Monday, October 30, 2006

Hell, handbasket, etc

It is well documented in these pages that my mother makes me itch.

I think I had it in my head that I would mellow with age. That as she and I got older, we would learn to live with each other's faults and irritations - my flat refusal to stop getting tattooed, her complete, total battiness. We'd get on, if not brilliantly, at least at a level that would preclude actual, physical violence.

I found out last week that this is never going to happen. My mother makes me ill, emotionally and physically. She only stayed for one night. It was hellish. She'd invited herself, thus disproving the oft-quoted myth that you have to invite a vampire over your threshold, and if you don't they can't come in. Driving from work to pick the Other Half up, I had a panic attack. A proper, sweating, spinning-out one. Given that I was halfway over a very big bridge at the time, this was an interesting development. A combination of making sure I hadn't actually stopped breathing, and narrowing my field of vision down to the width of my car plus ten feet in front meant the local emergency services got to stay at their respective, cosy depots, eating chocolate digestives and watching Judge Judy which was doubtless a more inviting prospect than cutting me out of a burning car when they'd rather have been getting home for their teas.

Still, it scared the bejesus out of me. I had a split second where I thought to myself, in a perfectly rational way, I could just keep driving. I get paid tomorrow. I could drive for a few hours and stay in a Travelodge and work out what to do next. I could go home tomorrow, after she's gone. I very, very nearly did it.

For fuck's sake. I am thirty-three years old.

So I didn't give in to my hysterical side. I picked the Other Half up. We went home, Mother turned up with Small Person and I spent the evening leaping up and down from the sofa like a demented bellboy, totally unable to stay in the same room as her for more than fifteen seconds at a time. Seriously. I can't even look at her. And when she went the next day, my body reacted in the manner of one of those people who gets lost in the Australian Outback and survives for four days on chewing gum and adrenaline, and when they get rescued the relief is too much and everything sort of breaks down*. I have spent a week battling an enormous, venomous mouth ulcer. It nearly ate my head. The Other Half had to get me some super-powerful steroid gunk from the chemist to get rid of it. It's gone now, and I have swollen glands and a vaguely not-quite-here feeling to keep me company instead. I can't sleep. I can't concentrate.

Some of this may have to do with the fact that I have to do this all over again next week. Next week!!

It was Mother's birthday in September. In a fit of sheer, utter madness I suggested taking her to see Andy Abrahams, the Affable Singing Not-Quite-Dustman who didn't win the X-Factor last year, or something. Am I MENTAL**??? This entails her not only staying the night again, but the two of us having to spend actual time with each other with nobody else acting as a buffer. I mean, the singing dustman aside - he'll help, of course, but unless he's going to give us a lift to the venue and sit between us in the taxi on the way home, I can't see him saving the day. And I don't even like his music.

I'm going to be hungover to fuck next Tuesday. Fact.

* I may be overstating this slightly. Me me me.
**Yes. Hopelessly, irrevocably so.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Error!! Error!!

No post tonight. Mother is coming to stay. Cannot articulate the horror.

*switches lights off, hides behind sofa*

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Warning! Warning!

Driving to work this morning, I saw something that I am still struggling to comprehend.

It’s bin day today*. This means it looks like the favelas round here as people pile up bags and boxes all week until the final, flyblown climax on a Tuesday morning when the bin men spend a happy hour or three picking up chicken bones that the nine thousand cats in the area have left strewn around the closes and cul-de-sacs and the whole process begins again.


As I drove past one particular house a cardboard box caught my eye. It was from a hoovery-type thing, or a pressure washer or something. The thing that astonished me, however, was the admonition in big white letters on the side of the box:


I am finding it hard to process the thinking that went into getting that printed on the side of a box. I mean, things like footballs, or yo-yos, or other people’s children aside, shouldn’t everything have this warning on it? What, specifically, about that product rendered it especially unsuitable for throwing on the floor? I don’t know about you, but when I’m carrying something, the not-dropping-it part is pretty much a given. Of course, I usually drop whatever-it-is anyway, but that’s not for the want of a great big warning telling me I didn’t ought to, really.

