After three or four weeks of very little work to do I decided to take a day’s leave and do something constructive with my time. It was all planned and the day would end with a fully-ticked To Do List.
There was no lie-in as I volunteered to take the girls to the childminder’s and the train station respectively, which are within 50 yards of each other. By 7.45 am it was straight off to the radio station to record Sunday night’s radio show. Due to a ‘birthday tea’ in honour of my wife’s birthday being organised without any consultation – “you can just record your show” – I was forced into using some precious me-time to record it. I don’t like recording my show in advance. I prefer the buzz and the adrenaline of the live performance, warts and all.
Now I had already booked some studio time on Saturday morning to record the show but when I took the last-minute decision to have a day off I thought of recording my normal show on Friday and using the Saturday slot for a generic, in-case-of-emergency show, which all the presenters have been asked to put together.
I got to the radio station at 8.15am and opened it up. I figured that no-one else would be daft enough to be up at this time on a working day to use the facilities. I figured wrong. Having checked the studio booking log I saw that someone, who shall remain nameless, had booked the spare studio between 9 and 11. Bugger! There are two studios and one is always live, therefore the other is available for recording.
I had two choices. I could stay and see if the person turned up or book myself in for 11-1 and come back. The latter option was dismissed. A half hour trip each way to and from Dunfermline would be a waste of petrol and the hospital car park, even though an overspill from the main hospital, is always busy and it would difficult to get parked in again at lunchtime. I stayed and waited. And waited. And waited.
At 9am I started texting, emailing and tweeting for contact details. By 9.20 the studio manager had been in touch and told me to just to go ahead and start my show. By this time I was well pissed off. I could’ve recorded half of my two-hour show in the time I had been waiting. The miscreant never turned up. They had booked out precious studio time and didn’t have the common courtesy to tell someone at the station that they no longer needed it.
I began my show in a foul mood; all that time wasted. The beginning of the show was so bad I aborted it and started again. With some strong coffee and great music for company I began to calm down. That is, until the end.
I was supposed to record a 1 hour 58 minute show (to take into account a 2-minute Sky news bulletin) and, still being a bit on edge, I overran by over a minute. I had had enough and resolved to fix it at home. I then had a 12-minute wait while my show was copied to my dongle. For some reason when it’s finished the screen hangs and I have to close down the PC forcibly. It used to take 3 minutes with no technical difficulties. These problems only started after we upgraded Myriad.
I closed all the windows, shut the doors and signed out. I hit the alarm code and went to leave. Normally the alarm starts beeping and you have a short time to get out the building and lock up. Nothing. Silence. Fuck! I tried it again and gave up. I locked up, emailed the text station manager from my phone, took a deep breath and drove off. I figured the rest of the day couldn’t get any worse. Again, I was wrong.
Next on my list was a haircut, some birthday/anniversary present shopping and a wash for the car. My day picked up. I walked straight into the barber’s and was only sat down for a minute or so before I was beckoned into the seat. “A three on top and two everywhere else”. I’d never met this woman before but I liked her. Why? Because she didn’t say a word. She just got on with it. No inane chit-chat about holidays or the weather or her daughter’s latest dancing trophy. Maybe she like to wait for the customer to make the opening gambit. I wasn’t in the mood for it and I let her get on with her job.
Maybe she could tell by looking at my follicly-challenged bonce that she wouldn’t be long and it was pointless striking up a conversation. She had a point. It’s not that I’m going bald, it just takes me longer to wash my face. The sun peeked through the black cloud of my day as she charged me £3, my cheapest cut yet. I gave my usual £1 tip, which on this occasion was a remarkably generous 33%. Just call me Rothschild.
I got the presents (no spoiler alert necessary) and a couple of steak bridies and a snowball for lunch. The girl in the shop couldn’t find any snowballs. I pointed out there were some in the window but she didn’t know if she could sell them! What were they, display models? Maybe I should have asked for a discount.
