Humble pleasures

Had a customer come in earlier, have a great massage, then come out feeling relaxed, happy, and expansive. Over a cup of tea he told me how long he’s been looking for the right massage, and now found it. He lingered, we chatted. He’d be in his late forties, divorced as he told me, and about to go and pick up his 13-year-old daughter. He told me how he was a consultant, used to work for McKinsey’s but had gone out on his own when he found they no longer aligned. Soon he’s about to fly out to a conference in Brazil, where he’s presenting.

He was a lovely guy, and I enjoy these interactions greatly. These are the things I’ll miss. Meeting people like I never did before, hearing their stories, connecting on a basic human level. There’s something about a good massage that opens people up.

As owner of the shop I’m always gratified hearing positive feedback, and often touched that we can have such an effect on people’s lives, small as it may seem. There are times you get a glimpse of life at its micro level, as with this guy today – obviously a very well-regarded international expert (securitisation?), but here in front of me, just another father in his Sarturday casual, a little overweight, a daughter to attend to. And a good bloke to boot.

Yesterday a bunch of schoolgirls came in the shop in their school uniform. I guess they’d have been about 16, giggling a bit, then turning serious. One of them wanted to book a massage for her mum this Sunday – it was her birthday, she would be 50. “Has she been here before?” I asked. “Oh, all the time,” she said. She then solemnly handed over the money for her mum’s massage – a gift from her.

The best things in life are those things that humble you.

Enough is enough

I’m about as angry as I’ve ever been right now. I’ve had my incandescent moments over the last couple of days, but right now it’s a cold anger. I’ve tried to do the right thing, I’ve been reasonable, and now all I want to do is kneecap someone.

I got an offer on Monday as I was sort of expecting and the landlord once more said no unless, etc, and that was enough to make me very angry. Then we basically told him to go fuck himself and he said ok then and that was enough to make me angry to because this is not the deal I wanted.

The landlord has fucked me up big time. His absolutely pointless posturing and punitive attitude cost me 8 grand up-front, not to mention the extra legal fees, and the stupid thing is that it cost him too. He’s made it hard at every point, when if he had cleared the way we’d be in business now. Bloody waste of time and money just so as he can feel mighty tough. Which is what he tried to again early this week, just as fucking pointlessly.

If common sense had prevailed I’d have signed the deal nearly 3 weeks ago and been that 8 grand better off, and he’d be 3 weeks closer to having a new tenant. (Which is not to mention anything about the missed opportunity with the other potential purchaser – add another 5 grand to the 8). Instead he had to go the he-man (why do so many people feel that need?) and here we are. Just dumb.

All this makes me furious because it’s unnecessary, because it’s stupid, because it’s cost me time and money, and because I come out of this with nothing. And because I feel dudded, and as if no matter what I do it counts for nothing. I should be thankful that the shop can continue. That’s a small, hard-won victory, but not certain till papers are signed.

To add to the sense of fury is that my jacket fell out of the car last night as I opened the door. In a pocket was my mobile phone, and somehow the screen managed to smash. And then before eating a steak sandwich for lunch my tooth crunched. What really pisses me off is that it crumbled initially about 4 months ago, and I’ve not been able to afford to go to the dentist since. Now it’s absolutely fucked, and I’ll probably lose the tooth altogether. Just sick of it.


Hollywood ending?

Don’t you love it in the movies how everything is a cliffhanger, how everything is desperate and seemingly doomed until the very last moment, just seconds left on the timer when the bomb is defused. It never happens with a comfortable amount time spare; but nor does it ever go off. You know the hero is going to save the day.

Even Masterchef is like that. Every challenge they get there’s a set amount of time to do it in. Never once in my viewing has anyone finished with 5 minutes to spare and set about tidying up the kitchen. Nup, every episode there’s a mad scramble as the clock ticks down to zero to get their special concoction plated up – without exception. Funny thing is, it’s rare that someone fails to get it done in time. That’s TV.

Life isn’t really like that I think, but here I am in my own race against time. Today is pretty well it. The clock is ticking. I have candidates, but will they come to the party on time?

Unlike the movies and TV in life sometimes the bomb blows up in your face. I’m handcuffed to the bomb. I hear it ticking ever louder. If it blows up I go up with it, and the pity of it is there’s no amount of defusing I can do to avoid the mess. I’m stuck and waiting for someone to come along and snip the right wire, just in time.

Fucked if I know. I’d like to claim all of this makes for nerves of steel, but in truth my nerves are fraying – too much for too long. I once had a girl admiringly say I had big balls (figuratively speaking), but right now I feel them retracting – the idea of flying shrapnel will do that to you.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t we have a healthy margin of time – everything satisfactorily settled well before the 2 minute warning goes off? Why can’t just fall into place? Maybe I’m in my own Truman show and don’t know it.

Nothing more to say or do – just wait, and hope for the Hollywood ending.

