Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Apropos of Nothing: A Semi-Serious Post

I was sitting alone beside a bed in the local hospital, lost in my thoughts, when a representative of the Church of England wandered by. Good looking in a ‘Christian virtue give me good skin’ kind of way, he went to an adjacent bed where he began to talk tennis with the family gathered there. I listened as small talk developed, made all the more comforting by this skilfully upbeat representative of God, before I became vaguely aware that I was next on his list of people to cheer up.

Now, being largely agnostic with heavy leanings towards atheism, I was perhaps not the ideal candidate for Bible talk. Given that I’m not much of an Andy Murray fan either, I was not really suited to discussing the merits of a good backhand. The situation seemed rather desperate and I searched in my bag for the copy of ‘Enderby’, one of my few current solaces, which I duly hid behind.

Yet, as I sat there, wondering if the book would allow me to politely avoid chatting with the vicar, I realised that I felt some degree of sympathy for the man. One might question the motives that led him to spend a Tuesday afternoon walking around a stroke unit, but there was also something very selfless about his line of work. He was trying to do some good by making unhappy people feel just a little better. His rewards are probably so few that I really couldn’t find it in me to be rude and tell him that I wasn’t in the mood for talking drop shots. Luckily, a nurse came to my rescue. As she worked at the patient in the bed, the vicar strolled past with nothing for me more imposing than a smile.

I thought no more about him until, later on, I was walking home when I was nearly chopped in half on a crossing by a BMW Z4 hardtop. One of my secret vices is that I love this car, even if it always looks so small when I see it on the road. I find the sculpted lines of the front end an aesthetic perfection. I don’t own one myself and this one was driven by some heavily muscled eyebrow who was doing his best to resemble a drug dealer: shaved head, gold tooth, loud gangster rap, cannabis sticker in the back window. It was probably the large tattoo of a Celtic cross on his arm that made me think of the vicar and realise the very obvious point that priests rarely drive good cars.

Final anecdote. I arrived home to find an email sitting in my inbox. It was a from a friend I sometimes work with on projects. They are currently working for a company and had run into some difficulty with their software. They asked me if I could fix it. I said that I would. I mentioned this to a relative tonight and they told me off for being a fool. Why should I do work which I’m normally paid to do? I reply that it was for a friend. They reply that my friend is working for a company who normally pay me for my time. They go on to point out that the company bill their customers for every minute of work they do, so why should I be any different?

And I reply that it’s for a friend and that people help each other out.

I’ve said it before but I have never come to terms with the notion of paid work. So much of my time is now spent travelling between home and the hospital that I feel continually disappointed that I have so little time to write my blogs, my novels, my short stories. They still give me pleasure when I do work on them and I still feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with my time. I have only ever tried to make strangers smile and a few strangers have been good enough to tell me that they occasionally laugh. I make nothing from it but that’s been the case for the last few years. It’s even been worth all the disappointment of the abusive emails, the sly digs, and the strange requests. It's probably why I couldn't say a bad word agoinst the vicar in the stroke unit. And perhaps blogging is like doing a favour for a friend. It’s thankless but it gives me satisfaction. And it also means that I’ll never get to drive a good car.


Anonymous said...

Like me you have an 'aristocratic' sense of things, that for example it isn't quite right to be concerned about anything as mundane as money. The comedy of this is that we're both dirt broke and so have to be very careful indeed about money.

However, it's also the case that it's better to be a good man who has to take buses than a gold-toothed thug in a BMW. And sometimes good things do happen, even good things involving money!

Anonymous said...

It's one of the great things about the internet... you can provide free content for people just because 'you want to'.

You just have to make sure you aren't being taken along for a ride. I don't think helping a friend with a program comes under that category. ^.~

fatboyfat said...

I'm now going through what you went through when you wrote this. I hope you don't mind, but I've quoted you as I found your words really helped.
I hope it gets easier.

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