Sorrow

I’m a good person. I’m certain of that. I’m decent & honest & loyal.  I have my faults, of course I do, but as far as I possibly can I try to make sure those faults don’t effect other people. I am atrocious with money & I’ve been irresponsible far too often. I have hurt people in the past. There have been times when I’ve been selfish. I suppose most of us have. I still carry the guilt for the times I’ve hurt people that matter to me. I can be a pain in the arse, I can be annoying. I’m opinionated. I can rub people up the wrong way. I know that. I’m not particularly proud of it but unfortunately it’s who I am. I don’t put on any act, I’m just who I am with my heart on my sleeve & in whatever mood I happen to be in at any given moment. I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not. I think the people who really know me genuinely like me. 

I care about people. I care about the people I know. I want them to be happy. If someone I know has a problem, my instinct is always to do what I can to help them fix it. I care about my family, I care about my friends, I care about the people I work with. Most of all, I love my son. I am absolutely devoted to him. He’s my first, second & last priority. I think I’m a good dad. I try to be. 

I’ve never been in trouble with the police, I pay my bills, I’ve done my best in my job for nearly 20 years, I’ve raised money for charity, I’ve offered assistance to strangers when they’ve looked like they needed help, I’ve been there for people at their lowest ebb, I’ve offered the best advice I could to people in difficult times. I’ve tried to be the best person I can be. 

Today though, today, I can’t help asking myself what it’s all been for. Today I am hurtling towards rock bottom because I really don’t know what I have to do in life to catch a break. Is it me? Is it just bad luck? Should I just be thankful that there’ll always be people in a worse situation than me? Am I just being pathetic & self-absorbed & self-pitying?

Because I have to be honest, the last 6 years feel like one long unending nightmare. Perhaps I’m missing the good things that have happened & ,don’t get me wrong, I appreciate every single second I spend with my boy & his happiness means everything to me. Also I know I could have suffered worse things. However, being burgled yesterday just seems to be the latest, possibly greatest, shit thing I’ve had to endure & I’m certain the good things are way, way behind on the balance sheet. 

This week alone I’ve had my keys stolen & had to change my locks, I got dumped by a girl I really liked on Sunday when things had been apparently going well (another chapter for the book on my disastrous love life, albeit a brief chapter), I’ve had to put poison down in my house to tackle the latest mouse infestation & then I got burgled. 

My boiler has broken this year, a pipe burst in the house, the loft has been taken over by pigeons. That’s just the last few months. The last 6 years have been littered with this stuff, regular & often. And what’s in the plus column? My boy, always my boy. Nothing much else. 

I don’t know what I did wrong. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve finding myself living this life. I spent 5 years on anti-depressants. I came off them last October because I thought I was ready to cope without them. I got to a point where I had a feeling that I might just be bringing things on myself, that being downbeat & unhappy was just attracting more misery. I’ve made a real effort to be positive in the last 6 months. To be optimistic. Not to talk about, or get bogged down in, my own problems or issues. To try to be happier. 

I have to say it hasn’t made any difference. I still feel like I’m getting kicked in the teeth. If my son isn’t around I still feel absolutely alone in the world & isolated even when there are people around me. 

I feel a pressure to be strong, a pressure to endure, a pressure to be a man, be stoic, show resolve, take things on the chin. I feel a pressure to be that person & I’m trying. I’m really trying. I hate the thought of people worrying about me ever. I don’t like to be fussed over. But my energy feels sapped. I’m not sure how well I’m coping anymore. I feel broken. 

I don’t have any real sense of entitlement. I don’t deserve or want anything special. I just want a break. I just want to not have to endure any more for a while. I’m so tired. 

They broke into my house. They smashed the window in my kitchen & broke into my house. Glass has been trampled right through the house & it’ll take days to find & clear up all of it. They took my things. In the aftermath last night I tried to deny that I was feeling violated but I do. I feel violated, I feel victimised & I feel scared – scared that it will happen again. I’ve lost a sense of security. I feel humiliated. Right now I feel like putting up bars on all my windows & doors. I want to run away & hide. 

So that’s me. That’s where I’m at. I apologise for my self-pitying whining. This is my coping mechanism. I write things down & put them out there. Perhaps sharing helps me feel a little less alone. I’ll go work the rest of the day now. Then me & Wills are off to a wedding tonight. I’ll try to have fun. I’m staying away from home tonight – I can say that because if anyone breaks in while I’m away there’s nothing left worth stealing. Then it’s back home tomorrow to face reality & a visit from the police. 
Life goes on. 

