Or grasp the ocean with a span…

My building is on the right.  Taken with my mobile phone.
My building is on the right. Taken with my mobile phone.

I have a job in the very heart of the city, across the green of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This morning I sat alone on the steps of the cathedral, before the rush of commuters and tourists, listening to the slap of water on the steps. Bucket after soapy bucket the water coursed down, and the man who washes the steps of St. Pauls smiled at me.

My job isn’t very glamorous. There are moments where the monotony can get to you, and your life flashes before your eyes. You have no choice but to luxuriate in the emotional channel-surf/reverie. It’s almost like being high. Or you can look at it that way.

After work, I went to a birthday get-together for a dear friend of mine. The pub was a trendy place full of media professionals. All the people who showed up for the shindig were were fashion designers and fashion-industry media types. I had just come from work sporting my Marks and Spencer synthetic suit, my best attempt at faking a professional face. The men were wearing bespoke suits that cost more than I made in a month.

So I met the social challenge with gusto– I stared at the wall. I was happy the walls were entertaining– filled with posters, a rhino head and naked ladies embroidered on hankies in a faux naive style. I read with irony a green 70’s poster in a circus font:

Tis true my form is something odd, But blaming me is blaming God. Could I create myself anew, I would not fail in pleasing you. If I could reach from pole to pole, Or grasp the ocean with a span, I would be measured by the soul, The mind’s the standard of the man.

a poem attributed to Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man”.

I looked to my lap and was mortified: in this crowd of fashionistas, my fly was open.

A man sat between my friend and I and I decided I’d had enough of the freeze outs from the table; I introduced myself. He asked me what I did, which is the rudest and most suspect of questions a stranger can ask. I told him, I needed money so I got a job in the City. He persisted, “but what do you do.” I said I worked at (insert name of multinational investment banking firm here), and this impressed him. He rubbed his fingers and thumbs together in the universal “moneymoneymoney” sign. I told him the best part of my job was that I got to go to the Tate during my lunch break and I as mumbled something about Cy Twombly I could tell he wasn’t listening anymore. He said, “That doesn’t sound good. The best part of your job is your lunch?”

I think most of the people working in the city could say that, frankly. A lot can be fit in an hour. A lifetime if you try. I make every lunch a pilgrimage. I go to the Tate and visit the Francis Bacon paintings. I sit in the church yard of St. Pauls. I watch detritis go by in the dirty river from my lichen-covered perch on the bank. Tourist season is waning, and I take my lunch late. On gloomy hours like this afternoon, the city and I have bit of privacy. If I listen closely enough it whispers endearments like a stubborn, proud lover.

At lunch, I perch on the bank and watch tourists wobble over the bridge
At lunch, I perch on the bank and watch tourists wobble over the bridge

10 thoughts on “Or grasp the ocean with a span…

  1. dude the best part of my job is my lunch too, for similar art-breakin’! and omg if i worked across the millennium bridge from tate modern i would go there every single freakin’ day until i was sick to death of it. i’m jealous 🙂

  2. I can understand your point of view on this one. Even now that I love my job, I still make my lunches count by taking them in a park by the river instead of holed up in the staff room.

    That guy would just never understand . . .

  3. Hey Heidi– thanks for reading.

    The great thing about it is it forces you to just focus on a painting or three, rather than do the survey thing that longer visits demand. You get more out of it.

  4. Hi Stacey– thanks for commenting. The thing is I don’t mind my job either– it’s just that the thing I love about working where I do is the location, but then I don’t think anyone in that crowd was really interested in anyone but each other. Sometimes I find London very cliquish.

  5. Hi Rehan– yes, there was a certain amount of decorum to the washing method– it did seem from another time.

  6. OK, so apart from the poignancy, the melancholic beauty of your words & your endearing humility, plus the interesting philosophical thoughts about the nature of work, life, art & human interaction, just what is it you’re trying to do with this blog?

    I’m kidding – keep it up – great stuff.

    Oh & I’ve only just realised that I’ve also been enjoying your beery alter ego over on I.M.

    (so sorry to hear that the idiots over there have led you to stop all comments, but I do understand why – I hope you keep that up too – very good stuff!)

  7. Hello again, Mike– I think I may have had some of your beer at the Seend beer festival? Unless I’m mistaken?

    At any rate your Dark Matter sounds amazing! I hope to try it some day.

  8. Hi Purrly,
    our website is in serious need of revamping & updating, but glad you found something interesting!

    I don’t think we sent anything to Seend, but we’re hoping to get a lot more beer ‘out there’ once we’re up & brewing under our own steam (hopefully a few weeks away).

    Did you see the wee mention of us over at Stonch’s blog a while back? – (I tried to include a link, but think it got spotted by your spam filter?)
    cheers
    M.

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