Monday, May 30, 2005

Front Page

Today's headline in the Cambridgeshire Evening News:

"Blind Woman Driver's Trail of Carnage".

The mind boggles. I do love the way they feel they have to specify that the driver was a woman.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

One more for the road...

Finally. Hands have stopped shaking enough for me to type with some accuracy.

I am giving up booze for the next week. Last night was the cherry on a liquor-filled cake. It’s been the Cambridge Beer Festival, and then, as a culmination of celebrations, the BF’s friends decided to have a fancy dress party. The theme? Acid House*.

I have to confess that while the whole acid thing was going on, I was desperately trying to emerge from the Abyss of Uncool into which I had been cast as soon as I turned up at school with a scary ‘fro and sensible shoes. My parents’ motto was “If people don’t like you because you’re different, they’re not worth being friends with.”

Of course, they were right, but when you’re 14 and painfully shy, these words do not provide a soothing psychological balm. It took me four years to persuade my mother that taking a briefcase to school may be practical, but was doing nothing for my popularity.

Whatever the reason, acid house passed me by. I was clueless as to what to wear. And when I finally did make it to the pub, in my ‘costume’, it seemed that everyone had decided to eschew the fancy dress. Bastards. Except for one poor guy who was obviously misinformed, and turned up wearing an impressive Viking helmet made out of tin foil, and brandishing a cardboard sword.

The Beast and I ended up weaving our way home at 3.30am, after a couple of buckets of punch. There were one or two false starts, and I became rather more familiar than I hoped with one of Cambridge’s larger roundabouts. I forgot that I don’t know Cambridge all that well. If I hadn’t had the bright idea to call the BF and ask for directions, I would still be going round that bloody roundabout now.

So. No booze for a week. I can hear my liver dancing a celebratory jig.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Once upon a time there lived a princess, and she was trapped in a high tower. She wrote her thoughts with a green pencil on the back of a million matchboxes.

When she was 18, the princess’s years of plotting and scheming paid off, and she escaped to the shining white city, where she knew she would find a chest containing all her hopes and dreams.

She looked in cupboards and under floors, inside walls and behind doors. As time went by the denizens of the city became concerned over the unexplained holes in the fabric of their homes, so the princess flew far away, high above the dark and stormy sea, to a green land, filled with mysterious beasts.

The people of the land welcomed her and drew her in. She spent her days eating strange, luscious fruits and opening like a flower to the warm sun.

One day she met a prince. He approached her, and handed her an iron bound chest, in which lay all her hopes and dreams. She looked into his dark brown eyes and knew that he was hers. And they moved to the shining city to live happily ever after for the next seven years.

The princess became restive. Each time she looked in the chest that the prince had given her, her treasure seemed diminished. She no longer saw the world in his deep brown troubled eyes. The world seemed held in some unknown realm, where he did not exist. She began to look away from him, across the tops of the high towers, into another future.

Eventually, she left the prince a note, and climbed out of the bathroom window, leaving everything behind. The prince was broken hearted. He begged her to come back, promised her he’d find her the world. She cried, and cried, but she turned away. So the prince left the city, flew far away, above the dark, stormy sea, and he meant never to return.

He wrote to the princess over the years. He’d met another girl, who did see the world in his eyes. She felt nothing when he told her he was going to make her his wife. But when their baby began to grow she wept in confusion, for the sadness of lost love and companionship, and the dying of a tiny spark of maybe.


I’m sitting by an open window, feeling the soft summer breeze kiss my skin. The noise from the traffic rises up on the warm air. Aerials and chimneys and grey London rooftops mingle with bright trees that rustle and shift in the wind. A pair of grey pigeons sit gossiping on a cornice.

It’s a beautiful day.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Just got my training needs sorted out with VSO.

Which means that I can sort out when I'm going to go home and see my mother before I go, and move all my stuff.

Which means that now I have that organised, I realise just how little time I have left here.

I'm gibbering to the roots of my hair. Mainly about leaving the BF, whom I love, despite his sharp toenails, and propensity to sound like a warthog while snoozing. I know without a doubt that this is the right thing, but leaving him is still a hard thing to face.

One of me is like those cartoon figures that runs around like a headless chicken, arms outstretched, mouth open in terror. Watch as I disappear over the hills in a trail of dust.

The other me is on springs, bouncing over the horizon in excited glee, head full of newness and wide-eyed enthusiasm.