Think of the implications. Our car should have a warning on the dashboard telling me not to crash it. Doors should be marked “Door should be opened before through passage is attempted”. What about my shower? There’s nothing on to it warning me to ensure the water is running before washing commences. I might go home tonight and stick my head in the oven** – there’s nothing on it to say that perhaps I shouldn’t.

The world has, clearly, gone mad. Korean despots and the war in Iraq be buggered – this is a sure sign that we are living in the final days. I’m off to add another layer to my tinfoil hat and, if you value your life and those of your loved ones, I advise you to do the same.

* This in itself sends my mind into spirals – when they build new houses, who tells the dustmen? Do they have a special person at the council offices who’s in charge of planning and re-planning and endlessly juggling routes for the poor bin men? Round here, new phases of developments get released all the time. How do they keep up? Poor bin men. They should have tried harder at school.

** Shut up.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The passage of time...

Sometimes I think I missed out on the gene that makes me good at relationships.

I mean, the Other Half and me are solid (apart from when I give my mobile number to fellow explorers in the grounds of derelict buildings, but that's another story), I think I do pretty well as a mother to Small Person and I have a couple of strong friendships that I can't imagine doing without (you know who you are). Aside from that, though, it's a bit of a wasteland. I can't bear to be within thirty miles of my mother. If I spend time with my father I (admittedly this isn't helped by the inevitable, liberal application of Irish whiskey) immediately revert to needy teenager. I haven't spoken with the man who brought me up between the ages of two and seventeen (me, not him. That would be weird, and against the laws of physics) for about twelve years.

And friends. What of friends?

Throughout my life I've always talked of my "oldest" friend. We met when we were eleven, in a second-year Science class. United by a sense of dislocation from our peers, we spent our school years in an exclusive club with only two members. We didn't need anyone else. We understood each other - she had been diagnosed with diabetes at the same time that her brother was being treated for cancer and felt sidelined and unloved. I was growing up in an utterly dysfunctional environment; my weekdays marked only by an increasing sense of tension as my parents' weekend skirmishes drew ever nearer. We were both isolated and felt that we were the only ones who could possibly understand each other.

It sounds perfect, doesn't it? Two lonely kids from affluent, yet emotionally deprived backgrounds, helping each other through the day-to-day crap, being exactly what the other needed to keep struggling on.

Except, as with anything, there's another side to it.

I don't know how to articulate this part of it without sounding pathetic, or painting myself as a "victim". I wasn't. I'm not. I just clung onto something I thought was helping me, as it was the only thing in my life that seemed worth hanging onto. But if I look back, realistically it was more emotional abuse, just on a different scale. The times my school work would be flung out of the classroom window as a "joke". The elaborate birthday scenarios - gift after gift, which I was only permitted to open in front of the whole class, each seemingly designed to humiliate and to test my loyalty. I recall sitting in an English lesson one year, covered in flour and water from already opened "presents", opening yet another embarrassing gift and wondering what the hell I was doing there. I remember running away from school the same day - I left the classroom and spent half an hour in the loos, compiling a list of desperate options and listing the pros and cons, before getting a bus home and spending the afternoon despairing over what to do next - even my best friend thought I was a joke. What was left for me?

Looking back, I still don't know if she knew what she was doing. I've always given the benefit of the doubt - after all, we rescued each other, didn't we? But even now the past still rears its head. A few weeks ago my daughter came home from a weekend spent with the Ex and my friend - since he and I split they spend a lot of time together. Mummy, said Small Person, is it true that your nickname at school was "...."*. Who told you that? I asked. The answer was sickening. My friend appeared to have "forgotten" that I had been bullied in the first couple of years at senior school, and had told my daughter the name they had called me, that had haunted me, that she knew had hurt a joke.

At this point I began to re-evaluate things. We'd been through a lot. My marriage breakdown. Her breast cancer, her recovery, her subsequent divorce. I thought we were on an even keel; that somehow, now we were grownups, the relationship had equalised somehow. She spent the summer with the Ex and Small Person and I wondered where I fitted in with that but reconciled it. In the last few months, however, there's been a change. I don't know whether it's her or whether it's me. I haven't seen her since we moved into the new house in March. I get the odd comedy text ("it's national you're a cunt day!! so I'm sending this to you!!") in the middle of the night, but nothing more.

