Saturday, December 16, 2006


I’ve just completed my second week of Full Time work at the Crematorium. The first week was pretty much as I expected it to be, mostly working as a Chapel Attendant. I've been tired by the end of each day, though I have felt more consistently engaged. There was something about working Part Time, which left my energy broken off just when it reached a purposeful flow. This week I began my training as a Cremator Technician. This means I have to do one hundred cremations, pass an examination, and have one complete cremation closely monitored.

The days went OK, but I found my sleep quickly became almost non-existent. Over three nights I only had six hours sleep. With each new morning, I awoke more bleary eyed and mentally zonked. David was, unfortunately, also having a period of restlessness and fidgety sleep. So we weren’t a great deal of help to each other, compounding rather than easing each others problem. Each night I awoke after a few hours sleep, heart pounding away as if I’m in a panic, unable to relax or slow it’s pummelling action. Obviously, I could say this was all due to the change in my work. Watching the cremation process in much closer detail, days, rather than hours, of raking out the remaining crumble of bones, must leave a mark on ones psyche. I can’t see how it would not. I am, however, reluctant to just park it there and let it solidify into fact. It doesn’t feel quite that simple.

To start with there is the whole practical circumstances under which I’m sleeping to consider. If both of you, sharing a bed, turn over frequently and heavily, that’s not going to help either of you settle. Sometimes, being over stimulated just before bedtime doesn’t help. Both Monday and Tuesday nights I was engaged in deep and engaging conversation prior to going to bed. I reduced my coffee consumption, plus, looked at any thing which might disturb my sleep; like needing to pee in the middle of the night; or eating too much dinner. For many years, since living in a flat above extremely noisy and unpredictable Scottish Shift Working Lorry Drivers, I’ve slept using earplugs. Our bedroom window is blacked out, because we live opposite Cambridge United's Football Ground, which has floodlights, and two well lit advertising hoardings. Such strong artificial light tends to wake me up believing its morning. Having reviewed these, then I can consider how other circumstances might come into play.

Starting work Full Time at a Crematorium is, after all, quite a big step. Especially after all the soul searching, which concluded that I wanted to work Part Time to provide space to write and paint in. Once more, my desires appear to have been subsumed by practical necessity. There is a cloak of sadness wrapped around this, one that I haven’t wanted to look under too carefully. By Wednesday afternoon, I was beginning to sense an emotional upset and tearful feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not only am I working around death all the time, I’m also experiencing the death, for now at least, of a deeply held desire.

Listening to The Archers on Thursday night brought some of the emotion more cogently to the fore. Two of the Gay characters, Ian and Adam, were having a Civil Partnership Ceremony. It’s all been handled in a typically Radio 4 way, well meaning, slightly clichéd and above all lavished with liberal worthiness. At the end of the episode, the Mother of one of the characters said how proud she felt. I felt those tears welling up as she spoke. The day before, I got a Christmas card from my parents, and a separate card for David. I was a little put out that there wasn’t a card addressed to both of us. When David opened his, it was signed quite formally as’ from Mr & Mrs Lumb’. David, quite understandable, felt not fully welcomed into the bosom of my family. David’s Mum has been very open and generous. She has bought presents for my birthday and at Christmas, in every way she has behaved as if I’m part of her family. So the contrast is quite marked. My parents are really quite conservative, and from an entirely different generation. That they sent a card, was their way of acknowledging our relationship. I also recollect that my Brother in Law was still calling my parents Mr & Mrs Lumb years after he married my Sister. So, its not about discrimination or rejection, its more related to a level of formality they think is appropriate to someone they’ve only met once. That David is my partner would not change that. They may also be uncomfortable, not quite knowing how to couch or refer to something, which in their generation would never have been talked about publicly anyway. Social formalities have relaxed generally, but not for my parents. Though having said that, it doesn’t stop me feeling what I am is not fully accepted by them. This is what was touched on, and made me tearful. I was upset about things not being how I would like in terms of my work, my desires and how my parents relate to my partner, and myself, as gay men. Simple unsatisfactoriness, delicately interwoven like a thread of pain through the rough and ready cloth of everyday life. Owch !!

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