Sunday, July 31, 2005

Impractical parenting

If you met me in the street, or the pub, you might be forgiven for assuming that I might not be in the running for Mother of the Year. Although my appearance is a little more conservative than in previous years (I sort of miss my dreadlocks, although I don't miss the constant aroma reminiscent of cider, wet dog and, strangely, the inside of wellingtons kept in the garage), I still sport a number of facial piercings and have some very big, very black tattoos (although not on my face, I hasten to add...). When out on my own, or with the Other Half or friends this merely means vague sneering or slight fear from passing middle-englanders. However, if in the company of Small Person this attitude can change slightly. When Madam was very tiny, and I had very pink hair and favoured rings rather than studs in my nose and lip, the kindness of strangers manifested itself in one of two ways. Either malevolent waves of how-dare-she-that-poor-child (accompanied no doubt by images of needle-littered squats and rummaging through dustbins for food), or abject pity. Both of which were equally infuriating. These days, it's more toned down, but nonetheless often apparent. Maybe it's as a reaction to this, and also perhaps due to the fact that despite their indifference, my parents wanted someone who could confidently hand round the olives at the sort of seventies houseparty that invariably ended in gin and recriminations, I'm actually a very Victorian parent. This evening, Small Person, the Other Half and I were tucking into roast chicken, and I found myself channelling Anne Widdecombe. Poor Small Person - there she was trying to eat enough to guarantee pudding, and all she could hear was me barking "elbows off the table!!", "sit up straight!!", "mouth closed please!!!". To be fair, the Other Half ate very nicely indeed and therefore was allowed his chocolate mousse, and was excused the washing up. Small Person, to her eternal credit, does very well indeed, which makes me wonder whether I'm doing more harm than good. The poor child - it must be like growing up in the Hitler Youth. Will she thank me for it in later life, or will she end upon an ITV2 documentary, chaining Rothmans, with her kids eating Super Noodles with their fingers in front of Trisha? Only time will tell - I expect she's already counting the days until her sixteenth birthday.

In other news, I met the Other Half's parents yesterday, and they were lovely. To their credit, they managed not to berate me for wrecking his marriage, and instead plied me with tea, biscuits and an update on everything their neighbours have been up to lately. And I was shown a picture of the Other Half in knee socks, which cheered me up no end.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ruthless efficiency, seventies style

When my stepsister and I were small, my mother went out to work full time. It wasn’t because she needed to – my stepdad was doing very nicely, thank you. Regrettably she just didn’t like us very much, and chose to escape to an office for eight hours a day, leaving us in the summer holiday care of a succession of au pairs. Seventies au pairs were a very strange concept, if you ask me. A generally European, generally about eighteen-year-old girl, who lives in your house and is treated as the seventies equivalent of a plantation slave, for the princely sum of around ten quid a week. These poor girls were expected to look after my sister and I, clean the house, do the ironing, cook meals, do shopping and lord only knows what else in those worryingly liberal times. We had a French one, two German ones and a Dutch one. It’s not that sis and I were unruly monsters leading to an overly high turnover of petrified, floundering auxiliary staff, it was more that my mother was, and is, unpleasant and demanding and therefore home was never far from the forefront of their minds. The French one was sort of nice – she wore a very very long woolly scarf, and made French apple tart for pudding. I was four, and this was the best way to win my affection. I don’t remember too much more about her as I was very small and she was very, well, nice. The Dutch one had buck teeth and body odour, but nevertheless won the Lovely Legs contest at Pontins that summer. It’s just a shame they weren’t having a Biggest Summer Job Mistake contest, or she could have doubled her trophy count. She didn’t last very long – I don’t know why and I don’t want to know. Ours was a strange household at the best of times, and throwing homesick flatlanders into the mix can’t have improved the dynamic much. One of the German ones was very lovely, and in fact returned voluntarily the following year for a holiday which leads me to presume that she must have had some sort of drug problem or, at the very least, mental health issues. The other German one, however, was about as far removed from lovely as I think is legally allowed without resorting to incarceration or a cull. I was, and still am, claustrophobic, and as a child was afraid of the dark (oh come on, it was big and there were things in it), but our preferred spot that particular summer was a side niche in the cupboard under the stairs – we’d crawl in, clamber over the sewing machine and pull the door shut behind us. How random is that – I could, if pressed, recall every item that lived in the cupboard under our stairs in 1979. Most notably a giant ball of string, and a pair of boots that would have had that dirty looking dark-haired one off of Abba salivating at the thought. We’d hide in there for hours, unaware that the au pair in question was utterly disinterested in our whereabouts, preferring to lie in bed all day smoking Camel cigarettes, rising ten minutes before my mother was due to arrive home, in order to be standing at the ironing board pretending to have been slaving away all day. She had a scary Cherman friend with a big booming voice (a lovely lass), and they both had very hairy armpits. My sister and I survived that summer largely on cabbage, which was the only thing she could be arsed to cook. My irrational fear of other people’s cheese stems from her making me a sandwich from grated cheese which had been left, uncovered, in the fridge for so long that it had attained the texture of uncooked long grain rice, which she forced me to eat by threatening to tell my mother that I’d called her a very rude name if I didn’t. That was not a good summer. In addition to their various funny little ways, all the au pairs in the village would congregate in each other’s host families’ houses, so there was a constant melee of European students slagging off their employers, and bored, confused children who had no idea where their next meal was coming from.

