Crawley Creeps, Vol. 3

Diane watched Sharon leave. Sharon’s hair bounced and looked almost jovial as she strode down the garden path. Diane hated watching her go. Partly because she missed her. Mostly because she didn’t have a job of her own to go to.

No. No job. It was just her and Stanley.

Diane waited in the doorway despite the cold. Sharon reached the end of the path, turned, waved and was gone. Diane closed the door and walked into the living room. Slumped onto the sofa and opened her laptop.

Diane felt productive hunting for jobs but it sure as hell wasn’t the same as actually having one. Making twenty applications a day didn’t pay the bills.

Diane opened a job board, typed in her parameters and leaned back. She took a moment to breathe in the cedar and black pepper scent that Sharon sprayed had sprayed around the house, as was her morning routine.

‘Right. Here we go again,’ Diane said, hands hovering over the keyboard.

Stanley walked into the room.

‘Not now.’

He slipped under her legs and lay down.

‘That’s better.’

An hour and two applications later Diane got up and walked to the kitchen. Stanley trotted along behind her, expecting biscuits. She put on the kettle, pulled open a pack of custard creams and looked out the window.

A vast black cloud stretched across the horizon. As she looked on it grew bigger, blotting out the already grey sky.

‘Do you really want to go with that coming in?’ Diane asked. Stanley barked. Shit, that’s right. He knows “out” now.

‘In a bit.’

She threw him a custard cream. He snapped out of the air and it was gone. He didn’t look at all satisfied. ‘In a bit,’ she said again.

The kettle clicked and she made herself a coffee. On her way back to the living room she looked out the window once more. The cloud was coming quick. The air felt charged. Diane was never sure if that was science or psychosomatic.

As she walked back into the living room, thunder rumbled overhead.

Crawley Creeps, Vol. 2

Three Bridges Station shone like a jewel to the south. Amber and white sodium glare pushed back the darkness. Gatwick Airport Station shone to the north.

Hitesh stood between the stations in the glare of two generator fed mobile construction lights. His and the team’s shadows crossed one another as they reached out over the rails.

Marcus, Troy and Hitesh worked on disconnecting a stretch of track, unclasping the steel rails before lifting the beam up and away before laying the new pieces.

They had been at it since ten o’clock despite the winter gale rushing uninterrupted down the tracks and creeping under their collars. Hitesh wore thermals and was still shivering, his fingers numb even inside thick rigger gloves.

‘There she is,’ Troy gasped, pulling the last clasp open. Hitesh and Marcus shuffled over, slung the straps of their harnesses under the metal and got ready to lift.

‘Oh, shit.’

Troy was staring over Hitesh’s shoulder. Hitesh turned.

‘What the hell?’

Gatwick Airport had gone dark. Where the station and buildings were glimmering moments before, shapes swallowed the light. Hitesh looked in the direction of the runway. The lights were still on, twinkling and ready. But the rest of the airport rested in darkness. Hitesh looked south.

‘Three Bridges is out.’

A rumble shook the air. A clatter and screech of metal. Sounds that the trio knew all too well.

‘There aren’t any trains scheduled,’ Marcus said in his thick Polish accent. ‘Last one went past hour ago. Nothing else until half three.’ He raised his hand and shook it from side to side like a boat swaying on the ocean.

Or thereabouts.

The rumble came through Hitesh’s feet and in a matter of seconds it was in his chest. And then he saw the train. A dark snake protruding from the station. A shadow slipping from shadow like a finger reaching outward.

‘She’s got no running lights,’ Marcus shouted. ‘Can’t even see driver.’ Hitesh strained to see something in the dark but Marus was right. The train was running dark. Hitesh turned and ushered Marcus and Troy out of the contstruction light glare toward the side of the tracks. The chug of the generator was swallowed by the approaching thunder.

They could only just make out the train by the residual glow of the construction lights. Matte black metal. Unmarked. The sides bulged out over the wheels. The thing could have easily been a double decker. It was a behemoth. The air thudded as it went past.

‘You ever seen anything like it?’ Troy bellowed. Hitesh and Marcus, both long-standing employees, shook their heads.

Hitesh counted eight carriages. They watched it as it powered on in the direction of Three Bridges. No tail lights. Just a shrinking shape.

The thunder left Hitesh’s chest. Behind them, Gatwick Airport blinked back to life.

Crawley Creeps, Vol. 1

David stood at his bedroom window and stared into the street.

‘David, what are you doing?’ his wife asked, pushing herself up from the comfort of her pillows. She glanced across at the alarm clock.

‘It’s half one in the morning. What’s going on?’

David turned from the window, walked around the bed and left the room.

‘David? Are you okay?’ Melissa pulled the covers aside and followed David out onto the hallway in time to see him slip downstairs.

‘David. Talk to me what’s wrong?’

David rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and headed for the kitchen. Melissa followed, the cold biting through thin pyjamas.

‘Is someone in the house?’

She rounded the corner and headed after her husband. She heard the drawer open. The unmistakable clatter of cutlery. Melissa’s heart thumped. She glanced back over her shoulder to the front door. Nothing but street light-amber glow. ‘David! Is someone in the house?’

Melissa rushed into the kitchen. Looked out the window into the garden. Darkness pressed the glass. ‘Is there someone in the house?’ she whispered.

David made a sound. Like words spoken around food. Clogging and sticky.

‘What?’

‘Can you feel it?’ David whispered.

Melissa’s shoulders sagged. She had seen this before. ‘David, you’re sleep walking. Come back to bed.’ She reached for his hand but he pulled back. ‘David, come on.’

‘It’s close.’

‘Honey, you’re sleep-walking. Let’s go back upstairs. Get into bed.’ She reached for his hand but he pulled back again. ‘David for Christ’s sake.’

He lurched for the kitchen door. Melissa reached out and felt pain rip through her thigh. She fell back and slammed into the kitchen counter-top. When she hit the floor the pain surged to the surface and she screamed.

She looked up in time to see David run out the front door and into the night.

Regressive Energy Politics

Is the slashing of 4,500 jobs by Jaguar Land Rover evidence that the U.K is aiming for a greener future?

It was made public last week that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are in the process of slashing 4,500 jobs due to uncertainty brought around by a waning of the Chinese market, Brexit, and of course the tax rise on diesel vehicles.

So, is JLR’s decision symptomatic of a change toward a greener future? The answer is convoluted to say the least.
In a typically capitalist society, two determining factors generate change: markets and the government. In the wake of the so-called ‘Dieselgate Scandal’ which exposed Volkswagen as bodging emissions results, the market reacted with reluctance to purchase diesel vehicles until they could get assurance that the vehicle they were buying was not in violation of the law. In response to Dieselgate and the call to lower air pollution levels, the government raised tax on diesel vehicles. In the past, this kind of response only made money whilst other people continued to suffer deleteriously on the streets.

The drop in demand for diesel vehicles is a positive step when it comes to clearing our air of harmful particulates, and it may even signify a shift toward electric or hybrid vehicles. But the decision to increase tax was a reactionary move and its effect on the diesel industry was more accident than anything else.

Ultimately it can be said that, yes, the loss of jobs at JLR is a signifier that the country is heading in a greener direction but it is more the market driven than through government initiative. At this point in time, it is government initiatives to tackle pollution and environmental damage that we need. But they are unwilling.

An example of their unwillingness is the motion for cars to go entirely electric by 2040 whilst other parties are pushing for the year 2032. Not great but an improvement. Now put this against the background of Volvo’s pledge to make only electric cars by 2025.

It was made apparent to me by Tom Bawden (‘i’ weekend: 12-13 January 2019) that forty five incinerators have been approved and a further 40 to be signed off which will help burn up not only the 800,000 tonnes of waste that we can no longer send to China, but all other plastic waste that the U.K produces. Incinerators produce high levels of pollution ad are hugely contested by the general public. The incinerators gain approval, however, by producing electricity, using the heat from the incineration process.

The fact that these incinerators are being planned and built highlights a drastic flaw in our system, or rather, the flaw that is our system. And that is this strange desire to keep things how they are, or else go backward. What I term: Regressive Planning.

There are many different avenues that can be taken when it comes to dealing with plastic. It can be melted down and repurposed for oils broken down and used as mix for new plastic roads, the likes of which we have seen produced in Enfield. The plastic has more flexibility and more strength than conventional methods i.e. tarma,c and is currently being developed on this side of the Atlantic by Plastic Road.

But why would you look to the future, bring in a plan of recycling and manufacturing that could develop an entirely new and fruitful economic model that would make us glide along with our European counterparts when we could just throw a match on the lot and burn it all? Ta-da!

Cough. Cough.

Sorry kids.

The plan to burn plastic for power is rudimentary at best and disastrously neglectful at worst. These are not the plans of a dynamic and forward reaching government but those of a party lacking imagination and hope for future generations.

Instead of believing that we are killing two birds with one stone by burning off all that waste and keeping our lights on, why don’t we revel in the fact that we could kill two birds with one stone by getting rid of plastic waste by finally creating a road system that doesn’t fall apart every time it is hit by frost?

I have wandered a little off track. The thing is, the only thing that government has put into place is a tax scheme designed to hit drivers of diesel vehicles. If the Conservatives wanted to move the country forward into a prosperous future, they would do more than make dissolvable promises.

We are in an age where innovative solutions are available. Some better than others, but most better than incinerator plants that have a tendency to run over budget, wasting taxpayers money, as was the case in Stroud, before poisoning them.
Incineration accounts for 42% of all waste disposal. That 42% could potentially be the starting place for a green energy revolution as much as the aiming away from diesel cars could be the start of a revolution within road transport. The green energy market is one of the fastest growing in the world and it genuinely baffles me as to why we are not making a future by entwining ourselves within it.