The other morning I checked my phone and saw a text she'd sent me at 1am. "You seem to have given up on me", read the message. Not at all, I texted back. We're busy, that's all. Come and see me next week - I'll cook dinner and we can catch up. I'd come to you, but I have Small Person all week.

That was nearly two weeks ago. On Thursday night I decided maybe I should be the one to assert myself. I sent a text explaining that recently, she only messages me in the middle of the night when I'm not likely to reply. If I reply the next day I never hear back. Is this it then, I asked? Are we done? Talk to me.


That told me, didn't it.

* Clearly, "..." wasn't the name they called me. That would be a shit insult, and even sensitive me might have got over it. It's secret, you see. Durr.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Finding the words....

Every two weeks at work I have a little mini-appraisal with my boss.

It's all quite lovely, really. We go and sit in a meeting room for a couple of hours and talk about all sorts of things, and oh...bollocks to it.

What I was going to do then was that habitual "guess what I did at work today" thing, which would mildly bore anyone who doesn't actually work with me (and lord knows, if any of you do, I'm so screwed), elicit a few polite comments and drift into beige eternity.

I don't know where my rant has gone. I think my rant is broken. What if this is it? What if I am now one of those people who has "musings" or "meanderings"? What if I spend the rest of my life doing the internet equivalent of one of those Round Robin letters that smug people send to a carefully-chosen roster of people they want to show off to every Christmas, detailing how Juliet passed her A Level in Being Nice to the Poor and has decided to opt for a career with the WRVS (at least until Hugh proposes and the babies start to arrive), and how Clive just got that pay rise (but he worked terribly hard for it, you know) so little Arabella can have that new pony as a well done for getting such a good school report. What if that's all?

I hope you're all looking forward to it. I can tell you all about the interesting things I get up to. There won't be any swearing, as it won't be that sort of blog any more. I won't say nasty things about people any more, as it's just so destructive. I can post pictures of quilts I have sewed, flowers I have arranged and Neighbourhood Watch meetings I have co-ordinated.

Actually, fuck that.

Tune in next time for why I think Madonna and her Incredible Performing Vagina* have finally gone completely mental. Egocentric, shrivelled old bag. If she wanted that little boy so badly, why wasn't she the one comforting him on a long-haul flight? Why wasn't she soothing him through the press scrum that met them at the airport and necessitated his first glimpse of his new "home country" to have been through a fog of grey blanket? I bet Michael Jackson is feverishly colouring in the sleepover invitations as I write.

I mean, it's all well and good. I'm not denying that she can give a child a better start in life than perhaps their natural environment would allow. Well done her for donating money to support the orphans that weren't "suitable" (how do you decide that, exactly? Is it like a dog show?) from the ones she presumably inspected in Malawi. Who knows how long she had spent researching the whole thing - maybe it just seems like she stuck a pin in the bottom half of a world map, flew there, looked over a roomful of impoverished children, pointed and uttered a haughty "that one" and swept out to go and wait for a visa somewhere a little less unsavoury. It just seems a little unpleasant that there are so many underprivileged and disadvantaged kids in care in the UK and USA** who maybe equally deserved a chance, but who were bypassed in favour of the publicity-laden pity fuck of a heavily leveraged inter-country adoption.

* I wonder which leotard she wore? Gots to make sure you look serious, that's all. The dove grey? The pinstripe? Did she spend the whole meeting muttering "must not simulate masturbation in an orphanage..must not simulate masturbation in an orphanage..."

** DISCLAIMER: I understand that there are underprivileged kids living in poverty and danger all over this crazy mixed-up world who all deserve a chance. I just think that if I was going to adopt, I might try and get over the cute-baby thing in order to try and help a child who might be that little bit older, but who might already have lived through a Care experience that would make the thought of a permanent family all the sweeter. I don't know Madonna's motives. S'my opinion, thass all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The one where I get my tits out

The thing with shopping is that, unless you have ninety-squillion pounds to spend on shoes and sparkly things, it's a pretty soulless experience.