Good news/Bad news

So what’s the news on the shop? This week is the week it has to be done. Well..

The good news is that I’ve re-engaged with the girls regarding the shop, and expect to receive a formal offer by this time tomorrow.

The bad news is that it’s a shithouse offer that will leave me with nothing.

The good news is that I have another interested purchaser, who would be likely to make a much better offer – probably worth an extra $15K in my pocket.

The bad news is that we keep missing each other and I don’t know what’s happening and time is running away.

The good news is that if I don’t run out of time I should sell the shop (touch wood).

The bad news is that I’m running out of time and even if I get a good offer might get the shop pulled on me.

The good news is that maybe – maybe – I can buy some time to get the deal done.

The bad news is that I have to ask a favour, and anyway there’s no guarantee it will work.

The good news is…hell, I’m out of good news.

All the rest is bad news.

Here I am again, where I’ve lived the last few months, on the blade’s edge.

Do or die

I feel like I’ve just becoming conscious after a bender. The last few days have been pretty intense. Yesterday particularly I was in a dark place. These things happen, and, given the circumstances, are perfectly understandable. It is fucking intense. Still, in the past I normally indulge for 24 hours and move on. This time it’s been longer, but infinitely more dark too.

On a basic level I faced the prospect – probability – of losing the shop.  There’s different elements in that. You feel responsible for the staff. You feel a strange responsibility to the customers who so loyally return week after week. There’s sorrow that the brand you have built up looks like becoming defunct.

Topping all of that is a huge sense of personal failure.

I have fought so long, and so hard, have at different times believed that I might escape by the skin of my teeth, that to suddenly face failure shakes you.

I have fought hard, and for the most part, fought well. I had made mistakes here and there, but in general the bad was much outweighed by the good. I had managed to eke out an existence long after I might have given it away. That what makes it doubly hard, and why I felt it so deeply yesterday.

There I sat, feeling my failure, and thinking that I am failing now because I fucked up. I could cope with it, just, if I was just beaten by a superior force of numbers, but for the first time yesterday I felt as if I had acted stupidly, rashly, that I had within my grasp a kind of salvation and from hubris threw it away. That was very hard.

It was harder yesterday because I was idle. I couldn’t open the shop till late because I had no-one to work until 4pm. It was a rainy, cold day. I felt isolated, and so alone. I documented the situation with my friend, which only emphasised that sense of being utterly alone. I had nothing really to do, a situation in happier times I would have welcomed – but yesterday, burdened with my thoughts, was not one of those times.

Today is different. Different only in how I feel, not so much in the basic facts. I still face that terminal failure, but the bender is over. I am ready to act again.

I suspect the girls will return with an offer, likely their lowest yet. I think they are playing games, but it might be too late by the time they decide to be serious again.

There’s only so much I can do about that. I’ve sent messages to them which have been ignored. I’ve asked my solicitor to contact them to see if they intend to make an offer, and to hasten it if it is to be so. I’m hopeful that an official notification may get them moving. I’ve also asked Jeep, my Thai receptionist, if she would call them on my behalf.

I also contacted the one other interested party. I’d heard nothing from them all week, but this morning they responded. In the way of these things he has been in bed sick all week, and unable to speak (times like these you believe there is a god – life cannot be so randomly perverse can it?).

He remains interested it seems, and promises to call me later. He knows that time is pressing, but it’s a tall order to get things done in a week, but I have to hope for that.

Not dead yet, but the beat is pretty feeble.

On the road again

Late yesterday afternoon I lay in a hot bath after yet another tumultuous day. I had felt fierce anger and creeping bitterness. My brain had clocked up miles searching for a way out before a sense of numb, seeping deflation set in. It was sunny and I had wandered up the road as if looking for a place to be, or something to do. I sat in a chair in the middle of Malvern central contemplating the ruin of my days. I stopped for coffee at one place, then walked some more, before stopping at another for a rare sit-down lunch.

I was due to clock-in at the shop to begin work, but did not have the stomach for it. For once I wanted to bury my head in the sand. I got in the car and drove away. I ended up in a far suburb where for once I had myself a massage. I lay there feeling groggy, time stilled, soft hands pushing at my inert body. An iPad played K-Pop in the background. This was now, and that’s all I wanted it to be.

You see, using the Jailbreak metaphor I had made it to the fence, I had scrambled to the top of it and was about to make it to the far side when bang, a shot hit me square between the shoulder-blades. And that was that.

I had an agreement. After all the to-ing and fro-ing we were there. Then the landlord insisted on $25K bond and that was that. The purchasers couldn’t pay that, and in any case didn’t want to. They felt aggrieved, rightly so, straining now to get the deal done but unable to because of a maliciously prohibitive condition of the landlord. They wouldn’t budge, that was that, the deal stillborn, and to top it off a S52 delivered to me by registered mail.

