You ring in sick to work, leave a message, and they ring you back to ask if you were actually speaking in English or notFootnote:
When yidaho MSN's you, you refuse to believe it's actually her, and demand she text proof of her identity before you'll reply
You dream that peachykeenyboy has sent you to organise a work team bonding outward boundey thingy at the North Pole
Every time you speak it turns into a whinge
The phone rings next to your bed and it seems too far away to pick it up
Your hair is so greasy and dirty it's started to go all Alex Parks all by itself
When someone texts you, you put the phone to your ear and wonder why they aren't speaking
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I listened to the conversation, sniffling slightly in my four sweaters, my chair carefully positioned nearer the heater than theirs, but I didn't say anything. I couldn't contribute to the wonder at how far we've come, because your perspective switches incredibly rapidly if it's taken away. It's not the march of history or inevitable progress, because it only needs one or two little changes for you, here, now, to lose a lifestyle that you really made assumptions about.
As they talked about their dishwashers and washer driers and SUV cars, it brought it home how far removed my life has become from convenience and dishwashers, from yuppie smug success and that feeling of entitlement - in one fast month.
I was stopped from speaking out by a combination of poverty (the bank has cancelled my debit cards, I have lost my cheque books), cold (my flat's 'economy' heating system means it's warm at four in the morning, the rest of the time I have to sit here in scarf, hat, gloves, hoodie and blanket, and still my nose goes numb), pain (my car's still broken and there's no money to fix it, or to get transport, so I have to walk everywhere, which - being a delicate flower - means my feet have metamorphosed from lily white soft callouses into bloodied, blistered, raw gaping messed up wounds, and walking anywhere hurts), stench (no hot water to bathe in except at 6am, no washing machine to clean clothes in), and hunger (no money for food, have to fast at work, and eat the furry sprouting potatoes I brought from the last flat at night).
I didn't speak out - why? Was that shame? (and there I believed myself to be shameless) It's not exactly my fault this stuff is happening - living in two different places, paying two sets of bills has it's price.
Meh, cold does seem to make your brain work slower. It took me two weeks of sitting indoors under a blanket to figure out I could just go and buy an electric heater.
Cold, hunger, and pain make you sniffle and sleep with a hot water bottle stuffed up your sweater for longer than you should. I feel ill. In fact, that's my excuse for such a whingey rant of a post. So you'll have to make do with a crappy whining post. Hey, I tried to hold off on the Oliver Twist overtones, here.
Interestingly, yesterday, when my feet were bleeding, and I took four hours in the frost to ride the cheap buses up East to switch the heating on in the old flat, because the estate agent said people viewing it felt chilly, which was a psychological disincentive for them, I 'spent' more money than I've ever spent in my life. I dropped the price of the flat by ten thousand pounds. Oh boy, was I in trouble for that one. But dammit, I can't live a long time like this, I need a rapid sale, and that won't happen if the place is overpriced.
It's odd, being poor after years of being fairly rich. I mean, I was poor twice before - as a kid in the seventies, before moving south, when we lived on factory land and thought everybody couldn't afford puddings (by eck, it were bitter in our cardboard box) and during four years as a student, when pride wouldn't ever allow me to go to my parents' house for a single vacation. But it's different being poor and, well, old. In a way.
Old as in, I'm not seven and willing to believe that the second hand colour telly we waited years for makes us millionaires. And old as in, I'm not twenty two and there's no way I'm doing ten crappy jobs shovelling the shit from someone else's poor service skills just so I have enough money for a travelcard.
And you know what else? Old as in, I have a credit card.
Here's what Cyn wrote:I'm publishing this on here because I need to be less cowardly in the line I tread about what I allow to get out there. It's cowardly to pretend that nothing happened, or that I wasn't equally at fault in the general disintegration I was trying not to blog.
But mostly, it reminded me of what I've been reading lately of disturbances between cliques* in Brit Blogpuddle (only the yanks have a blogosphere), and the hurt feelings that have ensued as all parties have felt themselves judged, and critically at that.
* Oooer, hope they don't mind me calling them a clique - not very nice, is it?
Made me realise something: all these blogs are crap. I mean that in the kindest sense ... they're not truthful in the slightest. They make sense, if ever, only to ourselves.
And, conversely, if we publish our personal crap on the interwebnet, we deserve to dissected.
Blogging: At Your Own Risk.
We never made it, but this time, hell, I got there five minutes after closing, which as close as I've ever gotten, and at least got to look at the gardens. I ignored Krystal and Derby (okay, it was the other way around), and noticing a weird parallel between the Art Nouveau carvings I could see, and the heavyset figures in William Blake prints, done about 150 years earlier, I set to taking pictures that might look Blakeian.
