An Artist On The Edge A Guide To Life

AN ARTIST ON THE EDGE - A GUIDE TO DEALING WITH LIFE

a guide to dealing with whatever life throws at you 

OK, I might have encouraged you to read this post by stating that it was a guide to dealing with life. It’s not, although it probably counts as a guide to life in the 21st Century. The world is so different to when I was a young boy growing up on my parent’s farm. That's the hook, grab a vodka and keep reading. 

Ok, they didn’t have a farm, I grew up in what used to be known as an Old People’s home before they changed what they called them to sheltered accommodation for the elderly. Not that my parents were old, but they were older than me as you would expect.

My mother was what used to be called a matron. Essentially the person who made sure that everyone was safe and could be called upon if someone needed help. Highly trained as a nurse, and had the patience of a saint. We lived in the same sheltered accommodation, except our bit of the home was a little bigger than the residents of which there were around 50, all over the age of 70. We had some great times, I had so many Grandmas who I loved as if they were my real grandmas. But that is a story for another day because there were a few strange times too. Essentially I had a happy childhood so I can only blame adulthood for what's happened to me since. 

I couldn't quite work out what to title this article, consideration was given to the following:

Why Me

An autobiography that will make you want to buy my art

Does this ever happen to you?

Who swapped out the Oreos for Hummus

Welcome To Facebook

Is it just me?

Does life get better?

A totally inspirational blog post

Ten reasons why you are better off going on vacation without me

Is This How It All Ends

I Still feel young but will someone let my body know

But honestly after this week, I think I am on the edge, or as some might say, the spectrum. 

USUALLY I AM VERY HAPPY

I am usually a very happy person but sometimes, just occasionally I have one of those days when I feel as if I am Michael Douglas in the film Falling Down, but without the gun. Those days when I even annoy myself, and those days when everyone decides to go to the supermarket at the exact same time.

Do you ever have those moments when you think what if? But not what if I did something this way or that way, I’m talking what if Shakespeare had a blog and would he use AdSense or Patreon kind of stuff? Or what if Google was a real person who searched the internet for you, would this put you off searching for dodgy websites kind of stuff?

You find you are seeking answers there is just no question for and you are asking yourself for an answer that doesn’t exist. Still with me? The kinds of questions that are not worthy of being asked of anyone but you feel annoyed because you can’t get the question out of your head and you certainly can’t answer it, and neither can anybody else.

Last week I had one of those days. The dishwasher was repaired the week prior and again last week something else happened to it and yet another engineer had to come out to repair it. So for three more days I had to hand wash the dishes. Little things that usually shouldn’t matter suddenly turn in to annoyances that put you close the edge. Some say these are first world problems and I know, I get it, there are people in desperate situations everywhere, but it doesn’t make some of life's little irks any the less irksome.

You know those days when the only viable option to actually get through the day is to stay in bed. Not for any particular reason are you feeling annoyed, you just wake up and feel out of synch. The kind of days when you are irritated at the slightest thing.  Someone tapping on a desk, or someone sniffing because they won’t reach for a tissue, silly minor trivial things. The things that really shouldn’t bother anyone but somehow they do.

I don’t get many of these days but when I do everything starts to irritate me and one inner voice is telling me “not to be a tool and to let it go”, and another inner voice is saying “did you see what he just did”, and a third is saying “hold my beer”.

I don’t know if I am going through some premature mid-life crisis (maybe not premature even) or if my tolerance levels periodically dip, but there are certain things that seem to trigger a mild-inner-rage and I have come to the conclusion that some things are just not worth getting stressed about anymore, but none the less they still niggle. I really do try hard not to become annoyed with such triviality, but sometimes you know, you just can’t help it.

So this week I thought I would share some recent and not so recent annoyances that have possibly even shaped me as a person because surely this stuff doesn’t just happen to me?

THE AIRPORT

I once spent six hours on a flight in the middle aisle seat sitting next to a woman who was keen to tell me that she was going through a divorce. Six hours because in all that time my mind couldn’t come up with a way to end the conversation earlier and I had no way of getting past the gentleman on my left who was sleeping in a precarious position and who had also taken off his socks. Why do people take off their socks on an aircraft?

