Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Between a rock and a hard place.

I took a life today.

A small life. A young life. A life that was close to ending, a life that didn't matter to anyone other than the liver of that life, but a life nonetheless. The taking of the life was easy. The decision to take the life a little more difficult.

Unusually, I was without either of my faithful hounds while on one of my regular little wanders around the mean streets of Horwich. On a whim I decided to take a path I'd never before trodden, which ultimately turned out to be no more inspiring than my usual route but was more unusual. If there's one thing I enjoy more than others it's all things unusual.

I meandered my lonely way along an overgrown path where I spotted a blackbird feeding on a patch of grass up ahead. At about the same time, I spotted the gunmen. Two gunmen, popping their heads over a concrete wall upon which a local artist had chosen to display his work. Alongside the words "Fuck Da Police" were painted a huge cock and balls.

The artwork lacked any real detail, although the balls were stubbly and the teardrop shaped rendering of the ejaculate did a fine job of adding depth while drawing the eye toward the main body of the work. 

Still, it was plainly not the work of Banksy.

The gunmen, or to be more accurate "gunchildren" since neither could have been more than thirteen, took aim. Briefly I thought they were aiming at me, but the squawk and fluttery flurry of feathers that followed the "crack...crack" noise of two air rifles being discharged brought brief relief.

Almost immediately the children did as children armed with air rifles have done throughout the ages once having pulled their triggers. They got on their toes and legged it, leaving the innocent blackbird to writhe around on the floor in agony, it's wounds in themselves not lethal but the predicament the creature found itself in more so.

I'd like to think the children ran because they regretted what they'd done and couldn't face the result of their actions. I realise that's possibly not the case, but who wants to think of kids as cold blooded torturers of small animals? 

I've chosen to believe that they cried when they told their mother what they'd done and that they'll now hone their marksman skills on tin cans and CCTV cameras like we did when we were children.

I strode over to the injured bird, stooping to collect a large, heavy stone from the ground. By now the bird had stopped trying to move and was breathing deeply and slowly. One leg twitched and it's shiny, shattered, yellow beak opened and closed silently. The wound in it's back was wider than I'd expected from a pellet. Closer inspection showed it was an exit wound, the pellet having passed clean through.

I puffed on my pipe, raised the stone and heard a noise from behind. Children. Young children in high-vis tabards and two chaperons leading them from the safety of a nursery to the safety of an after school club. Happy, smiling children. Children who would be mortified to see some old bloke executing a bird in a field.

I slipped the stone into my pocket and attempted to look as nonchalant as a man can look while kneeling in a field next to a dying bird and puffing on a pipe with a bulge in his pocket.

I think I pulled it off. 

It was at this point one of the children stumbled, having trodden on his own stray lace. The chaperon on point duty, bringing up the rear, stopped and crouched down and I started to feel terribly sorry for the bird lay behind me in such agony. A life led swooping and soaring through the skies, now punctuated with this most pointless and drawn out of full stops. But it wouldn't take long to tie the lace, they'd be on their way soon.

Except she wasn't tying the kids lace. Apparently, this particular child needed to practice tying his bloody laces, and he needed to practice right there and right then.

Eventually, I could wait no longer. Rubbing my hands nervously I sidled over to the other chaperon and whispered...

"Excuse me. I'm sorry to bother you, love, but there's a dying bird over there and I want to kill it."

I'm not sure if it was my blunt choice of words or my attempt at a warm, non-psychotic smile that caused the nervous giggle she allowed to slip from her lips. Maybe it was the enormous, hard lump in my pocket? Who knows? Whatever the reason, the result was the same and the children were spirited away, laces fastened or not.

The bird hadn't moved when I got back. He no longer twitched or silently screamed, though his chest still swelled and shrank with the steady rhythm of his respiration. I felt sorry for him and told him so.

Then thud, and he was gone. 

No more swooping, soaring, singing or suffering. Given the choice, I'm sure he'd rather have lived. But he didn't have that choice. Either a fox, cat or pipe smoking passer by was going to have the last say, if the devastating wound didn't first, and the time in between now and that decision being made on his behalf would be one filled with fear and pain.

But if, perhaps, the bird had time to weigh up the pros and cons of his continued existence, given the seriousness of his condition and the pain he was in, maybe he'd have agreed with me, favouring a swift death (made less swift by that kid and his bloody laces) over extended, unnecessary pain and being disgorged by a cat.