First prize (of a nearly new refrigerator that I have nowhere to put) to the first person to spot which Blake print it's meant to remind you of. With a tie-breaker (where whoever can help me move my washing machine down three flights of stairs or fix my car) wins. What, me, manipulative? Desperate?
It was buggering freezing (hah, this post was written a fortnight ago, remember, before I actually knew what poverty and cold were), and we wandered over to Blackheath, for coffee, cake staring and pottering around the bookshop. I continued to take too many photographs (dunno what it is about digital cameras that means you take three hundred snaps when two good ones would do, but heck, I have bandwidth to spare this month), of skies, of hands of speakers animating their coffee shop conversations, of reflective shop frontages, of tulips, delicatessens, fruit. I really need a bright, preferable violent coloured large canvas in my beigeious flat, and Selfridge's will upscale a phot for #500, so I figure some print shop somewhere will do it for way less.
In the shops, something about the pompous, discreet middle classness of the place worked on my coffee high to transmogrify me from a mild mannered seeker of art nouveau bibelots into a raging cultural snob.
In the deli, I took umbrage at the request not to take pictures and resolutely took around fifty more covert snaps. Hey, Harv didn't introduce me to the world of commercial espionage for nothing, I can do spy stills.
In the tiny independent bookstore, I held forth loudly about Philip Roth's annoyingly gratuitous wanking passages. (Can't be bothered to explain.) I raged at the bloke working in Starbucks about the mispellings and grammatical errors on his door sign for fifteen minutes.
Later, there was a Thai meal in Crystal Palace with a load of people who all do the same job as me. Most of my friends eat Thai fairly often, but I'm the sort who finds a food they love and eats nothing but for the next six years, gorges on it till she explodes, and can't face it ever again - so I haven't gotten around to Thai gorging on more than a few occasions. Plus fried food, however exotic its point of origin, never much appeals when there's nothing else on the menu.
And the menu was the problem. The weirdness of poring over two sides of A4 and not knowing what a single dish might be is usually only something that happens on far flung climes. To find it in Gypsy Hill is disorienting. And the speed with which four out of six fellow diners ordered suggested they had just three dishes they knew weren't fried seal brains, also - though I wasn't brave enough to say.
I stuffed myself, then spent way too long - noticeably, oddly long - in the toilet. There was this weird silver ball in there, see, and I wanted to get it just right for a Mirror Project piece.
The evening ended with Derby staying over, then staying up till five in the morning chatting (I hadn't seen her since last spring; she's a trained counsellor - a dangerous combination.)
Friday: Derby was up and out for breakfast with an ex colleague and a six hour drive home after three hours sleep. Me, I slept all day, and when I did get up, it was to snuggle under a blanket on Pink Nasty and watch the entirety of CSI series one on DVD.
There's something enervating about living quite so quietly, then slamming yourself back into a social life that makes you feel a tad invaded after two or three days of socialising. My car had broken, and it was the perfect excuse to sit back and veg, crawl back into my shell, and hide from the world, happily.
Saturday: I thought I'd resolved my differences with Duch. I'd cut her for two weeks, she'd cut me for two weeks. I'd resolved never to get pissy about why - if anyone's unaware that shouting 'you donkey' repeatedly at people isn't going to increase their popularity, then it's not something I'm going to change by whining about it, and I swore to accept my mates for what they are. The week before had involved a five hour phone call, so we seemed quits, all bets off, as it were. Friday had involved mucho trauma by phone call too, and I'd arranged to travel the 25 miles and back to hers this night.
I reckoned without every single thing in the flat deciding to break that day. The AA guy fixing the car decided to take five hours to turn up - JatB got there quicker, and she was coming from the opposite corner of London. As soon the car it was finally fixed, I could rush out and get some urgent Jaffa cake replenishments. So the car repair guy says 'only drive it to a garage, it needs repairing NOW'.
Pfft. We all know that women's cars magically mend themselves if you leave them in the car park long enough, right?
Meanwhile, am running round the hypermarket, trying to get back in time to meet JatB, who's bringing a warm coat (it's getting colder...), and some small painted canvases for the beigeiousness, plus ringing fmc to see when I can visit her new place in Pantydrawer (or whatever the Welsh word for Swansea is).
Rang Duch and asked if it was okay if I didn't come over - fifty mile round trip, damaged car, rushed off feet, bloody frustrating day, JatB waiting outside my door, plus Duch was already going out earlier on with someone else. She agreed, and I thought that was that.
Get back to find the answerphone message from hell.
