On the upcheeringness of good music when nothing works out

I can’t work well at work.

I have a problem with people watching me, and since a lot of people seem to want to spend their day sitting at my workbench I spend a lot of time not working at my best. It’s not my workshop, so I can’t banish them, but I can’t work with them either. Sometimes I’m actually glad of their company – it helps spread the load my colleague can be. I don’t have such a problem with making easy stuff with people looking on, so I save the ‘easy’ tasks for when they’re there. When I don’t have anything tricky to do, or a deadline to meet, it doesn’t matter so much. It’s the stuff that needs to be in the oven today and which involves concentration and perseverance that gets me. I officially start and finish an hour later than the rest, but they regularly stay to talk and drink (less hassle than going to the pub ;)), which doesn’t help much. I often find myself staying on once everyone’s gone home in order to get things finished.

Having the workshop to myself doesn’t always make the glass work better, but it helps me to deal with it going wrong when it does.

I hate it when my glass doesn’t co-operate. I hate having other people watch it not co-operating. And I hate said people asking questions about said non-co-operational glass. As if that wasn’t enough hate for one paragraph, I also hate them giving advice.

This rant is for everyone who wants to watch me work:

At the risk of sounding incredibly stuck up; I generally already know what I SHOULD have done differently, or how it was supposed to work. Sometimes it just doesn’t. I don’t need to hear it from backseat glassblowers. Or other pestilential nuisances. I don’t need to hear the tutting noises as you watch the piece I’ve been working on for an hour fall to bits. I don’t need the sharp intake of breath or the sideways “how-could-you-be-so-stupid” glances. I don’t need you to start a lecture, only to have you interrupt yourself to tell me there’s no point telling me since I’m not prepared to be helped. I don’t need the sighs of supposedly long-suffering teachers. I don’t need you to watch me forget to put corks in the tube ends and then laugh as I blow through, instead of into, my glass. I don’t need you to helpfully point out that the glass is bending while I’m holding one end between my teeth, balancing the other on some precarious pile of boxes, and struggling to put the graphite-paper back into a joint-holder that’s just come loose. I can’t simultaneously pay you and my glass 100% of my attention. I probably don’t need reminding that I still have something to finish for tomorrow, I probably know and am waiting until you go elsewhere so I can start it. I don’t want you to ask me if whatever I’m currently struggling with is Meister-worthy. I don’t want to talk about whether my jeans are in or out of fashion while I’m melting frits into tubes. To be honest, I don’t think I’d care much even if I wasn’t trying to concentrate at the time. I don’t care that you know all-there-is-to-know-about-glass. I don’t care that you ‘have-my-best-interests-at-heart’. I don’t care that you get goosebumps from watching me being so rubbish. I don’t care how much you feel for ‘the poor maltreated glass’. I don’t want to know. If you’re so great, either go and do something useful with your greatness, or make me feel great enough to attempt something more demanding in your presence. Making me smaller doesn’t make you bigger. And the more you have to tell me you’re great, the less I’ll believe you actually are. The people I consider great are great without telling me (or anyone else) about it. You can’t help but notice greatness.

Sometimes I need to be left in peace to figure it out. I need the space to test things out without anticipating your reaction.

Rant over.

Today.

I spent most of the day faffing about, leaving the tricky stuff for after work. I was accompanied into my evening by one of the non-glassblowing watchers. He didn’t stay long, maybe half an hour or so.

I had a complicated glass filter to repair. I did the main work yesterday but had forgotten to melt the broken ends of the spring-hooks. The oven wasn’t full enough to turn on so I hadn’t yet tempered it. Frits are temperamental at the best of times so I didn’t want the gas-air flame to accidentally reach the frit while warming them. So I didn’t warm it at all. Neither before nor after. Idiotic really. Thing is, I wanted it finished by Monday, so I took the risk. Idiotic, like I said.

Moving the shards of several hours’ work aside, I started on the next task: replacing an NSK14,5 with an NSK29 on the end of a 3 way tap set at an angle to a litre flask. Not easy to hold, but not [very] hard to do. I wanted to make my own flask though. The one I altered was made a couple of years ago by my colleague to show me how they were done. I’d made one afterwards and given it to the Doctorand who needed it. This one was kept in reserve. I knew I had been able to make it, this attempt was to see if I still could, and to give my customer something I’d made and not just adjusted.

