Christ, January always seems never ending doesn’t it? February-December seems to go by at break-neck pace, but January seems to take about three years to crawl to a finish.
I think it’s the fact that we have nothing to look forward to that make it seem so long, we’re just getting over the hangover from Christmas and New Year, and Easter is just a speck on the horizon, not to mention the constant bad weather, January is the Morrissey of the months.
However, if January is Morrissey, then February is Robert Smith, it’s still miserable except now it’s shorter.
Mum rang, Auntie Julie still has the sling on her arm to no one’s surprise.
‘She said the doctor had never seen a break as bad, she can’t even knit now.’ She sighed.
‘She was in the middle of knitting you a jumper, as well!’
I have never felt so happy about broken arms than I am now, Auntie Julie’s knitting is famously horrific.
I remember a few Christmases ago, she knitted me the worst jumper I’ve ever seen; in fact, it was worst than that. It was the worst item of clothing I’ve ever seen.
It was a striped jumper, which is a bad enough start, but each stripe was a different colour, each one brighter and more appalling than the last. I’m talking neon green next to salmon pink. The worst part is, I had to wear it at last once to not seem ungrateful, whereupon I discovered that it was not only ugly, but horrendously itchy as well, like each stitch was laced with fleas.
The first problem (of many) is that she’s colour-blind. So, all her creations end up looking like a unicorn has thrown up over a Christmas tree. Not to mention the itching which is like a bad case of the clap, although if you were wearing one of her jumpers the likelihood of you having sex drops to a level only discoverable by pot-holers.
Tom has been uncharacteristically quiet recently. I’m starting to miss hearing about his holidays in the Cayman Islands, as at least they were a distraction from spell-checking a book on Russian history.
The Russian history books aren’t the worst though; you have not known boredom until you’ve had to trawl through a GCSE Algebra textbook for spelling mistakes.
Melanie at least offers some relief, and her conversation is sometimes worthwhile, today for instance we had a conversation about Monty Python, apparently her dad knew John Cleese’s ex-wife. ‘Which one?’ I asked, she rolled her eyes.
‘If I had a penny for every time, I heard that, I’d have nearly as much as his ex-wife got in the divorce.’
Oh, how we laughed, until Tom interrupted us. You know, thinking about Monty Python has made me realise that Tom reminds me a lot of Graham Chapman’s General character, but I digress, he was stood in his office door, with a cup of coffee in his ‘World’s Greatest Boss’ mug that Gary bought him a few years ago, he looked like a child who had just been told they couldn’t go to Disneyland.
‘Denver, a word.’
So, once again like a naughty schoolchild I slumped off to Tom’s office.
‘Everything alright, Tom?’ I asked, trying to sound concerned.
‘No, as it happens. Not alright in the slightest.’
‘Oh, what have I done now?’
‘What? Oh, nothing. It’s not you, it’s… something that may concern you though.’
‘Oh? Is Brendan coming back?’
Silence hung in the office; Tom coughed awkwardly.
‘Unfortunately, no. Not for now anyway. I know that may cause you some upset, but I’ve got my balls in a George Foreman grill right now.’
There’s an image that isn’t going to be out of my head anytime soon. I had guessed it might be a while until Brendan was back, and, I confess, I have enjoyed seeing him outside work a lot more than at work, so I wasn’t all that fussed.
‘So, is Brendan sacked?’
‘No. Not yet anyway, I’m really going to bat for him, but these things are difficult. Not to mention Gary is causing us some problems.’
‘Oh, Christ. Hasn’t he gone back under his bridge yet?’
‘No, quite the opposite. He’s considering suing the company for unfair dismissal. My superiors are not best pleased about this mess.’
I was not surprised that Gary would try this, appalled yes, but not surprised.
‘Look, Tom. All of this really isn’t my business, I appreciate the update on Brendan, but I can’t see how telling me this is helping.’
I really was trying not to sound callous. There are moments when I can see that Tom is a decent man in a less than decent world, no matter how much he bores me. But I was just there to do my job.
‘You’re right. I’m just so frustrated with it all, Denver. I didn’t like the way he leered at people either, God, he made my skin crawl, but I seem to be born with a predisposition to be nice to people, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt. In many ways, I wish I was like you. Cold, and distant. No offence.’
‘None taken.’ I genuinely meant these words, in all my years working here, that was the most human Tom had ever been, and he could have said much worse about me.
‘Oh, Denver…’ he said as I was turning to leave.
‘Thank you for the card and flowers. They meant a lot.’
I could almost see a tear forming in his eye as he said that. Poor guy, he didn’t need this shit right now.
I left the office to return to my desk, Melanie was craftily craning her neck to try and overhear what was being said.
