When Alex left formal education, like most people in his year, he was faced with a choice. Follow your passion or get a job and get some of the things that make life a bit more comfortable. He chose the latter, in contrast to the art students who chose graphic design at the local college where openly emoting your feelings and exploring issues was encouraged. Phaedra his mother ,who had had a fairly hard start in life, what with single parenting, unemployment and the like, had urged him to go for security over passion-
“Don’t write for a living. Do you know how many poor writers there are?”
“They are worse than artists. And poets are prone to suicide as well”
The factory it was then. It was cold, physically hard, mind numbingly challenging.
He still managed to occasionally write, mainly for pleasure. Mainly when he took himself off to his room. When he was feeling reflective. Phaedra thought his work was wonderful. Doesn’t every mother love what their progeny do? The topics varied. After a while he began submitting them. First to local publications but he soon gave that up. There must be thousands being circulated just like his. Hardly worth the effort, he felt, to be a lone voice in the cacophony of online submissions. Better to be a lone voice in his own right. He started a blog. A journal of his thoughts feelings and observations about the world he inhabited.
And what a world it was.
It was during his time at the factory that a very important lesson was learned. He applied for, and got, a job in a metalworking workshop at a large local manufacturing company. One of the few left in the area. It was known as The U.N. due to all the different races creeds and colours employed there. It’s official name was Bailey Meters and it made measuring (metering) equipment for power stations as well as switchgear cabinets for offices and blocks of flats. These cabinets housed controls to turn on/off power supplies to whole floors It wasn’t a stimulating existence he now found himself in. The sort of place where the minutes drag and the hours jerk. Being of a natural kind of intelligence as opposed to the academic kind he needed to be challenged, stimulated. Mentally, emotionally and physically. The physical was taken care of by the nature of the day job but because the other two weren’t adequately being catered for, consequently he felt drawn towards Del and his mates.
Del was a natural host, popular, funny and Alex, being the new boy, wanted to make a good impression. He reasoned that if you fell in with the leader all the foot soldiers would follow. It seemed to make sense. And he came across as likeable. The sort other lesser mortals wished they were more like. The sort people gravitated to. Alex was no exception. The first day or so was taken up with finding his way about, learning where things went. What time breaks were, how long you could have. More importantly how long he could get away with. From where he worked Dels voice carried over the noisy expanse. He was usually telling a joke, or engaged in banter of one sort or another. No one seemed to mind their P’s & Q’s here, which was just as well- it made the day more colourful.
Next to Alex was a tall guy, very quiet, he didn’t say much just got on with his work making steel cabinets that housed switchgear. Peter he was called but he looked downtrodden with appalling acne and greasy flat hair plastered down on his forhead. Black originally but now with silver strands on it. He had an interesting way of walking, his legs sort of threw themselves out in front on each stride. Alex thought his name was Herman because thats what Del told him it was. Del also said that Herman would help if you needed a lift with anything heavy. Alex asked him for a lift later that day and was told “Fuck off mate, my names Peter” It transpired Herman was a nickname. The sort you don’t use face to face but covertly. It also became obvious after Del explained to Alex in front of Dels little audience that he was called Herman, after Hermann Munster! The Frankenstein character in a TV sit com from a few years ago.
The money was ok but he wouldn’t be retiring anytime soon to a yacht in the Med. As time passed and he got into the swing of things he relaxed into it. He became less self conscious. It was a monotonous existence punctuated by periods of humour, almost like an Ealing Comedy at times. He didn’t fancy doing this for the rest of his life and so thoughts came to making life a bit more bearable. A way of getting a quick cash injection while an escape strategy presented itself. As he was walking past Del and his pals it became apparent the topic being discussed was not for all ears. Their voices lowered as he approached. He thought better of just jumping into a conversation that he hadn’t been invited in to and chose to pick his moment.
It wasn’t long in coming.
Artwork by Clem Onojeghuo
Book 2 of two trilogy is out now here