I am the devil. I am unsupportive, mean, have abandoned my friends.
I am thoughtless, and worst, guilty of not being kind.
So I pressganged JatB into coming with me for moral / normality support to Duch's, and set off. An hour's drive to NE London. Another drive to the pub, where I got sick of drinking cheap, flat cola, while others downed exspensive Belgian Trappist fruit brew. Can't pubs serve proper coke? Cinemas manage it. A restaurant in the Village, too much food, and watching people downing Sambuca after Sambuca. Lifts home to NE London, lifts home to NW London, 2am dash home to SE London. And the car dies.
Still, at least I cleared my name.
Sunday: spent in bed, or watching dvd's under a blanket, freezing my socks off, recovering from spending all night driving the car to its knees, and wondering why I feel obligated to nutters.
I knew I'd feel like this today, after a three hour long appraisal. Like a sugar-deficient crash.Still, I have broadband. Wooo!
You know the answer already, don't you?
Two minutes into the journey, having fought weary battles, red in tooth and claw, to gain seats on the bus, I looked up at the route map on the wall. Wrong bus.
Cue every single person on the bus telling me how to get off and get a bus to Victoria. This is London. This is wrong. People in cities this big don't talk to each other. They're not helpful. As Quiet Writer put it the other day, long spells in big cities breeds disconnection of the strongest sort. Come to London, where we ignore you because We Prefer It That Way. You don't chat on the bus!
Red faced and more like a tourist than ever, I fought my way over the help-offering throngs to get to the exit. Routemaster buses have an open platform at the back, meaning you can jump on and off any time the bus slows down (except if you're paraplegic of course, when you can only fall off, no jumping on there for you). Only this is no bloody use to you if the bus is speeding around the Hyde Park Corner junction, in the middle of eight lanes of traffic all doing 40mph at the time. And leaving by the exit lane diametrically opposite to the one you want. Lovely traditional West Indian bus conductor did his best to cheer me up by encouraging me in a hysterically-pitched scream to jump off and dart amongst the traffic via a strip of dirty grass verge every time we skimmed a traffic island at breakneck speed. I was nearly crying as I protested that I would break my neck because of the breakneckingness of it all. Eventually, my cowardice meant we ended up back at Marble Arch, and having to walk for half an hour to cross back over Hyde Park Corner. The fascination for the entire lower deck was palpable, all craned their necks to see my crestfallen trudging as we got off, still brassily debating how I should best have managed the transfer to a Victoria-bound bus. Glad I lightened their day. But by now I don't think I'm going to shed the feeling of being a tourist in my own city.
One hundred yards from the next bus stop, three Routemasters heading swiftly towards Victoria skim past us. At exactly the right moment, Derby whips out a hand and leaps onto the passenger platform of the last one. She screams encouragement at me. I leap.
Mid-leap, I begin The Wail. The one that the widows in Palestine do on telly. The heart rending "NOoooOOOOoooOoooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOooooooo" that makes every single head on the lower and upper decks turn to see me miss the platform and land in the gutter.
Derby keeps my nerve up by uttering encouraging whooping and screaming noises as the bus pulls away, accelerating. She's joined in this by one or two amused London commuters on the seats nearest the doors. I run.
I can run. I just can't be gainly about it. Or fast. Or successful. I was always the one who gave up in the hundred yard dash at school, and not only came last but walked the last half, whingeing noisily. But now, I ran. It was like Chariots of Fire and a heart attack, crossed.
As the bus got to the stop, I was a mere thirty yards away. The lower deck roared to the driver to wait, as one, I swear. Panting, sweating, wheezing, I hurled myself towards the platform. Derby did some celebratory whooping.
And I desperately tried to control my raging redfaced gulps, groans and unfit gasps as I oozed past faceless solicitor type forty something blokes. All of whom were giggling.
I'm feeling very sorry for myself - very poverty stricken, very cold, very hard done by. My savings are going to paying the rent on the new place, while I'm also paying the mortgage on the old. Suddenly, Tybalt thinks this is not a shared expense (unlike when it seemed likely to be her expense, I might point out. )
Said savings run out at the end of March. Complicated, now, by the fact my car is broken and I can't afford to get it fixed, which means I have to walk for forty minutes along a traffic clogged road to work. It's not so bad in the mornings, although the empty stomach doesn't help, but the evenings when I can't cadge a lift from peachykeenyboy are freezing, particularly since I left my ski jacket in Belfast airport for someone to nick, and I can't afford a new winter coat, and I don't have a hat or gloves. (JatB gave me a coat, but the arms are too short, so I'd be a frozen stick wristed scarecrow.) Whinge. Whine.