I made all the preparations. Then I remade the central piece because I’d forgotten the Kernel needed an extension. ARGH. Then I reshaped the top of the central piece because it was too wide. Then I started putting everything together. So far so good. Litre flasks are heavy, and I’m out of practise. I’d also used a holder that was far longer than necessary for the right hand. The main join was okay, could have been neater, but as 30mm Einschmelzungen go it wasn’t bad, especially when you consider I haven’t done one in months. The problem was the tube on the other side. After fighting it for a while I decided to take it off completely and join a new piece on. In the time it took me to prepare a new join, the old join had got cold enough to break when I reheated it. ARGH. I tried to mend the ever lengthening splits, but it was a bodge-job and not a worthwhile one. I finally gave up when the glass pulled itself together and holes appeared. I tried rescuing the groundjoint but it fell off the holder and onto the floor where it smashed.

At this point, almost 3 hours after I could have gone home, I had had enough.

PendantI turned the radio off, put a CD on instead, and spent a good 3/4 hour swivelling on my swivel chair watching the walls whoosh past. (random thought: I have no idea if anyone else remembers this but back in secondary school, we said “go swivel [on a duck]” when people were stupid or annoying or whatever, haven’t heard it said in ages but I had to think of it while spinning). By the time the CD was about halfway through I was a lot happier. When I finished spinning, I mixed some coloured glass ready for next week, made a pendant and went home. I guess I could’ve gone home as soon as the flask broke, but I was too wound up.

Like I said, having the workshop to myself doesn’t make the glass work better, but it helps me to deal with it going wrong when it does.

On complaints, halos and air conditioning

(- or “apparently it does work” -)

I have been bemoaning the state of the air conditioning unit at work for about the last 3 years; pretty much as long as I’ve been there. I don’t [think I] moan much, but when I do find something I consider worth moaning about, I’m pretty consistent. In this case I feel especially justified. I work with glass and gasflames and have my nose directly over the resulting noxious fumes. But, and this is a meaningful but, we do actually have an air conditioning unit, which is more than some workshops, and for that I ought to be eternally thankful, despite thinking it’s situated too far over my nose to be any use.

Naja.

Today I found out that it works, at least part time.

My halo was apparently sucked up into it, and is now gone. 🙁

I hadn’t actually noticed, no idea how I managed to miss something that catastrophic, but luckily my colleague was good enough to tell me.

I’m left wondering how I’m going to deal with this monumental loss. If anyone has any ideas, or has seen one floating around looking lonely, please let me know. Thanks.

On fighting suitcases…

(-The story behind yesterday’s walk home-)

Over the years I’ve had a fair bit of practice at this. As a kid we went on holiday incredibly regularly. Mostly camping, or visiting grandparents, but nevertheless ‘going away’. This almost always calls for packing and carrying some kind of luggage. The folks packed the tent and other useful stuffages so I only had to pack MY things. Usually a backpack is enough for a short trip, but since we almost invariably drove to our final destination it didn’t really matter if things didn’t fit. We had the sort of suitcases you can sit on to do up, ones with buckles and locks. Later, ones with zips. When the family took up flying and hostelling, backpacking moved more into focus. We seemed to fly to the most distant airport from where we wanted to end up, and walk. Walking from an airport equates to carrying your backpack. We also spent considerable time travelling between towns and beaches and generally being on the move. Over time it became normal to have a really good think about whether something made the grade to stay packed, BEFORE setting out. When I started DofE I realised just how important it was to get everything into one backpack, including all the important stuff like tents, sleeping bags and stoves.. (Having a bag with decent straps is also sensible, but that’s a different story). Doing the Offa’s Dyke walk a couple of years later I was surprised to find that not everyone had had the same experience. We (as a group, so as not to name names) sent approximately 25 kg of ‘excess baggage’  home from a remote post office en route.

