Wednesday, December 20, 2006

they’re singing my tune, but I’m not dancing yet
Watch out! A bandwagon is speeding out of control and it’s heading this way. If I was a political blogger I would write witty a précis of each of the numerous newspaper articles and politician statements focusing on calls to legalise or otherwise make prostitution safer; improve services for drug addicts; and take action on domestic violence to help reduce the negative impact on women and children by minimising disruption and making it easier to prosecute. The trouble is I’m not a political pundit, armchair or otherwise, and I fear that, although the bandwagon is clearly gathering speed and passengers, ultimately it won’t get us anywhere.
TA, Skye and I are off to the Isle on the 5.30am train to Portsmouth on Thursday (the tickets were ridiculously cheap) for two weeks of eating, drinking and making merry with the Badger family. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning, doing laundry and packing.
Merry Christmas, my friends, and let’s hope 2007 is a fine, fine vintage.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

white wash
We bathed the pupster on Sunday. He is now possibly the only dog to smell of Aveda Shampure shampoo and conditioner. He rewarded us by jumping out of the kitchen sink, avoiding my attempts to catch him, hitting the floor and running straight into our bedroom. He then spent ten minutes soaking TA’s side of the bed and avoiding all attempts to dry him with the towel. Luckily there are photos. TA has taken to calling him the white demon, while I am beginning to consider getting him a sister to play with (the soap suds must have affected me).










All's well that ends well, however:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

letter in a bottle
I have been watching with increasing alarm recent events in Suffolk and have been moved to write. As one of your constituents, I am writing to you to ask that you work on my behalf to legalise soliciting, and campaign to remove the stigma and associated dangers attached to sex work. Although this week’s events have been a catalyst, I would deny that this is a knee-jerk reaction. I believe passionately that the criminalising of sex workers is in itself a crime. There are many wider issues that our society needs to address – such as our treatment (or lack of) of drug addicts, equal rights, equal access to education, and better training for social workers, police and outreach workers – but I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to please campaign for adequate licensing of, and protection for, sex workers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

goosed
The confit is in progress, the terrine is made, next step is to make the stuffing I guess. Crikey – Christmas really is just around the corner.
Last night I was waiting for TA to come to bed. Skye jumped on to the bed as I was sitting up against my pillows. He looked at me (I ignored him), he looked at TA (who smiled), he looked back and forth again and then he widdled all over TA’s half of the duvet.
Me: You’re really, really going to have to work on this “top dog” thing.

new Jerusalem
Home isn’t enough to keep my thoughts away from Suffolk. Those poor, poor women. It makes me enraged. How many times will we allow the most vulnerable women to be murdered before the law gets changed and we change our society to protect them? My skin crawls at the thought of it and the idea that the police’s slow response – drug-addled prozzies go missing, who cares? – might have contributed to the body count makes me want to vomit. It’s enough to make me want to get vigilante on their asses. It’s time to get strong and go on the offensive: violence, all violence, against women (all women) is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. I will not be complicit: she did not (and never could) “ask for it” – not through her dress, lifestyle, social class, substance abuse or any other “mitigating” factor. Domestic violence, date rape, sexism in the workplace, verbal abuse, media witch hunts, advertising that objectifies or glorifies the oppression of women – I’m not going to be a silent witness, I will not acquiesce to another woman’s subjugation. My feminism has been slumbering because I’m lucky: I’m middle class, I’m married to a truly gentle man, I work in a woman-centric company, I’m surrounded by civilised people, I’m sheltered from the raw edges of our society…but it’s time to wake up. It’s time to stand up because if I don’t who will? Legalise prostitution and protect sex workers. Eradicate inequalities of education. Increase outreach for drug addicts. Change the law to ensure that more rapists are successfully prosecuted. Establish a register for the perpetrators of domestic violence. Increase training for social workers. Extend compulsory parenting classes to all new parents. Impose tighter regulations on the media and advertising. Fund more Sure Start places. We need to work together to help each other. I can’t change the world, but I’m going to plant my flag: this is how I’m going to make my Christmas more meaningful; I am going to devote four hours a week to helping make our society a fairer, safer place for women and children. I will volunteer, I will campaign, I will fundraise. Can stand up; will stand up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

on the campaign tail
How to campaign for top-dog status Skye stylee:
Tear up the media by eating the newspaper on the kitchen floor
Stop sleaze by widdling on the carpet anytime anyone so much as kisses their spouse
Wear out the opposition by placing tactical poos that keep them running from room to room with the dettol
Nip other candidates in the bud by nipping their buds

Yes, the war continues…as TA keeps saying: you are varminty, but I do love you. You and your blue tartan collar.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

regime change
The book is called The Dog Listener (and is based on horse whispering) and TA and I are endeavouring to aggressively listen and whisper very loudly indeed. TA read the book from cover to cover yesterday and started implementing its advice; apparently he was making progress until I arrived home.
TA briefed me on my new role – ignore him for five minutes when you come in, yelp loudly if he bites you, only we are allowed to play with his favourite toy, if he lies on your feet push him off. I’m pretty good at ignoring Skye anyway, but still my presence obviously destabilised the fragile order TA had managed to impose. Skye spent the entire evening trying to re-establish his position as top dog, or at least more top than TA. Events culminated after we went to bed – when gnawing chunks out of TA’s lovingly hand-built bed frame didn’t illicit a response, Skye decided to infiltrate the bed itself. He launched three leaps into my half of the bed and was repelled twice by TA and once by me; then he attempted to burrow under the duna on TA’s side.
Me: [sniggering] Don’t laugh! We’re trying to ignore him.
TA: [guffawing] I know, but really!
This morning there were no unpleasant surprises for me to step in, but the pupster continued to try his luck and regain status. Ignoring him meant delaying breakfast by half an hour – time enough for him to sneak off while our backs were turned and widdle under the sofa, the bastard. I hope he gets the message soon: I’m top bitch and TA is my number-one homedog.
Did I mention that work is suddenly very, very quiet? I’m extremely bored as well as being “dog tired” – a deadly combination. I can barely keep my eyes open and sit here wondering whether I can get away with pulling a sickie. Somehow I doubt it. I’ll be lucky to get away with working from home one day this week.
We’ll have house guests for most of the week – talk about bad timing! – G&M are acquaintances from Oregon (I used to work with G a bit and we bonded over e-mail, her husband M is English) and we are proper nervous about them staying in our very tiny home for the best part of a week with the wilful rampaging piddler on the loose. Oh dear. I get so anxious about the state of the Sett when we have visitors at the best of times and this is most definitely not the best of times.