As the BF said to me in wonderment the other day when I had yet another remarkably obvious (damp and sniffly) mood-swing, "My God - schizophrenia in action".

High Dudgeon

PMT. Can’t talk. Can only growl.

People who have incurred my wrath this week so far, and who will be vaporised by telekinesis as soon as I can summon up the energy to find some mind fuel chocolate:

1. Carphone Warehouse insurance services, who have managed to lose my insurance claim twice in the last month.

2. Our IT guy, who assured me last week that my new computer would be installed at my desk this week to replace the one that broke down irreparably because he didn’t come and fix it, and who has just said I have to scavenge for a free workstation for yet another week because he’s so utterly useless.

3. The BF, who roused me from a deep and peaceful slumber last night by letting himself in, fresh from the beer festival, and proceeded to keep me up in a hop-laden bubble of sleeplessness until 1.30am, and then snored and kicked me in his sleep until I had to get up this morning.

4. Transport for London. No need to elaborate.

5. Panasonic, from whom I bought a digital camera that only worked for five months, and which I have had to send back for repair on two previous occasions. They failed to organise the pick-up for the third repair as promised, and have refused to provide any compensation for the fact that on every holiday and special occasion since December, I’ve not been able to use it. And they said if I want a replacement, I have to go back to the shop I originally bought it from. Which is in the south of France.

I am striding the world in rage-filled boots.

And the worst thing is, I have just finished reading Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey, by Fergal Keane, and I feel deeply ashamed of my brattiness and the triviality of my woes.

So I’m going to vaporise everyone at Penguin too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hidden Treasure

The Beast and I were taking our daily promenade homewards the other day. I was more than pleased to be headed that way, as I had an appointment with a pizza and a bottle of cider.

We got stuck behind a bus, and so were dawdling, enjoying each other's company. I have become more attached to the Beast after our adventures in punctureland threw us together. It's hard not to care about something when you've handled its inner tubes.

As always, I was on constant look out for people wearing amusing clothes, or doing something silly in public, so that I can write about them, and thereby draw attention away from my own bad dress sense and tendency to look like a tit. I was therefore delighted when I spotted a man in his middle years, gazing gormlessly into space.

His faded tank top had seen better days, and his shirt had brown stains on the arms. His tweed trousers seemed to be attached to his lower half by hope alone - either that or he had managed to acquire a pair of invisible braces. His hair was brushed into a gentle comb-forward. And his index finger was firmly lodged up his right nostril.

I studied him absent-mindedly for about ten seconds. Just before we moved off again, he turned to look at me. He smiled. I smiled back.

And then, without taking his eyes off me, he removed his finger from his nose, and licked it.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Radio Ga Ga

I was making a lasagne, and trying not to cut my fingers off with my flatmate's ridiculously sharp knives. That's one thing you can say about Ex-flatmate, she knew how to do blunt. And I'm not just talking about her temper.

The radio was on. I do wish that Cambridge local radio wasn't quite SO crap, but I suppose now I do live in the barren wasteland that is not-London*, and so regional radio stations are part of my lot. I could grow to love them. In about a million years, and alot of valium.

Anyway, Natalie Imbruglia finally stopped singing, and the local news began. I was only half listening, due to slippery onions making the knife a act in an unpredictable manner, and so when I heard the following story, I nearly lost a whole arm out of sheer fascinated horror.

A couple of Star Wars fans, it said, were in hospital in Melton Mowbray with third degree burns. My ears pricked up at the mention of Star Wars fans, because any news that has to do with them is bound to involve enormous stupidity. They had made home-made light-sabres out of, if you can credit it, flourescent lighting tubes filled with petrol. They'd been admitted to hospital after the tubes exploded during a mock duel. These weren't children, by the way. They were a grown man and woman.

Hello? I'm still not entirely sure that I believe I could in any way share any ancestry with people so vastly imbecilic.

Now, I have to go and bend the cheese grater to my will. If I'm not back within a week, send help.

*Any London people - it's true. Everywhere outside London is a totally, like, empty space. There's nothing. Don't think about moving.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Thank goodness! I was stuck for something to post today - I seem to be alternating between writer's block desperation, and splurging my innards out onto the page like some kind of emotional roadkill, so thank you Claypot, for solving all my problems for today.

Right. Ten things I've never done, and ten things I have. Where to start?