Strange days indeed. I wouldn’t recommend an au pair as a childcare option. Not that it’s affected me though – I’m the most well-balanced obsessive-compulsive needy control freak you could ever hope to meet.


Foiled again

I spent the morning happily avoiding work and putting together a post for the blog. Lately, it has seemed that I've been able to post a little more through the work firewall, but regrettably today it beat me. So I'll have to post it from home later, and you'll have to spend your afternoons playing solitaire and surfing the rest of the net instead.

May I recommend endless hours of fun to be had on the message boards. It seems there are more mentalists out there than we had at first feared. Or maybe which is hilarious, moving and sometimes downright scary (Civil War soldiers?? Really??).


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh dear.

I wonder sometimes why I get so horribly het up over the smallest of things. Maybe it’s my control-freak tendencies running away with me. I realise of course that it’s not rational to expect everyone else to conform to my idea of acceptability, but sometimes I just wish they’d try a bit harder. The reason this has come up today is that I have just seen a grown woman with sticky labels on the soles of her shoes. This is, without a doubt, the worst sort of label crime (slightly lower on the scale of evil is people wandering about, oblivious, with giant labels sticking out of their neckline, or, more horribly, their waistline) and I just fail to see why it occurs. If you buy, say, a new pair of trousers you’re probably going to cut the tags out before you wear them. Your telly isn’t in the corner of the room, resplendent in its polystyrene corners and that weird stuff that isn’t fabric but isn’t plastic that is draped over the screen in the box. When you go swimming, are you constantly adjusting your swimmers because you’ve left that revolting hygiene strip in the crotch (am I alone in finding that vile? Why is it better for me to touch a sticky label that other people have rubbed their parts on than to simply wash a swimsuit before wearing it, thereby eliminating the possibility of inadvertently coming into contact with a stranger’s vag?)….I think not. So why, on purchasing a shiny beautiful new pair of shoes, do people not take the fucking labels off the bottoms before wearing them? There’s a woman in my office who (and this is how sad I am – it’s stuck in my memory) came to work one winter morning looking absolutely immaculate. Except when she turned and walked away all I could see were the great big stickers on the soles of her boots announcing that she was a size seven and that they weren’t actually leather. Shame on her. Shame on all of you. And if I sneak up behind you in town and tuck your label back into your t-shirt, you’ve only got yourselves to blame.

I really, really need to get out more. Or less. Or something.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Burglary and banana hammocks

I was going to post last night, but after a day which involved lunch with my mother (the emotional equivalent of being hit repeatedly in the face with a sock full of wet sand), cuddling a new baby and sitting through the ninety-minute showing-off-fest that is Madagascar at the cinema (with Small Person on my lap throughout, mainlining m&m's and occasionally kicking my shins) I just didn't have the mental energy. It was a quiet yet eventful weekend, which saw the Other Half borrowing a ladder from Drop Dead Fred as we..well, ok, me had locked us out of the flat. The sight of the Other Half disappearing head first through my bedroom window cheered Small Person no end - we'd previously had her elbow-deep in the letterbox trying to open the door, and I'd lightly threatened her with having to go throught the window herself if the Other Half couldn't fit. She should think herself lucky that we don't have a chimney. The rest of the day passed in a happy haze of park, car cleaning and listening to the DDF's bellowing, screaming and slamming doors into the early evening when they either passed out or stabbed each other to death with corkscrews.

