Just home after 2 days at the coal-face and I'm weary. Not through hard work but through the mental anguish that comes with the process. I feel a little drained and my mood has been low. Yesterday, the first day of service after New Year, was daunting in prospect. The only con I recognised from Hogmanay was Steak Pie, we shook hands, then we sat in the usual contemplative silence for an hour until it was time to board the bus. There are many such times of contemplation in a service day. Maybe it's designed that way. I know I use it exclusively to think of the Road Not Taken.
I have now asserted my rank of age, and travel (again in silence) up-front with the driver. The journey this time was in brilliant sunshine and people were in the streets cheerfully going about their business. This in stark contrast to the occupants of the bus who were all gloomy captives. Yes, even the screws are in some way as captive as the rest of us. I've come to realise over a short time they are not exactly in coveted jobs and I expect their salary is low. I think the social workers Lord it over them and I can tell they are just different pieces in our game, all playing it as best we can. Out of the 9 or 10 screws I've encountered so far, only 2 have attempted to engage me in conversation. One asking my name and introducing himself. I thought he was a nice guy and I told him it was good to meet him although better under different circumstance. He agreed and replied that everyone had done something stupid in their lives but not everyone gets caught.
Steak Pie and I were put to work together and he told me he'd been in the army, this was no surprise as he wears army combats exclusively. He'd been to prison a couple of times and was loving his community service. He was used to taking orders and was at his happiest when someone pointed to a spot and said "dig there." He especially liked destroying things. We were asked to demolish a shed and his face lit up as he rushed to the front so no one else would get a chance to break anything. One of the younger guys began to use a large broom as a sledgehammer. I guessed it would take 4 strikes before the shaft snapped. It took 3. Normally, I'd be a bit annoyed at mindless vandalism but somehow it seemed to be part of the game. I was surprised at how little I cared.
Back in the outhouse huddled around the soothing heater like cowboys at a camp fire one of the younger guys began mixing a powder with milk. He was asked about it and enthused over a Herbalife product which he claimed was causing him to lose weight in a magical way. He then said he was an agent for Herbalife and was making a fortune selling it at only £55 per month "but if any of you guys want it I'll gie ye 10 per cent aff." Steak Pie said he had a sale. Mr Herbalife then delivered a broad Dundee sales pitch which ended "and they've goat sehintists in America lookin' into' it an' ahin' ... fuckin' amazing." I nearly bought one myself. But really, here's this guy that's not wallowing in self-pity, not giving-up or getting angry at the screws or the world for his misfortunes. Here is a real Jean-val-Jean making and taking every opportunity to rise above his misfortune. Good luck to him.
We finished early today, 3 pm instead of 3.30 pm. The screws had a meeting to attend. I asked, naturally, if we still clocked-up 7 hours as it wasn't our fault it was cut short. I was a little peeved, but not very surprised at the answer.
Wednesday we were digging trenches again. There were 4 other young guys with me and none of us had met. As seems customary hardly a word was uttered. I know I'm guilty of being quiet, possibly to the point of being thought aloof. It's not (all) aloofness, I am genuinely low of mind right now and each spadeful of earth I grudgingly howk from the ground seems to end up in a large sack hanging round my neck. I stopped taking anti-depressants on Hogmanay. Possibly not the best day I could have chose. However, I figured that since I was going to be pissed pretty much solid for a few days, I might not notice the lack of drugs. I was wrong. By the next day I had a knot of anxiety perched firmly in my chest that made my breath go shallow. I wanted to go back to the tablets but instead I got drunk again. This cycle went on with less and less alcohol for a week. Okay, so I'm now free of the physical withdrawal of the drugs. However, the symptoms have manifested in my mood and I know it. The temptation to take the tablets is great. But the yearning to be me is greater. I want to face my troubles and strifes without crutches or chemical cosh. The old Larry Jones has gone forever. I think the new Larry Jones is going to be alright!
Oh! On the way out I asked Steak Pie how the pie was on New Year's Day? On the mad scramble to get through the door he stammered loudly over the other's heads, "the neighbour's fuckin' doag ate it."
I shrugged, hurried out the door and didn't look back.
227.5 hours to go.