1. Dyed my hair pink
2. Danced on a restaurant table
3. Run a marathon
4. Swum with dolphins
5. Been deep sea fishing
6. Spelunked
7. Kissed on a deserted, moon-drenched beach
8. Danced the Tango
9. Learned to play the guitar
10: Been skinny dipping
11: Learned how to say "I didn't come from behind a water buffalo" in Arabic.
12: Said 'I love you' when I didn't mean it
13: Thrown a prawn on the barbie
14: Been angry at someone over an imaginary conversation
15: Cried over spilt milk
16: Wished I believed in God
17: Eaten dog meat
18: Learned to belly dance
19: Been skydiving
20: Beaten my mother's high score on Tetris

Right. Now, who can I pass this on to....? Bob?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lose Your Grip

I know that much hackneyed prose has been produced on the subject of music, and its ability to transport you into the past, and I’m loath to add to it. But I’m going to anyway.

I don’t normally find it easy to open up and let my emotions in. Sometimes I scared that if I do, I’ll spend my whole life in a whirl of reckless joy and impossible transports of fury and indignation. Lately I’ve been repressing them more than usual, why I don’t know. It could be that I’m only just starting to realise how little I’ve dealt with the death of my father. I certainly find it painful to admit the true depth of my feelings for the BF, despite the fact that he is frequently a giant pain in the arse, or to embrace the exhilarating excitement and anticipation that I feel when I think about going away, and which I can’t show in front of him.

Anyway, I was innocently sitting on the bus, fiddling about with my iPod. Last night I uploaded a CD that I haven’t listened to for almost ten years – The Pretenders – The Singles. I bought it from Andy’s Records when I started the second term of my first year at Hull university, and listened to it relentlessly, to the chagrin of my nearest neighbours, for almost six months, at which point I got heartily sick of it, and forgot about it.

As I was scrolling through the songs, I decided, for old time’s sake, to play “Chain Gang”. Now, I may be the only person who has ever cried to this song – a dubious honour, I am sure.

As soon as it came on, I felt as if I’d been wrenched, physically, away from my mundane journey, and I was actually in my room in halls. I was wearing a long green jersey skirt with two buttons missing, which I loved then. On my feet were my ox-blood Doc Martens. I could smell the bleach they used to use in the corridors. I could feel the presence of my friends outside the door, and I knew that the blossom was beginning to come out on the trees in the courtyard visible through my little window. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had, and I cried as if I’d been punched. I still feel dislocated, as if I’ve fitted back into my world incompletely. My edges are frayed.

I don’t miss the person that I was then. How can I? The transition from her into me has been seamless, from my perspective. But being whisked back then, I remembered all the feelings I had, the excitement, the newness, the independence, the desperation to fit in, the painful hope of unrequited first love and the crippling embarrassment of morning after reflections.

I’m not so impetuous now. I’m quieter, (slightly) less prone to dribbling drunkenness, more able to control my big mouth, more serious. In short, I’m older. And I hope to God I’ve got better dress sense. But I’m also less free.

How do you learn to let go when you’ve spent so long holding on tight?

Slip Sliding

Oh God.

I'm trying to write a report on a project for a donor. It's already late. My mind won't focus on it, it just slips off as if repelled by an unseen force.

The problem? No information.

Trying to write a detailed report on activities when the project partner won't tell you what it's been up to over the last two years is a bit problematic. At the moment, it seems as if we give them money, and they say the spend it. Unfortunately, trying to get them to provide a detailed expenditure budget is like getting a refund out of Virgin Trains.

The other problem? Half the project isn't done.

Don't know how to deal with that one. No-one in the overseas office seems to think that this is at all unusual, and cannot understand the frustration with which I have been desperately emailing and calling them for the last FIVE MONTHS. That it was once part of the project plan is not disputed. That any effort has been made to bring it about is debatable. If they would just explain to me why it is so, that would be fine. An explanation is, at least, something. But my queries are treated as nothing short of accusations, and are greeted either with indignant riposts (Why do you pry? Why do you ask these questions?) or ignored.

None of this is helped by the large brown pigeon staring at me from the windowsill. It sees into my thoughts. It mocks me with its flea-ridden stare.

I'm off now to try and encourage inspiration to strike by banging my head against a wall.

Take him away and shoot him

Why didn't George Lucas just stop? The first films were fun. And Harrison Ford had a great backside. *drifts off into a pleasant reverie*

The three prequels are insipid, sentimental, stereotypical, overblown half-arsed piles of disgustingly expensive horse-shit, and the ubiquitous merchandise bandwagon churns out special offers that get cheaper and nastier as the months roll on*. There is no escape.