Monday, December 04, 2006

green, blue and Skye bites back
Skye has grown in the week he’s been with us and has graduated to a new travel carrier: a Cyberdog DJ bag. He rides about town with the insouciance of a style leader, surveying the world from his palanquin. Only two more weeks and we’ll finally be able to put him down on the ground in public. We are counting the days.
A very busy weekend. Saturday was completely swallowed by party preparations and then a pre-Christmas party with lethal homemade eggnog (adding extra rum to cut through the creaminess a bit was, on balance, a mistake) and a surfeit of pastry products – the pup was the star of the show and I bailed early (very drunk) and went to bed, leaving TA and Skye to entertain everyone.
Sunday I woke up bathed in sweat and knew it was going to be a rough day. Still, no matter what, the pup has to be fed at 6am. I pulled on some pants and sat on the floor while he ate. Note to self: no more topless play with the pupster. Mid cuddle he “playfully” bit my nipple. It was even more painful than getting them pierced! Then, following a hangover-postponing breakfast of eggnog latte and mince pies, we took the pupster on an adventure. Luckily he’s totally relaxed about public transport since the adventure involved a bus, a train and a taxi, not to mention a long return journey in the back of a cramped car.
There are lifestyle changes one prepares for and then there are things that totally take one by surprise. Usually I ration my weekend newspaper habit and shun the competing free papers that litter London’s evenings. Now I greedily grab all the free newspapers I can on the way home and, having bought my usual Guardian on Saturday, chose a Sunday paper at Waterloo purely on the basis of size – hopefully it will take a day or two for Skye to get through the Times and all its various supplements.
We went to Kingston (upon Thames, not Jamaica) to visit my friends S&M and meet their little daughters (18 months and six months) for the first time. My friends have two chocolate labs too (they can, they have a huge house and garden) and the pupster handled himself with aplomb only widdling once and not biting the little uns or getting too freaked out by the good-natured giant dogs. But it wasn’t a restful visit – three dogs and two under twos, what on earth did I expect? By the time TA and I got home it was all I could do to get ready for bed. Which is when the chaos really started. A flood of widdle escaped the little furry monster only to be followed by vast quantities of poo that he felt it would be a good idea to deposit in every room. At one point TA was trying to clean up two carpet messes at once, at which point I took pity on him and cleaned up the legal poo that Skye had put on the newspaper.
TA and I are not doing so well. We’re tired and this morning I got out of bed at 6am in the dark and on my way into the kitchen to feed the pupster his beef mince and rice with carrots I put my foot in what he had made of the previous night’s supper. I was not amused. We have borrowed an obedience training manual from my friends and I have instructed TA that he has to read it today. Skye sits, he stays, he lies down on command, but getting the little fecker to consistently use the newspaper is proving impossible.
I sigh resentfully, all this disruption – why couldn’t we have just had a baby instead? I am so envious of what S&M have: a barrister’s lifestyle and inherited wealth; a beautiful house; wonderful daughters. There are things about my life that I love, but why does it have to be such hard work? Why can’t I just rip up that horrible carpet and put in the reclaimed oak floor I dream of? I’m seriously contemplating rejigging our finances and taking out a loan to get it done.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

crush hour
I’ve written before how a certain song can encapsulate a time and set of emotions so completely that to listen to it is akin to time travel. And now I find myself doing it again as my moogie has thrown up a surprise and suddenly I’ve been whirled back to another time and a younger, fresher, softer self. It’s a song I used to sing to myself under my breath when I was working in a fish and chip shop in Lancaster.
A second-year university student; one life and one set of certainties had evaporated when Jay (fiancé number one) and I split up at the end of the first year. No more returning to the Isle as a farmer’s wife once I graduated. No more plowing a straight and narrow furrow through life, no more protection; now I was alone and free. And with freedom comes fear.
Staring out through the condensation on the glass into a dark, wet and cold northern night and feeling lonely, I’d hum and gently rock, trying to make sense of what was going on. I’d fallen in love with – as a different song would have it – someone I shouldn’t have. And that person (or was it persons?) had introduced me to a new world and new songs. And so it was that, as I was waiting for the pubs to close and the late-night regulars to come in asking for chips and their sausages to be well and truly battered, I would hum this song to myself.
Him: [lecherously] “Hello, chip girl!”
Me: [with added sauce] “Would that be an extra-large sausage, sir?”
Staying up north to work at the chip shop while everyone else left town for Easter, working with the Greek Cypriots who had a drug addict black-sheep adopted daughter and a doted upon natural (their word) son, teaching myself to throw up the midnight pie-and-chip suppers, writing essays and, much more importantly, poems for assessment, breaking down: all of this is wrapped up in those plaintive words — I expected summer to be there in the morning.
That year did more to shape who I am now than the previous 19, and sometimes I wonder if I’m on the same precipice now. Except I’m not writing poetry these days and fiancé number two didn’t leave, but became a husband. Perhaps I’ll never be a farmer’s wife or an author; perhaps my life will be one long crushing compromise; perhaps I’ll always need the happy pills; perhaps I’ll drown in Cote du Rhône; perhaps I just need to change the record.

Friday, December 01, 2006

soap
I feel a bit like I imagine reluctant fathers do. I love and adore Skye, but I also resent him just a little bit. He’s hard work; he’s sweeter than sugar, but that doesn’t stop him from being hard work. The world – our world – totally revolves around him. If the Sett was a television programme he’d be the guest star that totally upstages everyone the moment he appears. Has he widdled? Is he chewing something? Is it time to feed him? Would he like to play? Is he asleep? Is that poo a bit runny and has he got fleas? Seemingly there is no let up. And I’m worried that we’re not really very good parents.
TA has no such doubts. Each morning he puts on his knapsack (the Skyemobile) and walks a little bit further towards the West End with me. Today he introduced Skye to the smells of Borough Market before letting me go on to work alone. And here I sit, drinking my fifth cup of coffee, totally exhausted from the disturbed sleep and constant running after him. TA – as he promised – does the lion’s share: he takes care of the soiled newspaper, he gets up in the night when the pupster widdles, he arranges the vet visits. However, when TA gets up I wake. Every night this week I’ve had disturbing anxiety dreams about the pup. I’m supremely conscious that this is another mouth to feed and another set of responsibilities to shoulder. Skye is not yet responding to training – in fact, now that he knows he’s safe with us, if anything his behaviour is getting worse. More little accidents, more whining.
It’s fascinating the way he reacts differently to the two of us. TA is definitely a brother in paws. They wrestle and Skye chews on his fingers. I seem to have inadvertently acquired a higher status. I am den mother. I get shown a lot of belly and given a large number of licks. This means that already it is more difficult for TA to set rules and have them obeyed and now, against my wishes, his bed has been moved from the kitchen to next to ours. I feel like I have no control.
I tell TA, only half joking, if Skye doesn’t shape up and if TA can’t control him, I’m going to send that dog to the soap factory. And yet here I sit, sipping coffee, staring longingly at my second monitor and feeling homesick for the smell of pupster and the feeling of his fur. I've become a reluctant puppyfather.







Thursday, November 30, 2006

a hat full of Skye













Wednesday, November 29, 2006

slush puppy
Sorry. Seriously, I swore I wouldn’t turn this into a Skye sycophancy repository, but the truth is if I become any more maternal I’ll spontaneously start lactating. I’m suffering all the classic symptoms of proud parent/terrifying crush: Skye is my wallpaper, my IM picture…my north my south my east my west / my working week, my Sunday rest. My only consolation is that TA has it worse, far worse.
Last night we ate dinner camped out in the kitchen, watching him bound around joyfully and stayed up much later than usual on poo watch.
Me: [nuzzling him with my nose] He smells so cute!
TA: Er, I think that might be flea powder.
TA got up in the night ostensibly to “check” on him, but in reality to wake him up and sneak a cheeky five minutes of play and cuddle time. Then we were up at six just to look at him – cooing at him and each other. TA’s voice has become soft and buttery and he’s constantly on the lookout for opportunities to praise the pup.
TA: [spotting a widdle on the newspaper] Good boy, Skye, good boy!
Every poo the pup manages to squeeze out (all on the newspaper – GOOD BOY!) has been greeted like the treasure of Sierra Madre. He’s calling me every couple of hours to give me an update on number of poos done and meals eaten – just like in the game Black & White (one of my top-five computer games, the others being Tetris, Jawbreaker, SimCity (the first one) and, and; okay then, one of my top-four computer games). Life as we had known it up until yesterday has completely ground to a halt.
I’ve got just enough consciousness to realise that this is the utterly irrational behaviour I find so infuriating in others. I know I’m being completely ridiculous; I know my co-workers are just humouring me with their polite enthusiasm for my e-mailed photos. However, as soon as my eyes drift across to my second screen and catch a glimpse of those little ears, that cute-as-a-button nose and that adorable white fluffy head with his just-like-his-dad Mr Magika hair, I melt into a puddle. I’ve got it bad, very bad and all this after barely one day. And it doesn’t help that work is on one of its seasonal lulls so I have very little to distract me from drooling at my second monitor.
My parents, usually bastions of restrained reason, are no help whatsoever; they are gleeful at the prospect of little paw coming to stay with them when we go down for Christmas. If ever a pet could take the place of first grandchild, this pup could.
If I were you, I’d avoid the UB for the foreseeable future until the madness passes. I’m looking forward to a time when he loses some of that impossibly large helping of cute and becomes just another slightly scruffy nondescript smelly little rat dog (although I made TA promise to groom him every day, so hopefully not too ratty and smelly). I’ll probably still be inordinately fond of him, but with any luck the passion won’t be quite so all consuming. Come to think of it, that’s quite a good description of how I feel about TA these days!
For those of you who’d like to see some photos, I’ll see if I can upload a couple…

