Tue, 6/9: Anaesthetist

After Monday’s day shift, the last preliminary thing to do: simply an interview to find out whether there was a reason for any special treatment when anaesthetising me. I then had the rest of the day to prepare myself for being admitted to the hospital.

At the time I still thought I’d be back at work for Saturday’s back shift, reflecting with some resentment on the fact that the best feature of my rota was the three consequent days off every four weeks – which, as often as not it seemed, I kept losing by having some ‘tasks’ to do I didn’t have time for at a different time.

 

Halved holidays

Quite some disappointment yesterday.

The production line will partially close in the coming days, with the shifts/teams gradually taking their annual two-week summer holidays. Except that the holiday entitlement I accrued with the agency wasn’t transferred to the company after my becoming the latter’s employee. Instead the agency remunerated me, and I’ll only have a single week off, the other being spent with another team.

In a sense, I would work for a double pay during that week. But after seven months I was looking forward to the fortnight off; I’d prefer having the whole two weeks to the extra money. Given that during Christmastime I’ll have to visit my parents again, come next summer I shall have waited for ‘proper-length’ hols for two years.

 

No longer a temp

After precisely 13 months the firm took me over from the employment agency. Now cutting out the middleman means I should have somewhat higher wages, but the fixed or guaranteed part is just the same, it’s still only a fixed-term contract (with two or three more to come before presumed permanent employment), and I still haven’t got the company shoes instead of the cumbersome agency ones: all in all I can’t say I feel any difference. Maybe after the first payday, although with my attitude towards money these days I wouldn’t bet on it.

 

Why I exiled myself

(It’s been almost a year since I left my country and came back here. Probably the right time to put down why: long enough to view the matter dispassionately, not long enough for the memory to be much distorted. This will probably be a long rant, so you’d better not read it; in fact I’m writing it precisely to be able to look it up myself when my memories do, inevitably, become too distorted.)

The short, technical, superficial answer is that I was afraid of ending up on the street, then – not being a citizen – getting deported, thus ending up in exile anyway, but potentially also barred from a future entry. I’m not a lawyer: maybe this wouldn’t happen, but it was this fear I acted upon. Nevertheless, this doesn’t answer why I got into such situation in the first place.

It would be easy to blame everything on alcohol. But alcohol is always a secondary problem, a symptom of deeper troubles. Still, it’s often a highly exacerbating symptom, and this time a trigger as well. Several things had been wrong for quite some time, but the breaking point was probably when before that year’s last spell in my then job, for some reason I could never really recollect (I’d been looking forward to that spell for fuck’s sake), I got drunk and didn’t attend. Since then I stopped boozing several times, but sooner or later the vicious circle of depression and anxiety attacks alternating with being drunk always started anew.

So what made me drink? I think that paradoxically I was having it both too good and too bad. On the good side was the amazement of being in the country of my heart, in a ‘secure tenancy’ flat in an attractive area, the complacency of having already been there for more than half the time needed to be able to apply for citizenship, and the – for me – large sum I’d received the previous year, some of which money I still had at the beginning. My cup was flowing over . . . or so it seemed, now and then. A dram or a pint was the icing on the cake. (Of course, you can spoil a cake by too much icing.)

But under the surface, the bad things were fermenting. I may have been nearing citizenship, but I was getting impatient; the waiting seemed too long. And a sort of midlife-crisis question kept returning: Fine, so you’ll become a citizen, change your name to something you could like, and then what? Any goals after that? To which the sincere answer was No, I can’t think of any. Also, it was getting harder to fool myself into thinking I might ever really belong. Thanks to my social phobia and linguistic inadequacy, after three years I only had one friend there – and I felt I was insidiously losing even him. All of which was compounding my thanatophobia; as if it hadn’t been bad enough even before all this.

Then again, the flat which had so amazed me to begin with and where I’d done so many improvements was feeling less and less like a home. Not for the first (or the last) time in my life, a neighbour upstairs was noisy in the way which isn’t bad enough to entitle you to complaining, but which is bad enough – supposing you’re hypersensitive to noise – to prevent you from sleeping, reading and so forth. (I often sat in the kitchen simply because it was the quietest of my rooms.) A place isn’t really a home when you prefer leaving it to returning to it. A place isn’t really a home when your mind doesn’t associate it with rest, but with worrying about when the noise which won’t let you rest will begin.