And on top of this, I have to put up with an ad at my bus stop that flashes and makes noises like a cheap'n'nasty toy light-sabre from Argos, and which so deeply alarmed a blind man this morning that he nearly stepped in front of a bus.

Somebody do something...

*If you get an orange phone, they'll give you a holder in the shape of Darth Vader's helmet.

Mood Gremlins

Its skin is grey and leathery. Here and there, thick, sharp hairs poke through; they resemble the broken quills of feathers. Its eyelids are so heavy it can barely open them; when it does, it looks hacked off with the world. Its mouth is drawn down around a collection of haphazard, yellowing snaggle-teeth. It swings its legs, desultorily, its bony knees creaking with the movement. Occasionally it sniffs noisily, its tongue sticking out between its teeth, its cold rattling audibly in its head.

Mood gremlins sit on your shoulder. Everyone has one, but you can’t see them, unless you really try. This is what the majority of them would have looked like this morning, when I got on the tube.

From now on, I’m getting the bus.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Footballers Wives

Today, I have mostly been visited by people who've come this way looking for pictures of Colleen McLoughlin naked.

Get a life you idiots!

Shoe Shoe Mama

I've always been blessed with the ability, when shopping, to spend the same money more than once. My grandmother gave me a tenner one Christmas and I bought so many things with it - I hadn't realised ten quid could stretch so far. Fortunately, as I wasn't proud of this particular talent, and neither was my bank manager, this is something I am now able to control.

I am likewise easily able to convince myself that some frivolous item that I've set my heart on is something that I really need, and can be of eternal use in many, otherwise difficult situations. This is one I'm still working on.

I fell in love with another pair of shoes last week. I know I shouldn't have bought them, but they were all sparkly and covered in emboidery. I don't (really, I don't) feel bad for buying them for the following reasons:

*They were only 20 quid
*They go with alot of my clothes
*I expect I will need a pair of fancy-schmancy shoes when I'm in Namibia, to enhance what I am sure will be my extensive social life. Of course. Well, why wouldn't I?
*They're extremely comfy
*They could possibly look like smart work shoes, if you ignore the sequins
*They have wedge heels, of which I am greatly enamoured, and which somehow lessen the frivolity, which is why they might make good work shoes. If you ignore the sequins.
*If I ever get mugged, they will make a good bludgeoning tool. Which I will need, being unable to run away in heels
*If I need to reach something off a high shelf, they will greatly assist me
*If I ever have a greater need for bookends than for shoes, they will be to hand
*I will be able to diffuse tension in difficult social situations by drawing attention to the fine embroidery thereon
*They were only 20 quid

Even though I'm not supposed to be buying anything, I think that the above reasons more than justify the purchase. Nuff said.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Swept Away

It’s been a month since I moved to Cambridge, and I haven’t been to the supermarket once. I’ve hardly been in my flat except to sleep, and even then it’s been fleeting. I’ve forgotten what my flatmate looks like and I haven’t even finished unpacking. There’s going to be no point soon, because in just under four months I’ll be gone.

I seem to spend my whole life rushing from one place to the next. Got to get here, got to see them, got to do this.

I have lost all perspective. I burst into tears at the slightest provocation. Sometimes I look down on myself from a height, and see myself blindly hurrying, wrapped in a cloud of worry, and I wonder what happened to the real me.

Please, please can I have a bit of time? Is it too much to ask that my life not slip through my fingers in an unstoppable flood of wasted hours and seconds? For what do I spend four hours a day in the company of strangers on a train? For what do I go to bed one minute and get up the next as the unstoppable days rush through the millwheel, and drift off into the tranquil landscape of the past?

I want some time to appreciate my time in Cambridge with the BF before I go. Some memories of a summer without stress would be precious.

Does anyone know how to stop time?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gag Reflex

Aaaaagh. Aaagh.

Why? It's just so wrong.

Can anyone help me find my way back to my own universe?

Interior decorating

Been messing about.

You know how it is - you suddenly look at your living room one day and think "Booooooring". So I've had a bit of a redo, and now I'm paranoid that I've displayed an alarming lack of taste, and that the only people who will admire my work are those that appreciated the 70s fad for flying ducks.

Still, it's mine. Might put some mustard coloured stripes in, just for the hell of it...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Uber Rant

I know that there are many things wrong with the state of the world today, and that the shysters who run Virgin Trains are probably far down the list of people who should be killed or exiled to another planet, but I’m so unbelievably pissed off with them that I am prepared to shift them up the list to just beneath George W, and the publishers of the Daily Hate Mail.

