Singlespeed bikes, Japan, getting out of Streatham, trying not to bang on about multiple sclerosis

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hallo weenie

How did we import this shit from the States? No actually don't answer that one. I only asked it because I'm slightly drunk, having disposed of my last bottle of Wyndham Estates Bin 555 while carving pumpkins with a friend's depressed-looking American girlfriend. They don't love each other, but they pretend they do. Good enough reason for her to be depressed. Anyway, Sachiko took care of the pumpkin-carving, while I focused more on the wine.

I must be looking less damaged than I was: when I got on the 249 outside Streatham station, no one offered me their seat. Could be that with just one crutch I didn't look too bad, or more likely the people on the bus were scum. The scum analysis would seem to fit the Streatham stereotype. This place isn't quite as vile as West Norwood, where the streets are paved with chicken bones, but it runs it pretty close. And talking of scum, I've spent today with Natasha at her painful best. Coarse, crude and thick, I used to think her, but she's got a lot more so while I've been festering in hospital. Today she was off the "Huh-mong" but onto the "I'm such a Nigerian" bullshit trip. She was trying the "I'm South African" nonsense too, and Pete the voluneer mentioned he'd heard about singer Lebo Mathosa dying in a car crash, and how sad it was. "Oo? Nah, never 'eard of 'er." said Miss African Solidarity. Alison conjured up an obituary onscreen, and she laboured her way through it, aloud (she can't read without moving her lips), claimed to have "heard of" Brenda Fassie before turning her attention to the photo of Lebo Mathosa. "She's bling," was as profound as she could get. What a sorry, cultureless cunt.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Return of the native

Ah, the heroism. I went in to work again today, for the second time. And I found that my colleague Natasha, who's been unusually pleasant, is - as ever - eager to get herself into a position of power over me. And since I have MS and she doesn't, physically she has the whip hand. But she remains an irretrievable dimwit, even ignoring her various personality defects. I'm a petty sort of bastard, and it gets up my crack that she talks about the "Huh-mong" when the Hmong come up. How can such an ignorant cretin be working for an organisation like this? Anyway, I should stop whingeing. She's every bit as thick and idle as ever, but at least she's not being as obnoxious as before. Not yet, at least.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Work in progress

On Thursday I went in to work. Not a big deal for the average punter, but I hadn't seen the inside of the office since June. I had four months' worth of email to consider, and that shielded me from doing any actual work at all. That and the stream of visitors. I was shattered by the time I got home, which wasn't encouraging, and now, at near 10.30 on Sunday evening, I'm knackered again, after the trifling effort of walking the 200 yards between the 249 stop at Tooting Bec and Pooja, home of the samosas of the gods. I didn't even carry the samosas, or the Polish beer from up the road (the portering was all taken care of by Sachiko). Up till today I've been struck by how kind people have been when they've seen that I'm on sticks, and that was still holding true as I got on the bus back from Tooting. One girl held people back for me as I made my way from the bench in the bus shelter, and another jumped out of her seat to let me sit down once I'd hobbled my way on board. But sitting in the seat in front of the one she'd vacated was some scumbag stuffing crisps into his face. He'd seen that I was on crutches, and he was sitting in the "please get your arse up and out of here if you see someone elderly or otherwise hapless approaching" seats but he didn't move a muscle. And at this point my ingrained inverse racism kicked in, because crisp-muncher was white, while the two girls were black. I tried to balance the scales with the thought that since it was Sunday and they were smartly dressed, they'd probably been to church, but I couldn't make that count against them. They were good people, while Mr Crispy was obviously deserving of death.

