Chapter Four - As Tuesdays Go

© Stephen March, May 1995

Arthur awoke in one of the nicest possible ways that you can be violently woken - by the sun shining on his face for all it was worth. It was so strong and bright that even with the curtains shut, and before he'd opened his eyes, he knew it was going to be a wonderful day. Upon opening his eyes and peering through the curtains, this deduction was confirmed. It was a glorious day. The sun was shining bright and yellow, the sky deep blue and crystal clear, birds singing, bees buzzing, radios blaring, pneumatic drills hammering - your average urban paradise. But there was a certain definition to everything that you don't normally get. It's like your eyesight's improved overnight, like your seeing more of things than you normally do. Arthur felt duty bound to exclaim 'Nice one God'.

Arthur fell back into bed and rolled over to look at the alarm clock - it was showing 9-25. Arthur felt luxuriantly decadent, the best thing about sleeping late through the week was the knowledge that your friends have been working for hours before you've even woken up. Arthur spent a while just lying there, enjoying the sun on his face and feeling very good indeed.

Arthur reached over and picked up his bible. Arthur thought that any book that has been around for 2000 years and which during that time has formed the basis of the worldview of the most of the lead civilisations; must have something going for it. He opened it at the bookmark. He had got into the habit of reading a chapter each day and in all honestly he had found it generally helpful. There was some very bizarre stuff in there, for sure. But there was also a distinctive outlook on life. An outlook that is always seeing beyond the 'here and now'. It is a strange mixture. The day to day happenings of life ARE important, thus in that sense the biblical outlook is 'life affirming'. But at the same time the day to day is important primarily in the context of the future. This 'future-orientation' Arthur found helped him deal with the day to day reversals of fortune which are part and parcel of the, 'more-difficult-than-it-is-generally-accepted', business of life. In the particular circumstance in which Arthur found himself, this perspective was more than normally necessary.

After reading the appropriate chapter Arthur spent a few minutes in an activity that might be termed prayer. Prayer Arthur had discovered was a bit like the respiratory process - a lot easier to do than to describe. You start trying to explain the seemingly simple system of breathing - in, out, in, out - but pretty soon you are lost up a pulmonic blind alley with only haemoglobin for company. Anybody who was in your conversational circle has now suddenly spotted a long-lost relative on the other side of the room, or has that glazed-over look that says, only too eloquently, "You're way past the point where I'm interested."

It is the same with prayer. Most of the time the wisest and best thing you can do in the presence of the Infinite is 'shut the hell up'. Arthur had discovered an obscure verse in the wonderfully named book of Ecclesiastes that summed that up;

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

[Ecclesiastes 5:2 - NIV Bible]

But paradoxically it is this very same Infinite that encourages, even demands, that we bring the needs of our day to day existence before him. In the prayer model that Jesus taught his followers, and which has been faithfully passed down from christian generation to christian generation through the intervening millenia - so it must have been found to be of benefit - we are specifically told to bring before God our needs for the daily basics of food, forgiveness, guidance and deliverance from evil. Such are the irreconcilable tensions in the business of prayer.

Thus Arthur would do what he always did in seemingly irreconcilable situation - fly by the seat of his pants. When he felt it appropriate he would ask for help with things he expected to be problems, say thanks for things he'd enjoyed and just generally mention the things you would talk over with a close friend. When he was more aware of the numinous nature of the experience he would just 'be'.

Having spent a few minutes comfortably between the horns of that dilemma Arthur sprung out of bed feeling ready to face the day. He then realised that this had been a dreadful mistake - and fell back into bed again. And promptly went back to sleep. 40 minutes later Arthur attempted the same exercise again this time with marginally more success.