Not only do they think it’s acceptable to charge the equivalent of the national debt to get anywhere, they make sure you have to share your experience with the most obnoxious people they can find. Then they incorporate at least an hour of delays, and just for an extra special treat, they put on rail replacement services that completely fail to meet your connections, so that it is impossible to get home, and THEN they make you argue the toss about whether you’re prepared to pay an extra £64 for a full open standard ticket (I was not).

I stood in front of a couple of people in a gaggle of unhappy customers at Euston Station, having just had to fork out 70 quid for a single ticket to Chester, because I’d missed my train. I understood their considerable chagrin, therefore, when they reacted badly to being told that because they had been sold the wrong ticket, they were going to have to pay £184 each, EACH, to get on a train to go to Stoke on Trent. Stoke on Trent is about an hour and a half’s journey from London. You can get a return flight to New York for that.

And it’s not like the service even works. I wouldn’t mind delays if they had any excuse for it, but they must make millions out of this, and none of it goes on making your journey palatable, or even getting you to where you’re supposed to be. On my way back yesterday, I overheard a couple of people on their way up to Scotland being told that there was no official connecting service past Chester, so because of the engineering works they’d have to stay there the night, despite having paid a small fortune for a ticket to get them there.

I did have to laugh on Friday though, when I got on the train. There were a bunch of really loud kids (I believe that the less politically correct would label them ‘pikeys’, but I wouldn’t dream of it, as it is offensive) throwing food across the carriage for a while. Once the seats across from me had become vacant, the poor bastard in the line of fire moved so that he wouldn’t get any more crisps in his hair, or gum on his tie, and sat opposite me.

Unfortunately for him, a hassled and harried young mother got on with her son, who must have been about four, and squashed him into a corner. I have every sympathy for people travelling with kids, especially on these trains, which are invariably full, and the kids are justifiably miserable. But for some reason, considering that the train was one of those tilting ones that throw every item on the table into the aisle every time a corner is taken, she decided to open up a carton of Ribena, which had a perfectly serviceable straw, and pour it into a plastic cup, which she then handed to her small son to throw around with joyous abandon drink.

The poor guy opposite went to get a cup of tea after about half an hour, and when he got back there was a man in the seat next to him, who I swear would have had trouble fitting into the back of a rubbish collection truck. Only one of his buttocks fit on the seat. He was vast. And drunk. He had a face like a well hung side of beef, and one of those noses that screams out for a break from the booze. His fingers resembled mutant sausages, and ended in long, broken fingernails that clearly harboured several hitherto unknown, but potentially lethal viruses*. And he regaled this beleaguered man with tales of his recent visit to his brother, who was doing a 25 stretch for assaulting a policeman with a handgun, in slurred and faltering Scouse.

At one point, the guy broke off from nostalgically wiping the vestiges of Ribena off his trousers to ask him where he was changing (hoping desperately for Crewe, 20 minutes down the line). No such luck. He was going to have to be delighted by his aromatic company for another hour and a half at least.

Anyway, interesting companions aside, I’m used to difficult journeys. I once spent 36 hours on a crowded bus from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, in the company of a nun who chimed a pair of tiny cymbals at annoyingly irregular intervals for the entire journey. Delays and cramped conditions are frustrating, but you deal with it. Shit happens. What I object to is being charged enough to feed a small family for a year, for a shitty, overcrowded service. No other train company charges as much as Virgin, and no other train company is as consistently awful – on average, less than 75% of Virgin trains ever manage to run without delays. In my experience, it’s 0%. And they treat their customers like shit. I can only assume the vast amount of cash that they rip off from the helpless public goes to paying the enormous six figure salaries of the top directors, so that they can buy their own helicopters, and don’t have to travel this way. Wankers. Wankers wankers wankers.

Do I sound like a Daily Mail reader?

*Like the Komodo dragon –it’s not poisonous in itself, but its teeth are home to so many nasties that a single bite can dissolve your insides before you can say “ow”.

Friday, May 13, 2005

If music be the food of love...

I'm trying to fill up my ipod before I go away, because I know I'll be desperate if I don't have a wide variety of music into which I can retreat.

So, I'm looking for suggestions... If anyone has a particular favourite that they would like to recommend, please let me know! I'm not fussy. I like pretty much everything, from Frank Zappa to Franz Ferdinand.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Cup of tea...

and a chocolate biscuit. I'm procrastinating again.