Monday, November 27, 2006

max deefur bobbins dingo badger skye, oh my!
What on earth have I said yes to? TA is on a train as I type, heading down to deepest, darkest Kent.
Last week, as TA walked me to work, we had a lighthearted conversation about how lovely it would be to have a little monkey-ferret-rat dog. We put on our best Father Larry Duff voices and said how it had always been “an all-time favourite fantasy” to have a puppy “running all over the place”. (Trivia fans - "Plague" is my all-time favourite episode)
I’ve been pining for a furry companion for ages and have been trying to persuade TA that a cat would be ace. Not that either of us would describe ourselves as cat lovers, but let’s face facts – the sett does not have a garden and only really has room for two humans, squeezing another body into that confined space would be tricky – a tiny cat was really the only option. Also, presumably, TA will not be at home full-time forever – at least a cat can be left for hours at a time. So it was that Saturday came as a bit of a shock.
I was reading the Guardian on the sofa and minding my own business when I noticed that TA was sending e-mail. I thought he was replying to news from his family, so I asked who he was writing to.
TA: Sharon.
Me: Who’s Sharon?
TA: A Westie breeder. She’s got some puppies.
Me: ???
And so it was that I discovered that TA was planning to sell his snowboarding equipment, his rollerblades and camera to buy a West Highland White puppy and call him Max.
To say that I was hurt would be something of an understatement. I felt a whole host of conflicting emotions – disbelief, shock, betrayal, anger, excitement, stress, pressure… But I could see the light in his eyes already, the way he pricked his ears up, I could imagine the hours of joy and so it was that looking at TA – his eyes shining – I couldn’t take that away from him, even though I was filled with misgivings. TA, for his part, said that it was the only thing that he could think of that might make him feel a little better and I could see it – his whole face was glowing.
On Sunday I got up very early and began researching the needs of our very own little monkey-ferret-rat dog. Later we went to the evil empire and bought puppy preparation supplies.
Me: But what’s wrong with “Deefur”? I’ve always said my first dog would be called Deefur: Deefur dog.
TA: No. No comedy names.
Me: [later] I’ve got it! Genius! Bobbins! Bobbins the dog!
TA: No. We are not giving him a comedy name. They are noble, proud dogs with a varminty look.
Me: [later] What about Dingo?
TA: [weakening] That’s not bad…
Me: [stupidly] A dingo stole my baby!
TA: No. No comedy names.
Me: Badger?
TA: It’s not a bad name, but not for a Westie.
Me: What about Deefur? Or Bobbins?
TA: [sighs] No.
Me: But I don’t like “Max” and you’ve got all your own way – you’ve decided to get a dog and you’ve chosen the breed, the gender and even the name. It’s not fair.
TA: What about something Gaelic?
Me: Eigg! Eigg the dog!
TA: Hmmm…[gets the road atlas]
And so it came to pass that the decision was made; somehow we are going to fit a pupster in the sett, a pupster called Skye.
Skye-Pup the Dog of Tomorrow is being collected – all being well – at 11.30 this morning. TA, equipped with a tiny knapsack, a fluffy towel and the look of a proud, expectant father, is on his way. He’s promised to call as soon as he gets back to the sett.

update
The dingo has landed.
TA: [breathless with excitement] He's done a widdle on the newspaper, had some lunch and settled down.
Me: Is he happy?
TA: He's wagging his tail a lot. He's wagging his tail now!
Me: I'll try and get home early...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

discombobulated
All change! Today was moving day at the office – I’ve worked here for two-and-a-half years and have sat at five different desks in three different offices. At least today I was only moving from one side of the office to the other; no big deal, or so I thought.
My closest friend at work has had a complete meltdown, it seems that asking her to move desk the week after her mate did a runner to South America was asking too much. She refused to join us for lunch today, which is totally out of character. If it wasn’t for the fact that her Shuffle is still on her desk I’d think she’d decided to do a flit too.
My new desk is in the middle of a whole set, meaning that now many people can see my screens (I have two, like the greedy id girl TA claims I am) – I’d like to say that my unease is due to the desk’s inherent bad feng shui, but I’d be lying. I’m afraid. I’m afraid that people will see what I’m doing and that means that I’ll have to start doing work (or at least pretending with more emphasis). Also, my desk now faces a television screen that shows BBC News 24. Thankfully, it is muted…but still I can see it flickering on the periphery and my eyes are constantly drawn upwards. Oh dear. Finally, I’ve got into a routine of calling TA at lunch time when my team mates head out. I’m worried that my proximity to new neighbours, including one of the senior management team, won’t allow this freedom.
It’s not quite enough to make me polish up my CV yet. Not quite, but nearly.

Friday, November 24, 2006

festus, festum
Thanksgiving is a lovely idea for a celebration, don’t you think? The pagan in me appreciates the ritual of recognising the harvest’s bounty, while the old-soppy in me likes the thought of sharing warmth and love with my nearest and dearest. And yet the work event has left me feeling rather sick. The excess was/is shaming. The decadence seems too selfish – perhaps since it is not part of my native customs, I’m left feeling uncomfortable with the wasteful greed. Would I feel the same way about my family’s Christmas if I wasn’t blinded by tradition?
This has left me thinking. Since I’m not celebrating the birth of my saviour on the 25 of December, I would like to introduce some meaningful ritual to the feasting. Yule –I’ve learnt from Wikipedia — is etymologically related to yellow: it is a winter festival of light. It is a time to recognise the necessity of death for rebirth; to sacrifice in order to survive.
It seems to me that perhaps the Western world is all about the feast without the sacrifice, which leads me to ask myself how I can bring sacrifice into my winter festivities. I think I’d like to ask my Christmas companions to bring something with them to the table – a song, a prayer, a poem — something to share. I think I’d like to find a way to share our good fortune.
The only trouble is, it all sounds so false and grating doesn’t it. How can I strip it back? How to extract the meaning from the tarnished tinsel?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

in which much excitement happens, only I’m not excited
I’m suffering from an attack of the blahs. I’ve got things on the go and have been doing interesting things, but somehow all I can muster is the sound of a balloon slowly deflating. A balloon half-full of stale lung air and spit condensation that is slowly sticking to itself as the air imperceptibly leaches from its knotted end. This is not what you want when work has finally calmed to a standstill, leaving time for extracurricular fun, games and adventure:

  • Last weekend I went for a long walk around the outskirts of Oxford. The book said that it might be muddy. In the end A1 and I took off our shoes, rolled up our trousers and waded through knee-high and exceptionally cold water; it was the only way we were going to get home before midnight (A2 chose to wear sodden boots instead). We finished the walk in the dark, meandering along pavements thronged with too-clever-for-their-own-good youngsters dressed up for a night of debauchery. The bastards.
  • On Monday one of my favourite workmates quit in a spectacular fashion: by e-mail stating that by the time his boss was reading it he’d be halfway to Guatemala.
  • Last night I got taken to the Palace of Westminster by a colleague to meet her friend Tony Benn. That was spiffing. He’s just as you’d expect and the inside of the seat of government is pretty cool too.
  • Tonight we will be in the pub with the German techno goth contingent pretending to be people we’re not – yes, FateStorm game testing is back on the agenda.
  • Tomorrow, this office being an outpost of the US of A, we’re having a potluck Thanksgiving lunch. I have decided, after much agonising, to make a Casa Moro recipe: warm pumpkin and chickpea salad with tahini.
  • Tomorrow TA finds out whether or not he’s going to be sent for a special stay at a special place for special people!