It means I have to get up at the same time as I did when I lived the other side of the Thames, twelve miles away. Moan. I'm getting deep and meaningful looks at work for wearing trainers, but the size of the blisters and cuts on my feet mean I have a fairly putrid looking get out clause. Whimper.
It makes stomping out to the Internet Palace to blog a little arduous, involving stepping out from a barely heated flat into a freezing bone cracking gale of sleet as it does. More Whine. Whingeosity.
On the upside, it'll help me to walk off all those choccy biccies I've stolen off peachykeenyboy instead of paying for lunch, lately. (The man can afford it, stop giving me that reproachful look, you.)
I managed to buy a hat and gloves for #3.50 from the hypermarket tonight (although my abnormally small head means the hat looks fucking awful). And best of all, this morning, the point along the final hill when I got to tired to walk with energy and fall into a defeated trudge was a good quarter mile further along than yesterday.
GHN [Glaswegian Hard Nut]: Ah give yez a clue, iss a freevurb.I'll give you a clue: look at the URL up there.
GT [Gullible Twat]: A what?
GHN: A flee burr.
GT: No, I'm sorry, I didn't understand that.
GHN: A feemur.
GT: Um. Ahhh, right.
GT: No, I'm afraid I didn't get it.
GHN: Ah'll spill it feyoh; iss a F.L.E.B.O.U.R.
Then an expensive meal out at the Cafe du Jardin by the Royal Opera House, with yidaho. I ate steaks of rare ostrich, washed down with quantities of champagne (well, a few glasses). Unforch, I got a cheapo internet deal on the food, so (it's not necessarily subsequent, but I hold strong suspicions) the service, timing, seating, delivery, and refreshment was all shit. One hour and fifteen minutes between bread roll greetings and ordering your initial drink is not really on, is it? I've had better meals at bloody Nando's. And better customer service in Tesco. Still, the table was too dark to see your food, that may have been a bonus.
And the ostrich steak? Well, it wasn't as tasty as the time Toulouse fed me a pig's ear, but it had the texture of beefsteak, with the taste of a peculiarly tasteless porkchop. And knowing I had bloodied ostrich inside me gave me the queasies, all right. Still, company was excellent, and not knowing the way home in the slightest, I set off driving without a map and made home it through pitch black wonder-where in thirty five minutes flat. Amazing.
Still don't know the way home from Covent Garden, though.
Sunday: I did my washing. That may seem simple, and if I could work out a way to get my washing machine from the third floor of a flat in East London to Pengeistical Paradise, then it might actually become simple. However, currently I'm at the mercy of Service Wash Mistress, who is one who likes to scold excessively. This week I returned ten minutes later than the time she suggested. I should have known she likes to go on a break at that moment, it turns out. That in fact she's quite entitled to shut the shop and go home during that break if she wants to. And that would show me to turn up at the right time. Plus, manmade fibres in pillow protector cases will melt in a hot dryer, so I'm a terribly, evil soul, for asking her to wash some. She bundled the wet ones in a bag with my dry washing to teach me the error of my ways.
It's not me being rude or overly middle class (in that bullying wheedling kind of way that sets my teeth on edge when I hear other pushy middle class types complaining) - I'm passive to the point of supine in any confrontation that I don't care about winning. (Note the implied codicil, please; I love real confrontations.)
Fourteen pounds, correct change please. Next instalment this Saturday. Let's see what she can think of for me to do wrong by then.
Monday: my parents came to visit my new flat. I tried to make them walk the two miles uphill to Dulwich or Crystal Palace (and ergo any cafe that doesn't serve a side order of melted lard with any order, drinks included), but they moaned and whined and complained. Blimey, i thought my parents went yomping on the Wiltshire Downs every weekend. Was I surprised. And not a bit relieved.
So we decided to grab some food - from the nearest pub, because my mum's poor shell shocked tootsies were hurting (snnnn, would never dare say this to her face, but as she'll be reading this from home, she's out of thumping distance). So we went in the pub whose grammatical horror of a name: "The Two Half's" has me wincing every time I pass it, where the horrible seats and chairs of yore have been ripped out, and replaced by a caribbean pool parlour.
Ordering fish n chips, you don't expect that much - you do, however, expect not to catch them pulling a plate out of the freezer to go straight into the microwave, and you certainly don't expect to find a wimpy burger salt packet nestling secretly underneath your mouldy damp chips. Sigh.
Ack, a fight breaks out agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain in the internet palace. I'll finish this tomorrow. Arrrrgh.