Usually this wouldn’t bother me too much, I am used to travelling and I am used to odd behavioural tendencies displayed by some passengers who have no regard for their fellow passengers. I can categorically pinpoint exactly why on this particular day I was out of synch and not feeling like I should or even could engage in a conversation.

You see this was a connecting flight with an overnight stop the evening prior, and the previous evening I had been through one of the worst travel experiences ever. The flight itself only ten or so hours earlier was fine, in fact I managed to get a seat to myself and there were very few people on the aircraft. The meal served was piping hot, and I was constantly supplied with coffee and pretzels for the three or maybe three and a half hours I was on board. Staff were polite, the flight itself was smooth, and I felt relaxed.

The issue came in the baggage claim area immediately after the previous flight. I had only a small case which was two centimetres larger than the size allowed for hand luggage despite that when I checked the space in the overhead lockers it would have fitted nicely. So I had to check the case in. This didn’t bother me at all, silly rules are still rules after all and I had plenty of time to check in to the hotel before coming back to the airport to join the next flight.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that the baggage area and maybe the customs areas are the two most stressful areas of any airport. I say customs despite the fact that you are not carrying anything illegal, you just know that you will be stopped and they will be donning a pair of latex free gloves because you look guilty and because everyone seems to have an allergy, only to find that there are no customs officers at all in the green channel.

So here we were, around fifty or so passengers standing in baggage claim watching the conveyor go round and round with nothing on it at all for twenty-minutes, then the first case appeared which went around at least seven or maybe eight times before anyone realised it was theirs.

Then a number of cases started to come through and within ten minutes the baggage hall had started to clear away leaving a half a dozen souls wondering if their bags had been intercepted by the baggage police.

Then we had the second wave of luggage where everyone breathes a sigh of relief. This second wave seems to come only after the baggage handlers have finished their coffee break after sending through the first wave, so there is always a period of 14-minutes between the waves where the conveyor is empty apart from the odd label  that has fallen off, but the conveyor is still going around. The second wave is usually pretty quick because people at this point just want to get out of the airport and agitated smokers need an urgent fix.

Aside from me, another gentleman was waiting patiently for his case too. We waited for what seemed like forever and then his case turned up next to a handle during the period known as the third wave. Oh how we laughed when we saw the handle which went around three times before I realised it was mine. The handle was without the previously attached case.

The other gentleman wondered off with his case sheepishly through the green channel and it became apparent he was a wrong un, when he stuffed two hundred cigarettes in to a carrier bag before going through and patting his pockets to make doubly sure he wasn’t carrying anything he shouldn’t be.

So here I was, left with only a handle which some thoughtful soul had stuck a label on partly covering my name. The label said “HEAVY”. I picked it up inspected it and you could see exactly what had happened, the case had become completely detached and was now lost.

I wondered through the by now empty green channel looking for some assistance with my missing case and found the information desk where I had to queue for fifteen minutes. The receptionist was clearly overworked by the time I reached the front of the queue and I knew that she would probably be unsympathetic to my current plight. My turn came and I approached this young lady who was by now looking the worse for wear having had to already deal with many, many irate people. I could tell she really didn’t want to deal with what I had in my hand.

Hello, how can I help you she said in a fake yet cheerful tone? Well I seem to have a problem I said as I lifted up the handle to show her. Oh I see she said with her smile now turning from fake to real. This no doubt would brighten up her day.

Ok, we are going to need to fill out some paperwork was her reply. So we started on the long winding road of bureaucracy that the airline had deemed necessary for such events. Firstly did you pack your case yourself she asked? No, my wife obviously did and thought this is all that I will need for week away, I replied as I held up the handle.

At this point she actually wrote this on the form. We went through the paperwork for what seemed like forever but was actually around fifty-five minutes. The upshot of this was that they would do all that they could to reunite me with my case and my underwear before I took the connecting flight onwards. I should proceed to my hotel and await a phone call from the airline.

