Minutes at Ragnarok

Something silly to get back in to the swing of things.

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Would you yet know what they say?

Gold tooth there spoke
Called things to be
Asked each in turn
To give their share

First then was dancer,
Enthroned in lightning,
From the higher place he spoke
Of ranging field and far
There to bring our wisdom
As we returned wing-brother to our fold
Could and would and must do
Then of further flight
The curve of time
The dancer sang no more

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Would you know yet of what they say?

The huge, the ender
The caller of reserve
Cutter of those ties that bind
Come from the healer’s cave
Warned of a rising tide
Near great as any yet seen
Numbers he tumbled forth
Like jewels
He could not stay
For the healer’s cave
Had need of he to be away

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
You would hear the things they say?

Quick, the fast,
Though earthbound be his heel
He spoke of the stretch of time
And the back and forth
Of the names drawn from names
And of how this could be done
He was done but not finished

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Are you listening to what they say?

From the enders lair
Had the light raiser snatched
Some orderly serpents
Of what more she spoke
Was the three way war
Of names raised up
Only to be cast aside
Ender’s pupil, she likewise
Scattered diamonds

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Are you still listening to what they say?

Barrow mender, the sick watcher
Of her plight Goldtooth knew well
Many doors they had opened
Many names had been set howling
They saw the rising hump
Of many many more raised up on
The back of the new beast
And this more she spoke of
Of those hoarding things they should not
And of locks needing breaking

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Do you know the things they say?

Fighter, fist maker, fresh name
Of her battles we know much
Of those yet to come we know more
Her tale is short for now
But victorious

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Listen well to the things they say

The hammerer then came among them
To speak of those who range high
Enthroned in lightning
The storms has parted
Only to show a greater storm
And then the clouds behind needed tending
All this, the hammerer would do
As dancer stands by

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Would you yet know of what they say?

Coins then to change
Spent wisely
Watch closely
Quick ones variable
And the work of the one away
To record the names of names
As they pass through the gate

There in circle sat
Three across three
And one away
Listen now to what words say

Gold tooth brought the end
Reminding that the end was well neigh
And the time of judgement loomed
And as hammerer and dancer looked at sky
A time of change, the quick, decreed
A time of judgement, said gold tooth
And remember to set your breath in jars

And so the circle broke
And the three across three
And one away
Set apart
Until the Black Horse rides
Or so they say.


The Day I Honoured My Ancestors

On 29 September 2014 I was very busy helping out on the land my brother works on, helping him to fix up a cow shed. My entire adult life I have done little, if any, manual labour. It was probably the most rewarding work I have ever done, outside of my writing. As I come from a working class background, with a long line of working men behind me, it was a big deal that I was not comically inept.

The day starts not precisely early, at about 7.00am. For actual workers in the Trades this is a lie in. My father, who is the manliest man to ever father six sons, used to get up and out at about 4.00am. Now he ‘sleeps in’ until about 6.00am. I have worked in an office for the past four years, was at University before that, and then more offices going all the way back another six or seven years. Suffice to say, for me seven is early. I got up, got in to some baggy track-suit trousers and steel-toed trainers and waited for my ride.

An aside: The matter of food. My family are all big men (and my tiny mum) who have been involved in manual trades for some or much of their lives. They eat big. To contrast, while I’m pretty tall I’m a slim pale bugger more inclined to salads than pies. Before work my tiny mum loaded me down with some sausage rolls, some fruit, crisps, biscuits, a slice of pie and two door-stopper sandwiches. I though the sandwiches were overdoing it, so I put one back. HOW WRONG I WAS!

My brother picks me up at 8.30am. I needed the ride because, due to poor life decision skills on my part, I’ve never learned to drive. Once you get out of cities, you realize exactly how poor an idea it is to go on holiday instead of getting your license. I understand that some country-folk think nothing of strolling the six miles or whatever to the next village, but I point once more to my urban lifestyle which has not adequately prepared me for this.

In the car, he observes that it has been nearly exactly fifteen years since I was last on site with him. I did my school work experience. I made a weak joke about hoping not to be so useless this time, and he laughs along. I don’t have books this time, and we laugh some more.

We reach his house and unpack ourselves to get ready for the day. It wasn’t quite clocking on time so we had another cup of coffee and my brother showed me some things on a computer game. A digression, but it is entirely my fault that my broad-shouldered, burly workman brother loves to spend his time playing space-men on computers. Years back I introduced him to World of Warcraft. He doesn’t play that any more (neither do I) but to his wife all I can say is I am sorry. On balance, though, he doesn’t go around doing murders and instead gets it out of his system on the computer, which I think is a good thing.

Things seen and bits and bobs gathered, we head down to the cowshed in the jeep. Jeeps are cool and my brother offers to show me how to use the bloody thing. I laugh but don’t mention I’m deathly afraid of running over one of the cows. We reach the site.

Now, I know nothing about: cows; cowsheds; manual labour; country-life in general. So my impression of the cowshed is completely uninformed, but ‘post-apoc wasteland’ springs to mind. My brother explains what I am going to be doing to start with.