‘It’s rude to eavesdrop.’ I said with a grin.
‘Didn’t sound like it was worth hearing anyway.’ She replied, with the tone of a cheeky schoolgirl, trying to sound like she doesn’t care that you caught her smoking.
‘You’re right. Just middle-management bullshit. Fancy a cuppa?’
‘Oh, go on then, I suppose I’m not the new girl anymore.’
I made two cups of tea, before returning to my work, I think I’m starting to enjoy Melanie’s company, I certainly enjoy her company more than her tea.
My local pub has re-opened under new management. To celebrate I stayed home and ordered pizza. Back to the Future was showing on TV for the 1000th time this year. I like Back to the Future, but I can’t help thinking the constant re-runs do it no favours. Especially when it’s broadcast about as often as the news.
I also started a new draft of my screenplay, 13th times the charm, that’s how the saying goes, right?
Got a double whammy of bad news today. Firstly, my mum rang and told me that Uncle Jimmy is coming over from Ireland, and he’s staying with me while he passes through, great Mum, I wasn’t aware I was running a fucking hotel.
My day got even worse when I arrived at the office and discovered that Tom is on holiday, and his cover is Sebastian, an arrogant ponce with the look of a man who wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up and is somewhat disappointed that he ended up as a regional manager of an educational publishing company.
Sebastian has never liked me. I know as much because he overheard me criticising his books once, you see there are two type of people who work for this company, the people who want to be writers, and the people who have been writer’s, but their work is generally better used as wallpaper than as reading material, and Sebastian is almost certainly in the latter camp.
‘Oh, Denver. You’re still, here are you?’ he sneered as I walked in the office.
‘Hello, Sebastian. Still not written the novel of a generation then?’ His rat-like face dropped into a scowl and he slammed his door. At least he won’t talk to me.
Melanie has a dog now as well. We spent our lunch comparing pictures of dogs on our phones, she has a small dog, I think it’s a Jack Russell called Chip. My dogs got a new name now, it’s now called: ‘Get down, you bastard!’
Joy of joys, Jimmy has arrived.
He’s an odd bloke, is Jimmy. Wherever he goes he always carries a carrier bag, sometimes containing the most random items, the contents of his bag this time were: a screwdriver, a newspaper from 2016, a bobble hat, and of course, four cans of Guinness.
‘I brought it from home, the shite they serve here is nothing like the real stuff.’
I don’t want you to think I’m being stereotypical here, hell, my Mum is Irish, but Jimmy is exactly what a cartoon Irish man would be, drunk, blue and as thick as two short planks.
He also has something in common with Tom, in that he too enjoys telling rambling, pointless stories, except Jimmy’s are even more incoherent, as he’s often drunk and the drunker he is, the more Irish he becomes.
I did the sensible thing before he arrived and hid my supply of whiskey, another one of his quirks is necking a bottle of single malt and wailing out Irish folk songs into the wee small hours. I remember one year, when I was 16, he came ‘round and almost started a riot down our street. He’d been at the Glenmorangie and was giving us a tone-deaf rendition of Danny Boy when Frank from next door started banging on our door, luckily Jimmy’s a smart bastard and he soon had Frank downing whiskey with him, I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Luckily, he’s only here today and tomorrow, it’s the first time in years I’ve been actively looking forward to Valentine’s Day.
Like a tornado in a trailer park, Jimmy has blown through my life and taken any trace of civilisation with him.
I awoke this morning to find my living room strewn with cans, Jimmy passed out in the toilet, and the dog passed out in the kitchen. The stupid Mick had only gone and fed the dog whiskey.
After an expensive trip to the vets I came home just about ready to boot Jimmy back to Dublin, to find my house spotless, no sign of any mess having ever been there, and Jimmy waiting on the sofa with his carrier bag, ready to go.
‘Ah, there ya are. I was after rounding up a search party. How’s the four-legged friend?’
‘Alright, Jimmy. No thanks to you.’
‘I saved that mutt’s life, so I did. It knocked over me whiskey bottle and started drinking, I couldn’t bear seeing good whiskey being wasted, so I finished the bottle before he could. Anyways, I got so bored waiting for ya that I tidied up, place was a mess, mind. Your mother must do her nut in when she sees it.’
‘Speaking of Mum, are you going to see her?’ I said, eager to get rid of him.
‘Obviously I am lad. Do you really think I’d not go see my little sister while I was in the area?’
I offered him a lift, but he declined, opting instead to get a taxi, saving me from being in his company for another thirty minutes, he really can be considerate when he wants to be.
I celebrated Valentine’s Day in my traditional manner, on my own with a bottle of whiskey, and Western films, I think I passed out mid-way through Hang ‘Em High.
