Tuesday, May 31, 2005

in the style of Tim
In my dream I am seeing through someone else’s eyes. A solider who, with hundreds of his comrades, has escaped from a prisoner of war camp. We can look down into a valley and see the POW camp quite clearly through binoculars. He speaks, “You mean they still haven’t noticed that we’ve all escaped? Amazing!” There are plumes of white smoke rising from the valley.
The scene changes. The soldier is returning to the escapees’ temporary camp. The building they are using is institutional – it reminds me of a hospital – it is empty, all the escapees have disappeared, been spirited away, caught?
Through his eyes I see his panic, through his ears I hear approaching footsteps on the linoleum. We look for somewhere to hide – in a cupboard, under a bed, behind a curtain – all are dismissed instantly as too obvious. We are seen by a small boy wearing shorts, a shirt and a short back and sides. He runs away to bring the adults.
The scene changes. Through the soldier’s eyes I see a courtroom and all his comrades reunited. To a man they are wearing floral 1950s dresses, as is my soldier. As the judge states, we are in a neutral country and as non-combatants are free to return to England, much to the enemy’s disgust. Our comrades, many of whom sport glorious handlebar moustaches guffaw and, slapping us on the back, congratulate my soldier on his quick thinking. Thank goodness he thought to put on a dress before he was caught.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

the first rule of Fight Club
Things might change around here in the next few weeks - good changes I hope and usually I'd disect the reasons and theories and thoughts behind these changes here, but not this day (and for those of you who like to sing along with the quotes that infest my head - this day we fight).

words and the patterns they make in my diseased mind
Last night I was thinking about the word resolution and what a brilliant Venn Diagram of a word it is, meaning both the intention and the end point. I love that space where that ambiguity of meaning lives - between the two circles of complete definition. From resolution I moved on to thinking about resolve, which similarly wears two hats on one head: I resolved to do something, it was resolved. And then the floodgates opened - solve, solvent, disolve, dissolute, solution. And those interrelated ideas of breaking down barriers and structures to find an answer in the resulting ionised, charged mixture resonated with a tiny fragment of prose I've been toying with when I walk past the Thames each day. The idea that the river is liquid history, carrying a freight of ions. I can't get it to work, I want to put tension on the ions - iron, blood, irons in the fire, charged ions, a solvent, carrying a charge. Sound and shape aren't there yet, but every day I get maybe a drop closer to saying it right...and to writing it down.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

After being persuaded by a drinking buddy... I wrote to the crush and told. Today I heard back...and the crushee was pleased and returned the crush and now we are both happy and glowing and kind of freaked out, but not really because all it means is that if the world was a different shape and we were different people living in a different space-time continuum we might just possibly have different lives and isn't that always the way? And I think it's important to tell people that they are adored, because, well, there's not enough of that kind of thing in the world is there? And TA, if you're reading, you know that I completely adore you don't you and that you fill my life in a way that transcends crushes and it's nothing we haven't already talked about. Phew! I'm glad that's all cleared up.

Monday, May 23, 2005

sensory overload
These cows are small, but the ones out there are far away.
I will report back about the crush thing later in the week. Today my head needs purging of other things. I’ve been super sociable in the last couple of weeks – super as in great fun but also super as in super-heated, just too much. The cocktails, the chips, the confessions, the springbok burger, the bitching, the bonding, the late-night tube journeys and the Walkabout. I’ve been living life at too high a pitch. But it’s great to be out of the house, great to be making the most of living here...I just wish it didn’t all happen at once. And when I get home there’s no silence, now home vibrates at a high pitch as well. Housemate J is practicing her soprano voice (as opposed to the belter voice, which equally sets my teeth on edge) and Housemate M is also singing and on a high – romance inspires enthusiastic renditions of breathy ballads.