Clearly things weren’t going so well when I stepped outside into the grey German air of a winter’s evening. I had missed the shuttle bus so proceeded to the taxi rank where I was met by another cheerful soul who looked me up and down before asking if I wanted a hand with my luggage when he saw the handle. This is why I love German people so much, they do have a sense of humour. Just as he popped open the trunk with a wry smile, yes I said, you can take the trolley back.

So that was one of many travel experiences which I vividly remember as being one of those times in life when the day had started out so well before turning into a complete someone peepee'd in my Cheerio’s kind of day. The other was a tyre blowout on touchdown at Orlando Sanford International Airport, and that was a whole new level of crazy as I also got stopped by the Police for driving too slowly in an unfamiliar rental car. Am I the only person to ever be stopped for driving too slowly in Florida?

submarine racing ocean 

THE CINEMA

But there are other times in life when even the smallest of smallest things annoy you, and usually those moments are created when someone who takes their job so seriously decides to mess with you a little.

For example I took my daughter to the cinema and yes we may have indulged in a pre-show Nando’s as we had a couple of hours to kill before we went to see the film. I always arrive early for everything. The film in question was rated as a 12. In the UK this just means that the film is unsuitable for anyone under the age of twelve which you probably already know or guessed. However, I was taken aback when I was confronted by a cinema employee who was probably also about twelve, and who asked me if my daughter had some ID so that her age could be verified.

My daughter is fourteen and doesn’t carry a driving licence with her in part because she is too young to drive and in part because she doesn’t own a car. No passport because we hadn't planned on going to the airport, and I only had my Nando's loyalty card and a debit card with me. This was a bit of a conundrum and especially after having to wait for a few hours, spending the best part of £30 on the tickets, and another £30 on two diet cokes and a packet of Revels, how do I prove my daughters age when she is clearly two feet taller than the imp asking me for her ID? By the way, I said no ice. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Revels, they are mixed chocolate sweets which you play Russian roulette with in the hope that you don’t get the coffee flavoured centre one because they don’t actually taste like coffee. Those particular nuggets of chocolateness are just plain weird. Everyone hopes that they get the Malteser, and I have no idea why people don’t just buy a bag of Maltesers instead. I especially like the chewy toffee ones though. 

I wasn’t too sure if I could pull what I had in mind off, but I am so grateful for having a phone signal which allowed me to access photos on my iCloud account. Here I said, this is her birthday cake from her last birthday. 14 candles, count em. I’m not convinced he did count them but after five minutes he seemed exhausted by the whole experience and lifted the red rope and pointed us in the direction of screen ten. It seems as though everything is a challenge these days.

DAILY STRIFE

Then there are the annoying little things which happen every day and which if you are not careful can quite literally leave you asking WTF (Welcome to Facebook).

Instagram. I really like Instagram because I have some epic accounts which I follow and obviously some epic followers, except that one account who keeps posting photographs of their drink order in Starbucks.

dear Instagram thank you for persistently reminding us what a Starbucks cup looks like 

Like many other people I have seen a Starbucks cup a fair few times before and no matter what arty filter you apply, they all look the same as the ones I drink out of at least every other day. The only difference is that my nearest Starbucks closes at 6pm and I find myself quite envious of the fact that you managed to find one still open at 3am. The only problem I have with Starbucks isn’t their tax returns, but indecisive people who cannot decide between a cappuccino and a flat white and then asking the question, what is a flat white, just before taking the safe bet and ordering a latte. 

Don’t even get me started on the foodies who insist on sharing a photograph of pan-fried chicken with hummus. Hummus is the problem, I once Googled is it ok to eat hummus and the only result to come back was no. I admit I have never actually tried it, and I am a bit picky with my food, (Crohn’s disease, not spoilt), but honestly it doesn’t look like it should be eaten. The fact that people disguise raisin oatmeal cookies as chocolate chip is just one of the reasons I have trust issues, again raisin oatmeal, same category as hummus and avocados, and lentils, and poppy seeds. #NotFood.

Whilst we are on the subject of food, food labelling is also something that generally finds a clink in my defences and winds me up. Not so much the food labelling on the products because the labels just lie to you anyway by disguising carcinogenic ingredients as random numbers, but the signs they put up in supermarkets usually found at or near the bakery counter.