I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, for once conceding perhaps I had nothing left to fight with. I was bitter too, wondering if this was not the intent of the landlord all along. Did he have an ulterior motive? My neighbour, who has the same landlord, complained also at how unreasonable he is.

The bath was sanctuary. Close the door and wallow in hot water. Hope for a miracle, or not, but here, now, it didn’t matter because I didn’t want it to matter.

I picked up a book and began to read. It was James Salter’s latest, and there was something in the scenes he described and the language he used that recalled to me the shifting fortunes of life. We live a span of time. We enter into things and depart them. Things overlap, they crowd upon each other and they spread out. We live a life of multiple strands that by the time you get to my stage of it are entwined into a rope as thick as your arm.

This is a sense I get sometimes listening to particular music. The awesome sweep of some classical music will do it for me, particularly Beethoven. Sinatra is another though. I can’t help but listen to It Was A Very Good Year and compare the story told in that song to the story of my life. When you’re in the middle of it that’s all there is. It’s only when you step back, and with the benefit of time, that you understand the intricacies of what you have experienced. You see life like a long road behind you, from which at frequent intervals you have detoured from; ahead, hopefully, is a long road stretching into the distance. And for now you’re in a cul-de-sac you’ll get clear of no matter how much you doubt.

I may be fierce and combative sometimes, but my default position really is unflustered calm. I dried myself off and dressed and I had returned to that state. I had no answers. The odds were that this time I was beaten. I would not accept it, but nor would I let myself go down with it. Let’s see what we can do. And if it’s not to be we find a way to keep going down the road.

Dodging bullets

Man, been a very tense morning, and it remains so.

Today was the deadline arbitrarily declared by the landlord. This morning I got a call from one of the agents to see if I was going to meet the conditions of the deadline. I referred her to an email I had sent to a colleague of hers I had sent a few days earlier (which I have referenced here), and was asked to send it on to her.

I did that, adding a few comments by way of update. I mentioned that the buyers had submitted their personal information for review, pending acceptance, and that I had a signed deal with them. I also mentioned they had paid a deposit in confirmation of our agreement. Those last two points only vaguely correct, but certainly in the pipeline.

In the meantime I had contacted the buyers. These are extremely frustrating people with very ordinary communication skills. I confirmed with them that they had sent the details to the agent, and briefed them on the latest developments.

I called the agent about 45 minutes after sending the email to her. She read through my email and then said that the landlord was firm in his instructions – did I want to hand the keys over, or would they have to come and change the locks?

I pointed out once more that I had a firm buyer, and that if we were allowed to proceed then the arrears owing would be paid within a fortnight. I said that if they were determined to lock me out that I would seek an injunction preventing them. They asked on what grounds and I referred them to my lawyer. They said they would get back to me.

After hanging up from them I had to find a lawyer, to discuss this issue, but also about the legal rigmarole concerning the sale. I’m waiting for them to call back.

The basic points that need to be made:

  • I understand the frustration and impatience of the landlord, which is exactly what I wrote saying the other day. If I didn’t have a buyer for the business I would accept their decision with regret, but with understanding also. I do have a buyer, however.
  • They served a S56 on me. We negotiated an agreement till the end of May to allow me to find a buyer. When we met to discuss that on expiration I had a number of buyers interested and on the cusp, and was allowed to proceed.
  • As recorded here some weeks ago, when I finally had an offer to buy received the agent rejected it claiming I was making it up.
  • I visited them to discuss, and they agreed to give me till the end of the week to confirm the sale would go ahead – that’s a date 2 weeks ago today.
  • I forwarded them the signed LOI in confirmation of deal, and asked for the information required to get things rolling – this I passed onto the buyers. This conversation went till the middle of last week.
  • We had to re-jig our deal for technical reasons, which meant some re-work and a delay.
  • Monday night/Tuesday morning I received advice from the landlord via the agent that if the deal wasn’t done lock, stock and barrel by today they were pulling the pin on me. This is ridiculously small window of time – it took me 30 days to take possession after I agreed to buy – and especially so as my buyers work full time 6 days a week, their assets are in Thailand, and this is a complex arrangement.
  • Which brings us to now. The deal is agreed to, it just needs the different elements to be tidied up.

I’m hoping I have a reasonable case on the basis that I was extended time on the back of the S56, which has since been arbitrarily and unreasonably cut short. I have a buyer, but the actions of the landlord threaten the deal. I think the buyers might have a similar case to bring.

My fear is that the landlord may reject the application to buy, as is his right, out of bloody minded caprice.

The other day I compared this to a jail-break. Here I am tunnelling out, freedom finally within site, but the alarms going. Will I get free? I don’t know. I keep on thinking about the lyrics of Jailbreak:

Heartbeats they were racin’
Freedom he was chasin’
Spotlights, sirens, rifles firing
But he made it out…
With a bullet in his back