Friday, May 20, 2005

If you had a crush - a schoolgirl pash if you will - that you had no hope, opportunity or even the slightest intention of acting on and if you were penpals with this person and they were going through a rough patch...do you think that admitting to the crush and letting them know that they are completely wonderful and adored would be a good thing? By all means use the comments box to vote, not that is a democracy you understand, but I'm interested in what the majority think. I'll let you know what I decided next week.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

what’s your favourite humming sound?
This is currently my most quoted line from Father Ted, replacing “Careful now! Down with that sort of thing!” and “These cows are small, but the ones out there are far away. Small. Far away. Get it?”
I find myself marking time, but marking time with a secret little smile hovering around the corners of my mouth. In my head I have already left this job, in my head I am already gleeful about leaving the office and senior managers completely at sea – oh the conceit! – and in my head I have already got a new and exciting job. In the real world I am approaching work with a carefree gay abandon that is bordering on the inappropriate. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time until what is happening in the real world catches up with what’s going on in my head. But until then, what’s your favourite humming sound?
the good, the bad and the newly hopeful
Feedback from the RCN: candidate was enthusiastic, skilled, technically competent and highly knowledgable. It was a tough decision and in the end it came down to cultural fit. The RCN is a highly political organisation and since this candidate has not worked in the public sector before we chose someone who had over her.
I'm pleased, nay thrilled, with the feedback and concur with their verdict that I would have found it hard to fit in. In fact in the meet-the-team session after the formal interview I asked the team what if they had known before they started would have put them off taking the job; the answer - bureaucracy. The recruitment chappy was excited - he wants to put me forward for a similar role with BUPA. Woo. More deja vu. I interviewed for a job with BUPA this time last year and really loved them. I came second that time, perhaps I can ace it this time...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

hang on
Still no word... Since they said in the interview that I'd know by the end of the day, I'm beginning to feel stood up. Beginning to think, "bah I didn't really like them all that much, sounded like a crappy date, better off without them, I think I'll go to the chippy and get a bottle of wine from the off license instead, that and a good DVD, hah! whose the loser now saddo? I know how to have a good time!" But it's all a tissue of lies to wipe my crying eyes with, I did really like them and I was daydreaming of a long and fruitful relationship. Still no word...

Monday, May 16, 2005

are you keeping them crossed?
Interview was a tough panel-led, reading from the script affair and the test was ghastly - summarise a White Paper on public health in 30 minutes. There were three other candidates and I should know by end of day today, not a moment too soon for my poor abused stomach.

Friday, May 13, 2005

slow, slow, quick-quick, slow
Man: “Are you dancing?”
Woman: “Are you asking?”
Man: “I’m asking”
Woman: “Then I’m dancing!”
I’m quoting the chat up lines of the parents of friend at university. She was a good Northern lass and the intonation as you say the lines should have plenty of soft ‘ah’ sounds. I don’t know what kind of dance I’m doing – it changes moment by moment – dancing on air like Ginger Rogers as I think about the job interview on Monday, dancing a quickstep as I try to avoid the office politics quicksand, dancing at the end of a rope – will I be made redundant before I find a new job? It’s certainly not a waltz, although the stop-start rhythm seems appropriate. I’d like to channel Audrey Hepburn and do a freestyle jazz ‘cool-cat dance’. Can badgers do that?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

crossed-fingers days are here again
Right then team UB, I have a Monday challenge for you. At 12.30pm BST I would like you to cross all appendages and chant the following, “She gets the job and a hefty payrise to boot...” Does that sound at all familiar? Are you getting a sense of déjà vu?
For those of you who follow the antics of Ex-housemate C, he has e-mailed to tell us that things are going well in Houston.