Our bread slicer is used for both conventional and organic breads so if you are concerned about the organic integrity of your home, we recommend slicing it at home. Welcome to Facebook, is this really what we have all been reduced too?

Posting this stuff on social media is a little bit like shouting in a busy public space that you have hurt your wrist after playing too much croquet.

Then there was that incident at 6:24am one morning on a train to London. The time when I was in desperate need of a latte. For those who follow me regularly on social media you may have seen this when I posted it on Virgin Trains timeline. 

I asked for a large latte, I was tired and I needed a pick me up of almost any description. Even train served coffee was going to be almost acceptable. So when the nice lady behind the counter in the buffet car said that they had unfortunately run out of large cups and would I mind having two cups for the same price, well it doesn't take a genius to work out that two small cups is a fluid ounce or two larger than a large cup for the same price. It was a no brainer. Yes I said, but I just wasn't expecting this. 

a latte served in two cups on Virgin Trains 

Then there are the times when I am in a very happy space only to be let down by a complete stranger. You go shopping and you wait forever holding the door open for someone who is making no effort to increase their pace, and they walk right past you without so much as an encouraging wink let alone a thank you or any other sign of recognition that you actually gave up ten seconds of your life to hold the door open for them.

Elevators are a trigger point too. The door is wide open so you make a move to jump in before it closes but the person on the inside is making it look like they are pressing the door open button when actually they are holding door close button really hard, and mouthing sorry just as the gap closes completely. Of course I have never done that, whenever I can I take the stairs to avoid me actually doing that because I probably would. 

Women’s clothing shops are an absolute nightmare too. Not necessarily that there is anything that can’t be fixed but the mere fact that the changing rooms are always in the middle of the lingerie section can cause considerable marital issues. Personally I have no real issue, but whenever my wife goes in while I am left holding the bags, to try on clothes she has no hope of fitting into intention of ever buying, I find it really difficult to avoid eye contact with the woman who is planning on buying a thong. #DidIJustAdmitThatOnline

LONDON

I have said it before and I mean it, I actually like London but there are way too many people. Three words can spoil any day out in London when you are waiting at a train station, “Replacement Bus Service” which usually follows the one other most feared word “Delayed”.

When you finally make it to the tube which is increasingly called the metro by tourists I always seem to get stuck behind the one person who either didn’t get their Oyster card out in time or they forgot to top it up before they have to do the walk of shame to the topping up machine. They almost always have a suitcase which is placed on the left of the escalator, please don’t do this, the left is for those who know what they’re doing amd where they are going, and who intend to walk down the escalator, the right is where you stand with your case either on the step behind or the step in front, and why must you really bring a suitcase at all?

By the way, why do you even use the tube to travel from Euston to Kings Cross, it is a five minute walk or a 30-minute underground faff with a patchy and often non-existent Wi-Fi signal and then only in the concourse, not the train. #Fact

There are only three types of people in London, those who work and live there, and those who get in the way. #AlternativeFact (too soon?)

Then there are the mobile dead. They’re a bit like the walking dead but have phones glued to their hands and their eyes are intensely focussed on the screen, oblivious to the fact that a Unicorn has just been run over by the Uber driver they just summoned with an app on the phone glued to their hand on the very road they just walked across without even knowing.

Then there are the times when you think about hosting a dinner party with friends except today whenever we do this we invite the friends and their 5,000 followers on Facebook, 207 Instagrammers, 319 followers from Twitter and the one follower from Google Plus. The food as I said earlier is Insta’d before being consumed and someone will inevitably post a check in which ends with the sentence, is feeling bored at X’s house. You come in to my home, your phone is going to be stored in a tin until you leave. #NewRules

I love Lego too, and despite my daughter being 14 years old we still occasionally love a good old fashioned Lego session. It is a way of bonding until either one of us refuses to read the instructions which were created by the same intellectual half-wits who create the IKEA self-assembly instructions, possibly.