So much that I could obsess over, write about and describe, but instead I find myself whining my new catchphrase.
“Don’t wanna!” I say to TA as I try to drag my leaden, lumpen limbs out of bed. “Don’t wanna,” I moan to myself as I think about writing. Don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna.
“What do you wanna?” asks a bewildered TA.

what I wanna: option A
A smallholding with geese, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens; a vegetable garden; a library; an open fire; an aga; a radio permanently tuned to Radio 4 with perfect reception and extra helpings of the Now Show; a well-stocked cellar and pantry; size 10 hips; a pushbike with one of those ace little trailers...

what I wanna: option B
All the pork pies I can eat, washed down with all the red wine I can drink; consumed from the comfort of my own bed with a limitless supply of good books to read. Pillows. Chocolate and cakes and white bread. Cheese. Sleep. Gin. Sex. Inertia.

TA says I have the most well-developed id in the world; that I’m a simple soul, really only concerned with feeding my desires. It’s hard to disagree.
It seems that no matter how long I sleep or how I try to pep myself up, I can’t escape this soggy balloon state. And so as I trudge through the list of things I have to do, the mantra thrums through my cabbage-sludge-filled head: I don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna.

Friday, November 17, 2006

cook off
It seems I’ve started a war of attrition. This morning the office matriarch (a Robbie-Williams-loving, East-End-rocking, spinning-class-teaching force of nature) entered with a fanfare. “I’ve made falafel for all of us. Took me bleedin’ ages – I had to put the chickpeas in my juicer. This cooking without packets business takes hours – it’s all the chopping.”
I sunk down in my Aeron (the Rolls Royce of office chairs, apparently) and tried to keep an even lower profile than usual. Sweets aren’t really my forte, I’m actually better (I think) at savoury dishes, but I shan’t be sharing any more glut with the office.
Speaking of cooking…the nights are drawing in the mornings are getting darker and that can only mean one thing: Christmas is coming! Last night, over dinner, TA and I started plotting. As a side note, things on that front are calmer at the moment than they have been for a while – it’s wonderful, like a break in the cloud.
I’m planning to do the full Fearnley-Whittingstall with a few mods of my own. It will definitely and deliberately be an easier menu than last year (I nearly lost the plot and swore never again – now, of course, I’m eating my words!). So, we will most likely have: goose three different ways (stuffed neck, confit and roast), oven roast root veggies (probably Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, parsnips and beetroot), sauté potatoes, prune and chestnut stuffing, blackened Brussels with garlic…and, as an alternative to my mum’s Christmas pud (mainly for TA’s benefit), lemon meringue sundaes.
Any suggestions for the Boxing Day menu?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

war child
Sometimes I feel out of step with my contemporaries. I’ve come to realise that at least some of this comes from having older parents. My father’s brother and brother-in-law fought in the second world war; my mother’s family moved to the Isle to escape the blitz while her father stayed in Woolwich at the barracks. I seem to have inherited more of that generation’s “waste not, want not” attitude than most 29-year-olds.
My place of work supplies fresh fruit for us worker bees. I think the groceries are delivered once a week, unless extra fruit is needed for client meetings. Sometimes the admins seem to hide fruit, only for it to reappear later in the week; while this works well with oranges and apples it can spell disaster for the bananas (usually the most popular items in the fruit bowl).
At the end of last week there had been a bananalypse of quite astonishing proportions. On Friday I surreptitiously put five overripe bananas in my “bread bin” (over-desk storage) ready to take home for smoothies and/or cake, leaving a few other blackened specimens just in case someone else had been saving them up. Unfortunately, although I remembered to take my trainers and the bottle of wine I’d been given home with me, I left the bananas in the bread bin and this is where they stayed until Tuesday, since I worked from home on Monday.
Yesterday morning I transferred the pungent, squishy fruit to my rucksack and hoped no one noticed that my desk smelt of banana. In the evening I realised that there were still a large number of battered bananas in the bowl. I added the worst-looking ones to my hoard and hoped no one saw that I had a rucksack literally bulging with bananas. I felt a sick shame about “stealing” the fruit and fervently hoped nobody witnessed me scuttling from the kitchen to my desk with a handful of booty.
When I got home I set to. Listening to Ruth sob to David, “it wasn’t an affair!” while David, full of self-righteous anger, replied “You’re in love with THE COWHERD!”…I started multiplying the amounts in recipe I’d found on t’interwebby (ten bananas, 1.2kg of flour) and improvising (600g dark brown sugar, 600g of homemade butter). It was only after I’d managed to fill two mixing bowls full of cake goo that I realised that I was going to end up with a lot, lot more cake than two people can eat.
I’m not someone who brings things in for their co-workers. In fact it’s not that kind of office. And I’m not particularly sociable with the extended team either – I try to keep a lowish profile other than doing my job. So it was that I got very anxious about explaining how ten black bananas disappeared from the kitchen only to be replaced by an enormous cake.
In the dark, sweating, I woke TA up to ask: should I send mail with the subject line “yes, we have no bananas / we have no bananas today”? Do you think they will get the reference? He thought that my – young, mainly non-Brit – co-workers wouldn’t know the song.*
After TA reassured me this morning that the cake was fine for sharing, I took the second, better-looking specimen with me. I placed the cake in the kitchen with a note saying “banana cake – dig in, please!” The gannets didn’t need to be told twice and my modesty seemed false within thirty seconds (loud shouts of “who is the cake fairy?” reverberated around the open-plan office) so I sent e-mail titled “gone bananas” explaining my largesse.
Although the thought that someone not only repurposed the past-its-best fruit but also managed to do so on a school night when all right-thinking people should be tucked up in front of the telly met with general bemusement, it seems that my banana theft has generally been thought of as “a good thing”. I shall now feel free to import some of my family’s other thrifty traditions into the office – soon I’ll be rinsing the milk bottles with a drop of water and adding that to the milk jug too (just as soon as I persuade everyone to use a milk jug).

*I’m coming to the conclusion that I have a unique musical heritage. I listened to a programme on Radio 4 all about WW2 soldiers’ songs the other day and was heartbroken that “Saying goodbye to my hoss” wasn’t mentioned. Perhaps I should do one of those neato webcast thingamyjigs so that everyone can learn the genius of that song?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

not very tolerant; relates to people in the abstract
I had to take one of those starsign, freud and bollocks personality tests for work. In fact I've taken it twice now. I'm a blue-red, apparently with a bit of green but not much yellow: I'm analytical, bossy and antisocial. In the automatically generated blurb two points stood out as - TA said - tee-shirt worthy. It claimed, much to TA and housemate-C's amusement that I am not very tolerant of others and relate to people in the abstract.
I got all riled up today, evidence of my lack of tolerance/belief that people should be an abstract concept:
  1. People who constantly use multiple punctuation marks in e-mail. I recognise that sometimes a situation calls for three question marks, but if you always send me one-line mail with three or more question marks following a standard query I am going to think you are either constantly tetchy or mentally deficient or both.
  2. People who sit on the bus with hot bottoms. I'm talking high temperature here, not TA bottom hotness. I hate sitting in somebody else's bottom heat. It makes me feel queasy when I innocently sit on a bus seat only to find it's hot.

It's not normal to have this level of disturbance about extra question marks and residual body heat is it???