I had made the mistake of logging onto Facebook, and that made me feel sicker than the whiskey had, there you have it, love is worse for your health than alcohol.
You might get a hangover in the morning, but it’s certainly easier to handle than a divorce.
Terrible day today, it’s been ten years since Amy died.
Amy was my girlfriend, back in Manchester; in fact, she was more than that, she was my soul mate, the only person I’ve ever felt I was capable of loving.
We met at uni in Manchester, she was an art student, and I was studying English, between drinking sessions at the student union. Our paths crossed in the film society, she sat next to me during a showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we got chatting afterwards.
In case the past few months worse of ramblings didn’t give it away, I’m not one who believes in things like love at first sight, but with Amy, it was close. After meeting during the social, we organised our first date and we were inseparable from there.
You think you can move on eventually, but it always sticks in the back of your mind. We had just had an argument, she drove off, and got jack-knifed by a lorry.
When something like that happens, you blame yourself, and I’ve never really stopped blaming myself to this day. Maybe if I’d listened, rather than being stubborn, she’d still be here, but such feelings are as pointless as they are heart-breaking. We can’t change the past, after all.
I’d like to say I’ve moved on, but I can’t. That’s why I’m here, in this job. After she died, everything about my home town just reminded me of her, I packed up my stuff and moved, and here I am, still thinking of her, still missing her.
I had the day off work and watched Love Actually, her favourite film, just to feel a little bit closer to her.
Sebastian is still lurking around the office like a bad smell.
‘I was thinking we should all go out for a drink, guys what do you think?’ He said as we settled in, he was annoyingly upbeat, leaning against the water cooler, with a smug smile plastered across his face.
‘Thanks, but I’d rather have a razor-wire colonoscopy.’ Came my measured reply, he would not be easily defeated however, and had managed to convince Melanie to go for a drink by the end of the day. Tom’s back tomorrow, I never thought I’d be looking forward to seeing that gormless nitwit but here we are.
Melanie brought in some muffins she had baked, they were delicious, even the raisin ones she had snuck in, it takes real skill to bake something with raisins that tastes nice.
We had a nice chat about pets, I told her about my dog, and she talked about her old cat.
‘She’s going blind bless her. She spends most of her days whining.’
‘She sounds like my mother.’ Melanie let out a laugh, the kind of laugh you can’t fake, her head leaning back, her bright eyes glimmering with mischievous glee, white teeth glimmering beneath the flickering office light above her desk. This caused Sebastian to slam his office door, I had forgotten that fun is not allowed in his office. I would occasionally catch him glaring at me through the glass walls of his office, I would smile smugly and wave. It is my life’s goal to break the pompous twat.
As we were leaving, he tried half-heartedly to give a farewell address, after he’d finished his self-aggrandising, I piped up with one last dig for the road.
‘I’d like to say it’s been nice working with you. I’d like to, but I can’t.’ Melanie looked shocked at how I spoke to my supposed superior, I got a text later that night, after she’d been for a drink with him, it simply read: ‘now I understand.’
Ah, glorious day, Sebastian has gone! It was such a comfort to hear Tom’s holiday stories.
He’d been to South Wales in his caravan, in February! Bloody idiot. What’s worse is, he took his kids, I’m sure that’s reason enough for child services to get involved, it just cruel to take kids to Wales at the best of times.
My excitement wasn’t to last long though, as I found that we had some new textbooks ready for publishing. These new history textbooks, which cover new periods of history only recently added to the syllabus. Same shit, different dead people.
I got home to find the dog had torn a hole in his bed, the smug sod is currently laying on my bed, like the cat who got the cream, except in this case, he’s the dog who got the bed.
I booked some holiday time at work, a week in Dublin for St Paddy’s Day next month and two weeks in Tenerife in June, just me, myself and I. Just how I like it.
I almost don’t really want to go to Dublin; especially not at that time, but there’s a part of me that feels that it’s a duty of mine as a sort-of Irishman to go there for at least one St Paddy’s Day. Maybe I’ll get lucky and avoid the crowds, although that seems unlikely.
Mum is always saying how she wants to go home for St Paddy’s Day, but the thought of spending a week with her makes me want to gnaw my hands off. It’s bad enough having the possibility of bumping into Uncle Jimmy, but as long as I stay out of his local, it’s unlikely I’ll see him.
Brendan and Tracy are looking after the dog, he took a real shine to Tracy when they visited, so maybe he’ll behave, for once.
Went out to the pub after work, for a change. It was quiz night, joy of joys. Tom insisted on being ‘team captain’ which essentially meant he answered the questions, while Melanie and I had a few drinks.