A cat who wouldn't even do him the honour of eating his remains since she's got a bowl of Felix waiting for her at home.

Given the choice over whether or not two young scrotes shot him in the first place I'm sure he'd have come down on the "I really don't want that to happen" side. But that choice had already been made without his input.

The campaign to legalise assisted suicide in the U.K. is in the news again. There's to be a vote in the Scottish Parliament regarding a change in the law while, in Switzerland, a British man, Jeffrey Spector, visited the Dignitas clinic where he ended his own life (with the assistance of the clinic) rather than face complete paralysis in the future as the result of the inoperable tumour he carried within him and it's escalating assault on his nervous system.

I've struggled to decide whether or not I think we should follow Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United States down the path of legislating in favour of a person's right to end their own lives when, in their own measured and informed opinion, their lives are no longer worth living.

Mr. Spector fought his condition bravely. When the fight was over and all that remained was to allow the tumour to devastate his body, and with that his quality of life, Mr. Spector thought about the future and decided, rightly or wrongly, that the best thing to do was to live as long as he could as the man that he was and then go. To live what remained of his life to it's fullest extent before waving a fond farewell to his family, his last experience being to recognise the love in the eyes and the touch of those surrounding him and to be allowed to rest the well earned rest he yearned.

That's not quite what he achieved.

He had to travel to Switzerland while he was still healthy enough to do so without assistance, assistance that could leave his loved ones in danger of prosecution. Had he been able to end his days here he would certainly have lived longer, to have spent more time with his family, to have left the deed until the last possible moment. Had he not needed to still be healthy he'd likewise have lived longer. But he couldn't risk not being fit enough to make it there under his own steam. How can it be right that we force a man, in such a dark period of his life, to die before he needs to?

It's a curious paradox that our attempt to prevent people ending their lives early leads to a life being ended earlier.

It seems to me that the term assisted suicide is far too vague. Even if we're not allowing it on our shores, we are allowing it. If it's to take place in a clinic overseas then maybe pushing a wheelchair and sharing a last night together shouldn't be classed as assisting. That would have given Mr. Spector's family more time with him. He was going to do it, he has now done it, but doing it could've been postponed. Maybe for months, maybe just weeks and maybe only for one day.

But even one extra day, if it's to be your last, is worth living.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dickfingers and Two Hats do "Britain's Got Talent".

Sound test for the upcoming podcasts...

Friday, 8 May 2015

"I claim them all," said the Savage at last.

I'm wriggling as I write.

The test to show whether one is working class or not is a simple one. If you share your bath water, you're working class.

Unusually, this evening it was my turn to get in the water first. Being more used to the tepid hair soup Dickfingers leaves behind and looking forward to a posh bath I undressed and quickly hopped in, hopping back out again even more quickly with my feet now having the appearance of being clad in purple socks as a result of their brief immersion in the scalding liquid. I stood by the bath, steam rising from my puce trotters, and ran the cold tap whilst swishing the water around with my hand, causing it too to take on a similar tint to that my feet now bore.

Eventually, I felt brave enough to try again, though this time with a good deal more trepidation.

I tested the water first. One foot slowly immersed, a few "oohs" and "ahhs" and a little bit of wincing, but fine. I followed it up in the traditional way and, once both feet were comfortably planted on the enamel surface, I began to carefully lower the rest of myself into the still scalding water.

For ladies in a similar position to the one I found myself in, the next sensation they'd feel would be the still-too-hot water gently caressing their buttocks. Men, well, we have a probe that tests the water before our arses get near the surface. The end of our probe is already purple, so aesthetically there was no harm done, but this explains why I'm wriggling uncomfortably right now.

Still, the water was clean and wasn't going to go cold on me any time soon and so, once yet more cold had been added, I lay back, relaxing and listening to the radio for a little while.

I caught the end of a discussion regarding a school that had ranked their GCSE students ahead of their exams. When I was at school, about to take my 'O' levels because I'm THAT old, we did something similar in the form of mock exams, practicing for the real thing. We were given the results in plenty of time to demonstrate where any weaknesses or gaps in our knowledge lay and, therefore, had a chance to improve our performance.

Or, as was the case with most members of my own circle of friends, just give up and start applying for YTS courses.