But Lego can be as lethal as any other toy of mass destruction the minute you step on it with bare feet. It is a peril known all too well to those who have created offspring. However, the major upside of Lego is that you can always take a couple of pieces in to the office, drop it randomly on the floor, and completely mess with the minds of parents with small children.

And then there is the cost to consider when buying large sets of these beautiful little lumps of sharp plastic. If you can afford to buy them Lego but one day you plan on sending them to college or university, I am afraid financially it is one or the other. #ToughChoices

TECHNOLOGY

I said only in the last week or so that I was feeling saturated by technology. I mean everything we do is intrinsically linked to everything else we do so that data can be harvested about just how much hummus we buy, and which way around the supermarket we walk. #VoluntaryDataGiver

This week I feel even more saturated and to be honest, technology is becoming less useful. Let’s take the Fitbit for example. A brilliant little device you wear on your wrist, needs charging less than the Apple Watch, but doesn’t track enjoyable exercises like binge watching a couple of seasons on Netflix. And when I told my daughter recently that I wasn’t planning to upgrade my mobile phone this year, she actually asked if I had joined or was planning to join an Amish community.

And it worries me that kids are becoming desensitised to life more generally. When my parents gave me my very first Polaroid camera, they never had to apply the caveat that it should never be used to take a picture of my manliness so that I could show the world. It was a given. I would never show up for school photos so I wasn’t going to do anything like that.

Talking of photographs, selfies. What can I say? So many times I have seen young girls posting selfies, scrub that, adult women too, where they only show half of their face but both of their well you know, standing in a toilet cubicle in a nightclub in Manchester next to the tampon machine, these posts are just like the Starbucks cup, no matter what arty filter you apply they all look identical. Parents used to parent but now they appear in group shots in the same toilet cubicle. #Classy

These are also the parents who persistently tell their children that they can become anything. Well they can’t. They can’t become a real unicorn, a Jedi, or a Transformer toy, and would it not be better to suggest that if they want to become a celebrity that they will need to first appear in a reality TV show and expose themselves whilst sipping vodka live on TV after the watershed, because we all know that all kids are in bed way before 9pm.

Oh and I almost forgot the text message. There really should be a cut-off point in time when a text message should end. Only today I spent 15-minutes of my life replying to a barrage of texts from the same person, which ended only when I decided enough was enough and I called them, and then they never picked up. If you have 15-minutes to type surely you have a minute to talk.

THE WORLD

The world is way too complicated. I constantly wish I was my age now but in the 1970’s. Well sort of because there would also be a strong possibility that I wouldn’t be here today at all if I had been 47 in 1972. Life seemed so much simpler then and I cannot think of a single moment in the 1970’s that I didn’t enjoy. I am sure there were moments, but I like to reflect back through rose tinted lenses when it comes to most of my childhood. 

Our brains are designed to make decisions. Should we eat, sleep, do this, do that, fight, or take flight. Brains also tell us what is dangerous, what is safe, this is good, and this is really bad. All of these things are controlled by perhaps the most complex organism we know of.

We have even evolved to distinguish other things in between good and bad, edible and poisonous, and so on and so on. But I don’t know if it is just me who thinks that if you take away Google, we lose our ability to think or make critical decisions. I have said this before so I won’t go on except to say that a small minority of people just don’t seem to function like they did in the years BC - Before Commercialisation. 

I guess the real question I am asking today is, “Is it me or has the world changed beyond all recognition and does everyone else get annoyed at the silliest things too?” If you do, please let me know and tell me that I am not alone in thinking that I am the only artist/human on the edge.

ABOUT M.A

Mark “M.A” Taylor is a UK based artist who also happens to blog about stuff. His work is sold around the world and in some of the largest physical art stores across the USA and Canada. Well it's available in some of the largest physical stores at least, sold? Occasionally. You can also view Mark’s work here

He once made a horse faint in Cuba after finding out shouting left, right and stop didn't work, will usually show his ankle in return for five minutes of free Wi-Fi access, and sometimes wants to give it all up and become a handsome billionaire. He also once got separated from his tour group in The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and still finds it a minor miracle that he later found his own way back to the coach with only a temporary tourist visa and no phone signal. You can't believe you just read that, I know, neither can I. 
 

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