I just checked my statcounter, to see who's been to see me today. I don't know why I do this. I have pretty much the same number of visitors every day, and it's safe to say that this site is 'bijoux'. I care not.

There did seem to be an unprecedented number of first time visitors today, though, so in a rush of excitement, I clicked on 'keyword analysis'. Unfortunately, this doesn't actually do what I would like it to do, which is to analyse the psyche of people who come to my site through weird and wonderful searches - past ones have included someone looking up 'flaying alive' (why?), and some sucker looking for pictures of Abi Titmuss in a corset. Shame on you, whoever you are!

Anyway, for some reason, two seperate people have come across this site by looking up 'kitkat'. I've put it in Google, and Living for Disco does not come up. Strange...

The next one did make me laugh though. What could you possibly be looking for if you search in google for the phrase "I'm a lesbian, my flatmate seduced me"? This person is clearly a fantasist. I think that they 're looking this up in the hope that they will find someone who has had this experience. Then they're going to contact them, find out where they live, kill them, bury them under the patio, buy a wig and impersonate them until the event should repeat itself, Single White Female stylee.

This is so obviously an astute and accurate pscychological analysis, that I've decided to try and provide this service to anyone who wants it. I'm going to do an on the spot breakdown of the inner mental workings of people who type strange and wonderful criterea into search engines. I will provide this free of charge. If anyone wants to take me up on this, just email me.

I wonder if I'll have to take on extra staff to handle the inevitable deluge.

Sampling the social microcosm

Today on the train I shared my carriage with:

*1 middle-aged lady with reactolite glasses, nursing a croissant the size of a small hedgehog, who spoke very loudly in a posh voice about the fact that hopefully soon, she and her husband were going to sell the house in Cambridge, and shuttle between the flat in London, and the house in Burnham Market. Which is lovely, because you don’t have to drive for miles to get groceries – Tesco delivers! Failing that, the local butcher does organic meat. Hurrah.
*1 middle aged gentleman whose startling ginger nose-hair seemed anxious to venture out and taste the fresh morning air
*1 girl with a nice velvet skirt on, who entirely failed to notice that she was exposing a large expanse of upper thigh on her left leg, and occasionally her knickers
*1 fold up bicycle (new)
*13 cups of Costa coffee
*4 copies of the Guardian
*3 copies of the Telegraph
*and 3 laptops of varying sophistication

I’m attempting to do some kind of social demographic survey of the 8.15 into Kings Cross. If I fit it, I’m obviously an upper middle class multiple home-owner, with an aversion to Victor Kayam, and a penchant for horrible coffee. Perhaps this was not a comprehensive sample.

I was tempted to take a photo of the next carriage though – it was filled with men in suits, a large proportion of whom were displaying a taste for silly socks, reading a combination of broadsheets, and saying things like “Sarah, get Roger on the line for me. It’s about this morning’s 9.30 – I don’t think the graph on page 312 of the presentation has the right colour coding…” into their blackberry email-phones.

I wonder if the 7.45 is any different…

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

In Memoriam

Six years ago today, I lost my dad. No, he didn’t fall down the back of the sofa – I’m not that careless. I still find it next to impossible to say that he’s dead. It’s too final, too difficult to persuade myself after I’ve said it that he’s just lost his memory after going out to buy biscuits and will be back fairly soon. Ever saying that he died is easier - a simple change of tense takes it from the present harsh and continuing reality to the past event: “He died once. Ooh, we had a terrible time, but he’s fine now”.

Most of the time it’s something that I don’t think about in any conscious way. To do so would be like sticking your tongue against a painful tooth, or picking off an unripe scab. When I’m reminded of him, I tend to shove the grief back down where it came from – I can picture it, green and toothy, pressed against a window of glass too thick to break. I know it’s there, but it can’t get me.

This does mean, though, that when I want to try and remember him, I can’t, because I’m too scared of how I’ll feel. I’m worried that I will forget what he looked like, or sounded like, or what his beard felt like against my neck when he’d give me a big bear hug. I might even find that I forget how much he liked to play devils advocate, and argue the toss about everything, especially after a few glasses of red wine.

Maybe I will forget his huge hands, and the cracks and pits from gardening and working, perpetually filled with grime, despite all attempts to clean them. Or the smell of meths – his one and only, cast-iron cure for athlete’s foot – that used to hit you like a train when you went into the bathroom; his crazy Albert Einstein hair; his loathing of tomatoes. His big laughter and sense of humour, his paranoia and depression, his need to be needed, his fear of getting old.