say it with...?
TA bought me flowers yesterday, bless him. He does this fairly frequently “just because”. This is lovely, obviously, but leaves me in a bit of a quandary – what does one buy for one’s husband “just because”? I often get him a muffin or a chocolate bar or similar treat, but this isn’t nearly as romantic as flowers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

do you feel lucky?
On the 10th of May I always feel lucky. Yesterday TA felt lucky - the taxman sent him a letter to say that he'd deposited a rebate in TA's account. I also had an unexpected windfall - some birthday gifts that I had forgotten I was 'owed' arrived in the mail. We were busy feeling lucky and even happy-go-lucky, having a lovely evening and then the singing started. At 8.45pm loud, repetitive signing. I couldn't bear to stay in the house. TA and I went for a walk to explore our new surroundings. And then I felt lucky again - lucky to have in TA a husband that cares for me and understands me and who I enjoy talking to and strolling through life with. And in a funny way it occured to me that we are lucky to have housemates who sing and make me unhappy and angry - because without that impetus I would not have strolled through the evening streets hand in hand with TA and I would not be writing again.

Monday, May 09, 2005

word up: feasting on discontent
I’m writing again. And, more to the point, I’m thinking about writing again – not thinking about writing in a manãna kind of a way, but really thinking deeply about the shapes words form. Which means, I think, that I am unhappy but about to be productive, perhaps even – dare I say it – prolific? Previously I have been unhappy and dry (in a writing rather than drinking sense) or happy and unfocused (I rarely feel like writing when I’m happy – usually I’m too busy being happy), so I’m not pleased to be unhappy, but sort of excited.
I can tell I’m unhappy and, unfortunately, so can TA; it was the unstoppable tears at the weekend that gave the game away. Why am I unhappy? For starters and main, I am not acclimatising well to the new living arrangements, not at all well: loud voices, constant singing practice and a clash of lifestyles does not a happy badger make. For seconds and pudding, on Friday I spoke with the management team in the US – they are making two editors redundant and I almost wished it was me. And here’s the cherry, Friday was also TA’s last day at the muppets – it seems they couldn’t transfer him to the badger project after all – although he might be offered work there in the autumn, so it’s back to the single-income slog and the pressure that it brings. One more wafer-thin mint: of course all that stuffing is bound to cause one to feel a little heavy and I do, which is increasing my unhappiness. Last week’s three day trip to the Isle of Wight did wonders for my stress levels but played havoc with my waistline – I quite literally ate all the pies while being egged on by a mother, who I am convinced has serious food issues of her own. TA is weight training again after a three-year hiatus and after only a week is noticeably buffed up. Bitter, me? Not to be outdone, today I have brought my running gear with me. The arduous hill climb to fitness and well-being started yesterday with a walk from chez Badger to Marylebone – across London SE to NW, along the river and through snaky backstreets.

“A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,”

One good thing about the new flat is the way it is encouraging me to see London anew, a new walk to work, new faces, new buildings. Surely ever Londoner, even every visitor to London, develops a relationship with the Thames. Mine began many years ago with school trips and deepened when I moved here in a Dick Whittington way. Recently back from spending nine months in Greece teaching, I was sleeping on a friend’s floor and had only two or three days to find a job before I would need to return to the Isle and admit defeat. Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I went to the South Bank and, sitting on a bench, stared across at all the buildings we mean when we say London – the dome of St Paul’s, Westminster Palace, BT Tower, even Centrepoint. I walked past the Coin St development and Gabriel’s Wharf down to the Oxo Tower and decided that yes I could do this. In the five years I have lived here, the London Eye and the Gherkin have imposed themselves on the skyline but the river – ever mutable – seems unchanged and eternal. And since I am of that inclination, the Thames floods my imagination too – “Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song” I recite to myself as I walk under Southwark bridge.

“I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.”