Anyway, being inclined towards foolish optimism, I reckon I should be walking well enough by Friday to travel to Japan as scheduled. And there's always a possibility that I'll perk up so dramatically that I'll actually get back on those singlespeed bikes, and do something to justify this blog's title. And take pictures to prove it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ambient noodling

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. - Stephen F. Roberts

I guess my aversion to religion springs from having a headmaster of the "muscular Christian" persuasion - keener on sporting thickos than on weedy smartarses like me. He was also keen on North Wales, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I guess his God took advantage of this enthusiasm for healthy walks in the mountains to let a rock fall on his head the last time he was there. It was the last time he went there because the rock killed him. I didn't actually laugh when I heard, but I did giggle.

By this time I'd developed into something of a muscular smartarse. I'd hated sport all the way through school, but at Oxford I suddenly learned that you could do sport for fun rather than for the sake of suffering. So I got into rowing, like everyone else, and rowed lightweight in 1993 (in the inglorious Nephthys, which never gets on television). I moved on from there to London Rowing Club, and much later to Furnivall, achieving absolutely zip, finally bowing out on what should have been a high note: my first ever attempt at Henley, in the Wyfolds. On paper we weren't bad at all, stroke being an ex-GB junior and ex-Ox Poly superstar, bow being a superb steersman, a big oaf called Geoff at two and me sitting at three looking undistinguished. We were only together for a couple of weeks before the event, and didn't have time to do a full course. We did a practice start against the London crew who went on to win that year, and hosed on them so thoroughly that they gave up after one minute. So we felt pretty relaxed when we were drawn against a crew of pluggers from some club whose name I forget. We had a crap start, and couldn't get more than a length up on them. Couldn't get our rhythm, and just as I was thinking to myself, Jesus this course is long, at least it'll be easier tomorrow when we're relaxed - we swerved across the river in front of the oppo, and I heard a shriek from Jon at bow, "Hold your finishes in! Geoff, that means you!" And I realised that the swerve in front of the pluggers hadn't been a piece of evil gamesmanship intended to send our puddles and wash down on them, but a result of Geoff blowing up completely and simply stopping. So the pluggers went right through us as we came into the Stewards.

Anyway, I was diagnosed with MS a month or so later, and that pretty much ended my rowing career.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hello and good evening

Why am I here? No reason more pressing than what drives the other anonymous bloggers who fill cyberspace with dreck. I type faster than I can write in my diary, and I only seem to write in that about once a month. And it's dreck, of course, personal drivel and attempts to keep a record of my relapses and progression towards a wheelchair. I have multiple sclerosis, which tends ultimately to reduce its customers' independent mobility to something pretty minimal. But hey! It's a slow burner, and there might even be a cure one day. There are lots of others out there who write about it much more informatively than I can, so if you want information, go to them. I'm actually more interested in bikes, especially singlespeeds. I have six bikes, which may seem excessive, and four of them have lots of gears. I'm not a total monomaniac. Those bikes are a lot more fun than wheelchairs (having taken a spin in several of the NHS's finest) and I hope to be riding them for a good while yet.

I haven't quite earned the "waster" part of the blog name, I've just been hamstrung by my lack of ambition. This really took hold while I was in Japan on the JET programme. You try that trip and most likely your protestant work ethic will collapse when you realise that you'll never be paid so much for so little work and so much fun, ever again. Being an atheist I didn't have a built-in work ethic anyway. I was doomed.

I lasted a couple of years on the programme, in Fukuoka, and then went independent. Meaning I taught English to housewives in the clean room of my apartment. I also took on the job of running a magazine called True Gaijin, and ran it for a year. In 2002, after I'd studied journalism and worked for Cycing Plus magazine for a while, I went back to Fukuoka to take over as editor of a magazine whose name had best remain anonymous, a monthly free paper run by a guy I'd been semi-friendly with when I'd been in the city before. It should have been a great job. If you have a job in Japan which doesn't involve teaching English, you're special. And it would have been great, if the magazine hadn't been run by a jerkoff whose name rhymes with Licks Ass, who demanded a basic 50-hour working week, paid less than McDonalds and rewrote all copy to match his own juvenile idea of style.

Not that I'm bitter.