Bank Holiday Monday brought forth an early reveille for yours truly. Given a 8am – 1pm window for my boiler’s annual service, a rarely used watch alarm was set for 7.30am. Making my breakfast early on a cold, dark wintertide morn an activity I’d not undertaken for a long, long time.

Footnote – All other alarms at my disposal were similar redundant. Including the quirky Wallace & Gromit slumber negator which, though unsuccessful, always made great efforts to impart whimsy into my waking moments.

The toasting of this morrows bread and brewing of beverage taking me back a few years to a juncture I commenced my job at 7am in the morning. An era of personal discord where disenchantment at not being able to earn a living undertaking a role that played to my strengths, in association with other existential imposters, drove my mental health into a trench of despair.

Those were bleak mornings, when even the application of my beloved marmite failed to impart even a minuscule element of esprit into GJ Strachan’s mood. A time where my dignity and contentment were sacrificed for the metaphorical magic beans which made my family’s existences financially comfortable.

This indignation no one’s fault but mine. Without exception, three separate employers treated me very well; rewarding me more than fairly over the 35 years worked under their respective wings.

It’s wasn’t as if I’d embarked on a Faustian pact, selling my soul to the devil. I undertook what I did out of a sense of duty to my immediate family. A well-meaning mantra rightly highlighting your responsibilities as family head, indoctrinated by my late father. However, with candour, a strategy which came at a cost to my mental wellbeing.

As I’m thankfully no longer in that stark trench, it’s now a case of onwards and upwards. The strengths I’d predominantly shackled clandestine for decades finally unleashed, dragging me from that ditch. Destroying the myth I’d flouted in my own mind for too long that I was worthless, bearing no discerning qualities. A ridiculous notion I’ve eventually learned in reality was the very opposite of what I bring to the smorgasbord.

The mind can play odious tricks, but my recent past has proved it’s possible to gain respite from those demons, eventually putting things into perspective. Subsequently unearthing your actual worth and overall contribution as you wander this vale of tears.

As I write, the gas engineer has been and gone; the annual boiler service undertaken without hitch. Intertwined between each sentence or so of this chronicle, yours truly is cracking open the nutshells I alluded to in the narrative Cracking Christmas. A jeopardous action which my gigs have recently protected from an eye bound shell shard.

Despite my best efforts to hand shield the cracked outer nut coating, akin to the unpredictability of the final resting place of a clipped toenail, a portion of these now eaten seed shells remain missing in action.

A romantic at heart, I feel an almost poetry to the bowl of broken shells and discarded clementine skin perched on the dining table to my left. The tough fibrous outer layers, bereft of their edible kernel, laying forlornly alongside the more malleable orange peel. Their race run, no longer do these shards protect the fruit’s contents nature’d decreed it conserve until maturity.

In White Christmas, Bing Crosby melancholically crooned of the fondly held General Waverly, who’d become disenfranchised following retirement from the army, “What can you do with a General, when he stops being a General?”

Well Bing lad, at least the commanding officer got to live in beautiful Vermont on the conclusion of his role. These nutshells and the orange peel will end up in my bin. Consequently, going forward, maybe you need to temper that misty eyed brown nosing…… Just a thought!