And then of course, these things were interrelated, influencing and aggravating each other. Being jobless, I was meeting even less people than usual (hardly anybody in fact), making me more lonely. The noise was making it easier to decide to have another fag and another doze of booze. Not seeing the flat as a home where I’d like to live for the rest of my days, nor seeing any way of changing my situation (after three years I was disabused of the idea of getting anything better than another temporary zero-hours contract), made the future look even bleaker and more pointless. And so on and so on.

If you combine all this: booze, unemployment, no long-term future goal, the paradoxical complacency, thanatophobia, a noisy neighbour, no friend to see regularly . . . maybe it’s little wonder I became too lonely even by my standards and mentally/emotionally burnt out. There were some half-hearted attempts at finding a new job, some more determined visits to the JobCentre, but my heart wasn’t really in it. They were just token, perfunctory activities to salve my conscience before sitting down in my kitchen with a book, fags and booze once again. (Strangely perhaps, my depressions didn’t make me consider suicide. My suicidal thoughts were of a defiant character: often I sat there, pleasantly pished, and thought Ah, what the fuck, if the worst comes to the worst I can always comit a suicide.)

Until the money ran out. Then, as usual, the instict of self-preservation kicked in. And in the state I was in, after some six months of intermittent boozing, to borrow some money and return here, in other words to exile myself, looked like the only feasible option. So I executed it.

Come to think of it, I suspect that the instict of self-preservation is what’s been keeping me going ever since. But that’s already a different story.

 

A quarrel at work

On an early December day shift a strange thing happened.

It wasn’t that we ran out of wire; these things happen. Not even that when I ran to tell the young workmate responsible and we were already heading back to set things right another workmate approached us yelling about the matter. He’d been recently jilted. Nor that when they kept on shouting I tried to reconcile the conflict. I often do, against my better judgement.

The strange thing was that when the older guy turned and began shouting at me to shut up and mind my own business, I shouted back at him to shut up and mind his own business. Well, in a sense the wires were a business of all three of us. The point is that I’m a natural coward. An here I was, taking somebody else’s part against somebody else bullying him.

What followed was something I’d often read about but never experienced first-hand: the bully did shut up. We went on with our work; I didn’t even need to go and have a fag. Sure, the scene did keep replaying in my mind, but all in all I was surprised how little it troubled me. (The silent ‘Thanks!’ from the young guy may have helped.)

I later pondered about it and decided that however out of character I acted, I did the right thing, come what may*. As in ’89, when I joined the Strike, convinced that its potential success would make life worse for me but better for my friends . . . Maybe that’s what helped me do it. Like back then, I don’t see before me any future worth worrying about, so I can afford this kind desperate courage . . .
 

* What came was that one workmate stopped talking to me while another sort of began giving me preferential treatment. And incidentally, another odd aspect of the case is that the ‘attacker’ is much closer to me in age (41) and a gay (not that I’m known there to be one), while the young (28) one is not only straight but also, as far as I’m concerned, altogether unsightly.

 

Àm geamhraidh mu dheireadh thall

Ged nach eil an t-sìde a’ coimhead geamhrachail idir . . . Ach, tha deireadh na bliadhna ann, agus thàining an latha ris do rinn mi fiughair ùine fhada. Le uiread dhe sioftaichean a bharrachd, cha robh fichead latha dheth agam bhon làithean-saora an Lùnastail. Thill mi à siofta feasgair Haoine ge-tà, tè mu dheireadh dhen bhliadhna seo. Ceithir làithean dheth a-nis; agus as dèidh ceithir latha a’ tadhal air mo phàrantan (chan eil togail agam ri sin, ach gheall mi), naoi latha dheth eile mus bi agam a dhol dhan obair a-rithist. Cha chreid mi nach eil mi airidh orra.

(Cha do dh’atharraich mi pàipear-balla mo laptoip ge-tà, dìreach na sàbhalaichean-sgrìn. Chan eil adhbhar ann. San obair no aig an taigh, tha mi fhathast nam fhògarrach.)