(I'm trying them out for size)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

the joke gene
TA likes doughnuts from the Evil Empire, but he only likes them on certain days. He has a theory that there are days that a Jamaican cook works at the Evil Empire. The doughnuts are denser, more "fried" somehow. He tries to only ever buy the "Jamaican doughnuts".
Me: Are you having pudding? [Plotting to indulge in an anniversary treat: red wine and dolcelette.]
TA: YEP!
Me: What pudding?
TA: Doughnuts
Me: Jamaican?
TA: YEP!
Me: Or did you buy them from the shop?
TA: [Groan]
Me: [Rocking back and forth in my chair] Ha, ha, ha, ha!
TA: You should call your father and tell him.
Me: I know. Ha, ha, ha! I will!
This morning my mother sent me e-mail: "your father is still chuckling".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

all the vows I never made
The inevitable alarm went off this morning as it does every morning and my morning battle began. Can I make myself leave the warmth? Perhaps, but only with the lure of fresh coffee and the Today programme. Can I be bothered to wash my hair? My feet followed their familiar morning dance without troubling my brain for instruction. I was rinsing away the Aveda Shampure (a reassuring decadence and one I sacrifice haircuts to fund) under scolding-hot water before my brain went from hibernate to active duty.
I do love a good, rough towel – I like to slough off sleep with vigour. Moving with fresh purpose, I turned on the radio and checked on the coffee. Today is a good day. Today is a surprise, it’s good to still be in the race; there have been times recently when I assumed we wouldn’t be.
Humphrey Lyttleton’s voice! Can it be? No more Quote sodding Unquote on Monday nights! I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue. Thank the sweet baby Jesus and all the angels. The coffee is ready, the banana was lovely, my yoghurt creamy. I take TA his cup.
“Happy anniversary, sweetheart.”
He looked up and smiled, “We got here after all.”
Some promises are left unspoken, but are no less binding for that. There is no ring, no witness, no service that could bind me as tightly to TA as living our love for each other each and every day has done.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

tell me on a Sunday, please
I have a rubbish singing voice: terribly weedy and thin, limited range and I find it difficult to hold a tune without going flat. But I love to sing, love it, and when I was growing up I’d sing two or three songs all the time, songs that I felt my voice didn’t strangle: Tell Me on a Sunday, Coventry Carol and Who Wants to Live Forever were my torch songs.
Do you know Tell Me on a Sunday? It’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber monstrosity with clunky yet affecting lyrics by Don Black. I hadn’t thought of it for years until last night lying in bed next to someone I love more than...more than I know, someone who quite seriously wants to leave. I’d stayed up late, well 9.30pm, rereading the last few pages of the VW biography. In the aftermath Leonard Woolf wrote himself a note – one can’t help turning the page, even though one knows one has reached the end. I remembered how bleak I was the first time I read the final words. I reached the end and turned the page.
I wrote in my journal while I waited for TA to come to bed. We talked for a while.
Me: [shaky voice] ...if you want to leave I'll understand.
TA: [silence]
Me: [understanding and fearful] But it’s not me you want to leave, is it?
TA: [silence]
Me: It’s life, isn’t it?
We held each other in the dark and then TA rolled over and slept. It’s his only relief. Tears and snot snaked their way into my ears.
I'd like to choose how I hear the news
I rehearsed the lines in silence; weighting them with more emotion than they can carry.
Let me down easy
No big song and dance
No long faces, no long looks
No deep conversation
I know the way we should spend that day
I remembered that episode of Nip/Tuck where the good guy helps his dying-from-cancer lover to kill herself. They hold hands; she takes a cocktail of drugs and puts a plastic bag over her head. It looks peaceful, she smiles. I tried and failed to write my own clunky yet affecting lyrics...
Don’t slit your wrists or jump in front of a train
Don't want to know who's to blame
It won't help knowing
Don't want to fight day and night
Bad enough you're going
Don't leave in silence with no word at all
Don't get drunk and slam the door
That's no way to end this
I know how I want you to say goodbye
Find a circus ring with a flying trapeze
Tell me on a Sunday please
Let me hold your hand and watch you go.
The snot and tears became a river and I crept into the bathroom to clean myself up. Returning to bed, I tried to get a grip. And I felt sick. Sick that while thinking through my emotions I could already be writing them down for you to read. I concentrated on calming my breathing and reached an epiphany of sorts. As TA would say with a smile on his face, “Yes, but it’s not about YOU!”
When under pressure I revert to the beliefs and certainties of my childhood as a sop. I prayed to my grandmothers – please help him find a way out of this impossible maze. Please find his guardians and help him. I breathed deeply and visualised his chakras in sequence, tried to encourage his kundalini strength to rise.
I slept, finally. And then I woke from a work anxiety nightmare, got water and slept. And then I woke from a TA anxiety nightmare, sweaty and shaking, what it was I don’t remember now. Reaching out, I knocked the empty water glass by accident and woke TA.
We whispered in the dark and I explained how I’m self-dramatising instead of living these emotions – is that normal? – and how I recognise that it’s not about me.
TA: That sounds like a good UB post.
We talked some more.
TA: [bewildered] We put animals down.
Me: I don’t want to you to put yourself through this for me, but I haven’t given up hope that you’ll find a way out.
He slept and I was left thinking that my thoughts are like iron filings caught between two competing and repelling magnets of stress: work and home. Sometimes one magnet is more powerful and all the fillings are pulled to its pole, but at the moment they are exquisitely balanced and that balance allows my thoughts to range far and wide, safely repelled from both North poles.
As predicted, I only felt close to sleep after the alarm had gone off.

Friday, November 03, 2006

slammed, swamped, in the weeds, looking happier than I've ever seen you at work
These terms have all been used to decribe me this week. Evil Corp has decided to run its two biggest events for the region in one week, resulting in me being "slammed", "swamped" and "in the weeds" with work coming out of my ears and blood literally pouring, well trickling at least, out of my nose.
To add to my joys, my scary uber boss has been in the London office all week and it was she who said I was looking great - in fact she remarked on it two or three times - first it was my hair, then my clothes, then my figure until she finally plumped for "looking happier than I've ever seen you at work". Why, she enquired, am I so sparkly?
"Well," I said, "I'm busy - I like being busy." (Don't we all like to be needed?) I explained the two major events in one week excitement and various other demands on my time.
"But tell me about you," she said with American touchy-feely HR empathy. "There's got to be something going on with you."
I hesitated, how does one explain to an uber boss about relationship gubbins, happy pills and suddenly reaching what TA and I refer to as "the zone", whereby sexy Swedish women who look like a vampy Uma suddenly find me irresistable? One doesn't. I mumbled something about being in a difficult place relationship-wise and throwing myself into my work.
Then we went out - as a department - for lunch and I managed to accidentally get trashed on red wine, meaning that yesterday afternoon passed in a happy blur and I got a surprising amount done while not losing my temper with everyone.
Expect posting to be patchy until event season ends.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ritual of the night
Even though I’d – at best – describe myself as an agnostic pagan, I’d like to respectfully mark the death of summer tonight. TA is out with a friend so I’ll be home alone. I’m thinking of something patchworked together from a few different traditions: candles, prayer, a spiritual cleansing of each room and myself; perhaps an offering to the ancestors and some music. I’d always intended to “clap out” the rooms of the Sett in true Feng Shui fashion, but somehow never got around to it so perhaps I’ll do that too. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

walking virgnia
The three As and I set off from Lewes train station under the bright blue sky and rare autumn sun, past the Anne of Cleves house and tramped up and over the steep chalk of the South Downs until, sweaty and hungry, we reached a pub in Rodmell village.
I’m not sure my decision had been entirely conscious – concentrating as I was on finding a walk that wouldn’t be too far away, too muddy, too long or too arduous — but suddenly (as I realised I’d chosen to visit lupine country) I felt as though I was on a pilgrimage. Did the eccentric couple ever take a break from the books to come down to the pub at the end of their road for a drink?
I was distracted from my introspection by the joys of roast beef, creamy Guinness and a little dog, wagging his tail under the table next to ours. We talked of what makes a good pub: real ale, old men in jumpers, whippets, steak-and-ale pies, a hearty welcome, and a roaring fire. We declared that winter walks are better than summer walks and described to each other the pleasures of wind-whipped rosy cheeks and mittens.
After lunch we walked past Monk’s House without stopping and down to the Ouse. The sun was suddenly small and squat in the darkening sky. The clocks had been put back – I was walking in the heartless spring of 1941. I offered up a series of prayers. The water was low and sluggish between its muddy banks. The world was shades of grey; shades of ash. War was on the horizon; no wonder the sun was setting.
My time-travelling mood passed as we picked up our pace. Lewes Castle in our sights, we marched at a brisk clip back into town, on the hunt for the tea and cakes promised by the walking guide. Lewes shuts early and we had to plump for the reserve tea stop – the White Hart Hotel.
Two trains and a tired jog returned me to the Sett for a reviving hot shower and mug of milk. Soon I was clean and safely tucked up in bed in my pink pajamas. I picked up the book I’ve been slowly rereading for months and read a few pages. Suddenly I was back at the White Hart in Lewes, as I read that the Woolves had used it as their benchmark when travelling abroad. I bet they also stopped for tea and cakes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

