Back when I worked on the boats, at this time of year there would be a huge number of Christmas trees floating in the river. I’d have to keep an eye out as they could foul the engines. Hilarious to throw them in the river if you’re a drunk idiot, bothersome as hell to navigate around them if you’ve got a twin engined RIB.
This time of year was my best time of work on those boats, because it’s bloody freezing. I’d get home sometimes and lie in a hot bath for hours, topping up all the time yet still shivering if I got out. Most of the guides were mysteriously unavailable in the cold months so weirdly I got more hours than in sunny times. I didn’t care. I was happy to enthusiastically freeze for money. I wanted to earn. Plus I loved working that river. There’s plenty to see. The skies are amazing. The tides are so huge that there’s always something sucked into the mix. I saw all sorts floating in there. Dead rats. Doors. Balloons. Footballs. Chemical toilets. Empty fuel cans. Stuffed toys. Inflatable sheep. Huge planks. Scum. Loads of buoys… I used to haul buoys out all the time. Thankfully no dead bodies although many of my colleagues had seen them. There’s a community among Thames workers. I still think about how I loved that job. But… Personalities…
The way in which Christmas trees are dumped is a good illustration of how many people are encouraged to go blithely from festival to festival and lose the periods in between to thankless repetitive work. They cost a load of money. They feel like an important thing to have. Then as soon as the season is over we have to throw them away because of Twelfth Night.
And immediately the big supermarkets start hammering out Easter eggs in special deals. “Forget the periods in between, serf. Just work. Easter is coming! Buy chocolate and dream of your Easter bank holiday. Earn money! Swallow your pride! Buy chocolate things or whatever else we say you want, I dunno a pet rabbit? Rabbits are Easter! Buy stuff! Buy! Plus don’t forget Valentine’s Day! Make sure you can afford a big meal or some jewellery or something – anything – as long as it’s a little bit out of your budget otherwise you don’t love the person you say you love. Singles? We’ve got you covered! Horrible uncomfortable first date experiences!! Have a big mouth coming at you after a dull conversation! Just let it happen! Everyone else compromises! Compromise! Compromise!!”
I’ve got my nephew staying. He got a megabus from Aberdeen and then skateboarded from the coach station and arrived before I was awake, at about 6.50am. He’s 21. He went immediately this morning to the iconic skate park on the south bank, snapped his board, made some friends, replaced his snapped board cheaply, and got back to it. He came all the way down here in order to see the first ever large scale Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition in the UK.
It’s brilliant to spend time with someone from my own family who prioritises things that other people don’t. Yes, come to London to see an art exhibition, and then spend all your money immediately on a new skateboard! Both of those things are a better long-term investment than a Christmas tree.