At some point in [my] history, suitcases with wheels became more common. I don’t know why they hadn’t been thought of before, but they’re a brilliant invention. Anyone who has tried travelling with 30kg of anything will back me up on this.

I moved to Germany 7 and a bit years ago and since then have had a lot of opportunity to fly, move house, visit people a long way off and go sightseeing. I have got through about 4 suitcases, with and without wheels, and have been known to pack my things in washing baskets. As a rule I have too much stuff and, despite all the warnings, still carry too much on a regular basis. Especially when coming back from shopping 😉

Considering all this, I don’t seem to have made a lot of progress when it comes to actually fighting the silly things.

My folks were here recently and left me a ‘broken’ suitcase which I think originally belonged to my sister. I don’t really know where or how it’s broken, so I’ve been using it since to go shopping. I had a party at work (will probably make its own post soon) which I needed to cater for and this meant lugging drinks and food from town to my house, and from my house to work. When I usually go foodshopping, I take cloth bags with me, pick up an empty box while perusing the isles and therefore know how much more I can buy before my arms drop off. Once everything’s paid for it makes its way into my rucksack and/or my cloth bags and I go home. Easy. Ish. I live by myself, so most of the time I only have to feed one person. I eat enough, but there’s only so much food a person [of normal build] can get through so I don’t often have to carry THAT much home – unless Aldi has a good deal on huge plastic tubs or duvets or papercutting devices that is..

This time I knew I was feeding most of the people I spend time with at work and had come prepared. I had my sisters ex-suitcase with me.  I felt ready to take on the world. I got a trolley. WHOO!! – No more juggling with halffilled boxes while bending down to get something off the bottom shelf. No more onehanded unpacking. No more looking for a bigger empty box when the original becomes too full. Bliss.

The bliss lasted until I reached the other side of the till and realised I was going to have to give my trolley back.

Damn.

Then I remembered I had my suitcase.. So all was not lost.

While I don’t have anything very much against alcohol, I don’t see why I should buy it for other people when I don’t drink it myself. This doesn’t go down well in Germany. But anyway. My party, my rules. I bought enough for everyone to comfortably drink their usual fill, except I didn’t buy beer, I bought I bought fizzy water and fruit juice. This would be largely irrelevant, if it wasn’t for the fact that liquid is heavy. Very heavy. Heavier, in fact, than I’m guessing the suitcase had ever been subjected to previously. 18 bottles of water a 1.5L plus 16 L of fruitjuice = 43L. Assuming the packaging weighs nothing (which blatantly isn’t true) and that water and juice both weigh 1kg/L that’s 43kg. And I didn’t only buy drinks. I also bought crisps and other frivolities like onions and lettuce.

Having got myself and my shopping out of both the trolley and the shop, I realised I had left my buspass at home with my previous pile of shopping (even I don’t try to buy real food at the same time as drinks). I phoned a friend. No luck – when faced between going out for dinner and lugging the best part of 50kg up a hill I know what I would choose. They chose it too. The other people I tried phoning – the people I know have a car – were out. Walking it is then – YAY!! And then I found a bus ticket in my pocket. Not my buspass, where I can travel for ‘free’ (as long as I pay the monthly subscription), but a proper ticket which needs stamping. Better than nothing, and certainly better than walking the “long miles” (/4km) home (thanks RT).

Once on the bus I decided that my original idea was a very silly one, and that it made no sense to take anything home which was going to be needed for the party. I got off the bus at the stop closest to where I work (luckily on the same busroute) and tried to persuade the suitcase it wanted to come with me. It took more persuasion than I care to write about, but we both ended up on the pavement so it was okay. So far so good. Now to go about getting from the busstop to the party room. It is a stretch of maybe 150m. It usually takes about 2-3 minutes to get there, including the time you have to wait for the lights to go green. For this trip I think I needed something more in the region of 23 minutes. I stopped every few metres to let the blood back into my fingers and to get my breath back. I’d swap hands and tackle the next couple of metres and then stop again. I don’t remember the last time I made such slow and painfull progress.

When we finally got there, I unloaded everything liquid out of the bag and went home.
The next day (after a remarkably short night) I packed the 3 deep trays of freshly prepared lasagne into my trusty suitcase and trudged into work. They too were heavy, but nothing compared to the ordeal of the evening before.