 

Hols over

I could do with more; at least I haven’t wasted the time I had. My intentions were: to diminish the various backlogs I accrued during the first three months in exile; to ‘process’ a lot of my old photos; and to take stock about my future, or what’s left of it. I managed the first item properly, although it took more time than expected; failed spectacularly in the second; succeeded, more or less, in the third.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

Anyway, back to the scurry at work tomorrow. Good luck it’s a back-shift week; don’t know how I’d cope with a day-shift one. Come to think of it, there was a fourth ‘task’, also successfully carried out: to have some rest. I definitely needed it; hopefully I won’t need another soon, for I won’t get one.

 

The shift which wasn’t

As a wage slave I’m not in the habit of refusing extra shifts. When one was announced for the fourth Saturday in July, I didn’t object, even though I’d already had extra shifts on the first and second Saturdays of the month, and during its third week two twelve-hour (instead of eight-hour) ones.

Yet when I arrived only to learn the shift had been cancelled (and everybody except me told so), I wasn’t cross. For one thing, I’d made blunders of this sort for myself: not noticing that summer time has ended, that the day was public holiday and so on. And as the shift would have been a sixth morning one in a row, the joy of being able to get back to bed was greater than the annoyance at having had to get up early in the first place and the disappointment at the financial loss combined .

 

Further CalMac strikes averted

After a 24-hour strike on Friday, 26 June (which followed two days of work to rule, essentially not working overtime); the announcement of another for Friday, 10 July; and calling this latter one off on Wednesday, 8 July; the RMT and TSSA unions, CalMac and Scottish Government finally reached, on Wednesday, 22 July, an agreement which will hopefully prevent any further strikes, at least in connexion with next year’s end of CalMac’s current contract to run Clyde and Hebrides ferry services.
BBC: Ferry strikes off after CalMac talks deal
BBC: Aonta eadar CalMac is na h-Aonaidhean
It would be interesting to know why it took so long. The general impression from the many articles published at the time was that each side was accusing the other one of being obtuse. However, in my day I worked as a sort of liaison officer; I know that in similar negotiations, obtuseness usually serves either to hide one’s real aims, or to gain time. And that not having been present there, I’ll never know who was really obtuse and why in this dispute.
 

Full names: RMT – National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers; TSSA – Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (joined in after the strike that did happen), CalMac – Caledonian MacBrayne

Staff turnover

Seems comparatively high in this job. Before the end of July, my second month there, I was no longer the baby of the production line I work on. One workmate left for a lengthy period, one for good, and two new arrived. Of these two, one left last Friday.

But who am I to criticise frequent job switching. I began working full-time less than 24 years ago, and this is already my 16th employment . . .

 

Can’t wait for the hols

Originally, this post was supposed to be about being too busy to blog, what with all the bookmarks I’d made while still unconnected in my digs, necessary improvements to this new accommodation, having an extra shift for three weeks in a row and so on . . . But of course I was too busy to write it.

Then it occurred to me how the ‘even-keel’ date kept shifting. It’s always been “just have to wait [x] more days/weeks till [y], then I’ll finally be able to manage the backlog”, where [x] is a natural number other than zero and [y] successively “getting from the hostel to a studio”, “getting Internet connexion there”, “getting a proper desk & chair” . . . At the moment it’s “getting a few days off in a row”.

Consequently, even though to begin with I didn’t want these compulsory two-week hols at all (not having accrued enough yet, so that there will be quite a few days off with no remuneration), currently I’m grateful they’re approaching. I’d almost quote a favourite phrase of my friend’s and claim I need them . . .

I just hope there’ll be no new cause (or excuse) for not clearing the backlog asap when they arrive. And then having enough time again for my language studies, blogging about things sooner than a month after they happen, maybe even regularly spending a tranquil hour with a book or some music or video before going to sleep . . .

 

Making inroads

Moving country with only what could be crammed into a rucksack and a laptop case I arrived without such usual items as slippers, a pot or a kitchen knife. But I’m making inroads, like the vacuum flask, the tin opener and the hand towel I’ve bought these last few days.

Also, after more than one and a half months of only using my laptop in the (quite often awfully noisy) bar, the number of webpages I bookmarked for reading/studying/watching/dealing with later exceeded a hundred. But I’m making inroads, even though tonight it’s still a three-figure number.

So despite the fact that Saturday was the first day since moving to the new digs on which I didn’t go to work (I just returned from it in the morning), after a short sleep I was in no mood for simply resting after those six day shifts and six night shifts. Had to at least begin diminishing the backlog.