So anyway, I'll post summat proper later. I am currently fending off a mental image of Small Person teaching the other kids at her relentlessly middle-class holiday club the phrase "banana hammock", which the Other Half taught her yesterday and which has delighted her ever since.

How lovely.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ho Hum

The highlight of my week has been the arrival of Small Person's cousin #4, courtesy of beloved sister Fifi. She arrived yesterday morning at the ungodly hour of 6.14am (Smallest Person at the hospital, not Fifi at my flat) - welcome to the family, young lady. I'll be popping over on Sunday to monopolise her, probably much to the relief of the new parents. Fifi's done this sort of thing before, but am sure it will be a slight shock to the system of her Other Half. Bless them.

That aside, what a dull week so far. Even Big Brother has gone the way of the Cameron-induced yawnfest of the other year. I've switched it off for the last two nights as I just can't bear to listen to the shrieking any more. I must be getting old. I've spent the week doing the school run as my regular childminder has gone on holiday, the inconsiderate witch. Doesn't she know I rely on her to cover all the minutiae that being a working mother precludes? If only I can get her to come home with me after work, bath Small Person and put her to bed of an evening......Anyway, Small Person has instead been going to a friend's childminder, who has a trampoline and swimming pool in the back garden. Which has resulted in her developing childminder snobbery at the age of five, and sneering at the thought of going back to the regular one in September. Mind you, I suspect that September is as far away in her mind as her fortieth birthday, so we'll address that one agin nearer the time. From next week she's at holiday club, who are extorting £500 from me for the privilege of looking after her for four days a week. Trips etc are extra, and they've managed to shoehorn at least one a week. So for the next six weeks I'll be mostly staying in and sobbing gently into my value beans on value toast, as the bailiffs manoeuvre the sofa through the front door and Social Services collect the last of Small Person's belongings from the cubbyhole she calls her own since we've been forced to move into the caretaker's cupboard to save on the rent.

Still, could be worse. I could still be married. Perish the thought.

And on a lighter note, it's the departmental summer barbie tomorrow at the house of the universally loathed boss. I'm going to drink too much red wine and throw up in his sock drawer. Mind you, there might be a queue. I'll get drunk before I go, that way I can be first.

Dare me?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The long dark teatime of the soul

It's 11.38pm on Sunday evening. I've done three nights on the lash and was very much looking forward to an early night tonight. However, karma has chosen this evening to punish me for undisclosed indiscretions, and this post finds me sitting on a poorly-inflated blow up bed in my own living room, drinking the last stella in the house in an effort to anaesthetise me sufficiently to sleep. My flat is a constant source of irritation to me in that I require silence in order to achieve anything resembling a good night's sleep. If the Drop Dead Freds aren't at defcon 2 next door, there's always downstairs watching Heartbeat at earbleed volume til 9pm or so, the constant traffic noise (complete with screeching ambulances at all hours as I live on a busy crossroads on the ring road round town), and of course the fucking pigeons from 5am (have they evolved to the point of being born with megaphones?). However, the thing that gives me the most impotent rage is Stephen Hawking. Bear with me. The flat on the same floor as me is occupied by an unknown person who never, ever goes outside. He is attended to by visiting nurses about five times a day, and is envisioned as a wheelchair-bound, permanently pyjamaed shut-in, hence the slightly inappropriate nickname. All well and good, and perhaps deserving of my sympathy...except that he is apparently completely deaf, and an insomniac to boot. I finally snapped about two months ago and left a polite note requesting a reduction in tv volume after 11pm, which I don't feel is unreasonable regardless of his personal circumstances - we do after all live in close proximity and my bedroom shares a wall with his living room (existing room?). This has been observed and we've lived in relative harmony ever since (I did however have a protracted, absurd screaming match with a mad Polish lady over the way, via her first floor window, regarding the recycling bin this morning. I worry about the competence of a council that provides plastic refuse sacks specifically for the recycling bin and then refuses to collect said recycling bin on the basis that people are putting plastic refuse sacks in it.....), but recently the curfew has been sliding. At 11.25pm this evening I placed another note on his front door requesting a reduction in volume after 11pm, but since the situation can't be resolved this evening I found myself at 11.30pm inflating the guest bed and lugging the monster duvet down the hallway. I know I'll be awoken by daylight/traffic/pigeons at 5am but I'd rather that than lying in the sweltering darkness, weeping with frustration, listening to reruns of the Equaliser on his cable tv. This evening was an especially bad one to pick, as the Ex had helpfully kept Small Person up way too late last night (he said 9.30, she says midnight and it's not a phrase she's picked up from me...), and then let her sleep til 10.30 this morning. Subsequently she hung on til 10.30pm before reluctantly slipping into dreamland, and will be a nightmare in the morning. Hurrah!