little miss interpretation
When all one has is scripts, signs and signifiers one needs an interpreter, an oracle, to help make sense of it all. Of course, putting yourself at the mercy of others’ wisdom is fraught with danger. What am I blathering on about? Well, I have a certain amount of evidence and – now I come to look at it again – I realise that I’ve taken my mum’s explanations as fact when they are no more than an interpretation of the evidence. Her narrative has been convincing, and as a result I’ve woven much of it into my sense of self, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
So, did I scream and run away from a man in white overalls who’d come to fix the boiler because I’d had a traumatic time as a baby at the hands of doctors (men in white coats) in hospital? It’s plausible, but now I’m walking around with two complexes for the price of one. Perhaps I was just a grumpy and territorial toddler who didn’t like strangers opening the airing cupboard – the cupboard where my dad kept his shoes – perhaps I thought this man was a shoe robber? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, eh?
Maybe all my so-called man issues really are all innocent misunderstandings about man shoes that somehow got twisted into a dark tale of abuse. Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

man shoes
TA says I have man issues that I ought to explore and resolve. I don't deny it, my size-seven feet aren't the only reason I have man shoes. And, since I have proclaimed the UB as my therapy, I really should try on my man shoes for size.
According to my first birth certificate (I have two), I don't have a father - in that respect, I'm an unknown. Although, of course, I do have a Dad - a very loving, caring, unique Dad - who I adore. Arrrgh. How to begin this exploration? Best foot forward?
Creation myths - we all have them, I guess, except those people who claim to be able to remember their birth. That said, I suppose mine are more mythic than most, given that I only have written and physical testaments to take as gospel. Here's the evidence I have: scars, absence, genital warts/scarring (I remember this - luckily it faded before I reached emancipation), screaming fits when a man in overalls visited...and my own memories of disassociation and disgust.
It occurs to me now that small children were (are?) protected/hidden from men. My earliest memories of men are very limited.
My Dad had polio as a child and as a result has a very unusual voice - hoarse, like the wolf who swallowed chalk to fool the little kids - unthreatening, almost unbroken (yes, I'm choosing my words carefully). TBC...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

light relief
Sing a happy song. Look at cute dogs. Plan a Christmas party.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

he only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases
We are in a pickle. Suddenly TA is cooking fabulous dinners and being extra solicitous – where has all this energy come from? When I opened my lunch box yesterday I realised he’d cut up the leftover steak into bite-sized pieces for me, displaying a level of care and attention I’ve not seen for months. This morning as I was kissing him goodbye he asked me what I wanted for dinner. When I couldn’t think of an answer he said, “I’ll call you later to decide.” And actually he did call me yesterday to let me know he was going to cook – this from the man who wasn’t even answering the phone last week.
Of course I’m thrilled that he’s taking an active part in life again, but also thoroughly confused. I’m still burning with a mixture of – oh, how can I explain? – astonishment, regret, guilt, bewilderment…pride from Saturday’s unprecedented trip into surreal fantasy and now I can’t begin to decipher how I feel about anything that’s happening. If he’s about to leave why are we cuddling, kissing and emotionally engaging with one another?
TA says I should look after my own needs first and if he’s about to disappear I want to prepare for that. It’s not what I want, far from it, but if he needs to go there’s nothing I can, or would want to, do to stop him. I need to reassure myself that I’ll be able to cope with my sorrows without drowning myself in the sea or them in a bottle.
As a survival mechanism, I need to start looking on the bright side of a future alone – this is much easier to achieve when TA is a silent, unmoving object. But even when he was unreachable, I found the thought of unravelling our woven life – unpicking myself from the fabric of our marriage – a terrifying prospect.
He told me last night that I needed to work out what it was I wanted from life, but I can’t even begin to without knowing whether or not he’s going to be a part of it. We’ve been treading water for so long, not able to make plans until TA’s employment situation changes, that to out of the blue pull out not only an ideal plan A for two, but also a plan B for a solo badger is too much for my little brain to cope with.
Here in no-man’s-land, every day is a new adventure: throwing up unexpected challenges and studded with hidden landmines. We’re walking wounded not knowing what path to take or even whether or not we can lean on each other.