His terrible jumpers, that he kept for years and years, eventually having to stick leather patches on the fraying elbows.

The way he tolerated only one of our five cats, but he loved it completely. It used to follow him around the garden, and seek him out wherever he sat down.

I try to forget the day that I went to see him in the chapel. He looked so tired and pale and cold, and his legs, under the cover of baby blue satin and lace were so flat where they’d been crushed. He’d have fucking hated the satin. A bit of tweed would have been nicer. A plain cotton check. Something other.

Just sometimes, it’ll creep up on me, and I’ll realise that he’s not going to come back. I’ll find myself taken right back to the day he died, and that aching chasm of loss that I thought I’d never be able to close. Knowing that I will never see him again, except when he appears in my dreams*, is harder to understand than anything else.

He’ll miss out on his garden growing on without him, and he’ll miss out on all the music that he loved. He’ll never see his grandchildren. He’ll never give me away, should I ever venture down the aisle. He’ll never know what his children have done, and what they have achieved, and I know how proud he would be of my sister’s burgeoning skydiving career, and my brother’s first child. All the things that are occasions for celebration are edged with the sadness of his absence.

You’d think after six years that I would be used to it, but here we are, and still counting.

*We inevitably have conversations that go something like “Where have you been? I thought you’d died.” “No, I’ve just been fishing/in space/hiding etc. etc.”

Update: I wasn't sure whether to post this, but I know my mum won't mind and if my Dad does he'd better bloody well come and tell me so himself.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Chinese whispers

I was in heaven. The music was mid-90s indie pop. The Stone Roses, Pulp and Sleeper pulled me irresistibly towards the heaving dance floor: a sea of waving arms, jumping bodies, beer arcing gracefully over the waving, seaweed hair. I was sucked into a whirlpool of frenzied, drunken, snogging, groping humanity, and I let go.

Twenty minutes later, flushed, sweating and covered in beer and bruises, and was washed up onto the bar, where I flopped happily. I recognised a bloke standing next to me – I saw him at a party a couple of weeks ago, where thanks to some mild mind-altering substances, I was convinced that his dredlocks were the hybrid offspring of a pineapple and a coconut, and was transfixed for hours. I felt the need to explain.

“Hello”, I said. “I saw you at a party the other week. I was a bit stoned, and I thought you had great hair”.

His face froze in shock. “I’m sorry?”

“I thought you had great hair! I was a bit stoned!” I was starting to feel embarrassed, and not a little stupid.

His expression didn’t change.

“You were at a party, and you gave me great head? I’m sure I would have remembered that – are you sure it was me?”

With a fresh insight into the inner workings of the rumour factory, I went back to the dance floor, and surrendered myself to the Cure.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Election? What election?

By the way, it may have escaped your notice that the UK had a general election yesterday. Lots of people stayed away from the polls to register their disgruntlement with the current Labour government. I always find making sure my voice isn’t heard a very effective way of making my point clear*.

I was going to write a post about how pleased I am that the loony human rights bashing, public spending slashing, gipsy hating Michael Howard is not now prime-minister, and that if that event had occurred, I would be heading off to Namibia sooner than originally planned. I was also going to write about how I’m still not convinced by the Labour government, and their penchant for breaking election promises, entering into illegal wars for reasons that shall remain under wraps, rampant privatisation of hospitals and schools, and smiling demonically.

But I just feel fatigued and disillusioned by the whole thing, so I’m going to go off and have a cornetto while there’s still some sunshine lurking outside the office window.

If you really want to see what the country looks like politically now, and you won’t get too downhearted by the fact that much of the UK is apparently knee deep in tories**, go here. And if you can find Cambridge amidst the blue, I’m pleased to report that the Lib Dems wrested it from Labour. Yay.

*I'm ashamed to admit that I missed registering to vote by 3 days, because they don't publish the deadlines anywhere. So I can't talk. But I would have voted, had I been able to. And I'm very pissed off that I couldn't.
**BF voted tory by the way. And I still want to snog him. Strange.

Expecting the worst...

Everybody seems to be in a frenzy of fecundity at the moment.

My brother’s wife is pregnant. My friend is blooming. My colleague Tom’s wife is wearing out Mothercare’s maternity range faster than you can say “It’s a girl!” Two people I used to work with have just progenated*. I keep seeing pregnant women on the train.