That aside, it's been a top weekend. The summer ball last night was a surprisingly subdued affair, by our company's standards. It's traditionally held in a marquee in the grounds of a country hotel, and something about that seems to engender drunken pillaging on the scale of a rugby club emerging from a month-long detox. However, this year's bash was held in the function room of a dfferent hotel (when I say different I do of course mean rubbish - the corpse-shaped carpet stains and sofa bed reminiscent of a medieval torture rack in our room were a little unsettling), and this seemed to have a calming effect on the attending merrymakers. We did of course drink too much and dance like fools, but there was nothing to match the decadence of previous years - no vomiting on the tables, no casualties, no running away from senior management hell bent on justifying your recent pay rise. A good time was had by all, but the Other Half and I were pleasantly surprised at the absence of hangovers this morning, which was a little bit disappointing in it's own weird way. Am not used to this being a grownup thing.

Anyway, I feel slightly better for ranting. I feel a strange solidarity with favourite sister Fifi, who as I type is in early labour in anticipation of presenting Small Person with cousin #4. I can't wait to be an Auntie again, and am very much looking forward to the smell of the back of a new baby's neck. Can't be beaten.

Oh lord, it's Monday.

Friday, July 15, 2005

24 hour party people

So, I got home last night and there was Drop Dead Fred, having a lovely chat with the missus on the patio. Obviously I'm relieved that a) I'm not sleeping thirty feet away from a murder scene and that b) my karma will remain unsullied by the guilt of inadvertently cursing and then killing them, but I must admit to being a tiny bit disappointed. Still, there's always the weekend to look forward to.

Me and the Other Half will be getting all poshed up tomorrow night for the company Summer Ball - an annual frenzy of alcohol, embarassing dancing and an interminable raffle. The booze is free and it's a fertile breeding ground for Monday morning fear, as people rehash the night's events and fill in the gaps that memory had mercifully blanked out. The morning will be punctuated by horrified gasps and pained cries of "I didn't??!!".....marvellous. The trick is to drink just enough to have a good time, but not so much that you end up telling that fit bloke from the IT department that you've fancied him for two years and is there any chance of a shag, please. Oh, hang on.......

I'll update on Sunday. Honest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fear and loathing in East Anglia

This afternoon, I had my second filling ever. The first one was ten years ago, and I thought my teeth were ok as I only visited the dentist two months ago. However, last night half of one of my teeth made a break for it, so at 3pm today I was quivering in the dentist's chair while a gruff South African dentist with a Jimmy Edwards moustache loomed over me with a gert big needle in his hand. I'm the first to admit that I'm a complete jessie when it comes to pain, and I honestly don't see anything wrong with that. If something hurts then to my mind it's your body's way of asking you nicely to stop it now, please, and I'm all for that. The Other Half helpfully pointed out when I voiced my fears that I've been through childbirth, and that therefore this would be a breeze. Fantastic - so they give you plenty of drugs and smile indulgently at you as you call them evil fucking motherfuckers for the twelfth time in ten minutes at the dentist now, do they? Bring it on. As it turned out it didn't hurt a bit, and took all of ten minutes which pleased me immeasurably as a) I didn't disgrace myself by crying and b) it was only quarter past three and my boss (who, improbably, was even more rude and irritating today than I've previously encountered but I won't bore you with it) had told me not to bother going back to work. Presumably because he likes it better when I'm not there to variously contradict, ignore or bully at his whim. Still, he's short, bald and universally disliked so I take small comfort from the fact that in at least two respects I'm infinitely superior to him.

