On Thursday 19th of May 2016 at 8pm I will be reading my stories at The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, Sheffield. Come along and say hi. I hear the food is amazing and they pull a cracking pint too. See you there.
I am at my desk. I hear one person cheerfully say ‘good morning’ to another person, ask them how they are doing, and the other person spreads an expression of relief across their shiny face and they say, ‘It’s Friday!’.
The first person adopts a similar facial expression. The first person says, ‘We’ve made it!’ The other person laughs.
Then they both make a coffee and get stuck into spreadsheets, phone calls, stock taking, I.T. problems, agreeing with shockingly right-wing opinions that are not their own, googling girls in swimsuits, meetings, post-its, emails and a long, grinding commute home in terrible traffic.
I want to kill them.
I want to tear off my shirt, yodel incomprehensible vowels into the shocked silence and murder them in cold blood using the various implements and assorted office furniture that might come to hand in your typical, workplace-based, random act of violence.
I restrain myself, snap a pencil, carry on as normal.
The thing is, I’ve recently realised that I don’t fit into society and it’s both an epiphany and a heavy blow. Sure, I can blend in, fake it, eat a canape and laugh at a shit joke, but I don’t want to be there. In society. The realisation came when I asked myself, if I don’t want to be there, in that society, which society do I want to be in?
And I realised I didn’t want to be anywhere, in any society.
My workplace is packed with wankers and backstabbers, racists and bigots, men pissing themselves laughing over YouTube footage of people getting shot or blown up or run over. Men openly airing the opinion that we should torpedo migrant boats and nuke Syria and bring back hanging.
There are some women, but not enough to tilt things favourably back in a sane direction. The few women are trapped, high up on one end of the seesaw, while a couple of hundred men sit on the other end, gibbering and rubbing their cocks.
I am at odds with everyone I work with. I don’t fit in.
So I thought about what it would be like to work one of these collective spaces, where artists and writers rent a desk and sip coffee whilst brainstorming, perhaps playing ping pong on their lunch break and listening to Radio 6 Music as they tap the keys of their Macbook Airs or create bright prints to grace office lobbies. But I realised I hate these people too; so fresh, so cool, so pierced, so groomed, so tattooed, so youthful, so nervous of the large balding middle-aged man glowering in the corner, reeking of last night’s alcohol and despising millennials, coffee-on-the-go and youth culture in general.
I’d be at odds with these bright young things. I wouldn’t fit in.
So who is my ‘tribe’?
I had to think about it hard before I realised.
Ray Mears. That’s who.
Look at him. He only comes on the telly or the radio to promote some new show or book. He doesn’t want to be there, you can tell, you can see it in his eyes. He doesn’t want to be perched on a sofa with a gaggle of screeching media types under blazing studio lighting while they ask him shit-thick questions about eating poisonous mushrooms or wiping his arse on an owl. He wants to be under the stars, drinking tea that tastes of ponds by the side of a fire, listening to night sounds.
I am of the tribe of people that want all the other people to just fuck off.
I like passing members of my tribe. We nod. We say, ‘How do?’ without needing a reply. Then we do the polite thing and fuck off somewhere else, preferably in the opposite direction to the other person.
I don’t want to sit with people in a canteen, listening to their bullshit and their chewing noises, watching how they hold a knife and fork like a fucking four year old.
I don’t want to exchange pleasantries at the water cooler with someone who has opinions about Top Gear and drives a bright orange high-spec version of a Ford fucking Focus.
I don’t want to see pictures of anybody’s children or dogs or horses or mobile phone footage of their wife sucking them off.
I want them all to fuck off.
But that’s the problem.
Everyone else in the canteen are happy to watch each other eat with their mouths open.
Everyone else at the water cooler are cooing over pictures of babies or dogs or horses and they seem perfectly happy to appreciate Mrs Wilson’s admirable fellatio technique.
They’re content with their lot.
They fit in.
It’s me who needs to fuck off.
But fuck off where?
There’s nowhere for me to go.
In years past I’d have been spot-on for a sheep farmer or something, off on the hills with no cunt bothering me from one week to the next. Everyone did things on their own in the old days and only very occasionally got together to talk crap and drink cider or whatever, at summer fairs or a fucking good Wassailing or somesuch. That’s why they had so much fun at these rare meet-ups – it was a special thing, an event. Nowadays everyone gets shoved in a barn with strip lighting and a desk for five days a week with thirty people you hate and we’re told it’s not polite to cave someone’s skull in with a sellotape dispenser. Well I say ‘Fuck You’. Every sinew in my body is saying ‘lash out’ and ‘twat him’ in response to certain stimuli such as ridiculous political viewpoints and the buying of buns on birthdays. I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to be a part of anything.
I think I’ve become one of those rogue elephants that David Attenborough whispers about, a cantankerous bastard mooching about in the bushes, ready at a moments notice to thunder out and give some jolly tourists a proper twatting for getting too close.
The frustrating thing is, I don’t have an answer to my problem. I don’t know where to go, where to fit in. I’m not a team player. I don’t want to give orders and I sure as fuck do not want to take them, especially off some little prick who says ‘f’ instead of ‘th’ as in ‘finking out loud’ and ‘a rumble of funder’.
Dry stone waller.
I’d be good at that. Me, a pile of rocks and a flask. Happy as larry. People say, ‘ooh, but you’ll be outdoors all the time. What if it’s raining?’
Raining? A bit of fucking drizzle? That’s fuck all compared to an air conditioning turf war between a six foot tall ginger woman with no chin who weighs about seven stone and a thirty stone buffet bandit who wears a fleece to hide the giant gut hanging out from under his shirt. The extremes of temperature I go through in one day would probably kill the average dry stone waller.
Not much call for dry stone wallers though, not anymore.
Still, if I was a dry stone waller, I think I’d chisel messages on the stones. Telling what I feel, what I think. I wouldn’t ever meet the people who would read these messages – it might be two hundred years before any stone would be discovered or read, but that’s not the point. I could make myself be heard without having to listen to someone else then telling me about their pension, or their mobile phone tariff, or which godawful resort they are saving for all year to spend two weeks of their lives in.
Messages chiselled in stones, words carved in tree bark. Pebbles on a beach arranged into a sentence.
Distilling thoughts and ideas into something solid, something tangible.
Is that how books begin?
Maybe my ideal job is a writer. Maybe my tribe is the reader. Readers don’t go shouting their mouths off. Readers read. They think. Readers form opinion without feeling the need to force that opinion on every cunt and their mother.
That’s what writers do, to be fair, but at least we have the decency to keep our opinions pressed between pages, digital or otherwise, and you can always close a book or switch off a screen.
Maybe my society is an empty room and the people I like are happy in empty rooms too.
My Empty Room People, readers and thinkers, I salute you.