a worthy examination of this Canto, see:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/paradiso-canto-xxiii/

CATWALK

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , ,

Pink black slouch and lounge;
retro’s specific to the twenty year limit’s
periphery of reference.
Silk and rustic; heraldic, synthetic
admixtures of wool, Kashmir, satin.
Alice-blue gingham, with crinolines:
white is still pure, romantic,
without sins.

The sound track guitar on overdrive
distorts its chords to a programmed pulse;
and even if the music is a love song it is
tuned to a sulphate beat: dance, cruise, music
for the catwalk; lizard-like; ambient.

Panelled and fish-tailed dusty grey; a train
of gauze, lampshade head-dress;
kaftan and puckered waistcoat, djbella,
patterned with satin, sheer. Sateen
 swimsuit under high head-dress and train:
colour transforms to shape, shape to colour.

To look cool, even though the room is rising,
keen, though the style is low, look
catwalk-kitsch in full face-mask,
in Edwardian layers, as the room spins hotter.

The beat is an astrakhan flashbulb pulse,
the keyboard an embroidered burnt umber,
and that guitar again, perspex, translucent;
the singer’s voice a textile acid yellow.

A sampler tape labeled Sex Sounds – Normal.
Design after design; a model turns,
throws a red carnation to the camera.
We all applaud; we are all the show.

 

We had time to spare, and it was freezing out.
Early for our drawing class, we called in at the nearest welcoming door, our town church (it had heating).

This was a revelation. The church goes way back; there was even an anchoress, Joan,  in residence at one point.
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/424534702347012134/
http://www.stmichaels-macclesfield.org.uk/

St Michael’s Church:

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The siting of the church goes back to 1220, and later, Queen Eleanor, wife of the hated Edward 1, extended the grounds. A previous post links the area (site of a Royal Forest) with The Black Prince, brother of John of Gaunt.
https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/the-black-prince/

There are a number of ‘incumbents’ from that late medieval period still resident. They are in the form of funerary busts and tombs: knights, complete with faithful dog at their feet (you can strain the possibilities here, and wonder whether this was the vestigial remains of the practice of sacrificing loyal servants, to serve in the afterlife. What a chilling prospect that must have been.)

The church has on display a rare survival from pre-Reformation times. It is a Pardon Brass, dating from 1506. This was granted by the Pope, and allowed the named person in this case exemption for the price of  five Paternosters, five Aves and one Creed. Exemption? The person’s soul could be allowed 26,000 years and 26 days in Purgatory instead having to burn off their sins in the ‘down below’.
This, of course, was one of the indulgences that Martin Luther railed against.
I remember a Graham Greene short story about a modern version of this.

What caught my eye, maybe in a slightly frivolous mood among all this gloom and death, were the hairstyles of the knights on display. The period the tombs cover is 1475 to 1550.

See the always entertaining Lucy Worsley on hair:

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/the-politics-of-hair/

Apparently one of the most used styles of the early period was the ‘Bowl-Cut’: a (largish) bowl was placed on the head, bottom of bowl to one’s crown, and all extraneous parts chopped off.
The middle double photo here shows something similar in style to that.
The first photo shows a definite Page-Boy cut, apparently a Tudor-period style. This is the  effigy of a school teacher ie a higher ranked, not a noble, man.
The next photo has an extravagant frill of hair and high forehead. Perhaps this was a later version of the Bowl-Cut, an interim style moving towards the longer Page-Boy.

 

100_1154               100_1156

The middle double tomb has a woman’s style that seems now a little strange. You could almost speculate a head-binding practice at work here. But no. Women’s hair could not be shown in public – ah, the temptations of hair. The scraping back is very severe. This was, of course, for the nobles only: dignity and honour were only allowed the knighted. And why were they knighted? Anything to do with killing people, with sacking towns for plunder whilst on Crusade? Many family fortunes were made that way.

We, others, could get away with more  display, hair-style wise. The women at any rate were allowed loose displays of natural hair.
Then there was the Royal ruling on the all having to wear woollen caps. And so it went on, the stratification, coding of status, the badges of deserving and undeserving.

100_1158

Yep, he has lain his head on his helmet. And no, I don’t know what the paper under his hands says.
This double tomb is covered with graffiti, small carvings of initials and names, the latest 1992. But at the least these two have kept their noses – that is usually the first to go to the vicissitudes of time

You cannot go away without an example of the most extreme hair style for men: the 16th century flamboyant Restoration festoons of curls. All false, of course; what lay underneath was probably an itching short cut.

100_1157

 

Christ Church windows, and so to our drawing-class:

 

100_1160

And now I know I will never be an artist.