After showering Arthur headed for the kitchen. He threw a couple of bananas into the blender and added a pint of milk and a pinch of nutmeg. He fitted the lid, braced himself and flicked the switch. A few seconds of aural torture and it was ready. Arthur had often wondered why blenders had to be so noisy, as far as he was aware there was no necessity for the things to sound like Motorhead in a phone-box. Silent electric motors and bearings have long been a stock item of the electrical/mechanical engineers' toolbox, so what is the problem? Arthur suspected a conspiracy led by the electricity distribution companies. No doubt based on reducing the peak demand for power over breakfast time. The noisier and unpleasant electrical devices are, the less likely they are to be regularly used. Ever wondered why washing machines sound like an explosion in a bicycle factory and like to jump across the room when loaded with more than a handkerchief? And why toasters either carbonise bread or leave it completely white, (always assuming you are still able to catch it upon re-entry from the stratosphere where most manufacturers seem to think toast-eaters live)? Do hoovers even need to be mentioned? Yet have you ever had the same problem with your gas powered appliances? Arthur frequently invited the World to ponder this anomaly.

Anyway, sitting at the kitchen table with his milkshake Arthur looked out through the patio doors into the garden. He noticed with little enthusiasm that some activity was required. The grass was sprouting, no doubt from all the recent rain. Now, after a days hot sun, it would probably be knee high by teatime. Arthur had gradually fine-tuned the garden to make it as easy to take care of as possible, with all borders 'forest barked' to minimise weeding. In fact the whole garden was only around 20 metres by 15 metres and could be tidied top to bottom in less than half a day. It was just the crucial lack of motivation that caused the problem. The key to personal motivation seems to consist of having the ability to trick yourself into doing something you know you don't want to, and Arthur had always maintained that he was far too intelligent to be able to fool himself like that.

Retrieving the newspaper from the front door mat Arthur browsed through the sports pages. He noticed that a test match started tomorrow at Headingly against Pakistan. He momentarily toyed with the idea of heading there, but reality quickly intruded, what with the necessity of job hunting and a crucial lack of funds. But he was cheered by the fact that there would be no necessity to smuggle his personal radio into work, trying desperately to make out the commentary against the background of electrical noise generated by all the computers. Arthur would be able to follow the match in his favourite manner - having the t.v. on but with the sound down and listening to the commentary on the radio. Arthur had heard cricket described as the world's most highly organised complete waste of time - but the person who'd written that had obviously never been to the House of Lords. The thwack of leather on willow, the excited cries of 'Hows that' - it's a wonder the Lords get away with it. But cricket is an incredible game, the mental and physical contest between batsman and bowler, the psychological warfare of field placings and pace deliveries, the subtle variation in spin and turn. It was a game that Arthur had never got nearer to participating in than when he played in the school playground as a kid, but nonetheless it was a major passion.

Arthur plodded back into the kitchen, spent an hour reading the paper, then decided to go to the shops. Half an hour later saw Arthur entering the supermarket, which incidentally, he would have unable to name if asked. He grabbed a trolley and was halfway down the first aisle when he realised that, yes, he'd done it again. Once more he had independently and without knowledge aforethought, selected 'the trolley with the wobbly wheel'. The first few times that it had happened Arthur had regarded it as just bad luck, then he'd considered that maybe all the trolleys were like that. But watching people gliding effortlessly around with never a collision had bombed out that theory. The odds of always getting the dodgy trolley, when there were probably around 300 to choose from were, well, probably quite small. (Arthur was not a man to be encumbered with the fine detail of mathematical calculation, preferring the broad-brush approach of 'guesstimation'). And what is it with these trolleys? They seem to operate under some form of chaos theory. Arthur would be moving along the aisles cringing at the irregular and impossibly loud squeak coming from one of the wheels, whilst having to push so hard that it felt like a charity bed-push up Ben Nevis, when suddenly, either the trolley would shoot forward and Arthur would end up being dragged for about 20 metres, (or until he hit someone), or the wheel would suddenly jam causing Arthur to shatter his kneecap on the surprisingly unyielding wire-work.