Employment Vs Depression

Being a professional driver means getting medicals. Starting a new job driving up to 32 tonnes of shifting mass, employers need to know if you are fit and able to carry out tasks and that you are not going to collapse at the wheel from a heart attack and plough into a load of pedestrians.

I agree that these medicals should be carried out. After all, it is a matter of health and safety and it is in the public interest to have safe drivers on our roads. It is also for insurance purposes, but that’s not something I’ll delve into here.

I recently went to a medical for a job thats starts in the new year. The medical assessment centre was in a large detached house. Stately looking. The inside had been transformed into assessment rooms but it had not lost the homey feel.

I was two minutes in when the doctor raised the issue of my mental health.

“You suffer from anxiety and depression.”

“Yeah.”

“Have you ever tried to commit suicide?”

“Yes.”

“What did you take?”

“I didn’t, I cut my wrist.” I don’t add that it was a terrible attempt or that it left me feeling humiliated.

“Do you have any suicidal tendencies now?”

“No.”

“Any thoughts of self harm?”

“No.”

“I have to ask because, obviously, if you are feeling suicidal…a truck is a pretty big weapon.”

“Sure.”

She asked me if I was on medication. I gave her the names of the medications and she noted them down. She then asked me if I felt okay to drive on my medication.

“Yes, I’ve been driving and performing other roles at Gatwick Airport and I’ve never felt tired or been effected by my medication whilst driving.”

Her gaze lingers a little too long.

After the rest of the assessment had taken place, the doctor gave me her final verdict. She told me that she would send off all the information to the DVLA and that they would likely get in touch with me regarding my health issues.

Sure enough two weeks later I received a confirmation letter asking me to list my medication once again and exactly what I was using each one for. At the bottom of the form I was made aware that if I did not meet certain criteria, my licence could be suspended.

What was meant to be an application for a new licence could effectively mean that I lose my licence and therefore the predominant qualification I have. My job prospects would be slashed.

Whilst I believe that medical examinations should take place for professional drivers, is it right that, because I suffer from mental health issues and take medication, I should be stripped of my driving licence?

Since I have never suffered adverse effects from my medications (I wrote a personal letter to this effect and sent it along with the form that the DVLA sent to me as an attempt to give some more grey to the somewhat black and white simplicity of the questions) does the move to pull my driving licence technically become discrimination?

It might not be, but it sure feels like it. I am depressed and work offers a distraction. Without work I might not be able to pay my side of the mortgage and that could lead to more dire circumstances. I may fall back into depression because of my inability to find work.

Private counselling: not a fan

Six sessions. That is what the counsellor said. Six sessions was about how long it would take to sort out my problems. One session a week.

So what’s on your mind?

So I told him. And then the next thing I know I’ve opened a wound that I cannot close. But he only has one session a week, one number that I can contact him on and he is going on holiday soon.

We have another session next week and this time a thumb is jammed into wound and twisted. Fresh blood spills. And then he goes on holiday. The next few days I can’t sleep and my mind is racing. I call another counsellor and book an appointment. Six sessions. That’s how long it will take. Obviously. The wound is opened wider. I’m not eating. I’m not sleeping. I’ve been given pills from the GP and I wake up half-way through the night and stare at the ceiling. Listen to my fiance sleep. Wait for the sun to come up so that I can just piss away the daylight and ruin everyone else’s day with one word answers.

I end up in a psychiatric ward after making an attempt to get to the local train station so that I can throw myself in front of a train. I am given meds and just about manage to sleep. The days are heart pounding anxiety and manic depressive thoughts and just waiting for 10 o’clock when I can pop my evening pills and get some fucking rest.

Let’s fast-forward half a year and I am out of the ward and going into my first NHS psychiatric appointment.

“We’re not going to talk about the sensitive things.”

I am then told that for four sessions we will be making a timelime and mentally preparing for when we delve into the nasty shit. Four sessions to prepare. That sounds like a step in the right direction. A way that I can actually face things without being left in the lurch. A fleet of numbers that I can call if shit hits the fan. This is how it should be. And this should be available to everyone.

I understand that private counselling helps a lot of people. I do. Counselling actually gave me a couple of solid years of arguments to keep me sane before it all came tumbling down. But deep-seated trauma needs much more than six weeks. It needs more than someone who is making a business for themselves. And getting deep-seated trauma seen to should not have to come at a price per hour. Especially at some of the eye-watering sums that private counsellors can ask for.

People find a god (or gods). People find drugs or alcohol or private counsellors. I was one of the few lucky ones to be offered proper trauma psychiatry. And it is what I need. Because after all, six sessions (or six hours) can only do so much.