In other news, I'm actually quite scared that in writing about Mr and Mrs Drop Dead Fred I may have unleashed some Stephen-King-esque curse and that they're proper dead next door, surrounded by empty Reisling bottles, their faces frozen in a final hate-filled bellow. The mother of all arguments ebbed and flowed last night for an unprecedented six hours. It had all the best bits - locked doors, cries of "fuck off", staggering, ranting, bellowing and door slamming. I was woken up at 11.30pm by a row so loud that I could clearly hear it, and they were inside their house. All the lights were blazing, the patio doors were open and it had the air of a hack-and-slash film in the making. I'm sure I heard the distinctive sound of slamming doors at ten to seven this morning, but apart from that, nothing. Not a sausage. Nobody wobbling round the garden flicking the v's at the living room. No pants posted onto the patio. Nada. All the doors and windows are closed, with the exception of the kitchen window which is permanently open to ensure the efficacy of the "fuck off" shouting post-lockout. None of the lights are on and the telly's off. Of course, the simple answer is that they've gone on holiday in order to ring the changes by getting pissed on tequila and therefore adding an extra frisson of exotica to the nightly fights. However, I have an overactive imagination which relentlessly generates ever more ghastly scenarios and therefore that can't possibly be the explanation. Too rational. At this point the Other Half will be rolling his eyes while reading this, and looking forward to yet another night of soothing me from nightmares which are triggered by any number of innocuous events, let alone my murder-suicide-at-the-neighbours'-house theory. I blame my mum for letting me watch banned horror films from the age of six. Tsk.

On an unrelated note, but no less puzzling, last night I dreamed that I was on a yacht with Maxwell out of Big Brother, which capsized. It was ok though, as we simply floated the onboard computer on a handy lilo and surfed the internet until we were rescued.

What can it all mean?

Monday, July 11, 2005

There goes the neighbourhood

I live in a spacious, well maintained first floor flat in a nice part of town. My neighbours are, for the most part, fairly old but I don't mind that as any noise from deafening tellies etc is over by 11pm. The rest of the road is filled with beautiful turn-of-the-century red brick properties, and a private school with immaculate grounds. There's a park five minutes walk away with rolling green spaces and a very good children's playground which makes Small Person very happy in the absence of a garden of our own. School is five minutes away, work is five minutes the other side of that and we are within walking distance of the town centre. On the whole, a very nice place to live. Apart from Drop Dead Fred, that is.

