It has been five years since The Spideron’s Lair made its debut in the World of WordPress. It’s rather strange to think that it has been so long, stranger still that I have never given up writing in it, though my posts are not nearly frequent enough. I never cared for birthdays, even as a young boy, but I feel that this one is worth celebrating.
Don’t get bored – get busy
I started blogging back in February 2011, simply because I had time on my hands and thoughts in my head. I was working on a project for Shitsville University. I was a dependable and mild-mannered individual, then as now, so the Powers-That-Be kept me on as a contractor for various pen-pushing tasks that nobody else could be bothered to do. It was money in the bank and a regular 9-to-5, so I was happy to stay on. For this particular contract, I had to take inventories of sundry items in preparation for an office move the following year. It was hardly an Herculean task and, efficient as I was, my duties were always complete by midday. I had a spare laptop without internet access to work with, so what could I possibly do with the rest of my time? I had always found self-expression far easier through the medium of the printed or written word, so I decided to keep an online journal. I had an Alexandrian Library of thoughts swimming around my head, some of which took me to dark places. I needed to give them air, to put them into coherent sentences, so I typed them in a Word document, ready to be taken home and published on the Web that evening. The Spideron’s Lair had come into being.
Workin’ nine to five
I worked on and off at the University from the summer of 2009 to December 2011. I preferred being a temporary worker, scarred as I was by my experiences working for a software company back east. Sure, there was no pension plan, but I had an exit strategy in case the job became over-burdensome (as so many do). My CV now resembles a patchwork quilt and I would not blame any potential employer for casting it into the waste bin at the first opportunity. That’s their prerogative, but it is also mine to shy away from commitment, to keep one eye on the exit, to retain my freedom. Looking back, I really should have made hay while the sun shone; that is, do some sort of evening class and learn to drive. Hindsight is 20-20. On the whole, those were good times. I shared a house in East Shitsville with some young professionals, two beautiful women and a charming young man whose only fault was an unfortunate addiction to ketamine. I was sorry to see them go, for those who replaced them were not nearly as amiable.
Nevertheless, I was in full-time employment, in good health and I had a roof over my head. By late spring/early summer, I had been given my own office with internet access. I would spend half the day working at a leisurely pace and the other half either watching TV shows on YouTube or thinking up new ideas for the Lair. The early days were characterised by all sorts of randomness. Frivolity and whimsy would often be followed by political rants. I was not tied down, as so many other bloggers are, by the need for consistency or to appeal to a target readership. WordPress was my literary playground. “Why not try your hand at storytelling?” I asked myself one rainy spring day. I assembled a short story using clip art from Microsoft Word, and so it was that my anti-hero, Arthur Clipp, was created. I decided to write a horror novel with Arthur as the central character. To date, it is still not complete, but few people have noticed it, so what’s the hurry? Perhaps I will finish my novel one day.
Digging through a mildew-stained cardboard box in my mother’s garage, I discovered a 3.5-inch floppy disk (remember them?) which contained my university dissertation and my old poems. Ignoring the dissertation, I uploaded the poems to my blog, reasoning that it was a more reliable storage space than a square of old plastic. The positive feedback for my work, penned in the turbulent years of my adolescence, took me by surprise. The primary reason for creating the Lair was to air my thoughts, but it was rather gratifying to be appreciated for my creativity. On the other hand, I realised that having a fan club brought with it responsibilities. I had raised the game and all subsequent posts would have to be of equal, or higher, standard. Would I accede to the requests of my admirers and write new poems? At the time, I did not think myself capable. Happily, I proved myself wrong two years later.
Some enchanted evening
Work was easy and my writing skills were being put to good use, but my social life was far from satisfactory. My best friend, Listerine, was often busy with his fat, useless, benefit-scrounging girlfriend, so I needed more drinking buddies. I needed a girlfriend. Spying an ad for a choir in downtown Shitsville, I decided to put my vocal skills to good use. It proved to be a very wise decision. The choirmaster, Quentin, had something of an ‘artistic’ temperament, but he taught me a lot. I rediscovered my musical talent, which had lain dormant since graduation. Every Wednesday, I would go to church and add my baritone voice to dozens of others. The results, once we had got it right, were magical. I felt such a buzz! Better still, it was through the choir that I met T. It was so nice to have someone to talk to, for a change. Indeed, I don’t believe there was ever a moment’s silence whenever we were together. She was a chatterbox and a smiler, exactly the kind of girl that I like. I’ll never forget that balmy evening in early September, 2011. I was sitting on the patio, smoking a joint and sending text messages to T, making her laugh. I had another date to look forward to, I was high and the memory of the previous week’s concert, in which I had taken part, was still fresh on my mind. Work was a piece of cake, I had money in the bank and the sky above me was clear, save a few distant storm clouds on the horizon. My senses dulled somewhat, I was able to ignore them with ease.