I trudged back to the car – my £1-a-minute haircut sapping my strength – and headed off to the car wash. I’d been to this car wash before and I knew the drill. At least I thought I did but after the day I was having I was becoming decidedly unfocused. Window down, “£5 please”, window up. He sprayed some stuff on the windows and wheels and then ushered me forward. But I forgot what I was supposed to do. I didn’t put the car in neutral and I didn’t switch the engine off and it all went pear-shaped. the car stalled a couple of times, jumped forward and out of the metal railings that bring the car forward. After not hearing an alarm I wanted to I now heard one I didn’t.
With the grace of a drunken elephant I managed to reverse the car, get it back in the tracks and was able to start again. I offered the meekest, most pathetic apology. I got the impression that he’d seen it all before and I probably wouldn’t be the last one to make an arse of such a simple procedure. That consolation didn’t make me feel any better. I just wanted to get home.
My spirit was almost broken and the heat inside and outside the car didn’t help. Murphy’s Law wasn’t wrong.
Lunch was devoured. I dismissed cutting the grass front and back as too much like hard work for a hot day and stayed inside for some sedate present wrapping and card writing. Again, I was calming down.
I then headed to my second home and the safety of my study. I’m never happier than when I’m sat in front of the computer, surrounded by books, CDs and “stuff”. It’s a man thing.
I uploaded the morning’s work to the PC and opened it up in Audition. As I prepared to do some editing I spotted that there were some blank spaces at regular intervals in the show. Oh no! I don’t believe it. My links hadn’t recorded. Now I know I’d been using the fader but… this is too much. The only conclusion I could come to was that the microphone hadn’t been switched on. As usual someone had been fucking about with the buttons on the desk. I could’ve cried. I really could’ve cried my eyes out. The morning’s work and all the ensuing stress had been for nothing. I’d was numb. I’d had enough of today. I had joked with the station manager that the day was so bad I’d go back to my bed and I would’ve but I had to go and pick the girls up.
I found picking Felicity up at 4 o’clock so stressful due to the number of stupid schoolchildren playing ‘chicken’ with the traffic that I changed it to 4.30. This is one of many things I’ve done in the last 18 months to improve my mental health. I’ve stopped taking antidepressants after 13 years, I’ve taken up regular exercise and I’m eating and sleeping better. However, today, threatened to undo all my good work.
Just when I think the day can’t get any worse I come up against a regular problem. There’s a small car park, housing about 20 cars, next to my daughter’s Kids’ Club and generally I can get in there. Unfortunately across the road is a bookies and a Chinese takeaway, the one whose King Prawn Curry caused me to lose two days of my holiday last year. Now there are three spaces in front of the bookies and the car park I use is only across the road. Despite the relatively short walk that the visitors to these premises might have to endure, I encounter on an almost daily basis double-parking and downright stupidity behind the wheel. Today was the worst.
I turned into the road leading to the car park. The spaces in front of the bookies were all taken and someone had double-parked. However, I couldn’t get past them because someone – let’s call him Dickhead – had parked half on the pavement and half across the entrance of the mini car park. This guy must get up extra early to practice being stupid. That was it. That was the last straw. If it wasn’t for the fact I was collecting my daughter I’d have broken down there and then. I was spent. This was too much.
I’ve found it difficult enough keeping me head together in recent weeks. Work has dried up and my employer is looking to save £20m a year from £170m over the next three, four or five years. Voluntary redundancies are a distinct possibility. I can’t work off the stress because I’ve sprained my lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and hard as I try I can’t stop myself drifting back into depression. The mental energy it takes to resist this spiral is tiring and I go home exhausted, having done and achieved nothing.
On days like today I know how Michael Douglas’ D-Fens character in Falling Down feels. I couldn’t do what he did – I haven’t got a gun licence for a start – but I can appreciate how a series of insignificant traumas or annoyances can build up to a full-scale breakdown. To quote Janice Galloway’s debut novel, the trick is to keep breathing.
And that’s what I did. I put the cricket on, watched my daughter playing with her Playmobil and tried to find my happy place. The problem is, I don’t think I know where that is anymore. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
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