To the left of the low-rise sixties block that I live in is a gorgeous house with leaded windows, I suspect at least four bedrooms, and beautiful gardens. I can see the back and side of the house from mine and Small Person's bedroom windows, and part of their garden. A couple in their sixties live there - I presume they are retired, and I met her last year when she came round the flats selling poppies for Remembrance Day. All well and good, except for the unavoidable fact that the pair of them are fond of a drink or twelve, and find it a little difficult to keep a lid on their tempers once the Harveys Bristol Cream starts to flow in earnest. I first realised there was something of a problem shortly after I moved in last year. To be honest, you don't have to be Derren Brown to work out that a couple whose Sunday routine involves one party locking the other out of the house while said affronted party bellows "drop dead, you bitch" through the kitchen window may not be staring down the barrel of a golden wedding celebration. Tensions flared throughout last summer and autumn, with a brief respite which was presumably due to the cold winter weather (maybe she locked him in a cupboard. Who knows?). Recently the Sunday afternoon scraps have begun again in earnest, with a noticeable escalation in tensions. Until yesterday afternoon I had been firmly on the side of Mrs Drop Dead Fred. In my own experience it's generally the female of the partnership on the placating, unhappy side of an abusive relationship. And before accusations of generalisation are levelled I'd like to point out that I'm qualified to expound on this theory. I grew up in an embittered, alcoholic household and I know what a short and often unrelated step it is from "shall we have beef this week then, dear?" to "you've never loved me have you, you heartless bitch". Battle lines are drawn up and, the more cheap wine/Saturday afternoon martinis/pints of Double Diamond (oh dear, is my seventies showing?) you add, the more firmly a position is held, regardless of its inherent ridiculousness. So, with this mindset firmly in place I've spent many an anxious afternoon listening to the screeching (he is known as Drop Dead Fred as it seems that the best thing the wife could get him for Christmas is her own demise), and wondering how I'd feel if I did nothing and he ended up battering her to death with her own fondue set. Until yesterday, that is. It had begun peaceably enough, by their standards. DDF was sitting on the patio, pouring endless glasses of white wine for himself and periodically flicking the v's at the living room window and bellowing "fuck off". At some point I looked out of the window to see Mrs DDF unlock the french doors and come lurching out onto the patio, drink in hand, like Mrs Overall on methadone. She proceeded to sit next to her loving husband, poking him variously in the ribs and face, and petulantly pushing his chair. I know this makes me sound like a mad stalking neighbour but I've been concerned for her safety on more than one occasion over the last year and, being a veteran of this sort of skirmish, I like to make sure things have calmed down before I can relax. So anyway, there they are, doing pushy-shove like five year olds and fervently expressing their desire that the other should, well, die. As far as invective goes it's far from imaginative but I'm guessing that it fits like an old slipper for them. Best stick with what you know, eh? At this point I'm beginning to realise that Mrs DDF may not be the victim I've been portraying her as, as she's at least as pissed as him if not more so. Things then took a turn for the ridiculous as they threw drinks at each other then sat, befuddled, realising that it was a stupid thing to do as they had no booze left. Mrs DDF then, with a last triumphant shove, attempted to salvage her dignity by wandering crab-like indoors, veering left like Norman Wisdom in a prevailing wind, and proceeded to ramp up the weirdness of the afternoon by posting pants and shorts through the living room window like a woman posessed. I presume this was in an effort to underline just exactly how unwelcome DDF was. In case the locked doors and the invitation to "die, you bastard" hadn't quite hammered that home.

So, to sum up. My neighbours are mentalists. I worry that one day they'll descend into a crazed, slashing frenzy fuelled by a disagreement over whether that bloke from Corrie has had a facelift or not. I just hope I don't have to hear it.

Bloody pensioners. It wasn't like this in the war you know.

I'm with Bob Geldof on that one

In that I don't like Mondays. There - and you were expecting a rant about Live 8, weren't you. But frankly the whole thing was so lacklustre that I can't bring myself to get worked up over it. Except to say that Robbie was, of course, fab. And that I really am getting old - Pink Floyd were ace. We've got a "contingency" exercise going on at work this morning and I've had to spend an hour being nice to people who are pretending to be concerned relatives. All seems a bit crass what with last Thursday's events and all but hey, it's making somebody somewhere feel important so that's ok.....

Me and the Other Half went to see the Levellers on Saturday - twelve hours in the sun drinking beer mellowed the Other Half nicely, and he too enjoyed what is now in my top 3 gigs. And he didn't even make that many jokes about dogs on strings. Not once he was surrounded by hedge monkeys, anyway. And I now have not only a Levellers t-shirt, but also a Levellers carrier bag. How corporate. They played up a storm, which came as something of a relief as they were in the pub at1.30pm and didn't go onstage til 9.30.......

Will post properly later. Honest. But there's some weird limit on how many words I can post through the work firewall, for no reason that I can fathom, so that's your lot for now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Nothing to see here.....

Now then, blogging. Deciding what to write and actually writing it is a little like the homework set at the start of the long school summer holiday – you know you need to do it, and there are endless empty interludes where you could conceivably get your head down and finish the damn thing, but you put it off and put it off and before you know it it’s the night before you go back to school and you’re up til 3am cobbling together a project on the Bayeux Tapestry and wondering where it all went wrong. And since I am the world’s greatest procrastinator (I never used to be but since I began hating my job in earnest I can divert my attention away from the job in hand with the best of them. ie everyone else here….) I have found myself spending the day knowing I have to write something but not being sure what it is and instead surfing other people’s blogs and being jealous because they’ve posted today and I haven’t, which means they’re done and I’m not. Actually, the statement that I never used to be so good at circumventing work is pretty much wishful thinking on my part. It’s true that I used to be a lot more focussed than I currently am, but on reflection I’ve always been an exponent of the 80:20 rule, in that most of my output is achieved in a bad-tempered frenzy about thirty minutes before a deadline.