TA told me, but only after the event, that on Saturday while we were in town he saw the saddest thing he’d ever seen. There was a man holding two bags, clearly homeless but not unkempt, not yet beyond caring. He put down the bags and in one there was a half-eaten sandwich that he’d, probably, picked up from a bin. The man tried to eat the sandwich but TA guessed it was stale and inedible because the man stopped eating, fell to his knees and was wracked with sobs. It is hard to describe what happens to us, what changes us and why Londoners don’t stop, never ask "what’s wrong?" or "can I help?" Perhaps it’s the sense that some sorrows are beyond our means to help – certainly that’s what TA said stayed his hand – or perhaps the sheer number of people in need of help.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

are we living in the slow lane?
Is the slow cooker – and my newfound love for it – a metaphor for where TA and I are at the moment? What I love about the slow cooker is that minute by minute nothing much changes, but over time the transformation is nothing short of astounding (as long as you keep the lid on). When I read back over the archives – hey, I’m allowed the occasional navel gaze – I realise that my day-to-day feeling of frustration at our lack of progress is unfounded and that actually we’ve achieved a lot in the last year. Also, a few things are bubbling under the surface that make me feel like we could be about to take the lid off the stockpot and witness some major transformations.
A recruitment agent called me just before the Bank Holiday weekend and offered to put me forward for a web editing job with the RCN. I got all excited, updated my CV and sent it to the agent on Tuesday. No word yet as to whether the RCN want to interview me, but cross your fingers for me.
TA finishes at the muppets this week, or does he? He said that there had been mutterings about keeping him on and moving him to another project (a children’s series featuring a naughty badger, would you believe?) in the Camden office or perhaps sending him to Montreal for three months – I would miss him terribly, but still please cross your fingers for him too.
As I’m sure you’ve all realised, reading between the lines, the last three years haven’t exactly been easy on our bank balances, however, in the three and a half months TA has been working full time we have been making real progress and by the time TA gets his pay cheque next week we will have managed to clear all our credit card debt. There is other debt still outstanding which will take a while to clear, especially if TA has a long hiatus between jobs, but having cleared our most expensive debts will definitely help us make it through the lean period, while still making steady progress on the remainder. Raise a glass for us and toast our success!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

slow food
The May Bank Holiday weekend was spent on the Isle of Wight visiting my family. It had been planned as a meet-and-greet visit for Housemates J and D, since my parents are always keen to meet TA’s family, but in the end I was the only visitor. Many friends have remarked on the civilised approach my parents take to showing guests a good time and this visit was no different. Essentially, every day is planned around eating large quantities of food, punctuated with short leisurely strolls and naps. I woke up late on Saturday and helped myself to a very large helping of homemade muesli while munching I read the Guardian that my father had bought for me – sadly, I cannot wean them from their Daily Mail habit. That day we went for a pub lunch, when we arrived we found that there was a car boot sale in the field next door. Dad was eager to sniff out a bargain so we pootled around looking at old records, books, battered tea sets and the sad ephemera of other people’s lives. We were three quarters of the way around the field when my eye alighted on a bargain. A slow cooker! Granted it is quite an ugly beast of 1970s vintage (I used to own a rather smart slow cooker but it got left behind in a move years ago), but the earthenware pot looked immaculate and the stallholder said it had only been used once. I paid the princely sum of two British pounds and sauntered off with the beauty under my arm, thinking the pot alone must be worth more than a couple of quid. Another stallholder called out, “How much did you pay for that?” and was amazed by my answer. After enjoying a cheddar plowman’s lunch, famille Badger went to look at the bluebells in Godshill village, then we went to Borthwood Copse to look at more bluebells. On the way home we took a detour up on to Brading Down to get a Minghella ice cream. When we got home my parents remembered that there were scones, clotted cream and strawberries that needed to be eaten, it was five o’clock. That evening my brother came over for dinner – pork casserole followed by summer fruit sponge pudding and cream. Sunday was porridge, soup, bread pate and cheeses, chocolate biscuits, wild boar pasta, chocolate torte, wine and amaretto coffee; Monday was an enormous bowl of muesli, chicken and ham pie with chips and apple and raspberry pie with cream. I feared that the boat might sink when I clambered onboard. Understandably, I went without dinner last night. This morning I placed a boned joint of mutton, some bacon and veggies in the slow cooker.