Hard luck blues
Those storm clouds arrived soon enough, however. That month, I started a new contract at the University, one which was better-paid but far, far more challenging. It is not necessary to go into great detail, but suffice it to say that my new job was a stressful one. The stomach aches and the worries convinced me that this term would be my last at the university, so I informed HR that they would not see me after Christmas. The knowledge that I would be a free man on Christmas Eve was probably the one thing that kept me sane during that hectic period. That and the happy times I shared with T. We went to museums, theatres, bars and restaurants, all the while talking about anything and everything. The sex was wonderful, too. If only it had lasted! I suppose I only have myself to blame for that. You see, I told everyone that I was going to teach in China. Why else would I give up a well-paid job? Deep down, I knew I had no intention of going, but I continued to lie to myself and others, principally because it made me look like I had some sort of direction in life. T was not prepared to go through the tribulations of a long-distance relationship, so I knew I was on borrowed time. The folks at the University were sorry to see me go (I felt a twinge of sadness, myself) but all I could think about was lying on my couch at home once Christmas was out of the way. The last week of December is my favourite time of the year. There is plenty to eat and drink and nothing to do. There are musicals on TV. I have nothing to worry about until Twelfth Night, when reality kicks the door in.
I tried to make Christmas last as long as possible, but one cannot fight time. I awoke from my hibernation one cold February day in 2012. T met me in a park and said goodbye. “Will you give me a reference?” I quipped as we hugged for the last time. I’ll never forget that sad afternoon, the frost-covered grass, the ache of loss in my heart, the sight of that charming, intelligent young woman walking away from me, to a life far from my own, never to see me again. I would give so much to have her back, to see her smile once more, for I have yet to meet another woman who connects with me as she did. Pretty faces come and go, but to find a true ally and confidant is a rarity indeed.
I was once again on the scrapheap of life. Nevertheless, I see no shame in claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. Indeed, the fortnightly visit to the Job Centre was a rather pleasant outing. The people who worked there knew I was genuinely looking for employment, both at home and abroad, and were friendly towards me. I suppose I must have made a nice change from some of the losers who frequent such places. Such men and women have appalling manners and scarcely know how to dress themselves. Was it really that hard to look presentable when Primark, which sold cheap shirts and trousers, was just around the corner? Moreover, their scent – a heady combination of cider and sweat – was overpowering at close quarters. One advantage of being unemployed is that there are courses available to take at a discount or free of charge altogether. The CELTA was one of the latter. I signed up for it in May, reasoning that it might put me in a better bargaining position, and attended my first class in July. For the first time since my Spanish classes in 2004, I was a student, not just a half-man chained to a desk. Student life suits me far more than work. Academic environments enable more aspects of my personality to shine through, not merely the robotic efficiency for which I might be admired in an office. It was hard work and I lost a lot of sleep, but I made it through and made friends along the way, including the G-Man, a fellow nerd. Thanks to him, I took up role-playing games once more. Thereafter, every Sunday was devoted to rolling dice and killing orcs and zombies.
Poetry in motion
I was still unemployed for the duration of 2012, however. The problem with looking for TEFL jobs abroad is that there is so much abroad to choose from. Furthermore, there are too many unknowns in the equation. Is this job a good one? What will it be like to live there? Will I be equal to the task? What if I get ill/robbed/run over? I was stymied by indecision and trepidation. By January 2013, I had become one of the ‘long-term unemployed’ and was accordingly transferred to AWE, some government contractor hired to ‘encourage’ those out of work to, well, find work. It was not as if I needed encouragement. I signed up for customer service training at the local council-run training centre. I was once again a student and impressed many with my wit. How different I appear on the outside! Interestingly enough, the training chaps refused to put me on the forklift truck course because my I.T. skills were too good. How odd! My disappointment was tempered by my pleasure at being acknowledged as a clever-clogs, however. The training was a pleasant diversion but availed me little in the quest to find employment, though I managed (thanks to the CELTA) to supplement my meagre dole money by teaching English to Lithuanians and Spaniards who worked at my cousin’s casino.
Eventually, however, Lady Luck smiled upon me and in July 2013 I secured a position (temporary, of course) at Shitsville Borough Council, working on a data migration project in the Social Services Department. Another desk job, to be sure, but I was grateful to be back in full-time work again. It wasn’t too stressful, either, so I needn’t fear a nervous breakdown. There were days when it was all hands on deck and I would rise to the challenge, but there were quiet moments, too. As you may have gathered by now, I often thrive on idleness, and during such times when there was little to do, my creative side came to the fore. There was sufficient stimulation in the office, via overheard conversations, that my mind was able to conjure little flashes of brilliance. Something similar had happened back in 2006, when I thought of an advertising jingle for Worcestershire sauce, a parody of the Oompah Loompah song from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The lyrics, along with my poetry, may be viewed on this blog. Select the appropriate category on the right.
In 2013, I rekindled my talent for poetry and song parodies. This renaissance was triggered by a chance conversation in the pub. I had rejoined the choir and Quentin’s assistant (now co-director) suggested a song parody of Downtown by Petula Clark about the TV show Downton Abbey. Happy to oblige, I put pen to paper and submitted the results the following day, to much mirth. Proud of my handiwork, I thought of other song parodies. It was a productive summer, for I penned no less than eleven songs. I was England’s answer to Weird Al Yankovic. Better still, I rediscovered my muse and composed new poetry for the first time in over a decade. “Spideron,” I said to myself as I posted each new poem, “you’ve still got it!” However, well-crafted verse often comes from a dark place. More often than not, it is my anxieties, insecurities and longings which inspire me to write my lines. Consider Ocean Of Time, which was published in an anthology. I wrote it because I feared losing my relatives, my world, and my own life. That fear has not abated. I wrote Kiss Me Quick in Brighton, where I had spent many a happy hour in the company of my ex-girlfriend. Once I had finished the poem, I lay on a bed in my tiny hotel room and wept.
To be continued…