Sweeping and shovelling poop. You might think at this point that I’d be a bit put out. The evidence would certainly favour that impression, given my unwillingness to work for minimum wage as an office coffee-maker. You would be wrong. My over-riding concern as I am handed a broom and a shovel is that I am going to fuck up this simplest of tasks and, true to form, as I start sweeping my brother kindly explains that I should probably hold the broom the other way around. I’m just glad for the point as, no surprises, it works out.

I sweep and shovel, kicking out wood to get at poop. My brother pulls out an angle-grinder and tells me to stay at least one stall back at all times, which I do. I pause to look over at what he is doing. He’s got the ‘grinder in hand and white-hot sparks are flying. I think surrounded by technology we forget sometimes that we’re holding the toys of the gods in our hands. There’s something distinctly Hephaestan about this giant of a man intently labouring over metal. I go back to my job. Sweep and shovel, sweep and shovel. It’s a stupid thing to be pleased with, but I get the technique and I’m making good time. I manage to get everything done a little faster than I think the plan was, so I’m given a new job.

A hammer and iron bar are put in my hands after I am given a demonstration of knocking bolts through timbers. That’s what the angle grinding cutting has preparing the way for. I set to; I’m slower than my brother but with two of us the work is going quicker. We break. How wrong I was about the food. I’m ravenous and demolish my whole lunch. We chat with my brother’s wife about colleges and theatre and whatnot, then back to work. I have a frustrating time with bolts. My brother pours me a cup of coffee and tells me while he was going to take over the hammering stuff to help me, he thinks it is better I do it on my own. He’s right. I do.

Another aside, but jokes are made about tea-drinking builders. I am a decorator’s son (and very proud of it too!) so I’ve never made those jokes. Having done even a day of actual labour I can say those breaks for tea are very much needed. White collar occupations don’t know what tired is!

The day progresses and I’ve managed to remove all the bolts, safely placing all the washers as I’ve been told we need to keep them all (I will drop one in the cow basin, much later). Now I have a pry bar and I need to remove all those rotten planks. I set to with gusto.

Then I get shown how to drill. I used to own a drill, a very nice drill, but I’ve never done drilling. Here I am a bit inept as I nearly break the thing but I get it. I say to my brother I feel like I can claim a man-card now.

At about 3.00pm my Dad arrives. He has finished his job for the day and has come along to see how we are doing. My brother is just about to start measuring wood to hang and Dad shows him a trick, cutting time in half.

My Dad and my brother are both very, very good at their jobs and they just set to. Cutting, hanging, drilling. Doing. A lot of ink has been spilled by very posh men, and then by posh sons of working men, about the stature of these kind of men. There is something quasi-divine about the no-nonsense way in which the two of them get to work. There’s none of the banter that defines masculinity-in-crisis; there is just the work. It is awesome to see, mythical and spiritual. There’s a magic to craft, the alchemy of muscle and sweat taking something old and battered and making it strong, whole again. I may be peripheral but at no point do I feel useless.

We clean up, I put away the tools. My brother’s congratulates me on a job well done. I ask my Dad to take a picture of the cow-shed, at what feels like the first honest day’s work I’ve ever done. Back at my brother’s house we share a beer, then I go home warmed by the glow of honest work. I’m not the apprentice, I barely rank at a brush-boy, but I’m proud of my work today. I sleep like a log, having connected myself to a tradition I’m only ever half aware of.


Notice of Termination of Employment

Today I handed in my notice for my job and my house. After almost seven years I will be leaving Nottingham; I’m reflecting now because when the time comes to actually move I do not expect to have the time for it. I have known I was leaving for a few months but it was only in the past week that the knowing solidified into certainty and from there the necessity of giving my employer a final date. There’s a lot I could say, less that I could and little that I will.

I came to Nottingham to attend Nottingham Trent University to read English with Creative Writing. I am glad I went to University but I didn’t make the most of it which is something I will probably regret a good while yet. I went for the idea of an education for education’s sake and got precisely what I asked for in most regards. The English section I loved, the Creative Writing I grew to loathe. There is a cold brutality to a cultural enclave for those who without its barriers; the disparity between the attitudes of the two – the elite Creative Writing staff alongside the more freewheeling theorists – remains with me. Still, for Mahendra there was Tim. If anyone were to follow in my footsteps, a dubious route I would advise, to paraphrase I would advise to take the Literature classes, leave the writing workshops.

I collected my degree and went on to work. It was 2010, Britain was in the throes of economic crisis and I took the first job that was offered me. I never intended to stay at the Nottingham Collections Centre past Christmas; nearly four years later I retain much the same opinion of RBS as I did going in, but nuanced by my affection for the people I have worked with. It’s one of the characteristics, telling in my opinion, that there are strict legal limits on publishing opinion about your employer. There’s no frank tell-all to be hand, RBS is what it appears to be, a giant falling in slow motion.

The house I now live in is the sixth I have had in Nottingham and it holds no attachment for me. I’m sure my neighbour, who I can soundly denounce, will be glad for my leaving or will be for at least as long as it takes someone else to make breakfast in the kitchen. A strange and unlikeable person whose presence nonetheless lent texture to living here.

Nottingham has been as impassive to me as I to it. All surfaces, there is nothing here that I came to love beyond a small number of people who followed me, and a small number who found me here. On July 25 I will give over my pass, on 1 August I will hand in my key; I will be gone and hopeful not to return.