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But I failed. The wind was whipping a new parting in my hair and I couldn't get up that damn hill. And sought refuge in my duvet. Sigh.
It was a very familiar feeling, trying not to touch someone, trying not to wake them. It was stressful in a way that being on your own has never been.
I've been avoiding putting my house on sale. Four months since I should have done it.
I had to do it yesterday. It wasn't my favourite thing to do ever. And I woke up feeling tense in every muscle, looking for someone who wasn't there, worrying she'd know that in my dream I'd killed her.
The Worst Defamers of the Pert Nostril
5. Kate Hudson
4. Gwyneth Paltrow
3. Keira Knightley
2. Charlize Theron
1. Julianne Moore
PhiladelphiaOh, the shame of it all.
The Nutty Professor
The Last Samurai
"I call people rich when they are able to meet the requirements of their imagination." Henry James.
I want to see Balanchine's work because I've been brooding on greatness lately. Not in a Caesar way, I mean other people's greatness.
There's that thing of when you describe an artist's work as 'great' and usually you mean for this decade, or if you're lucky, great in the context of the century.
There's very few people you'd call great in the classical sense of the word - great like Da Vinci, great like Newton, great like Michelangelo or Shakespeare - certainly in the last century.
(I was surprised to find that some people don't consider Picasso to be great on the Michelangelo scale, actually, but there you go, these things are subjective for a few hundred years at least, aren't they?)
So anyway, Balanchine died in the eighties and was fabled to be one of the greatest choreographers that lived ... so a triple bill of his work, at the ROH as an added plus, is irresistible - much in the same way as when you attend university, you're culturally obligated to go to at least one lecture by whomever that instition's world beatingly great mind of the moment is - whether you understand quantum physics or not. Culcha, innit? How could I have lived in the twentieth century and not see Balanchine's choreography?
Given that the Thursday matinee is on at the same time I'd agreed to spend with Derby, some pussyfooting about was necessary to secure agreement. I mean, you never know if people actually like ballet, do you? I don't, so why should they?
Attack of the Vanessa Mindflab occurred at 6 pm, when the phone rang as I left the flat. I was midway through walking three feet to my car. At 6.20 I rang off, and the Mindflab ceased. I look around and find I'm on a British Rail train to Charing Cross.
How did that happen? Train tickets cost #4.70, my savings only pay the rent till April, and that's my Balanchine money gone. I'm not very good at living within reduced means, and if I'm going to start lapsing into fugue states where I wake up halfway to Wales, things can only get worse.
Cat logic. A strange man is tapping at the window at the front of the house. One must throw oneself bodily through another window, at the rear of the house, and run wildly into the great unknown in case he ever comes in.
It being Scaredy Cat, the disappearance caused no alarm. I noticed the window a little further ajar than I believed I'd left it, so I shut and locked the thing, and carried on cleaning, scrubbing, paying bills. It started to rain. A memory did flicker, then, of when ScaredyCat once ran out of the french windows at Duch's house to hide in a clump of bushes. She was too scared to move, even when I stood right over her; as a strictly indoor cat, she'd never experienced rain before, and thought it might Get Her.
Chuckling at the memory, I wondered where she'd hidden herself, and got on with scouring the bathroom walls with bleach. The frenzy of cleanliness was bound to occur only irregularly, and I had to reap the benefit quickly before the fit passed from me.
Two hours later, Window Bloke decided not to bother fixing the rest, and scarpered. No reappearance of Scaredy Cat. In fact, increasingly smug expression settling over the features of Other Cat. (they live in fervent hope of the other cat's sudden death.) It dawned on me what I'd done.
I opened all the windows and yelled. There was no way a creature with a brain the size of a jelly tot would remember the way back in. Dragging on a hoodie and trainers, I ran out into the communal garden to stand in the mud and the rain, shouting cat blandishments at the bemused neighbours. The garden backs onto the lawns and sheds of several large, grand looking houses - the sort that indulge in stained glass hall windows and subdued peeling porticos. I know this because I had to scramble in an ungainly fashion over the six foot tall fence to scream into each garden. After thirty minutes I found me an extremely sad and bedraggled Scaredy Cat, who sliced a deep gash in my hand before I scrambled back over the mud and now broken fences to throw her in through the back window.
At this Precise Minute Other Cat leapt back out. Made a beeline for the fence and scuttled under an improbably narrow crack.
Suffice to say, my pastel carpet is now trailed over with solid lumps of crusted mud, my cats have had a right old adventure, the likes of which they'll be wailing and grumbling about for at least four days, and I have a stinking cold.
Celia Johnson. This is what I always used to wish being a lezzer was really like.