Especially if you go to your local Designer Village. Designer Villages are rubbish. Well, the only one I've ever been to is, and I have never let fact get in the way of a good old-fashioned moan. It is made entirely of concrete and smells of fake tan and despair. It is full of shops that sell things you would never need, such as giant Samsonite suitcases and chandeliers. We only went there to visit the Vans shop, and when we got there it had closed down. Sweet.

I did get Small Person some DC trainers for a fiver though. And a magic lady in the Gossard shop both impressed and unnerved me, all at the same time.

The last time I was measured for a bra was in Marks and Spencer's. I was seven months pregnant at the time, and the lady was rubbish at it. She tried telling me that my cup size was smaller than it had been when I wasn't pregnant. It wasn't, and measuring and I parted company. I reasoned that just sort of trying stuff on could be presumed to be just as accurate, given that an actual tape measure seemed to not really be any valid indication of what size I should be buying.


Since I have lost loads of weight it has become apparent that I might need some new *coughs* foundation garments. So we went into the Gossard shop. Do you do measuring, I asked. No, said the girl-who-looked-about-fifteen, we do fitting. Right-oh, said I. How does that work, exactly? Three minutes later I was standing in a fitting room, stripped to my bra. The girl-who-looked-about-fifteen gave me an appraising stare, nodded briskly and disappeared. She came back seconds later, handed me a bra and told me to try it on. It fitted. Perfectly. Then she came back with another one, in a different style, to make sure I really was that size. I was.

I find that slightly worrying. How does that translate to a person's CV, I wonder? What's the training like? And, more importantly, how the bloody hell did she do that?? I don't get it. She was absolutely bang-on, first time.

And so I left the Designer Village with some new underwear and a certain sense of self-satisfaction. I mean. 34DD. It's quite impressive really, isn't it?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's not all [your posh work simile here]

In the last week or so at work* I have:

1) Been pecked on the nose with a plastic robin. It hurt quite a lot. I was contractually obliged to smile and pretend that it didn't hurt. I wasn't very good at that part.

2) Via the fabulous medium of Black History Month, enjoyed Indian and African cuisine. Last week's potato and lentil curry was sublime. This week's plantain and okra, not so much. The Algerian lamb was nice though. Next week is, randomly, a Hawaiian menu. The Lovely Dinnerladies are digging a fire pit as I write. Probably.

3) Cleared a blocked document shredder armed only with a pair of scissors, a shatterproof ruler and a purloined canteen fork. I made sure I unplugged it first. During this extremely rewarding exercise**, The Most Annoying Man In The Organisation thought it would be hilarious to shout "BANG" in my ear. Given that shredders are not notorious for exploding, even when being poked with cheap cutlery, the joke fell a little flat. Wanker.

4) Learned that "I'll just finish this and then I'll help you with that" is, when offered by a Certain Colleague, shorthand for "I'll just dick around with this until it's time for me to go home and then I'll smile apologetically and let you do it yourself". Which is still better than her actually helping me, which has the net result of me doing it all over again, properly, as soon as she has finished.

5) Learned that I truly am an unpleasant, curmudgeonly misanthrope, no matter where you put me. I fucking love my job though. And if you're honest, you wouldn't want me any other way***.

* This post is not an invitation to speculate about where I work or the nature of my job. Please don't. I won't tell you.

** Seriously. Total satisfaction when the bloody thing worked properly again. I wonder if the principle of scissors, a shatterproof ruler and cheap cutlery would have a similarly rewarding effect on a Certain Colleague?****

*** If you cared, that is. Caring is not mandatory. I hate you anyway*****

**** Probably best not to test that theory. Until I've passed my probation, at least.

***** Not nearly as much as I hate myself, but that's pretty much a given by now, isn't it? Mwah.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The one where I over-punctuate. Again.

Yup. Another post in the endless series of "What Was Going Through Their Minds?".

Idly browsing* my Sitemeter a few minutes ago, I came across quite the weirdest referral I've had for a while ("david hasselhoff chicken legs" raised a smile last week, as did "ray mears is a twat" but those are perfectly reasonable searches and, as such, don't count). And in the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd let you worry about it too.

Consider, if you will, the sort of repression that leads to a person googling "my wife has manicured her pubic hair. why?".