Monday, October 23, 2006

let me entertain you
Oh my. This is going to be a difficult post to write – convoluted and very long – untangling the skein of my thoughts might take quite some time. However, as I’ve been mulling it over since I woke up on Sunday, perhaps it will end up making some kind of sense. At first the title was going to be “stepping out”. Stepping out with my friends, stepping out into the disco lights, stepping out of my comfort zone – with the softly unspoken invitation: step out with me, come out…
And I should say hello to all those Isle of Wight friends – who apparently have been reading along for quite a while now – I hope I haven’t written anything bad about any of you; I hope I’ve only written bad things about me. (Thank goodness Blogger went for a burton on Friday night otherwise I might have let the surprise party cat out of the bag.)
Gradually, over the last three years, the lights of the UB have become very fierce – this is my therapy, in many ways. I’ve illuminated myself to a degree that is perhaps only comfortable when the audience stays in the dark. Too late now, of course. No point corpsing so I may as well carry on regardless and hope that their affection for me and mine for them will carry us smoothly over any bumps. But still, surely, they or I will at some point cry “too much information!” How can social situation continue when there are no masks for one person and everyone there knows that some kind of account will end up being published – a very partial and badger-centred account? The badger that appears here is no more real, no less of a construct than the woman who walks and talks and experiences life. Opinions, feelings and selves are mutable, fleeting things – but words, words that get written down, they have a permanence and inflexibility that can be judged. Do I want my friends to be my jury?
So, did I get something for the weekend?
I had a creeping sense of apprehension about going. I knew I’d be alone at Badger Avenue and, frankly, I don’t do too well when there’s no one to see what I’m up to. I also thought that it might be a useful trial run for if/when TA moves out. Oh dear. Friday night passed with red wine, cheese and Simon Schama talking about Caravaggio. Not great, but not bad (me, not Simon – Simon was fascinating). Through a certain prism it could be viewed as a decadent and indulgent night in solo. Let’s look at it in that light, shall we? Let’s not consider it in the cold, grey light of the dawning realisation that I’m perilously close to having a drinking problem.
Saturday? Saturday I read newspapers, mooched about, procrastinated, ate hot cross buns and read a new-age self-help book I found next to the bed I had – unusually – decided to sleep in. There are twin beds in my old bedroom now and I slept in the one that TA usually takes, not sure why, but I fancied the change of scene. The book was called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and it made me think of TA and wonder if he would find it interesting. I tried to inhabit my head, tried to make the most of the uncomfortable silence. I’m not sure I succeeded.
And so it was time to get ready for the party. Unhappy with my options I had decided to raid my mother’s wardrobe – surely she must have a sparkly top that I could wear with my lovely, elegant wide-legged black trousers and princess shoes. It appears that women in their late sixties don’t need sparkly tops and I came away empty handed even after a thorough firk. In the end I settled upon a lightweight cream v-necked jumper. Subtle, hopefully classy. It still needed something so I borrowed a rope of seed pearls. I was suddenly in the zone. What the French call “in good face”. The make up worked better than usual and, daringly, I decided to literally let my long hair down for once.
Prozac seems to be the best form of beauty therapy there is. I’ve noticed the clothes I choose to wear and the way I choose to wear them has changed. I’m enjoying them more, I’m standing straighter. I’m loving the “lady look” this season. There’s an aspect of auto-erotica to this enjoyment. I don’t know how other women relate to their bodies. I don’t know if women that are only ever attracted to men get that same inside-out appreciation. Sometimes I get a fetishistic thrill from a look that has more to do with what I find attractive – I guess it’s narcissism or perhaps better understood as a way of being both Pygmalion and the ivory woman. Whatever, those pencil skirts and “sexy secretary” fashions are really working for me, in all senses. And it seems that I’m finally able to understand TA when he tells me I’m beautiful. That sounds vain, but honestly I’ve never thought I was remotely pretty, all I’m saying is that I can see now why I might be considered attractive.
Recently – what with all the soul searching between us – I’ve been thinking deeply about how I relate to men and women; the different ways I experience attraction. With men there’s always been the instant attraction and I’ve been able to appreciate the physical with no intention or desire to get to know the person. That’s not to say I can’t form a deep relationship with a man – I’m closer to TA than anyone else in the world, even K1 and my family – rather, it’s just that when I’ve been attracted to a woman I’ve fallen for the person first and the body second. I wondered if that was because I have greater respect for women or whether I experience greater – there’s no other way to say this – “phwoar factor” from men. (TA has the most beautiful bottom in the whole world – honestly it’s a thing of sublime perfection.)
So. We surprised the birthday girl. It was great – a really lovely gathering of friends and acquaintances with a rich shared history of twenty years or more. It’s rare, I think, to still be in touch – even if that touch is tenuous – with so many school friends, particularly when we all live in different places now. There was genuine merriment along with the alcohol-induced kind.
We moved on to a local bar. The Jolly Sailor has featured here before and in my life, particularly my teenage years and early twenties, it has been a landmark of huge psycho-geographical importance. It’s a bar with a dance floor; it’s the launch pad for downstairs debauchery as there is a nightclub (the only nightclub for miles around) in the basement. At one point, a crowd of us would meet there every night of the week. The world of the Jolly and Colonel Bogey’s has it’s own centre of gravity and for miles around, people are pulled into its orbit.
I was convinced I would bump into Jay at the Jolly; Jay the boy I was engaged to and lived with from age seventeen to nineteen. Two tumultuous years of intense closeness that ended in heartbreak and resentment. There’re still questions I’d like to ask him – there are parallels between how we ended up breaking up and where TA and I are now – questions about how he viewed me and what happened to him after we broke up. This isn’t as far fetched as perhaps it seems. Social-worker E had bumped into Jay last summer and they had talked of me. Apparently, I’m still the woman he’s had the best sex with – how’s that for a recommendation? Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to repay the compliment, but still it was nice (and saddening) to hear. E and I talked it over and she said, “but Badgergirl, you’ve always exuded a sexual appetite.” And I was astonished, but also knew what she meant – I’ve always been earthy, sensual, hungry for pleasure. Greedy, frankly.
I scanned the bar but couldn’t see Jay. The Jolly is in many ways like dancing in the living room – it’s safe. I don’t live there any more so bystanders don’t matter, the friends I have from the Island have known me for so long and seen me behave so badly that there’s nothing I could do that would shock them – I think, I hope. I continued to let my hair down – danced like a loon, wanted everyone to riot.
There was a very beautiful woman standing at the side of the dance floor. She had something of the air of a Pulp Fiction-era Uma Therman about her, only even more noir. I was capering about as usual, a bit unsteady on my pins. Grinning and laughing and feeling on top of the world with the familiar dance choons of the last ten years lifting my spirits higher. As a single girl, it would usually be at this point in the evening that I would start asking the most morose-looking man to join me. I can never bear for anyone to look sad or lonely – if a dance or a kiss can make someone join in the fun then I want to help. Understandably, this philanthropic impulse has got me into trouble on more than one occasion. I have woken up on many a morning bleary-eyed and replayed the events of the night to be confronted with the pain of once again being the entertainment, comedy or otherwise. For the past five and a half years TA has been my stabilisers and I’ve been grateful of the security he has given me – allowing me to freewheel down the steepest hills with barely a wobble. I’m scared at what might happen if I have to ride through life with only my own sense of balance to keep me upright.
Uma – dangerous, beautiful, magnetic – Uma was watching us all. I smiled and she smiled back and then she was dancing with us. After a while she was dancing with me. Funny, if she was a bloke I’d think she was coming on to me. She disappeared for a while and then she was back and we were very much dancing together. There wasn’t much to say; it seemed like we had spun away from the world. I was dizzy and giddy and felt as though I was dancing through a dream when she leant close, even closer and asked if she could kiss me. Somehow I had left the Jolly far behind and stumbled into the pages of a Jeanette Winterson novel. Only, seemingly, I was playing the self-deceiving married woman only out for a thrill and breaking the heart of the virtuous Amazon – the wild woman who has complete knowledge of her desires. After a series of kisses that burnt me to a cinder. She left me, asking that I join her in the subterranean netherworld. I hesitated and then, shocked at the enormity of that had just happened and angered and shamed by the leering of the men nearby, made a run for Badger Avenue.
My phone call woke TA, but my shell-shocked voice and tearful explanations left him undisturbed. It was he that thought I would have (perhaps should have) consummated my passion for K2 that difficult summer two years ago when meeting her completely knocked me off my feet. Somehow he doesn’t think that my duality has any bearing on us, but I do. I don’t want to betray the sanctity of our marriage. And, selfishly, having been the third in a three-way love affair, I don’t want to experience that kind of pain again (or inflict it either).
I’m still reeling. I’m still wondering whether I should have followed my lust down into the underworld. And, while it was just a provocative dance and a passionate kiss with a willing accomplice that has no bearing on my real life, which I’ll be able to shrug off as drunken high-jinks for the amusement of friends that have known me for many years, they won’t really need to read these words to know that I’m not being straight with them.
Sunday, shaking with shock, I took off my mother’s pearls and remembered the last time I wore them: my wedding day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

something for the weekend
Shh! It’s a surprise.
Off to the Iggles tonight for a flying visit in honour of a friend’s thirtieth birthday (crikey – how did we get to be so old?). The parents are in Brighton for a long weekend, visiting Mum’s younger sister, and TA is staying in town. So, I’ll have Badger Avenue to myself and TA will have a couple of days’ peace and quiet in the Sett. Time enough for both of us to grow a thin layer of skin over some of this week’s grazes, or at least I hope so. Although I’m beginning to get used to feeling raw.
Last night we went to the Old Vic with my mother’s older sister to see “A Moon for the Misbegotten”, starring Kevin Spacey, Colm Meaney and Eve Best. It was good to go on a date, even if it was chaperoned by a Lady Bracknell type*, good not to have to talk. The play was well acted and effectively staged, but hardly the “minor masterpiece” of Spacey’s programme notes and Spacey, though undoubtedly a fine actor, was easily surpassed by the other leads. Auntie Bracknell slept through most of the first act, but was revived with a dose of chocolate ice cream. We got to sleep at around midnight for the third night in a row – when my bedtime is usually about 10pm – and I woke from my nightmares at 5.30am (again).
So it is that today I’m struggling to keep my eyes open and clock watching – waiting for the minutes to pass so that I can sink into a seat on the 6pm SouthWest train leaving Waterloo and chinwag with a couple fellow exiled caulkheads.
Bon weekend, comrades.
* She has a blog, who knew?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

putting the blank into blanket
Was the subject line to an e-mail I wrote to American K1 (there are now two American Ks – it’s a long story – who knows, one day it may feature here). It seemed too good, too apt, a subject line to restrict to just one person.
We have a blanket that TA’s mother made for us when we got married. It is made out of bronze and grey wool crocheted in the style – in my family at least – known as a Granny blanket. It is on our bed at the moment to make up for the fact that the nights are chill but we have yet to bring out the winter-weight doona.
My Granny used to crochet blankets with recycled wool, one stripe after another in shell stitch. Crocheting together when I was small, she once asked me if I couldn’t crochet like she did because I was “cack handed”.
“No, Granny, you use a different stitch to the ones I’ve been taught. I can crochet double and treble stitch, but I’ve not learnt shell stitch yet.”
I can do many things even though I am, indeed, cack handed. But I can’t make decisions for TA – that’s part of how we got here in the first place. I can’t protect myself from the storms without scuttling the boat and turning my back on the sea – something I cannot bring myself to do. And so I hold on to the rigging – bailing where necessary, trying not to throw up – and feel…very little. The panic passed a long time ago; the dread, well, I trust myself enough to think that whatever life throws at me, I’ll survive in my own cack-handed way. So I feel blank as I watch the storm front close in and wait for the lightening to strike the mast.
And a secret corner of my consciousness begins to prepare the lifeboat – much like as six-year-old E and I hid running-away supplies under her bed. You can’t get very far with old cheese and Christmas mincemeat (especially if the jars have leaked) and I wonder how far I will get with my meagre emergency supplies.
If you see me paddling on the high seas please send up a flare and send out an SOS for me. Hell, if you see TA clinging to a broken plank, please pull him on to your deck and administer a reviving dose of brandy.
Please: stop me if I'm boring you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

