Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Belligerence

There's a sort of arsey belligerence filtering through the air today. I was awoken at about 9am by the home phone ringing. For some reason I decided to answer, a decision I immediately regretted. It's always the same. You say hello, and then there's that little 2 second pause; just enough to make you realise that the person you're about to speak to is 'phoning from a call centre in New Delhi. "Hello, may I speak to Mr David Teel?" The script never changes. This is always the moment I realise for certain I'm talking to a cold-caller. No one calls me by my real name, David, unless I'm at the doctors, the dentist, the job centre or pass port control. "Brace yourself for questions about broadband", I thought


I usually ask if I can put them on hold. I then sit down at the piano and play something weird until they get bored and hang up. Sometimes they're still there 3 minutes later, so I'm forced to put them back on "hold" again. I enjoy playing these little games, it's so much more entertaining than saying no politely.

Today's caller caught me in bed, however, so I decided simply to repeat everything she said to me. It's the perfect outlet for my echolalia!

"Hello, may I speak to Mr. David Teel?"
"Hello, may I speak to Mr. David Teel?" I responded.

There was a stunned pause

"Is that Mr. David Teel?" she asked
"Is that Mr. David Teel?" I replied

Now, I've done this before, and I tell you it can go on for some time. Today's caller, however, was obviously already having a bit of a bad day, and wasn't interested in my hysterical goading. "Maybe that's Mr F*#k You!" she said, before hanging up. Belligerence, I tell you...

I then went to Highgate Tube. No one was at the ticket office and two out of the three ticket machines were broken. A huge queue of people was standing behind a poor woman who couldn't get her ten pound note to go into the machine properly. A gaggle of LU staff stood watching. No sense of urgency. No one rushed over to help her. It was obviously not their job's worth.

After buying my ticket, I went up to the gaggle, and asked why the ticket office was closed, why two out of three machines were broken, and why a cluster of LU staff were merely watching the mayhem. "It's the cuts" the woman said, belligerently, "the ticket office at Highgate now closes at 11am. We don't have the staff." "I'm sorry to hear that," I said "I used to like the staff." She smiled like a mother whose child has just loudly shat its pants, so I continued, "surely this places the emphasis on your trying to keep the machines in good nick?" "I'm sure someone will come and fix them at some point" came the belligerent response. I smiled like a mother whose child had just loudly shat its pants.

As I walked down the escalators, I wondered if this really is the way we want the cuts to affect us? Instead of taking it out on the government, we're punishing each other. Not a single person in that queue today wants Highgate station to be understaffed. No one wants LU staff to go without work, but if our discomfort is met by arsey belligerence, then a vicious cycle begins. We start to notice the little clusters of LU staff deliberately refusing to help. We get frustrated with the people who we feel are being jobsworths. We lash out. We shout. We get people sacked. I see it everywhere. I'm guilty of it myself. In the gym, phoning councils, in the queue for the job centre, even with my dealings with the London Pride charity. The first absolute casualty of this recession is politeness.

Having given up with people for today, I turned my attention to our little bee. Tash sent me a text last night, which correctly identified the creature as a Mason Bee. These fairly rare, solitary creatures apparently make perfect "garden pets" for children because they only sting when actually squeezed. A little more research, plus a 'phone call to a lovely beekeeper indicated that I had something of a problem, which put me in something of a quandary. It seems my little friend is actually a young queen, who has, by all accounts, already laid about 15 eggs in my television set.

The bee keeper was laughing hysterically when I started to explain what had happened. He'd never heard of a bee nesting in a telly before. I'd shut the window and the poor creature was getting rather frantic on the other side of the glass. It was breaking my heart.

He said he was pleased that I cared about the creature's well-being and reminded that bees are a protected species, and that my only option was to try and get the nest out of the telly and onto my window ledge. The bee's ferociously accurate sense of smell would guide her to the new location, where her family-rearing would hopefully continue.

I tried to ease the muddy, mulchy mess out of the two holes in the telly, but it immediately started to crumble. First dusty mud, then wax, then piles of perfect Easter yellow honeycomb. I felt like a murderer and 'phoned my Mum, who suggested I pour all the detritus into the clean canister of a large felt tip pen, which I did. I then put the pen onto the window ledge under a brick, and I hope to God the bee will return, tidy up the proper mess I've made, and get on with raising her children on the other side of the kitchen window!

How much mess can come from one bee?!

The rest of my day was spent in the City of London. I went to Postman's Park to read and photograph the peculiar inscriptions there. Pure Victorian sentimentality; ceramic odes to people who'd died during acts of bravery, which make hysterical reading for 21st Century cynics.

"Sarah Smith, Pantomime artiste at Prince's Theatre, died of terrible injuries received when attempting, in her inflammable dress, to extinguish the flames which had engulfed her companion, January 24th, 1863."


Someone had scrawled something in felt tip pen on the bench below, which felt rather more heartfelt;

"Eddie was here. Gone but not forgotten. Died trying to save a woman trapped in the Thames. Couldn't swim himself."

Or was it a joke? Remember that I don't tend to understand jokes!

I went from Postman's Park to St Olave's, Pepys' Church, to see if there were any plaques or gravestones worth setting to music there, before heading, via Bunhill Burial Ground in Old Street, to my friend, Nicky's house, where I met her delightful son, Oscar for the first time. We had tea and biscuits, and she seemed embarrassed that he was crying a little bit, but babies cry! I suppose it's the mother's prerogative to want their's to be the well-behaved angel.

On the way home, I found out that the Pride London people no longer think I have the time to make a film for them. Interesting that my own opinion on this matter seems so irrelevant! Slightly angry, I went for a run, and didn't stop until I'd run around the circumference of the entire Heath. A first for me... about 6 miles.

Friday 3rd March, 1661, and Pepys was still in Portsmouth. He started the day with an early morning walk around the town. The toads that he took with him decided it would be a great idea to attempt to get him the freedom of the town, but the Mayor, Richard Lardner, was unsurprisingly, having none of it.

Pepys then oversaw the payment of various sailors, before taking a coach to Petersfield. The day, from Pepys’ perspective was rather spoilt by the arsey belligerence of Mr Creed, who’d accompanied him on the journey. Pepys’ insult is worthy of Shakespeare referring to; “the exceeding unmannerly and most epicure-like palate of Mr Creed.” Ouch!

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