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A fine day with a deep blue sky and some fleecy high level cloud. Great when you have time on your hands but having to trudge four miles to work is a rather wearing prospect. Needless to say, I was sweating. As I strode along the old canal footpath I could see a bunch of workmen ahead. Like all British workmen you spot in the wild, they were not working. They sat idly in the shade, observing my approach and long experience told me I was going to receive a comment or two. It's the British way. "He should be just like us" Said one of them, clearly not impressed with my individualism or perceived character. One of his colleagues agreed. Really? Just like you lot? The thought occurred to me as to what the world would be like if everyone conformed to their working class normality. No music, no radio, no television, no pubs or clubs, no films to dazzle us with special effects, no computer games to waste our spare time, and no-one to make the booze they might well be waiting to consume on the weekend. Nothing to look forward to but the opportunity to pass comment on passers-by. What kind of world is that to be proud of? Nature always finds strength in diversity. With good reason. I like my individuality and why on earth would I want to be merely one of a crowd of layabouts, anonymous, ordinary, just another non-entity the world is full of. Ah, some might say, and some do, but I failed. Yes. Correct. My plans for super-duper-stardom in my youngers days quickly got dashed on the rocks of reality. But hey, I tried. That makes me an also-ran, not a spectator. Which would you rather be? Music I saw a review in my local paper for a Judas Priest album. I've never really been a fan of their music but I respect their ability and longevity. Thus when I read the gushing praise I thought it might be worth catching up with where they are now. So I purchased their latest offering and lo and behold, it was as you might expect. Well performed, excellent production, a work by a band who know what they're doing. Then having finished listening, it occurred to me that I hadn't remembered any of the songs. It was nothing but an album of heavy metal wallpaper, making all the right sounds, doing all the right moves, but a production line of riffs and beats that pretty much failed to engage with my love of tracks that stand out for indefinable reasons. Sadly I doubt I'll feel the need to play it again. Compare that to another performer, Florence and the Machine. I was unaware of their existence until they featured in a televised event on the Beeb. I was impressed by the female vocalist's energy, her willingness to reach out to her fans (quite literally, it caused a near panic among the security crew), and the songs were interesting, varied, and I imagine for some, about relevant subjects. Buy her latest album? Oh yes, and I wasn't disappointed. Three tracks stood out, Ship To Wreck, What Kind of Man, and Queen of Peace. I still hum those tracks to myself regularly. That's success in music as I see it. Sorry Mr Halford, I know you're delivering what your fans want, but it's just a day job for you, isn't it? Connected I stopped at a Subway earlier for a quick snack and sat as I often do facing the outside world so I can watch people going about their irrelevant business outside. It struck me that everyone, literally everyone, in my field of view of the busy Saturday morning high street was staring down at a device in the palm of their hand. I suppose it's a sort of security blanket, making them feel that they're part of a group, that they're in on what is going on around the world, even if it amounts to videos of people falling over or endless sequences of pets caught mimicking humanity against their will. A whole crowd of spectators, going around spectating, because it seems they have nothing else in their lives. "Your phone is rubbish" one work colleague once mentioned when I checked my device for the unrealistic prospect of having received contact from the outside world. Yeah? Really? So what?
Every day at work begins with a team briefiing. Slowly at first, then in a great rush as the canteen empties, the shift personnel gather at the allotted place to discover who is on the premises, who is doing what for the next eight hours, and what will happen if certain lazy activities continue. The manager calls for silence so he can call the register. After a five second wait he calls again with a stern stare at the knot of youngsters who don't understand what 'quiet please' means. Eventually the buzz of conversation subsides to whispers and the register is called. "Gary?" The manager spoke aloud without looking up from his list. With no answer, he calls again, this time looking around in case Gary is either too busy whispering to his mates or has failed utterly to comprehend that he has to acknowledge his presence. In this case I did the decent thing and reminded him that Gary was on holiday. The manager sighed as he realised his list of work allocation was completely ruined. He had no choice but to note down the lack of Gary's in the warehouse and submit to my superior know;ledge of who was standing around in plain sight. Sometimes we have to confirm that the person is on the premises for them. There's always one or two who aren't where they're supposed to be. Punkman, our resident refugee from society, made a joke of it a few days ago. After each name he said "Yeah, he's here". Yet when his own name was called he stayed silent, failing utterly to remember that he was supposed to answer. So I said aloud "Yeah, he's here". It's as well Punkman has a sense of humour. On the day the manager decided that Punkman was to be in charge of a team he muttered "Let the facism begin...". Talking About Fascism Islamic State are back in the news again with a trip down to the local museum where objects of antiquity are being smashed with sledgehammers as 'false idols'. Fundamentalists do seem amenable to this sort of behaviour - the Taliban dynamited antiquities and vandals in Egypt swept through a museum in Cairo not so long ago. Quite apart from the loss of pricelss articles of regional interest, is Islamic State so feeble that relics whose religious significance vanished hundreds if not thousands of years ago is somehow some kind of threat to their ugly regime? I suppose that's an obvious thing to ask. It does strike me however that the non-entities who smashed statues energetically really wouldn't know a false idol if they saw one. That is after all why they've been sucked into a religious movement and told what to do. They simply obey because they don't know any better. News that Islamic State is opening schools in Syria doesn't fill me with optimism either. Talk about the blind leading the blind. Working In The Jungle The big rumour at work right now is the impending fashion choices being made for teams. Already the quality control people sport a snazzy purple high-vis. What amuses people is the assertion that those of us on the hygiene team will be allocated pink high-vis vests. Hard Hat refuses to believe this slight on his honour, manhood, self respect, his very identity, can possibly be true. Funnily enough, those of us on the bottom rank of warehouse status often find ways to gauge each other. I for instance got quite a boost when I was trained up on pallet trucks. Earlier this week a team leader started approaching me with news that complaints had been made against me. No-one had said anything to me of course, but that wasn't the point. Eventually the leader in question ordered me off the truck despite my tantrums and logical arguments, but no matter, my line manager supported me. That's how hard work affects your status. There's always a testing period between the envious and the grateful. On some days I have no choice but to get a pump truck, a sort of parcel trolley you push, pull, and swear at, and do the same job without the assistance of electrical power. It's called manual work. It's also considered by many the sign of a lowly person who does not have the influence to be authorised to drive trucks. "You got a license for that?" One wag called from the gloom of a container being unloaded, when he saw me hauling a pump truck across the warehouse floor. Funny. No matter. Give it a day or two and I'll be whizzing around on a powered truck again instead of heaving boxes out of a container. At least until those pesky pink high-vis vests get issued, at which point no-one will have any sympathy. Day Of The Week That's enough about work. Today is Sunday and there's a clear blue sky out there..... Erm.... Bye.