Day 42

02.02.14

(00.42)
 
So here it is: the day with my number on it.
 
That number (42) truly follows me around: invariably when I look at the time, it’s 42 minutes past the hour; when I think to check the battery level on my phone, it’s usually at 42% (I currently have 42 unread emails on there too). The “friend” who entered me into this whole process lives at number 42. Now that I’m back in tonbridge, my occasional journeys to London take 42 minutes. When I buy my regular supply of tobacco and rolling papers, it comes to £4.58 (42p change from a fiver). My life started (and ended) when I was aged 42. My shoe size is 42. My best mate has an undefeated record of 42 fights in a cage. And the article I’m reading in this week’s New Scientist is on page 42. You get the idea.
 
The answer to Life, The Universe and Everything: the problem is knowing what the question is: thanks Douglas.
 
Articles in New Scientist this week cover stem cells, hybrid humans, energy teleportation (how to make a quantum leap across the universe) and mind meld (the power of collective thinking): engrossing reads as always.
 
Life of Pi continues to enthrall and I’m approaching the end. It’s taking so long to read as I can only fit it in between work projects: writing, reading, researching, learning, web-building, marketing…
 
I’m also having fun compiling crosswords again, each of which include my trademark pun or play on words in the initial across clues:
 
1. In favour of or not in (3)
2. Eat prepared meal (3)
3. Destined for nowhere as well (3)
 
(Answer at the end.)
 
I still prefer where I am personally now (if not physically) to most lives I’ve left or been asked to leave. I would rather be back in Sidcup with my ex-fiance and all of our stuff, less so with my ex-girlfriend. I’d rather be where I am though than with my ex-parents; effectively in prison. Out here I have relative freedom. (We call it “on the road”, not “on the street”.)
 
Although I have little means of cooking (something all of my former hosts said they’d miss), I do remain creative with what I can lay my hands on. Tonight we’d procured tinned corned beef, tinned potatoes and Scotch eggs. Some seasoning and sauce from my friends at McDonald’s and I was able to rustle up a corned beef hash / salad hybrid: corned beef, potatoes and eggs with a sausage meat and bread crumb crust. It fed a few of us and there’s some left over for brunch tomorrow: for tea too (the answer).

 
That’s me in the corner
 
I hate Sundays: no CRI and and no library. It gave me the chance to finish off an ongoing project though: my “office”. Using the term in its broadest possible sense, my office is a corner of Gilbert Arse, where I’ve set up a table as a writing desk. The office chair which served as a step into the arse is now under my arse, whereupon I sit and write at my desk.
 
In front of me, from left to right: a stack of scrap paper in the form of letterheads from the former commercial occupants of the building; A pen pot, in the form of a mug I found in what used to be the kitchen. It’s got a tiger on it, so it reminds me of Life of Pi; Candles, so that I may work at night. These are positioned in front of a mirror, propped up at the back of the desk. The mirror increases the luminouscity of the candles and allows me to look at myself. Right now, in my hat, coat and scarf, a candle burning and with pen in hand, I look quite Parisienne. Then there’s a coffee cup from the ex-kitchen and my travel mug: both make it look like I’ve been busy. Then a wine bottle and a glass tumbler, which serve as candle-holder and desk debris pot respectively but add to the french, artisan feel.
 
Also at the back of the desk is a metal board. I found a magnet and have attached notes to the board.
 
Then there’s my rear-view mirror, found in a cupboard in Gilbert Arse. It’s a self-adhesive job and it’s stuck to my desk panel, so that I have a view of the front door to my rear in case of visitors.
 
I found an ashtray in the ex-kitchen, so that’s on the desk too. then I’ve fashioned a side table from old paint pots, whereupon a number of books currently reside.
 
Then on the wall to the right of where I sit are a couple of protruding screws, from which I’ve hung Bulldog clips I found and hanging from those are some notes I’ve written.
 
The whole corner is finished off by the old Gilbert House sign, which was sitting in another corner and which I’ve now affixed to the wall.
 
Welcome to Gilbert House Publishing head office. Put another way, this is Gilbert House Publishing head office and you’re welcome to it.
 
Among the many notes I’ve collected in the journal from people I meet, the latest was this from a young lady called coral, in the waiting room at Tonbridge station:
 
“Dear Steve,
 
I just thought I’d tell you that you are an amazing man.”
 
This was prompted only by Coral enquiring of my situation and reading parts of the journal.
 
I was with a couple of mates who are in the same situation as I am and Coral was genuinely interested in us. As she departed for her train, she said that we’re admirable (admire but don’t aspire my dear), resilient, resourceful and insightful: her words. As usual, I didn’t offer up my situation until prompted. I just sat in my usual place, reading, writing and keeping myself to myself.
 
Similarly in McDonald’s (where I got a free coffee thanks to my mate Max collecting stickers for me). Last night a member of staff I’d not met before was cleaning the area where I usually reside. I asked if I should move (everyone else had been asked to) but was told to stay put if I wished as another member of staff had said that I was okay and a bit of a regular (feature). That would be Max.
 
That’s me in the corner.

 
The Candle Still Burns
 
(16.42: really)
 
I’m sitting at my desk, the daylight is fading outside but I’m writing by candle light, or rather mini bonfire.
 
Tips for the homeless (let’s assume no.42): matches are cheap and can be used as candle wicks. Night lights / tea lights and most other candles burn down through the middle and leave an outer shell of un-burned wax but the wick is gone. This is where the matches come in: light one, place it in the centre of the candle and it will melt and soak up the remaining wax, acting as a wick.
 