It was a useful system and I did indeed get better marks second time around, although never having given any consideration to a possible future career it turned out that the whole shebang had been a complete waste of time.

The children at the school being discussed on the radio hadn't taken a mock exam. Their teachers had written a report on each of them and a private company had collated and analysed these reports. The resulting data was then used to give a "league table" of the children's intelligence and the children were then told how thick they were, who they were thicker than, which child was the least thick and which of them was the thickest.

And the results weren't confidential.

Some of those involved in the radio discussion were upset that this "test" might lead to the more stupid children being bullied (In my school, it would've been the brightest that suffered the most) and pointed out that, since the results were revealed just a few weeks before the children had to take their GCSEs, it was a futile exercise with no real benefit to either student or teacher.

Many years ago I read a book, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a most enjoyable tome. Thought provoking, clever, exciting and with a sad ending.

I love a good, sad ending.

Many of you will have read the work, many of you won't, so here are the basics:

It's far in the future.
We're encouraged to consume.
People have helicopters.
People have a lot of recreational sex.
People take drugs.
People do as they're told. Usually.

But, to me, one of the most interesting aspects of the book was the description of the social engineering taking place. The children of this brave new world are no longer born but are "decanted", manufactured, then kept in hatcheries and conditioning centres rather than raised by their (non-existent) parents. A caste system operates and those children chosen to be a member of the lower castes, those destined to sweep streets or serve fast food, are chemically interfered with before "birth", deliberately limiting their intelligence so they don't get any dangerous ideas above their station. Everyone (almost) is happy, fed and useful.

Fucking brilliant idea. 

It occurred to me, whilst soaking in my slowly-cooling-but-still-far-too-hot bathwater and waggling a soapy finger in my lug-hole, that if someone were to write a prequel to this remarkable piece of literature then the first chapter would describe a school somewhere in London and the end of term process of teachers grading children and deciding which were to be given the GCSE examination paper and the key to a decent life and which were to receive an application form for a fast food outlet or YTS.

We've not yet begun decanting our offspring, but it's not beyond the wit of man to imagine a time when we can, and once that time comes I can see no reason why, once the novelty has worn off and the furore from the pious has died down, we won't.

Every slippery slope has a peak.

We can't manufacture children in factories. We can't ensure that a child from a lower caste isn't going to get any highfalutin ideas of fairness or equality. Yet. Right now, our children are free range, but the farmers are getting tired of rooting around in the undergrowth for the eggs. Soon, they'll be forced to farm more intensively. Maybe one day they'll use chemicals to improve production, each child prepared for the life they're about to lead with a cocktail of pills to make them either clever or thick depending on the staffing levels at the local Maccy D's.

Lay in the tub, i came up with a far easier way of deciding on the caste of a child. Rather than wasting our hard earned taxes paying private companies to come up with meaningless and potentially harmful algorithms that compiles a report filled with spurious data is simply to visit the child's home on bath night and check if he's bathing in clean, clear water or wallowing in hair soup and, thereby, if you'll allow me to push my agricultural metaphor far further than I probably should,..

...separating the wheat from the chav.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

When the bleeps are through.

Too early to phone them, the sun not yet up
The tired, young man stirred the tea in his cup
And rubbed at his chin as he zipped up the bag
Then popped out the back to sneak a quick fag
Where he smiled as he stared at the same sky me and you
Slept under, and watched black fading to blue

He looked at his watch for the tenth time that hour
And tutted and yawned and then hopped in the shower
He sang happy songs too loud and off key
As he applied anti-perspirant while taking a wee
Then, having twice checked he had all he'd come for
He picked up his phone and stepped out of the door

"Hello," came the voice from the phone in his hand
"We're not in right now, call back if you can"
He tutted and smiled, he should've known
At five in the morning, who answers their phone?
He left them a message and set on his way
On that fresh, early morning of that perfect day

The red bulb he'd ignored now wouldn't go off
And not quite half way there the car coughed a small cough
It spluttered and juddered and rolled down the hill
Still smiling he coasted along and until
He arrived at the pump of the handily placed
Texaco station, a grin on his face.