I’m not pregnant. There are no prospects of babies on the horizon for me. Even if I wasn’t going to Namibia, the BF turns pale whenever I coo over some helpless infant in a pram, and steers us firmly towards the nearest pub, via the family planning clinic. I'm having to live my life as a mother vicariously through everyone else.

I’m going to be 34 when I get back from Namibia, and who knows whether I’ll have found someone willing to donate their sperm for reproductive purposes. I know that many women have babies into their forties, but I imagine my tubes all exhausted from producing millions of eggs, just going “You want us to do more? Are you kidding?”, and hanging an “Out of Order” sign on my womb.

It doesn’t really help that I would just love to be pregnant. Sometimes, in my fantasies of the future, I just waft around with a perpetual bump, eating banana and peanut butter pizza ice cream, and having people give up their seats on the tube. Mind you, in these selfish and twisted times, I’d probably have to actually sit on them before they’d move.

I’m not ready to have children. I can’t afford children. I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a child if I had one. But I feel a wrench deep inside when I see people with babies, toddlers, any child. Sometimes I feel a haunting emptiness, as if something that’s meant to be there is missing, and it’s getting stronger all the time.

I’m a great believer in letting things happen the way they’re meant to happen, and I’m sure if I’m supposed to have children, then I will, but I still worry.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

*I know this isn't really a word, but it should be.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Coffee and Commuting

The man with the noisy Hawaiian shirt is sitting on the floor by the door. I only notice him when he begins to laugh like a cartoon villain. Everyone looks up, startled, from their laptops, and begin to smile. Then they look down and continue to drink their scalding coffee.

My iPod is playing Good Vibrations, and I want to sing along. This is against the rules, so I sing in my head. It’s unsatisfying.

The man next to me is reading the Sun. He’s not all that large, but he seems to take up half of my seat in addition to his. His paper keeps dipping gently over my computer screen. As he jabs me in the ribs to turn his page, I notice that Wayne Rooney’s other half, Colleen McLoughlin, is confused about why she’s been labelled a chav. Oh, and Brad and Angelina are having it off in Kenya, apparently. I love the Sun’s approach to ‘news’.

I don’t get much work done. The countryside is too beautiful, and I’d rather watch the bright fields of yellow rape pass outside the window. They always look as if the sun is shining on them, even when the sky is low and dark.

The journey is punctuated by coughs and sneezes, and by Hawaiian Shirt’s occasional belly laughter. No-one speaks, but the couple in the seats opposite me are conducting a silent conversation through winks and nods, frowns and smiles, that both of them find amusing. I’m mesmerised.

The woman opposite begins to try quietly to remove the free ‘Top 50 Gardens to Visit in 2005’ supplement that is taped to the front of her magazine. The noise is making people stare; she’s very self-conscious and withdraws, snail-like, into her seat. She eventually goes for the sticking-plaster method, ripping it off with abandon, and narrowly misses flinging coffee all over Mr Sun. He jabs me in the ribs again, and coughs. I wipe saliva off my screen, and decide to read my book instead.

When we arrive at King’s Cross, people pour from the train in a silent stream. I notice that Hawaiian Shirt is wearing sandals at least three sizes too big for him. He’s a large man, but he has very tiny feet.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Pineapple upside-down cake, anyone?

I had two jabs this morning: rabies and meningitis. I toyed with the idea of Yellow Fever, but it’s expensive, and apparently not rife in Namibia. Which is nice.

Time is galloping forward. I spent much of this weekend at a VSO luxury retreat and spa, complete with its own gourmet restaurant, the menu designed for maximum healthiness – not a speck of lard in sight. The bar serves a selection of fine wines, and you are pampered and cosseted the whole time. It’s bliss.

I like Harborne Hall, as VSO like to call this oasis of calm. It reminds me of my first halls of residence at university: single bed, endless winding corridors that smell of bleach, and stodge all round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which is good, because even though you’re sitting down almost all the time during the courses, all the volunteers emerge ravenous, and climb over each other to get into the dining room, where the day's offering - fried haddock, chips and peas, washed down with sponge and custard - is put away in a matter of seconds.

I sometimes wonder what it must be like for international volunteers who haven’t grown up with the UK’s standard institutional fare. I can almost see their confused faces, gazing in wonder at a piece of lamb hotpot skewered on the end of their forks, threatening to glop gravy and unidentified flying vegetable over their laps.

Anyway, with that random piece of head-space nicely popped onto the page, I’m off to have a cup of tea, and work on recruiting my replacement.
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