So, now we’ve got that out of the way, I still have no clue what today’s entry is about. I’ve pondered a number of subjects, from childhood holidays at holiday camps, cars my family has owned, or the school dog (more of that another time, I promise), but I keep coming back to the subject of how I’m not who I used to be any more. I know I’m not alone in that – none of us are who we used to be, that’s the way of the world. But sometimes I look at where I am – child, job, fabulous Other Half, decent car, flat etc and I wonder how on earth I got here. Ten years ago I had nothing of the sort. I left home at seventeen and spent the following four years in really wrong relationships (one with a psychopath, one with a guy who wanted a cross between his mother and a housekeeper, with extras – I’ll say no more than that..), before moving back to my home town at the age of twenty one to start living properly. I rented a flat to start with, sharing with an old school friend, but after six months of karaoke, vast amounts of wine and very little else, I realised that it really wasn’t working out for me. She had, well, let’s call them issues, shall we? Now I’m the first to admit to slight (!!) obsessive qualities, as I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post (check the archives people – the posts were much better than this when I started this thing), and the Other Half, bless him, is frankly so weird he makes Rain Man look normal, but this girl really was very strange indeed. Her working day began at 8.30am, so of course the obvious time for her to get up was 5am. Honestly. There then followed an elaborate ritual (5.08am, shower. 5.17am, dry hair. 5.32am, ironing etc….) that could not be deviated from IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. If a task wasn’t completed within her own oddball timeframe, all hell would break loose and believe it or not she had to start again, which was where the 5am start came in. By the time we decided by mutual consent (for “mutual consent” read “massive argument culminating in me screeching “mental bitch” at her and slamming my bedroom door as she wept angrily in the living room and rang the landlord to tell him that no, actually we wouldn’t be renewing our lease”…..) I was deliberately setting my own alarm for 5am so as to sabotage the whole thing and see if I could trigger a breakdown before we both moved out. Not very mature, I grant you, and since meeting the Other Half I’ve realised that mental people can be fun too, but at the time it made me feel a whole lot better. Especially on those mornings where she put her shoes in the tumble drier, which was on the other side of my bedroom wall. So, from there, it was off to my friend’s sofa. In the meantime I’d met up with some very excellent people in the best pub in town – a drop-in centre for bikers, hippies, drunks and dislocated Irishmen, and was spending a great deal of time with people that would make most of the general public cross the road, if not themselves. A friend of mine was selling something that she no longer made use of and, since I’d acquired a dreadlocked boyfriend with a dog on a string, and a hefty bank balance owing to the fact that I’d sold the car my parents bought me for my 21st (sorry Mum but hell, it was worth it. For a while..), I somehow found myself the proud owner of a Volvo FL10 lorry, with an ex-GPO mobile office box on the back. This thing set me back two and a half grand, and the plan was to travel overland to India and do a couple of years in Goa. Yeah right. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s never trust the plans you make with people who spend more time saying “another pint please” than anything else, except maybe “can you cash my giro here, I’ll give you a fiver”. We did the thing up, and spent a few weeks parked in an impossibly glamorous location: down a no-through-road lined with derelict garages. People who think “life on the road” is romantic have obviously never spent seven rain-soaked weeks in the back of a lorry, pissing in a bucket (really), washing in B & Q of a morning and fending off junkies at 3am because “it’s cold and I want to sleep in here because you've got a fire”. Every time the battery ran down (meaning no electric lights and it’s tricky to read by the glow of a woodburner) we’d have to run the engine, which filled the whole living area with diesel fumes. Nice. If the dog needed a wee in the night the dreadlocked one would have to go with him, as the dog was impossibly large and ungainly, and the door was impossibly high off the ground. Our only transportation was my motorbike (until I wrote it off), so going shopping involved getting a taxi from Kwiksave and directing it to “the big yellow truck down by the old garages”. Even better was the time my mum came to visit – she pulled up in the Merc, gingerly climbed the rusty stepladder and peered through the door, declared it “lovely” and fucked off again as quickly as possible. Of course, at the time I thought I was living the dream… reality it was horrible. We only ever got as far as a turkey farm six miles down the road, and it took over four hours to get there owing to the fact that neither of us knew how to drive a lorry. We stayed there for three of the longest weeks of my life – I gave up turkey plucking after three days on the basis that it was horrible and I was rubbish at it, and spent my days stocking up the woodburner and making sure the proper gippos who came plucking didn’t steal our generator. Also, we were parked up next to a shed filled with at least a thousand turkeys, who expressed their constant surprise at spotting another turkey by creating a wave of sound that became known as the Mexican Gobble, as it would sweep up and down the shed every two minutes or so, for about twenty two hours a day. Eventually, the boyfriend and I decided to call it a day, and I ended up flogging the truck back to the guy who’d originally been storing it for my friend at a massive £1700 loss. Well done me. I spent the next six weeks homeless, including Christmas, before renting a tiny room and starting again. It was shortly after this that I met the Ex – talk about a run of bad luck…..(this was after a brief re-interlude with the dreadlocked boyfriend who’d moved right up in the world and was living in a semi-converted horsebox with a leaky roof and no engine).