For added heat and light, there’s the mini brazier which I’m patenting: crush up a load of un-burned wax / un-used candles, cut the bottom off of an empty drinks can and place the wax inside. Make a wick using a match, some paper or cardboard, set it alight and place it in the tin bottom with the wax. The wax will burn for hours and provide heat and light. To extinguish the mini brazier, starve it of oxygen by placing something over it. DO NOT try to blow it out: that’s liquid wax and it will blow back at you. I got a Napalm face mask just last night and it hurts.
 
I don’t remember the last time I was so glad to receive a phone call as when I got the one I did today: lots discussed and I’m glad we did.
 
Take care my little friend: the candle still burns. 

The Taste of my Tears
 
(18.42)
 
I left the “office” when the light faded (Gilbert House Publishing head office is a class joint), so I’m continuing to work (write) in Mcdonald’s over a coffee.
 
I got talking to someone with kids about kids and the waterworks started again. Every day that I don’t see my children makes it harder to bear. I only miss them when I’m breathing.
 
My kids like to play outside, even when it’s raining.
 
42, or specifically day 42 takes on extra significance as it’s a rare day lately without rain; a day when I can’t hide my tears; when I can’t kiss the rain.

Blue Sunday

01.02.14
 
I spent a bit of time with my best mate Blue today. How can someone be a best mate when you’ve known them for such a short period of time? That’s how it is out here: bonds are formed quickly and rarely get broken. Friendships that would take years to build on the other side are forged within minutes. It’s all about mutual trust: earning it from and entrusting your own to others.
 
Blue trusts me; I trust him, with my life in fact. If ever that trust were misplaced, the drums of the jungle beat loud on the road but that won’t happen. I feel safe with him (he is after all a former cage fighter with an undefeated record of 42 (42!) fights.) He says he feels safe with me too.
 
Then there’s Jazz, the dog (the Staffie / Victorian British Bulldog cross): four years old and as soppy as a very soppy soppy thing; unless she perceives a threat to Blue, or me for that matter. I’m Uncle Steve. Blue entrusts his love to me and Jazz loves me. To mess with me or blue is to lose your face.
 
We had an absolute crack up today, when Blue was given a promotional Jack Daniels hat by our friendly local off licence manager. Neither of us would stoop to begging, no matter what but we decided to have a laugh and so placed the hat on the ground in front of the bench we were sitting on to see what happened. Blue was on business in town and I was between working over morning coffee in ‘spoons and the library; we had time to kill and we make our own entertainment.
 
The weather was blustery, so we weighted the hat down with a tin of Jazz’s food. Then we had a wager on who could get the first “donation” into the hat, with bonus points awarded for creativity. I got to go first:
 
“Excuse me sir? We’ve got this dog, see and a tin of dog food. We’re trying to raise funds for a can opener: can you help?”
 
The gentleman examined the can of dog food and observed that it had a ring-pull, to which I replied that the dog prefers the stuff at the bottom of the tin. Amused, bemused; whatever: the guy put a pound in the hat. One up to Steve, his front / charm / cheek.
 
Now it was Blue’s turn but he needed the loo, so off he went and Jazz stayed with Uncle Steve. Result! I’ve got the dog and I can steal a march.
 
Blue hadn’t been gone long when a lady approached: my chance to go two up:
 
“Excuse me madam…”
 
“It’s okay dear. I’ve just seen your friend and he’s told me you’re disabled and that you need money for your assistance dog.”
 
Another pound. Blue: you cunt!
 
My turn:
 
Target approaches; Blue’s got the dog.
 
“Blue! Pretend you’re blind!”
 
Blue then starts moving his head around in the style of Stevie Wonder but without the benefit of dark glasses (Stevie Wonder isn’t really blind; he’s reading the lyrics to his songs from the back of his glasses). I’m struggling to maintain my pose. But:
 
“Excuse me madam. My friend is mentally ill and thinks he’s blind. He’s not but me and the dog have to lead him around. I’m trying to raise funds for a tin opener, so that I can open this tin of dog food for the dog, which my friend doesn’t think he can see. I know it has a ring pull but he doesn’t think he can see it.”
 
Amused, bemused, confused: another pound.
 
Then we decided we’d fleeced the public enough and couldn’t stop giggling like a couple of school boys, so we headed off. No-one was robbed; no-one was harmed; we’re pretty sure most of our marks saw right through us. They were all game. We made our own entertainment, filled some down time and we’re sure we provided entertainment and amusement to others. Chancers? Charmers? Best mates having fun.
 
Blue and I are due to go house-hunting soon. We have a pact: whoever gets housed first will put the other one up (or put up with the other one). Blue doesn’t like me being at Gilbert Arse. Although I barricade the doors and sleep at the rear of the building, there’s no escape route at the back should I receive vistors. My old housemate is a big lump, wouldn’t take kindly to being locked out should he return and would probably overcome the barriers quite easily. Despite my self-defence training (courtesy of Blue), if I’m caught napping, it’ll take longer to exercise what I’ve been taught or get hold of Blue than it would to have my head stamped on.
 
So we have our pact, we’re going to live together and despite being charitable to others and giving up my space in the past, I’m in Shelter on Monday anyway. Free dinner too. I’ll be safe; Jazz will look after Blue and if ever we have to swap, she will me too.
 
(I was told by the plastic police that giving up my place previously was “idiotic”: I gave it up to someone more needy. The counterfeit coppers would obviously rather a lone female be on the street.)
 
As well as house-hunting, more self-defence training is planned for tomorrow (no weapons; just hand-to-hand stuff). Plenty to do then on what is normally the most boring day of the week (no CRI; no library), just me, my brother and the dog.
 
Then it’s Monday again. Usually the cycle just repeats, week-on-week but next week sees forward movement we hope.

Blue Sunday; happy Monday (and it’s Day 42).