Arthur was tempted to take the trolley back but he knew he'd only get a look from the attendant that said 'you sad, sad person, you can't even drive a supermarket trolley'. So he decided to 'grim and bear it', as Arthur wasn't really a 'grinning' person. He had seen too many Clint Eastwood movies. If the choice is Jerry Lee Lewis or Clint Eastwood - who would you want to be?

Thus Arthur set himself to gingerly progress around the shop. He had a narrow escape in the wine section with a mid-aisle display of Chardonnay that set his pulse racing. But he finally exited the supermarket unscathed. He visited another couple of shops and completed his mission to empty his wallet and fill his carrier bags. Arthur felt that the motto of contemporary western civilisation should be "VENI, VIDI, VISA", "I came, I saw, I did a little shopping". Arthur could generally gauge how much he'd spent by the weight and volume of his carrier bags and felt that this trip had probably been much too expensive. He was however a stranger to budgeting and a marketing departments' dream. Most of his purchases were unplanned, impulse buys and Arthur invariable got home to find he'd bought three types of tortilla chips and no bread or milk.

Arthur trudged home with his shoulders aching and his knees getting sore. Arthur was certain that there must be a medical condition called 'Shopper's Knees', brought on by continuous standing up and aimless wandering along endless aisles on hard concrete floors. Arthur had considered writing to 'The Lancet' registering the condition as a twentieth century disease and presenting his own research. Arthur had found that Shopper's Knees is a condition that can be diagnosed pretty easily by the following method. Enter any Marks and Spencers's and walk around counting the number of people wearing pearl necklaces - by the time you've got to 30, (around 10 minutes), check if there's a dull ache in you're knees. Continue walking around, this time counting blue rinses, by the time you reach 30, (10 minutes), you will have a dull ache in your lower back, be stooping and thinking can I make the next bus home. (If this describes you, please make an appointment with you're general practitioner - they can't cure it but he can give you a letter excusing you from all future participation in shopping trips, that's got to be worth something to anyone). Arthur felt sure that once the condition was officially recognised all shops would carry a government health warning. Arthur would personally take legal action against several stores for the misery they had inflicted on him.

Once Arthur got home he put the shopping away, thought about lunch couldn't decide what to have, decided he must not be hungry and went out for a walk. Arthur was very lucky in that he lived in a smallish town with easy access to the countryside. Within 10 minutes of his house Arthur was in open fields. He decided to climb Barr Hill which had on top of it the remains of a roman fort which had been one of the fortifications along a wall designed to keep at bay the barbarian Picts. Arthur reached the fort, you could see the layout of the walls and a now dry well. He sat down on a convenient rock and tried to imagine the site two thousand years ago. He imagined the rampaging Picts spitting, stinking, with ripped clothes and scarred, angry faces - things haven't changed thought Arthur.

Arthur climbed from the shoulder of the hill where the fort was situated up to the summit and rested casually on the trig point. He had a commanding view of the town down in the valley and the rolling hills beyond. The wind whistled around him and he involuntarily shivered. It was so bright here, even on a slightly overcast day the light hurt your eyes. It made you aware of how dull the places are where we normally live and work - no wonder half of the developed world's depressed. Arthur breathed in deeply and felt tension he hadn't been aware of fall away, he felt lighter somehow. This was a special place thought Arthur, some places are just better in some way, it might be ions in the air, variations in the earth's magnetic field, ley lines or a residue left by visiting space aliens but whatever it was, it helped.

Arthur hung about for a few more minutes surveying the scenery, got cold and bogged off home.

Okay folks, that's all there is for the present. If "The Life, Death and Subsequent Difficulties of Arthur Fenikx" has gripped you and you are crying out for more, email me using the button above. There are more chapters completed at present. If enough response is generated I may post the rest. Or, better still, contact your local quality publisher and DEMAND that they offer me an outrageous advance to complete this (seminal) work! Best of luck!