The party happened, or didn’t as the case may be, and the leftovers were left for the next day. The next day came and went without making much of a mark on anything, which is why I came to once more be dragging my suitcase on and off busses and fighting for blood in my fingertips. However, I did leave the juice at work, to be collected at a later date. I might be a little overenthusiastic when packing but I don’t have a death wish.

The handle is made of plastic coated cloth sewn onto the end of the case, which I guess is pretty handy, but it does mean you have to either stoop or hold the case at about 45 degrees to the floor.

It bit me. Repeatedly.

For some reason I can only really pull suitcases or trolleys with my right hand as my left one stays too close to my body and so makes whatever I’m pulling bash my ankles. I’m used to having a telescope handle on my suitcases, which helps on the ankle-bashing front, but which this particular case doesn’t have. When you take a step the re-enforced end bashes into the back of your leg, and the handle digs into your hand and pinches the skin at the joints. Even when dragging with my right hand it bashed me. It might not have been an entirely fair fight, given that I still weigh more than it does, but I don’t think that gave me any advantages over it. I didn’t give up, but it didn’t either..  I suppose I must have won overall, since both I and it made it back in one piece, but I think I have to give it points for effort. It also appears to have suffered no damage at all, whereas my leg is decidedly more bruised than it was when I started.

On not sleeping…

Explain this:

  • Pausing to admire the sun

    This morning, as on many others, I had to fight myself to get out of bed. It was so cold everywhere but under the duvet, and I snoozed and I faffed about and ended up running halfway to work, so as to be marginally less late. (My minutes of lateness seem to add tens of decibels to my collegue’s vocal utterings. There are mornings on which my ears just aren’t up for that kind of treatment).

  • I spent the entire [work]day waiting more-or-less patiently to go home in order to get back to bed where I can begin the wonderful task of paying back my horrendous sleep debt.
  • evidence of a misspent night (Weds)

    Having just about made it home via an agonising process of “c’mon, you can make it to the next lamppost…and to that tree…just that staircase then you’re there…”*, I then had a bath instead of a quick shower and proceeded to completely miss the turning to my room, making a beeline for my computer desk and spending the evening reading other peoples’ blogs instead of actually going to bed (or eating or clearing up my kitchen or doing any of a number of productive things).

I got home at about 4pm. It’s now half past 1 in the morning. WHAT HAPPENED??

I have a wonderful bed

It’s not like I don’t have a bed. Or that the bed I have is in any way uncomfortable or uninviting. It’s a fantastic bed. The sheet’s clean and I even have a new duvet. I had about 6 hours sleep last night, and not quite 4 the night before that. The few nights before that were also shorter than optimal.. So by rights – or at least by my reckoning – I’m owed at the very least 4 hours extra sleep tonight. Tomorrow (today) I’m going to sell lunch tokens to people. That means dealing with money and giving the correct change, and that means mental maffs and would be much better accomplished with the ability to think vaguely straight. This is generally achieved by getting enough sleep.

If I know this AND am tired, WHY ON EARTH don’t I just go to bed?

The answer is I haven’t the faintest idea.

Or at least, none that would hold any water if it happened to have any poured on it.

My theory is that there must be some kind of magic woven into the words. Magic isn’t really one of my big themes, what with being Christian and all, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it. If I’m not actively choosing to stay awake (and if I am I’m not aware of it) what am I doing still up? There must be some kind of something keeping me here.

So just what kind of ‘magic’ (for want of a better word) do these blog-writers create? How does it work? And more importantly, at least for me right now, is “why am I not producing my own trail of sleep-deprived people?”

And that, dear readers, is why I made this blog. You are my guinea pigs. I want to find out what causes readers to read against their better judgement.

I also want to give some of the more restless thoughts and wonderings in my head space to run about and play, and give the others space to grow. And besides. If my brother can become a successfull blog-writer, why shouldn’t I be able to?

Dragged not carried

*in my defense, I WAS heaving/dragging 21 Litres of water and something like 6kg of Lasagne in a cloth trolley-suitcase behind me at the time…