So as I say, I look back on myself – pink dreadlocks, rings in my nose and lip, dog on a string etc and it’s a mixed feeling. I obviously don’t miss being cold, going to the launderette, asking a friend when I needed a bath, or the dreadlocked one’s (look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition) habit of pooing in a carrier bag and throwing it into one of the garages. However, I miss the freedom of having nowhere to go and nothing to do. I miss my friends – when our pub was bought out by a chain and turned into a theme pub it was genuinely heartbreaking, and I miss being able to dye my hair pink and say a big fuck-the-world to everyday nonsense. On the other hand, I have a fabulous daughter and have been lucky enough to have found my soulmate, and believe me he’s gone a long way towards making me feel how I did during those mad, carefree days.

Blimey – from nothing to say to running off at the mouth. Sorry about that. Bloody hippies……

Monday, July 04, 2005

Rainy days and Mondays

So much for the summer then - altho the weekend managed to stay dry we're now back to October skies and hammering rain. At least yesterday was good weather - me and the Other Half took Small Person to the park for the local free music festival, where she rocked out to various dodgy punk bands and ate far too much sugar (sugar (in the form of sweets or ice cream - in case anyone had a bizarre mental image of me with a bag of sugar and a spoon. Or a sugar beet and a sharp knife...) is carefully handed out on Days Out to ensure optimum good temper and staying power. And sometimes we let Small Person have some sweets too. Ahahaha). Oops, too many brackets there but it's been a long day. On Friday my job was, unbeknownst to me, posted on the company intranet site. I'm technically in charge of my small department, what with me having an assistant and everything, but, since I've done the job for two years without pushing too much I've never been officially made manager. Which is all very well until they start advertising for a manager. So I have a meeting with my manager's manager (are you keeping up at the back?) tomorrow to find out whether I'll soon be "made redundant" and therefore eligible for free school dinners for Small Person and a flat with stripey wallpaper and a great big telly. I try very hard not to mind these things but why are the doley people on Wife Swap or any ITV programme you care to mention always banging on about not being able to make ends meet while chaining Bensons on a brand new leather sofa? And if you look carefully there's generally a picture of the six of them (including "Uncle" Dave) on holiday in Benidorm on the mantelpiece/handmade bureau (bureau??? is it 1850?!)/baby grand. And meanwhile I'm waiting to see if I'm being downsized from a job I hate anyway so that I can figure out a way to afford my extortionate rent. Actually it's not that extortionate but it does prevent me from being able to afford three new pairs of shoes a month and therefore I resent it. So anyway, I've spent a humiliating day in the office with people asking if I'm leaving and me saying "I'm hoping not to" and doing that laugh you do while you're simultaneously trying not to cry and wondering if eBay does hand grenades. It's not like I haven't been humiliated at work before - I was sacked from an office junior position for refusing to ring the wholesalers and order new orange squash for the welfare room (didn't they KNOW who I was? So beneath me darling), and although I've never photocopied my bottom (to the relief of both my colleagues and the photocopier engineer) I've been to some interesting office parties. But somehow, knowing that your boss, while being an obsequeious, creepy little man with a foot fetish and a Napoleon complex, still considers himself an expert on your shortcomings despite the fact that he has no real concept of your abilities due to inheriting your department two years ago and studiously ignoring you ever since, is just a little bit galling.

Note to self: stop ranting about work. And brush up on punctuation. See me.

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