The best ever day and nothing could spoil it
He filled up the tank and opened his wallet
And paid for his fuel and for chocolate and water
And a little pink Teddy to give his new daughter
Crossing the forecourt toward his car
He yawned a huge yawn and ate a Mars bar

Seven missed calls while he'd been in the shop
Choosing a Teddy and perusing the pop
The phone that he'd left, in the car on the floor,
Flashed it's red light as he opened the door
He settled down and plucked it up
And dialed back, but alas no luck

Three times he tried, three times call failed
A second time he left voice mail
Then on his way, his head in a whirl
To go and fetch his favourite girls
From hospital to home where they
Would share with him this perfect day

On with the journey, a mile or two more
The phone started vibrating and dropped to the floor
And eighth call from Dad, he knew that he should
Leave it to ring and call back when he could
But just this once he took the call
A second or two before hitting the wall

The flowers are wilting, as wilt flowers will
When leant by a wall on the brow of a hill
Bright inks on the cards bearing messages of love
Have faded to pastels now, bleached from above
And tucked away, hidden, behind flowers long dead
A soggy, pink teddy sits bowing his head


Friday, 1 May 2015

Be more Christian?

"You know the pie warmer at work?"

And so begins another evening of scintillating conversation in Casa Del Spacey.

Apparently, one of DickFingers' colleagues was sacked recently for putting his dick in the pie warmer. A little harsh, you may think, especially since the pie warmer was allowed to keep her job, but that's nepotism for you.

The dialogue continued as she went through her post-work routine of leaving her shit all over the house and changing into her favourite pig-onesie. Half heard snippets of gossip shouted from all over the house to where I was stood standing in the kitchen, throwing food on a plate and pouring boiled water into mugs while my dogs followed her from room to room, noisily offering her their opinions, giddily dancing before her and making sure she didn't steal anything.

Eventually the dogs tired of her and, television warming up in the corner and arses on the settee, we settled down for what was left of the evening.

Our conversation meandered in that meandering way it has a habit of meandering. From pie warmer we worked our way through the events and issues of the day. Some topics, the less important ones like the economy, whether or not a politician is lying (He or she invariably is, whatever they say) or the war on terror given but a brief moment of air time. Some other, more important but still not that important, topics would occasionally branch off from the mundanity of the mumblings that preceded them, seamlessly (Though occasionally tenuously) blending into one and other and taking the conversation in some very unexpected directions.

People think idle chatter is wasting time. They sneer when they describe people as "stood around gossiping" as if as if they were lazy or workshy. They may very well be, but that's not why they're gossiping. They're interacting, reaching out and being a part of someone else's existence, exchanging news and views, maybe even laughing. Time you enjoy wasting is never time wasted.

It's becoming ever harder to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Suspicion and mistrust lie all around. As many of you know, I try to undertake random acts of kindness as frequently as I can. This, too, is subject to the same twisted view of reality, skewed by our suspicion of strangers and spoiled by our worldly cynicism. Long ago I gave up offering to help old ladies carry their bags up the hill from Tesco, the fear in their eyes as I loomed over them, grinning my grinniest grin, covered in tattoos and, with hand outstretched, offered to bear their load for them in my thick Salfordian accent was heart breaking.

Some people, it would seem, are less offensive in appearance and, like the young man I'm about to mention, don't give elderly folk the heebie jeebies.

The chap in question is a young man that works in my local branch of Aldi. He was snapped by a lady from the chip shop as he wandered along, slowly, hand in hand with an elderly gentleman whose shopping bag he carried. The lady from the chippy put the photo of the smiling youth and his equally smiley elderly companion on Facebook along with a description, probably expecting a few shares around the local community and maybe a few "likes" to show the lad he was appreciated. In fact, it went viral. People from all over the world were praising young Christian Trouesdale on various social networks and even mainstream media. Caught in the act of a simple act of kindness, unaware he was about to become famous for nothing more than being nice and to bring a smile to tens of thousands of internet users all around the globe.

Eventually, of course, just as the cream rises to the top of the milk, the dickheads rise to the top of the internet.

Almost lost among the sea of nice words were a few sharks of derision, the basis of these being that it was nothing special and how shitty must the world have become that we should celebrate this one, measly, little act of a do-gooder. (I hate that doing good can be used against you, what fucking chance does that give us?) I'm sure Christian never expected gratitude from anyone other than Bill, the shopper he helped, and being an eighteen year old lad he's almost certainly suffering quite some embarrassment given all the attention. Hopefully he'll recognise any of the negative comments he comes across as nothing more than ridiculous cynicism.

