Saturday, 11 June 2011

Review: Can I Borrow Your Toilet? By Gareth Brookes

This is a very wry, enjoyable and lovely produced small press book. I found myself bursting into uncontrolled laughter regularly  throughout the 64 pages, which was a welcome and rare thing.

Let me say this first; this is not a comic. It's more an illustrated memoir of Senor Brookes' experiences and observations whilst working in a warehouse.

There are numerous illustrations however; beautifully rendered and detailed (the boy can crosshatch!), and often displaying the same dry wit and slight caricature which is present in the writing. which are like little snap-shots of the environment and people he is describing. An example is a portrait of a irritated looking middle-aged man with the caption; "In his pocket he rattled his keys aggressively".

For anyone who has worked low paid jobs in factories, warehouses and other similar environments (as I have), then I'm sure more than a couple of the characters in the book will seem familiar. 'Ticking Time-bomb Tom" for instance, who hates everyone he works with, but not as much as those who leave the job.  Or the nicotine stained van driver, who "always had a roll up smouldering in the corner of his burnt mouth", and who tells you that he's never had a day off in his life and alludes to this being due to his beloved tobacco.

Gareth brings home the repetitiveness and predicability of the job, but also the oddball characters and the rituals they indulge in to pass the time and entertain themselves, which he writes about with subtle hints of fondess, irritation, bemusement and sarcasm.

He recalls the piss-taking, wisecracking, anecdote and philosophy sharing, packed-lunch eating contests, and the watching of the mysterious, exotic and alluring 'little red coat girl', who walks past the loading bay every day, and although is only moderately attractive, has become like the fabled maidens that mariners would talk about, when bored and without women at sea.

It is bringing home these absurdities, and strange camaraderies with comedic aplomb, that this book does so well.

I suppose similarities with Gervais & Merchant's 'The Office' could be made, but this has a richness and subtleness of it's own, and it certainly doesn't feel like any kind of imitation. Rather it shines as an authentic and endearing work, which is that rare beast; a small press book that you can return to and still find as funny as the first time you read it.
You can get the book for an honest, working man's fiver (along with Gareth's other books) here.

No comments:

Post a Comment