11 Feb 2007
Surely it is still supposed to be winter? Surely the weather conditions should be a much closer match of my mood? Out of the warm house, away from the smells of lightly burnt toast and smouldering incense sticks, at nine in the morning on the way to eight hours of correcting other people’s mistakes (people who are not paid as much as me and so do not have to care) stepping into blazing sunshine, no wind, light birdsong and the fantastic motionless dance of mocking flower heads. Where are the cascading sheets of rain blown in, around and under my jacket as I slip and slide on an icy path and see nothing around me other than grey sky, wooden skeletons and smeared earth? When it is dour outside it is much easier to enjoy being dour inside. This warming of the planet is making it much harder to bear the loathsome lethargy of working mornings. The realisation that a sunny gardenscape heightens my internal melancholia makes me even more miserable. Perhaps I will start recycling more. Do my bit towards dealing with the carbon levels in the atmosphere.
“Morning Bruce! Lovely one ain’t it?” says Fred the ever-optimistic postman. He says this to my backside because I am leaning over the driver’s seat trying to grab the split wooden handle of a hammer I know is somewhere in the passenger foot-well. I’m sure I am about to grasp it but I pretend to flounder a little more, for dramatic effect, in the hope that Fred will get on and do his job and deliver his letters and leave me alone. It does not work. “Lost something?” he inquires just as I realise that the hammer is not there and I have indeed lost it. Still resting one elbow on the driver’s seat I raise my head to curse and the morning sun bounces off the wing-mirror directly into my eyes. My curse turns into a resigned sigh just as Fred asks,”What’re looking for? Your sense of purpose? Ha Ha!” I squeeze my frame back out through the car door whilst thinking how fortunate it is that I could not lay my hands on my ball-pen hammer as otherwise, with great power driven by a sense of righteousness, I might be about to imbed it into my postman’s cranium.
I turn about and face Fred. He is smiling fiercely so I try to dredge up some form of facial arrangement that might be mistakenly interpreted as good humour and I suspect that I fail but Fred is only five foot nothing so he can barely see up to the giddy heights where my lips refuse to loosen. “Good morning Fred. If you must know, if you really must know, I am looking for my hammer.”
“O right. Found it have you?”
“What do you need a hammer for on a glorious morning like this, eh? If I were you I’d forget about the hammer and drive on to work and come back later and do all the hammering you want then. In fact, I have a spare hammer. I could drop it off tomorrow morning if you like. What do you want to hit?”
I am fully aware that I am experiencing an irrational descent of my mood into a dark, underground region where murderous intent lies in wait for the border patrols of reason to have a bad day. I look at the dry stone wall opposite me but I can still see the top of Fred’s bobbing head and so I look sideways along the wall to the big blue tractor that is digging up the road and, judging by the fast flowing river escaping into the graveyard, the mains water pipe as well. Then there is a sound that reminds me of the church’s wrought iron gate squealing on its hinges as the wind blows it to and fro because someone did not properly push home the hook. I am about to interrupt Fred to ask his opinion of what this noise can be but then I realise it’s me. I’m grinding my teeth together with such vehemence that sparks might be flying.
I look skywards and instead of heavy and tumultuous clouds, which would be fitting, all I can see is flawless blue sky. It is all too much. I look downwards and all I can see is Fred. “….said her cat has never been the same since but who can blame it, what with the size of that chicken. No, wait, it was a cock wasn’t it? Heh! So, what’s the hammer for?”
When the Titanic fist slipped from its dry dock into the merciless Atlantic Ocean the ship builders did not have to cut the fifteen sturdy lines holding her still all at once. When you are dealing with the mass of potential energy that a huge body such as the Titanic exerts on its surroundings you only need it to shift in any direction a little to start the inevitable and complete relocation of said object from here to there. They had cut only three ropes before the ship tipped the scales and broke free all on her own, rending apart the remaining twelve ropes. The same is true of any object that dwarfs its surroundings; it only needs a small shove and suddenly it’s developing a deadly momentum all by itself. My brow furrowed and my mood shifted.
“Well Fred, and not that it’s any of your business but…actually, hang on. I’ve been meaning to say this to you for ages. You’re a postman, you deliver letters and despite your physical similarity to a leprechaun, that is all you deliver. No happy tidings, no bloody rainbows and no bastard pots of gold. Just the fucking mail, okay?! If you must know, I need my hammer to hit my fucking starter motor, which is shagged at the moment, so my bastard car might start and I can fuck off out of your way to work. Clear?”
The accelerating prow of my malevolent angst smashed into the waters of a good upbringing, showering Fred’s face in distemper and several large droplets of spittle, and came to a dull thud of a stop. We stood in the lane looking at each other. Fred looked up. His face lost its openness and clouded with disapproval. I looked down and could feel my arched eyebrows relax to a straight line and the blush begin to colour my cheeks. Bugger. I can’t even muster a satisfactory rage. What is the point? Here it comes. The apology, the smiling, the second apology, the grovel, smile, sorry Fred and the inevitable strengthening of the bond between us. At least as far as Fred will be concerned. Every morning will be so much worse from now onwards. His very walk will begin to anger me uncontrollably. An utterly futile anger, like sodden gunpowder in a sodden gun made out of sodden toilet paper rolls. Fired by a pacifist.
I feel my entire being become limp; soul, body, spirit, everything. I look down at my hands as they fiddle with each other like a squirrel checking a nut for potential flaws. Despite being over a foot taller than Fred we both know that he is the bigger man at this moment. The torment, the self-pity, the indigestible morsel of humble pie which I’m choking myself on; if only it would rain. That’s the only thing that would cheer me but look at the sky, and I look up again and so does Fred, it’s bluer than Homer Simpson’s trousers. “It is a lovely day, eh, Bruce?” says Frederick. What an utter bastard! And then there is the noise like the heavens splitting asunder, an almighty crash, screeching, spinning metal grating on dry stone wall and lumps of tarmac flying through the air above our heads. Our eyes snap from the sky to the road and we see the blue tractor on its side, spinning in a circle sending stone and road through windows of cars and houses, into trees and straight at us. Fred reacts first, pushing me into the open car door and then diving into the foot-well after me. A large lump of granite lands on his post-trolley, collapsing it. I feel a smile welling up from my very core. Fred is whimpering and holding onto the brake pedal for dear life. My smile moves faster through my gut. I look over the car seat at the blue spinning-top that stops suddenly. The wailing of machinery stops. My smile stops. It falters at my throat, finding inadequate motivation to manifest itself properly. Damn! Typical.
Then the earth wails, the tractor jumps five feet into the air and from the ground shoots a torrent of water in a funnel, looking for a moment like a furious typhoon. Water is pumped into the sky. Men and women scream, Fred curls tighter into a ball and as I pull myself from the car I can feel rain on my face. Followed by the smile. I’ve had worse mornings.