Am I to be paid for this?

I’ll tell you what’s keeping me awake at night… and it’s all my own fault.  I’ve got a Billy Bragg complex whereby I feel that the world is skewed so that – oh la la! – the ripest fruit falls into the laps of those who already have too much, and impecunious folk like me have to scrabble on the ground looking for wind-fallen, wasp-bitten stuff that isn’t too badly damaged considering what it’s been through.

What happened was that I was at a party on Sunday where among the company were Mr Schroder and his wife – and let’s be perfectly candid… they’re not short of a bob or two. Lovely people – stinking rich. I was dizzy with the implied flattery of it all when Mrs Schroder mentioned that she’d heard about Phoenix from the Ashes, and asked where she could get hold of a copy.  ‘I’ve got one right here!’ I said, lifting the box of books I’d brought in the hope of being asked for one: ‘…and if you’ve got a tenner I’ve even got a pound in change.’

Now, Mrs Schroder only buys goods of the highest quality and authenticity, and naturally enough questioned me closely about what she was getting:

‘Did you write it?’ she said looking me up and down doubtfully.

‘Yes.’ …There was a pause.

‘All of it?’

‘Yes.’ …Another pause.

‘Without any help?’

Living on a remote island far from the bright lights of a bustling city is like living in a forgotten meadow far from the from the Nitrogen-dusted, sterile fields of an intensive farm – the expectation is that anything that does grow will be stunted.

I asked if they wanted it signed – Yes; and did they want a dedication – Yes; and how should I spell their names? …and in all the to-ing and fro-ing of information; passing back and forth of thanks; me giving them a pound and expressing my wishes that they enjoy the book; it wasn’t until they were leaving the room that I realized I hadn’t actually been given a tenner. So – to save embarrassment; to avoid having to stop them at the door with the words: ‘Excuse me… but have you paid for that?’ – I watched the multi-bulti’s walk out, inadvertently carrying a free copy of my book… and a pound of my money to go with it. Why does that feel like a metaphor for my life?

Now, of course, a few quid shouldn’t matter to me – but the reason it does matter is that my chosen line of work is notoriously badly paid, and consequently my finances are as tight as a gnats chuff. What I do, by the way, what I excel at – and I think I can say that without fear of contradiction – is buggering-about-at-nothing-in-particular. Each of us should do the work God fitted us out for – and do that work tirelessly; yet the trouble with my calling is that there are a lot of charlatans out there who try to muscle-in on my line of work, even though they’re not nearly so well-qualified as I am to do it, and I find that the competition is fierce.

Not only is buggering-about badly paid but some people – well-paid enough in their own careers – fancy tinkering about in mine for a ‘change’ and are even willing to do it on a voluntary basis – completely undermining my claims for remuneration.

So, facing the sober prospect of choosing an alternative career – doing some useful work, perhaps (which I know I’d be completely unsuited to – and anyway, what right have I to encroach upon the occupations of others, and take the food from their mouths?) I walked the dog around the loch. It’s just over the hill from the house; it’s quiet… you have a chance to think, and it only takes about twenty minutes to circumnavigate. I sat down at the far end where the silence was so in-yer-face you could carve it into chunks and sell it by mail-order if you could be bothered to lick all the stamps. It was the perfect evening for a bit of work and so I sat there and compiled a list of all the places in the world – hot-spots if you will – where people like me could move and find no work was actually available.  It’s not a complete list, but it does give hope. Give hope… perhaps that’s God’s purpose for me?



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7 Responses to Am I to be paid for this?

  1. Justin, you are so incredibly funny. I don’t think I ever read anything you have written without a huge snigger, and the memories of you playing the clown at school. I am sure that your book now that it is in Waterstones will go far. They were very helpful and said that several people had asked for it so they ordered some? So hopefully, your buggering around ( and i think that you should be very careful when using that terminology) will pay off eventually, so that you can go on to your next adventure, and write about that.
    With Great Respect, Susan

    • justintyers says:

      Gosh Susan – that’s so kind… when hope is flagging you arrive with plenty. Great news about Waterstone’s – which branch did you go in?

  2. ian stevens says:

    Hello Justin,
    I brought the book in the square at Islay House after seeing your dining room table in the window . I couldn’t afford the table or take it back on the bike for that matter but the book is great . Its a real conversational style that works. I have no knowledge of the sailing community but its a subculture similar a few others I have been involved in . I linked a photograph here.
    You bring the characters to life –ex drug fuelled dreamers, supermarket free loaders, loaners wanting an adventure but who are ill prepared and those like yourself who want to create a meaningful life combining honest physical work with artistry. Have you read this ?
    The account of the Spanish trip riding waves and looking across to your ‘father’ who dreamt the same experience was memorable and reminded me in a small way of my experiences in a sea kayak between Mingulay and Pabby.
    Good luck with the words, wood and waves in the future.


    • justintyers says:

      Hi Ian – thanks for posting; great to hear from you. Thanks for the link to flikr… either you or your camera – or both of you together – are really fit-for-purpose! Linda and I were looking through them and there are some really great shots amongst them.

      Thanks for all you have to say about Phoenix from the Ashes and I’m glad you enjoyed it as a non-sailor. Could you give me a leg-up by recommending it to friends, and writing a review on Amazon?

      I’ll keep the table back for you in case next time you visit Islay you happen to arrive in a low-loader.


    • justintyers says:

      PS Ian – thanks, too, for the book link… that looks interesting.


  3. ian stevens says:

    Justin, will write a review on Amazon for sure. Have you heard of David Whyte?
    If not look at his work as I am sure you might get something out of it . He has a great book on work as well.
    Thanks for the comments on the photo’s. I am not camera/gadget focussed but love capturing light and emotive scenes. If you need any images keep me in mind but you have landscape and light in abundance where you are…..I want to move into drawing and painting actually –a slower process. Your drawings are great . I especially like the rope detail and old boat scenes around Plockton (I should be able to get you some images from up there as my daughter is going to go to the music school up there!)

    • justintyers says:

      Thanks for that very full and generous review of my book on Amazon, Ian, I really appreciate it. I stopped by at David Whyte’s site – as it happens I am a keen reader of poetry – I hadn’t heard of him, and it will be interesting to read some of his stuff.

      And, yes, if you or your daughter get a photo of old boats, wood,canvas, rope, or anything nautical close-up I’d love to see it. And if I draw anything from it I’ll be sure to send you the first copy of one of the prints. Here’s a question for you Ian – my drawings sell in galleries, but not really on-line… any thoughts on why that should be?

      Best Wishes


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