I mean, why not just ask her? Why not just say look, love, I've noticed you've trimmed your hoo-ha. I wonder why? Is it for me? Had you lost sight of your feet? Are you, as I have long suspected, shagging Tony from the paper shop?

Some people.

* For "idly browsing" read "religiously, relentlessly checking my stats". You knew that really though, didn't you?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The one where I can't think of a title.

It's strange, the things you find when you're wandering round an abandoned mental hospital.

Equipment? That's all there. Like the bath lift in this picture. You sort of expect to see things like that - a lot of things were cleared out when the place shut down, some random bits and pieces were left. Among the things we found today were, variously, a postcard from 1974 (by that I mean it was dated 1974, not that someone sent it in 1974 saying how depressing everything was and when did we think they might be getting satellite tv?), a box of christmas decorations, a gramophone record and a copy of "Penthouse Variations".

Of all these things, the last one is the one that really troubles me.

All sorts of people visit abandoned buildings for all sorts of reasons. We were there to poke around and take photographs. The pikeys we saw* were there to strip copper wiring and steal fluorescent light tubes. From the state of the place, it's apparent that a lot of people go there to drink beer and smash windows. The NHS don't seem too bothered - access is fairly easy (it took us half an hour to figure out a way onto the site this morning but once in all the doors are wide open..) and the on-site security is laughably absent. Whatever.

But really, what sort of person goes to an abandoned mental hospital to have a wank? That's pretty specialist, wouldn't you say? I wonder which part really heightens the experience? The peeling paint? The smell, which is a combination of damp, antiseptic and tramp poo? The gloomy, echoing corridors?

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

* For "saw" read "scared the living daylights out of us". Al was photographing a corridor, so we were all standing behind him to stay out of shot. That's funny, I remarked to GBF, it looks like someone is standing at the other end of that corridor. About five seconds later it became apparent that somebody was standing at the end of that corridor. We all froze, and the only sound was thundering heartbeats as we waited to see whether it was security, explorers or a mad axeman of the sort that engender stories on the evening news where the newsreaders can only allude to the details owing to people not wanting to hear about how you had your leg cut off and were battered to death with it while they're eating their tea. Anyway. Whoever-it-was did that comedy tiptoeing away thing, and after a very tense fifteen minutes of hearing people moving about the place but not knowing where they were, we spotted them from an upstairs window and watched with relief as they struggled off, laden down with other people's property. Fuckers. I hate being scared.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Killing the Magic

I have this weird thing going on with blogging.

For one, I'm starting to hate the term "blogging". It makes people roll their eyes and dismiss the writing on blogs as amateurish narcissistic waffling about What I Did At The Weekend, and How I Feel About My Life, which is utter rubbish as some of the funniest and/or* most moving things I've read have been on blogs. Janet Street Porter can kiss my lily-white arse - bloggers rule and she's running scared. Buck-toothed witch.

Anyway. I digress.

What I meant to say was that I have developed a small, slightly autistic routine around writing posts for my blog. The way it works is this:

If I am truly stuck, I open a new post and type things and delete them until something sticks**.

Sometimes I am so desperate to write something down that I write a post in my head, and then at the first opportunity write frantic, scribbly notes that I completely fail to decipher later and which result in half-arsed pointless dribblings of the sort that would make Janet Street-Porter feel totally vindicated if she were aware of my existence.

[as a small aside, I am watching telly. There was an advert on just now for a pregnancy test that actually presents the result with the words "pregnant" or "not pregnant". In my personal opinion, if you are so mentally disadvantaged that the appearance of a blue line to confirm the fact is beyond you, your reading skills are likely to be at a level that 1) negate any possible advantage of s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g-i-t-o-u-t-f-o-r-y-o-u and 2) suggest that your level of supervision should preclude that thing which may or may not have got you pregnant in the first place. In my opinion. Which is mine, and that I am entitled to whether you agree with it or not. You know who you are]

At all times I am conscious that the transition from idea to screen is totally, irrationally dependent on my Not Telling Anyone what I am considering writing about. The act of saying "ooh! that would make a brilliant post!" or of someone saying "you really should blog about that, you know" is known in our house as "Killing the Magic".