But I did make a point of doing things in a relaxed way. After all, I have nowhere to hurry to at last. And it’s a pleasure being able to watch videos again . . .

 

First month over

It wasn’t as hard as I had feared it would. The accommodation is bad enough, but temporarily sufferable; I landed a steady job rather soon; hearing the unpleasant Slavic language everywhere is irksome yet not unbearable; I’m in a sense penniless but with ways of material survival; there are occasional chats with Rob and emails with Tommy . . .

Also, I managed to accomplish most of the initial basic tasks, like getting a local phone number and a bank account; finally received the tax refund for 2014-15; and hopefully would shortly move to a studio. So I can’t say things aren’t looking up a bit.

Ay, it’s a cheerless life with little to hope for. Still, as I said, I expected it would be worse. To quote Mike Perham, ‘Yes, this is tough; but I am tougher.’ Och ännu äro inte alla Jomsvikingar döda.

 

Dìle bhàite

‘S àbhaist dha daoine gearan mun aimsir Albannach. B’ àbhaist dha mo charaid gearan mu staid nan cabhsair ann an Glaschu. Cha b’ àbhaist dhomhsa, agus cha tòisich mi a-nis.

A’ dol dhan bhàr (is an Eadar-lìon) ron t-sioft na h-oidhche Dòmhnaich mu dheireadh, bha dìle bhàite ann. ‘S dòcha gun robh mi air fhaicinn uisge mar sin ann an Alba; ge-tà, an dèidh trì bliadhna an siud, cha robh mi ullaichte airson a leithid an seo; cha robh no na cabhsairean. Ràinig mi am bàr agus an obair, ach bha ‘s mathaid còig uairean deug a thìde socaisean is brògan bog fliuch orm.

‘S ann mìorbhaileach nach do dh’fhàs mi tinn. A bheil mi nas treasa na shaoil mi?

 

Working for an agency

What I’d experienced in Scotland has already happened here as well: at the end of Wednesday’s shift we were told only the company’s own workers should come on Thursday, agency workers having an (unpaid) day off.

Nevertheless, I found it convenient this time. (Luckily too it happened during a day-shift week.) It gave me the time for visiting the agency to ask some unrelated questions I had; to finally open a bank account here (I decided on GE Capital, mostly because it seemed to be the only one available linked with the anglophone world); and even to have a summer haircut.

 

Early morning day shift after yonks

Having got up after 4am and walking to the bus stop for the 0506 bus to get me to work well before the shift’s 6am beginning I wondered when I last had had such an early shift.

I consulted my timesheets now. In August last year I had nine shifts in a row beginning at 10am in Barrhead; before that in April I had one shift with meeting time (on Buchanan Street) at 0645am; but I probably only had to wake up this early (maybe even earlier?) in March, when the meeting time (at the Royal Concert Hall) for our Paisley job was 0510am.

More than a year ago. But as I said, I did manage to wake up in time today again. Let’s hope I’ll succeed from Tuesday to Friday as well.

 

First working week

If the truth be told, there’s scarcely anything to write about . . . because I’ve experienced it all before.

Repeating the same few movements again and again? Standing more or less on the same spot all the time? Keeping pace with the guy(s) executing the previous partial operation? When something goes wrong, having to wait for somebody else to fix it? Having a 20-minute and a 10-minute break instead of a single 30-minute one? Working shifts? Walking to and from work for some three quarters of an hour in either direction? I did all of these things before, and some probably in half of my previous jobs or more.

 

First shift

I was warned it was hard work. Bullshit. Boring, ay, after all it’s a production line job. But certainly not demanding as regards bodily strength. Neither were the others too quick for me to keep pace with them.

The only problem was that the hall was hot, the air totally still, and I had nothing to drink with me. Standing all the time (except for the teatimes), at times I felt my old enemy hypotension lurking around and threatening me with a whiteout.

But I survived. And given that this was only my second shift this year, things can probably only get slightly better.

 

Employed again

At least my attempt at getting a job went more smoothly than I’d dared to hope for. On Wednesday and Thursday I had a two-part induction, and on Friday signed the contract, having been assigned for my first shift for next week’s Monday afternoon.

The pay should be reasonably high for a production-line worker, and just as importantly it seems that there are no bloody radios playing in the assembly rooms. Looks almost too good to be true; I wonder what bad news will come to make up for that.