PS

THE HARRY STYLES EFFECT
apologies to HS

I was at that stage where my hair style staled
so let it go, and nor too fussed about the next: ‘The mussed-
bed-look! It will be back. Bound to. For good – or ill,’
I’d say. Then it reaches another ok stage, and so say:
‘Me. Yo.’ But that goes too, and the in-between bits, o,
they’re worst; there’s more of those, last longer, and they’re cursed.

I was thinking, ‘It’s all like this; it’s how the good bits call
the tune that make the less good just plain bad. And if I should
for instance, open the window, I’d watch the greasy city slide
over its shelf-life collar in its journey to its next fifteen minutes.
The slide’s continual. But what a view I got!’ Then not.
And it was time to get back to work.

OAMENI ŞI MARIONETE/ MEN & PUPPETS by DANIEL DRAGOMIRESCU. Orizant Literar Contemporan, Bibliotheca Universalis, 2017

 This is a dual-language publication, produced by the excellent and indefatiguable Contemporary and Literary Horizon, of Romania. For their background, see:

https://revistamulticulturala.wordpress.com/

http://contemporaryhorizon.blogspot.co.uk/

Every so often a book comes along that makes you feel good to be alive. This is one of those.

The best books broaden and deepen our sense and understanding of the world. I was going to go on and write ‘and add destinations to our bucket list.’ But no, these best books have already taken us there; we feel we know the places, the people, with our hearts. The place? North-eastern and central Romania.

I feel privileged to have a copy of Men and Puppets, by Daniel Dragomirescu. The book is a collection of reminiscences, autobiographical snippets, and is well worth the time and effort in getting hold of. Elegantly presented, and on the whole, well translated, this is part of a series of books by Orizant Contemporan Literar. All are dual-language, and by writers from many countries.

Daniel Dragomirescu grew up in the north-eastern Vaslui region of Romania, in the 1950s and 60s. He writes of life from the inside; the autobiographical angle gives a necessarily limited view of the times, limited to one’s interests, activities, and to the villages and small towns of the time.

Big Politics, the State, the Eastern Bloc, are not words or concepts of everyday life. He does come up against them (A Meeting with Cerebrus); they are also, on another level, a basic part of that life. Yet they are everywhere, especially for the generations from before the War, his parents’ and grandparent’s generations. It is they who have to watch what they say.
We see the unquestioned fate of pre-War bourgeois families, in their disgrace (Sandals). All is accepted as a part of life. The State restrictions have their circumnavigations, but they can be suddenly enforced due to the arbitrariness and fickleness of officials (At the Nadovari Camp). But they are not ‘officials’, they are people one’s father might know from school, from ‘before’ – their fickleness is the fickleness of everybody, everywhere.
We read also a first-hand account of a devastating earthquake hitting Bucharest. People at their most vulnerable; we read also the hidden threats by people.

One of my favourite stories, Marilena, has its own ways of handling the hopes, passions and lost opportunities that are always with us. And this is one of the heartening aspects of the stories: how love, hope of love, arranged love that could grow into itself, are always a part of our lives, our world. These things are instantly recognisable, and they go to the core of who we are.

In the new Romania religion once again plays a major role.
This may surprise us, and yet, as Fish Borscht makes clear (to my mind the only story that doesn’t gel), religion never really went away. Even this story is full of the riches of the lived life, the times, the mind-set of the period.
The role of religion is a curious one; there are many expostulations to God, in the stories. These are post-Communist.
I wonder do they read as a little self-consciously apparent?
Are the stories part of the new movement to re-establish a continuous Romanian identity, that had just been interrupted for a time?

What becomes clear through the reading is the seamless identity we all wear and are part of: here we all are, with all our hopes, woes and lapses of understanding. The details may differ, but the responses are so very recognisable. And because we can identify, our hearts are also in these stories, as we respond to the same things they did.

The last chapter, Typewriter, brings the whole book into focus. I had begun to wonder at the book’s title, Men and Puppets. Well, here it was, spelled out.
I wrote, above, how the fickleness of officials is the fickleness of man; there is the fickleness of officials themselves, though. I also wrote of the State being just the background to people’s lives. So it was, but as they took on more responsibility, became adults, the State became a major interference in their lives. Take Ceausescu’s decree that all typewriters should be officially registered.
It smacks of a Nazi-era dictat, and it is little surprise we find a militia chief admiring Nazi-era tactics.
After the Fall of Ceausescu, the militia excuse themselves as puppets of the regime. Officials, militia, puppets, anything rather than just ordinary people.

Daniel Dragomirescu has a masterful technique. The use of the motif of his meeting with a stray dog in a cemetery, in A Meeting with Cerebrus, becomes the key for opening up the whole part of his life at that period. It is this mastery that is the secret, it works behind the scenes to bring the chapters to life.

A most enjoyable book, full of the fears, hopes, loves and doubts of lives.