Old friends and old jobs

Towards the end of my doomed stint shouting at people on boats, I would tell the passengers about this train platform at Blackfriars where I’m standing. It’s the only station on the underground that crosses a river. “When you’re waiting for a train you can see over this ancient waterway while you wait. But it’s Southern Rail, so you’ll be there until you die because the trains are always delayed forever. You’re better off on this boat, frankly. At least we’re moving and the skipper showed up for work. We’ve even got twin engines.” Ha ha etc.

This is the first time I’ve actually stood on the platform since it was built. Grey sky and this is my view. The train will take me back to Brighton. It’s nice to be here.

I’m thinking about old dayjobs. I used to be that river tour guide. And before I came here today I was in a school in North London, running probably the last workshop I’ll ever teach about getting year 10 to write their first CV. The company has dissolved. We did it anyway for our relationship with the school.

It was carnage. They learnt something. I said at least one “fuck” and one “shit”. I connected with them, sure, and they definitely learnt something. But I’m not a traditional teacher. “I don’t often get to go into schools and do this kind of work … but I’m here now and I hope I can leave having helped you maximise your chances of a happy and successful working life.” Who knows? The students were ace.

I’ve done some random shit over the decades though. Frankly I love doing random shit. Random shit just makes me happy. But I never thought, having gone in quest of random, that I’d be a careers adviser. I answered a million questions to a computer at university back then and it told me I should be an architect. “Architect” was pretty much the only creative profession considered legitimate enough by the people who programmed the career machine back then so I guess it was as right as it could’ve been. Even if architecture is mostly maths and the drawing ain’t creative drawing… I tell you, there would be some very odd shaped buildings if I’d obeyed that machine.

But I threw in my lot with the randomers. If I have a tribe, that’s my tribe. I could never recommend the quest for chance to anybody that isn’t me. This unpredictable working existence – when it’s functioning it suits me very much. The last two days have felt like a return to the adrenaline kicks that make me feel like myself.

I sat with friends after work who have similar perverted predilections. I was in a hurry, as my train was booked and the cat will be very hungry for food and snuggles. All too short. John is an old friend from Factory days, on Bankside for his birthday at late notice. A joy to hang out in a pub with a friend. Normality? Closer.

When we did our swansong run of Factory Hamlet, John learnt the part, worked it in his spare time, got in the mix for it, and won the audience game for it. He learnt the whole part of Hamlet just to maybe play it for one night only, and he got to play it. I remember it well, in The Norrington Room of Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. I ended up as his dead dad that night. As far as I remember I gave him some rope. I can’t really remember the choices, the casting or the audience props though – those Factory Hamlet shows all blur into one huge mess of wtfness now, and we are growing more ancient.

Apparently all the show reports were gathered on a wetpaint site – this huge archive of our shared venture – and the site went down. Pages and pages consigned to the void. We weren’t doing it to be recorded though. It’ll happen to this blog too, less than a year after I kark it. John spearheaded a campaign to copy and paste the lot, so now it all exists still, on a USB drive, to be forgotten anyway. It’s how it all goes, these glories that we paint. They get painted over. I love to write on the waves. But maybe occasionally I should carve in stone. Meanwhile I’ll just keep seeking the random.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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