Friday, 9 January 2015

Don't look down.

Scared of heights?

It's perfectly natural. It can never be described as a phobia, falling a long way is bloody dangerous. You don't even have to be above sea level to feel the fear. If you're stood looking down a deep enough hole you get the same anus-puckering sensation, but you're stood on the floor.

Many times in my life I've had to work at height. I'm not scared of heights, but I am aware of the intrinsic danger involved in being up there. When I've not had to expose myself to the dangers of being high above the stony ground below for a while, I lose a little confidence and it takes me a while to get back into it, sometimes hours. But, eventually, I'll be scampering up the outside of the scaffolding like a gibbon with a death wish again, or "hopping" the ladder I'm stood on left and right rather than keep climbing, safely, back down and moving them, safely, along. That said, if I see someone else taking the same ridiculous chances with their own safety, my heart is in my mouth.

As a child, I had a friend. Gary Young was his name, and he was the first person I knew that lived in a tower block. He lived there with his mother and younger brother. One of his and his brothers favourite things was to lean out of the bedroom window, twelve floors above the street below, and try to spit on visitors to the block. The first time I visited I myself had a go. Putting my head through that window and feeling the wind suddenly fill my ears, seeing the world below from a distance I'd never before experienced, the eight year old me very nearly soiled himself. I threw myself backwards into the room and fell to the floor shaking, but eventually I managed to stand and, on still shaky legs and with my friends five year old brother laughing at me for being a "poof", I approached the window for a second time. On this occasion I knew what to expect and found it a little easier. I hocked up a "greeny" and joined in.

The little balls of kiddy-spit rarely found their intended target, blown by the wind that whistled by and buffeted the block, but very occasionally one would. The unfortunate recipient would feel it strike their shoulder or head and would immediately look all around them, eventually looking up but not before we'd had time to close the window and crouch, giggling like the schoolkids we were, beneath the window sill.

Gary and his brother were the only children that lived in the block. His mother was single and, I think, fleeing domestic abuse. We spent a lot of time wandering around Rochdale town centre on a Saturday, visiting the cafe for toasted teacakes and a can of coke then taking in the Saturday morning matinee at the local fleapit, after which we'd hang around the shops just wasting time.

On a Sunday, however, there was next to nothing to do. Shops, cinemas and cafes were invariably closed in those days when Sunday was still special. On Sundays we'd generally go further afield, but occasionally, Gary being a sickly child, we'd have to stay close to his home in case he had an "attack". On these Sundays we'd play in the disused garages and little clumps of bushes that surrounded the flats and, occasionally, in the flats themselves.

Playing in the flats wasn't allowed. There was a caretaker, a big, scary chap with a tool belt who never smiled, and he would chase us off or, if we were unlucky enough to get caught, clip our ears.

One way we would entertain ourselves was to play "knock-a-door run". I'm sure you're familiar with the game, bang on a door and leg it. Simple pleasures in those Halcyon days of our youth. One afternoon, as we knocked on a door, the door from the stairwell at the other end of the corridor opened and the caretaker walked into view. He saw us and, in the time honoured tradition, gave chase. We burst through the stairwell door on our side of the block and I immediately went to run down the stairs. Gary, being more used to life in a tower block than I, grabbed my shoulder and dragged me with him upstairs instead.

"What the," I thought, "We can run downwards faster, and there's nowhere to escape to up there."

We climbed two flights of stairs before Gary stopped, put a finger to his smiling lips and gestured to look over the banister.

There, two flights below, was the back of the caretakers head, looking over the banister as we were and trying to spot us below him. He didn't think to look up.

We waited until he'd given up and made our escape. Brilliant.

A few years ago I was working on a building site in Partington. I was nothing more than a lowly labourer, one of two, building a small block of flats. The other labourer and I were pretty damn good at our jobs and had the site running really very smoothly. As a result, we had a lot of opportunity to piss about, playing cards, nipping to the pub or just hanging out of the windows and watching the world go by. As time progressed, we began to engage in silly, little games, constantly trying to get one over on each other.

One of these silly games would be to steal and hide the other's tools. Increasingly ingenious techniques were employed in an effort to flummox and perplex one and other.

The most used tools in a site labourers arsenal are his brush and his shovel. If you've nothing to do, rather than face being laid off, you push a brush around, floors on building sites are always dirty.

My colleague was like a bloody ninja. He had an unnerving ability to enter a room I was working in, snatch my shovel, hide it and be gone without my knowing. Almost every time, he would hide my shovel in the same place.

Being a block of flats, the floors, and therefore ceilings, were of the concrete block and beam variety. A few inches below the concrete ceiling, skinny joists were fitted for cables and pipes to run above and plasterboards to be fastened below. These plasterboards were always the last things to be installed, and he would take my trusty "banjo" and slip the shovel end between joist and concrete, suspending it there almost magically. I would turn to pick it up, find it gone and, every single bloody time, I would spend minutes searching the room without once thinking to look up.

Every, bloody, time.

I would, invariably at some point, see his giggling face watching me through a window or door, pointing and demonstrating to whatever brickie he was chatting to what a pillock I was, and only at that point would I think to look up.

That's the, very convoluted, point I wanted to make with this post. We never, ever look up.

When searching for an answer to a problem, we look all around us, but always at eye level or below. If we have a problem, we search for it down there. Never up above.

Are you struggling? Do you think you're paying too much tax? Are you sick of the feckless underclass holding you back?

Look up.

It's those bastards up there, those that are creating and manipulating the feckless underclass, that are your problem.

The benefit scroungers exist, we've seen them. But, do you know what? If you wan't to make the world a better place, help them. Raise them up to your level. Give them benefits, give them homes, give them free health care and an education and let them be happy.

We can't improve our nation by chasing them, they have nothing. They own nothing. They have zero assets. Whatever we do to them won't improve a single, solitary thing. And if we let them starve or freeze to death on the streets then people like you, possibly your children, will eventually have to take their place.

The wealth of the few means nothing without the poverty of the many.

It's those bastards up there, the ones giggling as they spit on you, the ones that are ferreting away a nation's wealth and jamming it above the rafters, it's those bastards that are the cause of all your problems and woes.

Don't look down.


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