Don’t You Wonder Sometimes ‘Bout Sound & Vision

  
I read a list article the other day, “Things Only An hmv Employee Would Understand”. Given the amount of hmv friends I’ve collected over the years it’s probably not surprising that it did the rounds a bit on my Facebook page. I had fairly low expectations when I opened the link, maybe a bit of mild amusement, but it actually pissed me off a little. My impression is it was written by someone who didn’t have a particularly long hmv career, certainly not someone who has any great understanding of what’s great about working for hmv. Pretty much every point sneers either at the company, the job or at the customers. Ultimately the article was just boring. 
So I’m going to have a go at writing about some of my experiences. I can’t write from an all-encompassing “what everyone knows/thinks” perspective, I can only write from my own point of view & maybe you’ll relate to some of it, maybe you won’t. But I won’t be criticising or sneering because, frankly, who cares? 

  • Customers. Everyone who has ever worked in retail has had a bad experience with a customer at some point. It happens. Some people are rude. Deal with it, move on. The truth is 99.9% of customers are fine &, in fact, a fairly large percentage of them are lovely. Every store has its regular customers & a few of them stick out for me in a few of the hmv’s I’ve worked in. There was a guy in Inverness who collected everything that the Island record label released in the 60s & 70s. We had great conversations every time he came into the store & I even had the pleasure of meeting him on the long train journey to Perth & we talked about music all the way. There was the memorable & unique Dennis in Glasgow Sauchiehall who, for whatever reason, needed someone to read out the tracklisting of CDs. Dennis liked the great American songbook singers like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra & the like. There were certainly days when it could be a chore reading song titles to Dennis but I liked being one of his favourites & I liked the responsibility of helping him out. And then there is my favourite ever customer, Mr Stodart of Falkirk. Mr Stodart was blind & I’d imagine that had a lot to do with his love of music. He must have spent every penny he had over the years on music. He would come in every Saturday morning to collect his orders & to order more. Mostly these were big expensive box sets on the Proper Records label. He loved Jazz, Country & Blues. Artists like John Coltrane, The Louvin Brothers & Howlin Wolf. He spent fortunes. I loved chatting to him on a Saturday morning, he was a truly lovely man – I hope he still is! Even after I left the Falkirk store, & moved to Clydebank, he used to call my new store occasionally just to have a chat. I have a genuine affection for all of the regular customers I’ve known over the years. They are all a big part of why I love my job. 
  • Then there are colleagues. I’m not into misplaced hyperbole or glib sentimentalism but I say this honestly, there is no other way to describe how I feel about so many people I’ve met & known in hmv these past 19 years than ‘family’. Many of my best friends are people I’ve worked with, some I’ve not even worked with directly but have gotten to know along the way. Sure there have also been a few colleagues that I’ve despised with every inch of my being & there are plenty that I’d struggle to mount even a sense of indifference to. Also I happily concede there’s an army of people I’ve rubbed up the wrong way over the years who properly hate me too – dems da breaks. However there are so many people that I am hugely fond of, a few that I’d be lost without & a few that feel like the brothers I never had (there are female colleagues I like a lot too but I’ve already got a sister so that turn of phrase would be inappropriate). I’ll not name any names but you mostly know who you are (please note: if I take the time to argue with and/or abuse you it probably means I like you – and I know you can take it). 
  • Glasgow Sauchiehall Street. I worked in that, sadly departed, store from 1997 till 2002. I’d be interested to know if any single store, past or present, can boast as many still-serving store managers from one team of people. I think there are still 7 of us (but there were a few more that went on to manage their own store). As far as I’m concerned that store at that time was as good as it gets. The store itself ran brilliantly thanks to that dream team but also the socialising was amazing too. So many brilliant nights in the pub. Those were quite possibly the best 5 years of my life. 
  • The North/South Divide. Dear The South, it’s entirely possible you don’t know this, and please take this in the spirit in which it is intended, but we think you’re rubbish. We’ve always thought you were rubbish. You are The Lannisters. We are The Starks. We’re the good guys. The cut off point is somewhere a touch south of Birmingham. Is this prejudice in any way based on fact? It’s possible that it’s not. But it probably is. It’s good to have rivalries though. When I worked in Sauchiehall St we hated Argyle St, working in Glasgow we hated Edinburgh, working in Hull I pretty much hate every store that isn’t Hull. But mostly it’s The South, always The South. 
