Friday, September 30, 2011

'I'm away now....'

I used to sell books. I sold new books in a city centre bookshop - where they made me wear a lanyard. At weekends I sold old books on a stall at Tynemouth Market. Like many regular public gatherings, Tynemouth Market had an 'eccentric'. His name was something like Cyril and he was somehere around seventy years old. Cyril was covered in badges - they were all over his frock coat, his flat cap and were glued to his walking stick.

Cyril would 'perform' his eccentricity for traders and customers: loudly telling spectacularly old jokes and singing music hall standards. He once saw me doing a crossword and informed the whole market:

'We've got one of them clever ones here!'

Tynemouth Market takes place in Tynemouth Station. Book and bric-a-brac business is punctuated by the arrival and departure of trains on the metro loop from Newcastle. Cyril would announce his own departure with some grandeur - waving his stick and shouting:

'I'm away now! I'm away!'

He was, in the main, ignored.

Cyril would tarry - even letting his train pass if necessary - until the loss of the 'life and soul' of the market was fittingly acknowledged.

'I'm away now! I'm away!'

Eventually a couple of people (possibly tourists) would wave back and that was usually enough for him.

Today was my last day at work. Morag was all smiles yesterday - looking forward to 'a face to face handover' of any oustanding tasks on my to do list.

'I'll be out all morning,' she said, 'see you at about 1.30.'

I have always wanted to walk away from a job at lunchtime and here was my chance.

It was just before noon. I left a note for Sadie and punched 'send' on a handover email to Morag. The faculty admin staff were busy speaking loud English at some newly-arrived Asian students. I squeezed into the lift with a grumpy porter and a trolley. At ground level I was swept into the youthful tide of students leaving the building and entering the quad. They massed towards the university refectory. I turned away for the car park - telling nobody in particular as I went...

'I'm away now! I'm away!'

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

'I'll be a bit like you, Dad, but with small children.’

‘So when is it you retire?’

I was glad to hear that my father hadn’t lost his sense of humour in the face of  blindness and general decrepitude.

‘It’s not retirement Dad, it’s redundancy. I’m hoping it won’t be forever. And anyway, I’ll be a 'stay at home dad'. I'll be a bit like you, Dad, but with small children.’

Up to now, I have Monday and Tuesday mornings covered at the local library – ‘storytime’ and ‘rhymetime’ respectively. ‘Gym Tots’ is restarting on Thursdays in October, apparently.

So that just leaves Wednesdays and Fridays to fill. Aurora is at school now and it’s to be hoped that Jocasta doesn’t grow out of epic midday naps before the spring.

To her credit, Maude has been trying to ease my transition from paid employment to playground fixture. She has identified another stay at home dad in the neighbourhood. She befriended him at the library and is now trying to engineer a meeting between us. His name features prominently on her clipboard to-do list and I hear that he is an unflappable natural at shepherding his two small children around our new local National Trust adventure playground..

I feel like a child being forced to play with children I don’t know.

‘I’d rather', I suggested, 'that we became acquainted in a more natural way, darling.’

Maude retrieved her clipboard. With a sigh, she scored out the name of the village's only other known stay at home dad.

‘What you mean is that you aren’t keen because he has long hair and his little boy is called Thor.’