Saturday, 2 August 2008

MULTIPLY Creative Challenge #13: My Head in a fog


Link to Original Photo

I think my head has been in a fog a few times since being in this world.

I was born in 1946 and grew up in a London of the 50's when industry was spelt with a capital "I". The days of clean air and water were not known. We had a fire at home that actually was made in a so-called "fire place". First of all there was a layer of newspaper, then a layer of wood and on top a layer of coal. The paper was ignited and the wood started burning and eventually the coals would glow with heat and you kept warm throughout the winter. According to how you were situated there were even different qualities of coal, anthracite being the best and glowing best of all. The cheaper kinds tended to explode now and again in the fire shooting out sparks. We did not even think it was dangerous, you had no other choice. Now imagine a town with then at least ten million inhabitants and all burning fires through the Winter. In those days no-one thought of the emission but today you have to have permission to light a match (especially if you smoke). So what happened was that during the fifties London had smog and then my head was not even in fog (which would have been a bit damp but ok) but in smog.

It is one of my childhood memories going to school in smog. It was thick and absolutely not transparent, you could not see anything in front, at the side, or behind and above all it was not white but yellow. Dense yellow smog - if you had a knife you could probably cut a piece of it out, it was so thick. I remember walking to school in the early morning and walking home in the late afternoon on a Winter's day. You could even smell it as you breathed. What remains most vivid in my memory is blowing into a handkerchief. Not very appetising I know, but you really do not expect to find particles of black soot in a handkerchief afterwards and that is what the result was. Most of us London kids had our tonsils out by the time we were 10 years old, it could not be avoided. I have to laugh sometimes when I hear parents and adults being so aniti smoking. As if their poor little children would be an emergency case if someone on the next table in a restaurant would light a cigarette and they have to inhale the fumes. Of course, not so pleasant, but in the 1950's no-one spoke up about us poor little children walking on the streets of London inhaling soot and smoke from factory chimneys. I would also add that this was the time when the River Thames had no fish anymore. They could not breathe either. I remember when I was very small, about 4-5 years old, my mum would go with me and my aunt and cousins to Tower Bridge in London. They had an artificial beach and for us London children it was our chance to go swimming and play in the sand. In the 50's this was also prohibited as being too dangerous. If the fish died, then it could happen that the children got ill as well.

All I can say is thank goodness that mankind did eventually realise what a threat and danger all the factory pollution was and over the years things have been improved. So basically I grew up in a fog, although it did not seem to damage my brain.

When I was young I didn't have time to put my head in a fog. I had to remain on my feet bringing up my children and going to work to be able to afford it all. No time for having problems as you had to make sure the people around you kept their heads out of the fog.

As you get older a few illnesses crop up and that was my next big fog which I had never forgot. Waking up after a seven hour operation with about 4 or 5 different machines attached to your body and hearing voices in the distance, but not being able to take very much in.

And now with 62 years I hoped for a bit of clarity in the top department but even that is not so easy. Basically I am a very logical person, too logical sometimes. I have difficult in believing things which do not appear to me to have an explanation behind them, although on the other hand I can get lost in a book with a fantasy story. Probably because I know that it is not true and read it for the enjoyment. It is one of the reasons why I am writing this piece of prose and not a poem. Poems are the incarnation of beautiful language. The descriptions and the meanings are just wonderful, but it is a gift I just don't possess (unless it rhymes - but then it is more a ballard by the time I am finished).

So where does the fog come from that was and still is a bit in my head at the moment. It was plain and simple work. The kids are now independent and I have been working for the same company for the last 27 years and enjoyed the work thoroughly. I carried reponsibilitiy in a job which was not simple, export never is. Try delivering a couple of hundred kilos to a country in the far east. You cannot put it in an envelope and just send it knowing that the customer will pay. You have to take steps to ensure financing and organisation of tranport. Many factors affect the success of the business and you can imagine a certain amount of stress is involved. If one day the job changes and more is expected, much quicker and everything combined with more stress - may it be in connection with globalisation or WTO laws you get exhausted quicker, overstrained - you cannot take the pace anymore. This is not even a symptom with older people but also with younger. Then your head is in a fog, known as burn out. This is my case at the moment. You give up. Reactions are no longer the same and the interesting job you once had is gone. You are left with automatic work processes that are the same every day and that have to be done with no-one supporting you as others are in the same boat. At the moment I have been away from this process for two months, but will climb back in some time in the middle of August. I am one of the lucky ones perhaps as the work process for me is now another two and half years and I have a very understanding company where I work. I just feel sorry for the generations that are coming. Will their heads be in a fog or will they be able to change things for the best.

Rainbow over Feldbrunnen

Creative Challeng #13

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