Tuesday, 15 April 2014

L is for LAME

L is for LAME

LAME is a lovely word. My trusty Collins Concise Dictionary has this to say for it:

lame- adj 1. disabled or crippled in the legs or feet. 2. painful or weak: a lame back. 3. weak; unconvincing: a lame excuse. 4. not effective or enthusiastic: a lame try. 5. US conventional or uninspiring.

Right now, I find every single definition works for me. Number 1 I will leave for last.

Starting with 2, I only have a weak back when I use muscles out in my garden that I’ve not used since last season. I expect I’ll probably have a lame back tomorrow since the sun is shining outside and I really have to get out and do a LOT of garden tidy up today.

3. I’ve been incredibly good at finding loads of excuses for not doing tasks I need to get done- both household and in my writing and my lame excuse of ‘I can’t do it because I’m holding the baby (literally)’ just doesn’t cut it. I’m loving holding my grandson but also doing a heck of a lot of procrastinating!

4. There’s been a fair bit of being ‘not effective or enthusiastic’ about my marketing tasks hence the reason I’m doing things at 10 pm, and not at 10 am.

5. I’m generally quite good at being conventional and uninspiring but sometimes that just doesn’t sell the books.  

I’m backtracking again and am back to 4. I’ve a wee (quite long actually)  story to tell about many years ago.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s it was normal for students to have a job to supplement the grant they received from the government. What was different back then was that students tended to work on that paying job at the weekend or during their long university or college holidays. The student day was a full one with lectures almost all day from 9am till 5 pm- which meant Monday to Friday jobs didn’t happen in the daytime during term-time. Some students worked in bars and restaurants in the evening but I only worked during my long holidays.

I lived in Glasgow, Scotland, and for students there were a few employers who were great at taking on students. The Post Office took on lots of students at Christmas time to deal with the excess mail since, at that time, sending Christmas cards was to use the US term LAME: extremely conventional and often quite uninspiring. In Scotland sending New Year cards was also quite popular, especially for those who didn’t want to send Christmas ones. Though some of my fellow students signed up to work at The Post Office, I didn’t.

Nicholas Nikleby by Charles Dickens
Instead, I caught the bus into the centre of Glasgow at some ridiculously early time to start work at 7.45am. SHOCK/HORROR. That was just so LAME getting up at a time when self respecting students should have been lolling about in bed. I wended my way along to Cathedral Street to the Collins buildings. Collins, the printing firm, had been on site around that area of Glasgow for many, many decades, though they also had a warehouse outside the city of Glasgow at a place called Bishopbriggs. At the entry gate, I picked up my time card and stamped myself in. Yes, it was that kind of ‘clock- in, clock-out’ sort of firm.     

At that time Collins was a major producer of diaries, leather bound bibles and other reputable literary books and tomes. They also published/ produced paperback books. It was mostly for these that the students became invaluable during holiday times. In those days, real bookstores all over the UK would send in their requisition on a regular basis according to what their sales had been like, or whether customer orders had been requested. My first job at Collins was on the top floors where there were racks and racks of paperback books going on for what seemed like forever since the building was a rabbit warren. The newish block was of fairly standard huge rectangular rooms but it was linked to the old Victorian built building through uneven and gloomy little corridors, some of those entryways where you literally had to bend down to pass through and had to avoid the broken and rotting floorboards. Health and safety would have a field day now if they saw what it had been like.

My job, as it was for a lot of students, was to read an invoice and collect the required stock. It might be 1 book of a particular title, 5 of another, maybe more. Sometimes the invoice was for 30 different titles, sometimes for a couple of hundred items. The job meant a lot of trekking around the huge warehouse stock to collect the items but I loved it! The smell of the books and the feel of brand new books were fabulous. What wasn’t so fabulous was that there was no time to read the books. There was a great satisfaction when the books were collected and temporarily bound with the invoice, the books having been really rapidly scanned as they were assembled together on the huge long workbenches before being stacked on the trolleys which took them down to the ‘shrink wrap’ section before distribution.

Where does LAME come in? It was lame that I couldn’t get to read the books but there was also another little story about lame. The day was a long one with very rigidly timed tea breaks and lunch break. Although I say I loved being around the books, it did sometimes get a bit tedious when the sun was splitting the sky outside during the summer holidays. My way of getting over tedium is usually to work hard at the task to make the time disappear. Imagine what it was like to be rebuked by a ‘nippy little sweetie’ for working too hard.

Sometimes the labour rate amongst students varied and many of them were caught reading the books which didn’t go down well. Some students pushed the boat out about how much work they could get away with, claiming the orders were ‘really difficult to find’-  definitely LAME excuses. Generally though, the students who worked together had a good time finding out about each other, often flirting and making new relationships along the way.

'Don't cry, don't cry!'
However, it wasn’t so usual for a student to be reprimanded for working TOO HARD. The day came when the Union rep was called up to talk to me about production. It seemed I had overstepped the mark by working too hard which would set a precedent that the non- student workers would be unable to match when the student time was over and they were back to their studies.

Work more slowly was the instruction. Okay! That meant that if I was caught reading a book then it was me taking a breather to ensure I wasn’t working too quickly. Reverse logic- reverse psychology. I wasn’t even a psychology student but I was majoring in Literature and History!  

Another perk when I got my weekly pay check was to be allowed to go to the internal bookstore, a wee poky room, where they sold off sub-standard goods for pennies. Sometimes the gold tooling on the edges hadn’t been evenly distributed on a leather bound copy, or a diary or book maybe had its cover assembled upside down. I gained a lot of my classics from that bookstore. The standard was, even back then, that they could not be sold if pages were missing. The actual book contents had to be perfect.

I never found out what was wrong with my Nik Nik but I got it for pennies, wasn't complaining and have treasured it along with many others from Collins.

Probably my most well used Collins book is my Robert Burns copy, but that's a little older and was a properly purchased book since I got it as a prize during my last year at Secondary school -session 1969-1970. 

So, back to number 1. LAME and my own writing.

In my Celtic Fervour Series, my Garrigill warrior named Brennus really is lame. After the battles at Whorl, he is seriously injured and like many people who suffer broken femurs their leg bones are not the same length before and after the accident. Brennus uses the limp to his advantage when he spies for Rome since he is thought to be left witless after his recovery. A lame excuse for him- but it works! 

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