If it's any consolation, I know what a pretentious twunt this makes me sound. As if you're interested in any of this. I just needed to share. I was thinking about writing about going to see Robbie Williams, you see. I actually composed the post in my head on the way home from the gig, to help block out the absolutely proper fucking dreadful Take That songs that Zanna and Cuppa were subjecting me to. And then I came to write it and found that I had inadvertently killed the magic. Bollocks to it.

Oh, and in the spirit of the rubbish, fragmented post this has turned out to be, I had an email on Monday from Endsleigh Insurance offering me cash in return for a link. I considered it for about twenty seconds and then remembered that small-time blogs with adverts make me cynical and disengaged, and thought better of it. Has anyone else had this offer?

I'll shut up now.

* I just used and/or. I hate that almost as much as I hate people who say "24/7" or "back in the day". Sorry about that.

** Clearly we are in the grip of just such a situation this evening. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Daddy's Little Princess*


What kind of father buys his daughters, who live in a townhouse with a twenty-five-by-fourteen back garden, which is separated from next door's twenty-five-by-fourteen-foot garden by a six-foot fence (see also their neighbours on the other side except they are in a five bedroom house, their garden is considerably bigger and I suspect they will be even less pleased than we are) a trampoline? A trampoline! In October!!

An absent father, that's what kind.

Next door to us, on the side not occupied by twenty-seven noisy Portuguese people whose main hobby is clog dancing on wooden stairs at random times of the day or night, is your classic secretary-fueled divorce scenario. She's all highlights, £200k house and red wine in the afternoons; the numberplate on his car spells his name. Mostly. He has an expensive haircut and (according to her) only sees the kids for an afternoon every week or so.

Apparently, this isn't enough to assuage the hole in his bank account guilt he feels at not living with his family any more. No. And I would wholeheartedly agree.

Except I might try to think of something a little more meaningful with which to make reparation than a fucking trampoline which will a) result in tears and recriminations at the first hint of an accident, b) make Small Person insanely jealous as she Is Not Having A Trampoline and c) destroy any tiny, flickering vestige of hope I might have been harbouring that at some point next summer we might actually be able to enjoy our own fucking garden without the neighbours' fucking kids screeching and kicking footballs at the fence and staring at us from atop garden chairs AND NOW BOUNCING ON A FUCKING TRAMPOLINE AND WATCHING US!!!!!

I feel drained already and summer is eight months away. This may well say more about me than it does about my neighbours. But really, how many people have spent the summer smiling at the kids next door at four-second intervals as those kids offer a squeaking, boinging, staring soundtrack to a peaceful afternoon in the garden? Trampolines in the back garden are the scourge of a society that dumbs consumables down to a level where suddenly it's not a rabbit or a wendy house that makes you feel good about meeting the minimum recreational needs of your offspring. No. Suddenly it's trampolines, and giant, twelve-foot diameter above-ground swimming pools and hey presto! Every neighbourhood's a trailer park!

And they're trampolining now!! I can hear them! And it's dark!!


* If you thought this might refer to me you are deeply, irrevocably wrong. Fifi holds this title. I am the Black Sheep of the Family. Fact.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Three things I saw on my trip to Toys R Us (don't ask) yesterday morning:

1) A respectable-looking middle aged couple peering intently through the shutters on the local off licence. At ten thirty in the morning. Presumably they were thirsty.

2) An elderly couple (she had a perm, he had an oxygen tank) having a picnic in a people carrier, in the Toys R Us car park. It seems an odd choice of venue to me, but then I am not a mental.

3) A lone Indian man, standing by the side of the road, staring Very Hard up into a tree.

It was all a bit odd really. Like a David Lynch film*, or something. I was almost glad to get home. And then when I did get home, my father was still talking about How He Ran The Company Single-Handedly For Thirty Years, and Tales From National Service, and The Golfing Story About That Man, You Know The One, The One With The Leg, and I very nearly went back to see what was up in that tree.

* I have no idea whether these are the sort of things that happen in David Lynch films. It just seemed to be the thing to say, really.

DISCLAIMER: I love my father very much. He lacks, however, the thing that makes you realise that you have been talking continuously for twenty-seven minutes and that the person you are talking at has gone to sleep, or to the shops.

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