The point these people are making is that we should all be doing stuff like this as it is, and that this occasion was remarkable for the fact that it was remarkable, but that's not the case.

It was always remarkable, but it needed to be remarked upon. By a lady from the chippy. Remarked upon, photographed and shared. It was nothing special, but nice, and it made a change from hearing about eighteen year olds puking up outside NightBar or being pregnant.

The mistake these moaners make is poo-pooing that single random act of kindness. Yes, it doesn't happen enough and yes, some other people are proper bastards. But don't let that stop you appreciating the good ones. Don't be afraid to smile in the street and acknowledge all those tiny little acts of kindness you see everyday, those acts that sometimes get taken for granted, that don't get photographed, Instagramed or Tweeted. Those people, the one helping the young mother lift her buggy from the bus or the bloke helping the old lady to pick up the shopping that she's just dropped, they're not trying to impress anyone, they're not expecting a reward, they're just being nice. They get rewarded by the spring in their step and the self-satisfied swagger as they continue on their way living their own lives. You know this to be true because you, I'm sure, have done a lot of nice stuff yourself.

When I worked supporting adults with severe Autism, one thing we had to deal with was what we referred to as "behaviours". Some service users smear faeces. some spit in your face, some become violent, either toward those around them or themselves in the form of very distressing self harm and some may simply rock and cry. (In the name of balance, I'd just like to point out that, although every one of the men I cared for exhibited severe "behaviours", those weren't what defined them. The child like wonder, the lack of cynicism, the loving, caring natures. No matter how severe the behaviours exhibited during a shift, no matter how much poo I'd cleaned up or whether I'd been kneed in the nuts hard enough to turn a testicle upside down, I always left work with a smile and never once dreaded going back. Oh, and my apologies for this extended use of parenthesis.)

Their behaviours, just like your behaviours (bad moods, irritability, theft), occur for a reason. It's a form of communication and one any good support worker needs to listen to. It's not always easy, but once you've built a relationship you know when a behaviour is about to raise its head and you've a chance to change the environment, remove whatever is disturbing them or help them make that cup of tea they want. Maybe even throw in a biscuit.

What you mustn't do is acknowledge the behaviour. Refuse to discuss why you're on your hands and knees cleaning his body waste off a skirting board, why your voice is several octaves higher than before his well aimed knee lifted you off your feet or why you're on the phone to maintenance requesting a window be replaced. You just move on, write it in the daily log and realise that it happened because you missed the signals, you didn't listen. His communication methods are limited, listen to him better in the future.

Of course, if you're any good at the job, behaviours should become rarer over time. Not because you ignore the act but because you focus on others. You shower praise on your ward whenever and wherever he does something "socially acceptable". Walking to the park without shouting any swear words in response to the abuse someone shouted at him, when he apologisies to someone he's upset and whenever he's just in a happy mood.

When a kid's "playing up" we say he or she is doing so to get attention and most of us, quite rightly, ignore it. We praise their good behaviour and ignore their bad, and it works.

Unless we're talking about that little bastard that was booting the back of my seat on the 575 all the bloody way into Bolton. That kid needs a slap.

All around us, people are doing nice things. Lovely little acts of kindness. At the same time, people are being pricks, and it's these pricks that get the attention. When a kid wants Kudos what will he do? His communication methods are limited and, remember, kids are lazy little buggers. The line of least resistance is always going to be their chosen course and if it's easier to get a bit of attention by shouting abuse at a chap with Autism on his way to the park where he'll slap his carer and be forgiven then that's the path they'll tread.

But if they can be praised all over the world for doing something nice, attain fame by being kind, be trusted and liked by strangers near and far just as easily, then surely that's a good thing?

Hopefully, a few more fame hungry teenagers obsessed with the pursuit of the celebrity lifestyle that is dangled before their noses on reality television shows and appears so tangible might take note. Maybe their hunger will lead to increasingly delightful acts of love, generosity and altruism. They might engage in one-upmanship, constantly trying to outdo their fellow Snapback wearers (I love hats, I'm never without one, but Snapbacks? For fucks sake, kids.) in the hope that the lady in the chippy has her iPhone to hand...

...and isn't too busy scrubbing the pie warmer.