  • New Releases. I still get a kick out of new release CDs arriving in store the week before they are released & being able to listen to them first. It’s not as special as it was due to the now standard practice of albums being available to stream online the week before release but it’s still nice to be able to hold a new album you’ve been looking forward to in your hand before most other people. Equally, I love the big blockbuster releases that go supernova on day 1. Roll on the release of the next Adele album & the next Star Wars film. 
  • Christmas. It’s hard to describe an hmv Christmas due to my propensity to completely forget everything that happened by mid-February every year. I think it’s like an inbuilt self-preservation mechanism. If I could remember what happened last Christmas then how on earth could I possibly consider putting myself through it again! It is quite simply an annual insanity. At the end of it, when I close the doors on Christmas Eve there is always an enormous sense of satisfaction even though that feeling comes at the cost of being on the very precipice of a physical & mental breakdown. Also, big shout out to those middle-aged men that come in early every Christmas Eve having just started their shopping & looking for some obscure item their befuddled brain has randomly decided is the perfect gift idea. And to those poor souls who knock pleadingly on the locked doors at quarter past five every Christmas Eve – you’ve only yourselves to blame. I’ll say this though, I love people with lists. I love finding every item for them. They always think you’re some kind of Jedi genius for knowing where everything is & they’re always exceptionally grateful. I love that. 
  • Staff Discount. I’ve hardly bought a CD, LP or DVD at full price for nearly 20 years. What else is there to add to that? I give thanks & praise for this blessing. 
  • Defying expectations. I wonder how many hundred times I’ve been asked the question “Has the internet had an impact on sales?” More often than not it’s asked with a just detectable tone of ‘you’re going to need to find another job soon’. Obviously there was a time when that looked entirely possible & heartbreakingly it turned out to be the case for a lot of very good friends. However we’re still here & at this moment in time it looks like we’re here for a good while yet. I’m proud of that & I’m very happy to report that I’m enjoying my job right now more than I have done for about 10 years. 
  • Conference Live Acts. I’d definitely say I’ve gotten better in the last couple of years at conference. I’ve had a more positive professional outlook. Up until then though I’ve moaned my arse off at every conference I’ve been to. I hate being away from home, I hate travelling to London (or anywhere else that’s not Glasgow or Hull) & I hate staying in hotels. However I do like the drinking, I love seeing old acquaintances that I only see once a year now & I mostly like the exclusive live performances we get to see. Charlatans, Kasabian, Johnny Marr with the Cribs, Madness, Lana Del Rey, Amy Winehouse pissed, Manic St Preachers, Seasick Steve, Friendly Fires & plenty more I’ve forgotten. My favourite though was last year’s, my initial reaction to Simple Minds was cautious to say the least but by the end I was on my feet at the front of the stage & around me were some of my favourite people in the world (especially the Celtic supporting ones although I’d add that dirty bluenose Morgan was right up the front too), people I’ve known for nearly 20 years, & we were all singing along. It was a special moment. Wonder who we’ll get this year, keeping my fingers crossed for The Pogues. 
  • What the hell else would I do? Sell shoes? My job is to sell the things I love passionately every day of the week. I have yet to see greener grass on the other side. I’ve been doing this job for my entire adult life, I’m institutionalised, I’m Brooks from Shawshank Redemption. I love my job (most days). I don’t want to do anything else. 

There’s my list. I’ve had plenty of gripes along the way but the pros have hugely outweighed the cons. I take nothing for granted but I dearly hope I reach my 20 year anniversary next year, it’s a landmark I’ll be exceptionally proud of, something I’ve wanted for a long time but certainly never expected when I walked in for my first day at Glasgow Argyle St on 31st July 1996. I was a daft kid when I started. I grew up while working for hmv, I learned so many important lessons in those early years, I’ve discovered so much music that I might not have heard otherwise, I’ve met so many people that mean the world to me, I met Henrik Larsson & Eric Cantona, I found a career doing something I was good at. So spare me the gripes, the sneers & the petty complaints. I’ve been lucky. I’m sure there could have been other jobs I’d have loved, playing in Celtic’s midfield springs to mind, but I’m happy with the one I’ve had. So many good memories, so many friends. I’m thankful for them all.