She’s even more of a laugh when she’s had a drink, teasing Tom for his thinning hair and nerdy wealth of pointless knowledge. While Tom finished third in the quiz on his own, I offered up a football answer and that was the extent of my input, as me and Melanie polished of two bottles of Rosé.
Normally, this kind of thing would be alien to me, but there’s something about Melanie’s company that really brings me out of my shell, no matter how well I barricade myself in.
While Tom was busy with his quiz, me and Melanie put the world to rights. The conversation consisted of a bit of everything, from pets to politics. She has the kind of friendly face that makes conversation easy, like she’s inviting you to tell her your life story; I stopped short of doing that, I don’t want to scare her off, after all.
I did find out more about her though, about her life before moving here, she’d lived in Liverpool, and had a job at the Beatles museum there. ‘If I never hear Yellow Submarine again, it’ll be too soon.’ Was one of her recollections of the experience.
Things get blurry around the time I was banging out Livin’ on a Prayer on karaoke after losing a bet, another unusual occurrence for me, but I get the feeling there was more wine drank, as a marching band is currently playing at full volume inside my skull.
Happy Birthday to me! What was my present you ask? Well, a flooded kitchen of course.
I came downstairs, now a whole 36 years young to find my kitchen knee deep in water, with the dog, doggy paddling around the greyish, pungent liquid.
So I rang a plumber, who – as you can imagine – got stuck in traffic and was two hours late, he told me it’s backed-up liquid from my washing machine, and would I mind taking out a second mortgage to pay for his services.
Oh well, at least it gave me an excuse to call mum and tell her to stay at home, our conversations are always the highlight of my week. Here was the latest entry in what I like to call: ‘Banal Conversations with My Mother.’
‘Hi Mum, sorry but my kitchen is flooded, you’ll have to come around another day.’
‘Ooh, what have you done now?’
‘Why do you think I did it?’
‘Well, you’re useless aren’t you. Mind you, you’re a man, I remember when your father tried cooking, he ended up nearly burning the house down.’
‘I find it hard to believe that Dad was sober for long enough to cook.’
‘You know that he never drank before dinner. Oh, Happy Birthday by the way, how does being 36 feel?’
‘Like I’m a day closer to death.’
‘Oh Denver, this is why you don’t have a girlfriend, you’re such a misery.’
‘If I were happy all the time, I wouldn’t be any less ugly.’
‘Well you do take your fathers looks, unfortunately.’
‘Yeah, thanks Mum, hang on the plumber wants me, I’ll call you back.’
She wonders why I don’t call her more often; it feels like my mere existence is an excuse to nag me, maybe that’s just the mothers curse.
Anyway, it’s almost 7 now, and I’m going out with Brendan, to drink until I forget how old I am, which at my age shouldn’t be too difficult.
Ow, everything hurts. Why did I think tequila was a good idea?
Sebastian is stalking around the office again, like an insufferable Dracula, who sucks joy instead of blood.
He was there to complete an ‘employee evaluation’. In other words, he was there to gloat over us about how he could do better, and I can tell him where to shove his employee evaluation.
I was the last person on his list that day. ‘Next victim!’ Brendan shouted across the office as he left, with a knowing smile.
I mouthed ‘you prick’ as I brushed past him and knocked on the office door.
Sebastian was sat behind the desk, like the world’s smuggest turd, and Tom was sat in the corner, staring at his shoes.
‘Ah Denver, please take a seat.’
‘Where should I take it? The park? Disneyland?’
‘Very funny. Now you know that our aim is to produce the most efficient academic books…’
‘Efficient at boring people, or at actually educating them?
‘This job is not a joke, Denver.’
‘Sorry if spell-checking a book on a bunch of dead buggers doesn’t thrill me to my very soul.’
‘Even if it doesn’t thrill you, we must strive to be the best.’
‘I think I do my best Sebastian; it’s hardly rocket science is it?’
‘Well, I don’t think your best is good enough, Denver.’
‘Hang on, Seb.’ Tom suddenly piped up.
‘Denver is one of the offices’ best, he never misses a deadline and he’s very popular with his fellow employees.’
‘This is an office environment, not a Miss World pageant.’ Sebastian hissed.
‘His popularity means very little. His output is in the bottom 5% of the company, so if he is your best, I am very worried.’
Tom sighed, forlornly, I could see that he was really trying to help.
‘Look, Sebastian. I know we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye, and I really don’t help myself with what I say; but I do really want this job, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think I’m bad at it, despite the statistics and jargon you have. I can only say that I’ll try my best to improve.’
‘You had better improve quickly, Mr MacCrum, you’re on thin ice.’
I left the meeting, badly wishing that Sebastian would one day literally walk across thin ice.