if I don’t laugh I’ll cry
Last night I opened the door to a dark Sett. TA was lying on the bed under the wedding blanket. He’d had a tough day – full of silent sound and mute fury – and was exhausted by himself. My day had been full of, well what my days are full of: office machinations, slacking, stress, busyness, meetings, work, gossip, worry…
I had got up in the morning and – much like this morning – done as many chores as I could fit into an hour; made coffee for us both; eaten a banana; got dressed; packed my lunch; let TA know that there were leftovers if he wanted them for his lunch; and walked to work.
Returning to a dark house and rumpled bed, I girded my loins and set to. I hung up my coat, took off my shoes, hugged TA and stroked his hair, then turned on the kitchen light, put on my apron (a Christmas gift from TA that makes me think of lavender-filled French meadows) and – about to ferret in the fridge for inspiration – turned on the radio.
Nigel effing Rees. Again!
There was nothing for it, I gritted my teeth, iced the leftover coffee and made dinner while the inanities burbled. (Braised leeks, spinach and red peppers with mustard, green beans and steak pie [TA]/Mexican bean burger [me], since you ask – nothing fancy, but then, seriously, I didn’t have fancy in me last night.) Eventually the torture ended and the Archers salved my wounds.
I wish there was something I could do to salve TA’s wounds. He says I don’t understand the pain he is in and he’s right – how could I? – but I can see that he’s suffering. I can see that he’s lost in pain, pain that comes from all directions: a labyrinth of pain. I find it very difficult to talk without metaphor. Often I think the metaphor says more than plain speak ever could. So it is that I speak of storms, polishing the decks and feeling seasick.
Here’s my metaphor of the day. I think that there is a red cord that ties me to him – I think it unravels from my heart and that wherever TA goes the cord goes too. So there’s one tiny red thread that might lead him from the maze of pain and back to our home. But TA – lost, frightened and hurting – sees this thread as the one thing that’s tying him down. And he so wants to break free of the daily struggle – he wants to breathe clean air and feel strength in his limbs. It’s a tiny thread and it looks like it will snap – we both stare at it, seeing different things.
I think perhaps that it is stronger than it looks and, though my heart strings can be tugged and pulled, that cord won’t snap today.
And so the days pass, each one following the same routine. On the bright side, there simply must be something different on Radio 4 at 6.30pm tonight; there might even be something good.

Monday, October 16, 2006

back to the scheduled programming
Yes, we're back with the woe. I can't remember what other people's weekends are like - I can't remember what normal is. I seem to spend my weekends doing one or more of the following: chores, procrastinating about the chores, grocery shopping, listening to Radio 4, shouting at Radio 4 when I find that yet a-bloody-gain it's Nigel effing Rees and his sodding Quote Unquote, cooking, soaking beans...so far, so normal, right?
But, tell me, is it normal to be glad to be back in the office? Is it normal to spend hours at a time holding hands with the beloved person trying to help them decide whether or not leaving would be a good idea? Is it really normal to drink that much sherry (me), eat that much popcorn (him) and watch that much Arrested Development (both of us)? I thought marriage break up would involve much more hate and much less love; I still think that. The only thing we're breaking is our hearts, surely?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

borg and proud
My referrals tell me that people sometimes come here looking for info on hydrocephalus. Odd, since I don't think it's something I've ever written about in detail. It fills me with a wary sense of responsibility - what if a parent of a newly diagnosed child comes looking for information or reassurance?
It's been an interesting process of assimilation. I started as a little kid with all the check ups and prodding feeling special, but put upon. Then came school and the teasing - "put your head in a washing machine?!", "TUUUUUUBE! Oi, tube - if we push you over will your tube bend?"
So it was that I stopped mentioning it and then - a few years later - stopped considering it. I'd been discharged for good, my shunt stayed in but I didn't need it or any further treatment. I went to uni, graduated, started work and never declared it on the medical forms. I moved in with TA.
One day it occurred to me that he should know what to do if I ever went all Exorcist on him and started projectile vomiting. Gradually, thanks to Google, over the last few years I learnt a lot more about hydrocephalus. I learnt to feel blessed and somehow a sense of surviors' guilt started to creep up on me. We knew through my father's work of a little boy who had hydrocephalus too but he also had spina bifida, a wheelchair and two shunts. His dad called him stereo. I don't think he made it to his teenage years. Am I a walking, talking medical miracle? Should I fear a sudden and irreversable catastrophe - shunt malfunction or infection?
Today I was writing to a US-based team-mate about her scan and subsquent all clear after treatment for breast cancer. Here's the [edited] exchange:
team-mate in a round-robin: Just checking in to let you know that the MRI adventure was a piece of cake! I took two Lorazopams. And the machine itself wasn’t scary at all. It’s open at both ends, for one thing, and it’s pale beige plastic, not glistening, cold metal.
me: when I had my brain scan the doctor said, “Pah! it’s nothing – just like putting your head in a washing machine.” way to go doc – I was one freaked out seven year old!
glad to hear it went well.
TM: OMG, what a crazy thing for the doctor to say! Why on earth did you need a brain scan? Is everything OK?
Me: I’m hydrocephalic. It’s no biggie; well, it is for some people but evidently not for me. The scan was to ascertain whether or not I needed an extension to the drainage system they had inserted when I was small…but it turned out that my body had learnt to compensate and – at 11 – I was told I wouldn’t need any more check-ups. So now I just have some interesting, but redundant, hardware in my skull! I was supposed to go in overnight for the scan and be sedated, but my mum mixed up the days and I ended up being squeezed in with the adults and missed out on the drugs!
Doctors can be pretty strange individuals; I guess it comes from all that single-minded study.
TM: Wow! Boy, are you lucky that everything turned out OK. Does your hardware ever transmit any radio signals?
Me: Nah – I’m rather fond of it. it’s a bit like having a little skull spine or – now I come to think of it – a bit of Borg in me! I’ve never set of airport security though so I guess it must be plastic. Wow! I love the internet

Monday, October 09, 2006

veiled threat
This media storm about Jack Straw’s thoughts on veiled women got me thinking at the weekend. Not that my thoughts led to any meaningful conclusions, but still.
I decided to only consider the issue in terms of women who have made the decision to wear a veil – let’s leave aside issues of compunction and oppression – I don’t want to deny these women the right to, for whatever reason, cover their faces in public if they wish to. To say that they are misguided or somehow incapable of making that decision in a positive way strikes me as insulting in the extreme. So, I started by wondering why it is that women’s clothes are considered to be so politicised. I thought about our society’s commoditisation of women’s bodies. Are these women revolutionaries – removing their faces and bodies from our shared economy? Seen in this light, I could imagine the freedom that the veil brings women – it’s a big get lost to a society that encourages young girls to dress as “available”. Do we need to see their faces; do we need to lay them bare against their wills? I thought that there wasn’t a male equivalent, but then realised that there were at least two.
I imagined a time before the balaclava had been adopted by the world’s paramilitaries. Was there ever a time where a balaclava’ed silhouette was innocent of menace? Then I remembered the signs on the doors of shops and banks that show a crash-helmeted head: friend or foe, we don’t know. I smiled as I imagined a new sliding scale sign that shows a balaclava, a crash helmet and then a niqab – friend or foe? We don’t know.
I guess I’m slow on the uptake because it took me a while to realise that this isn’t about openness and conversation, it’s about our fear of terror. Today’s newspapers with their stories of niqab-wearing airport-security dodgers and escaping terrorist suspects makes it clear: choose not to face the world and we will assume you’re turning your back on us before blowing us up. Which brings me back to my original thought – this society has made the attempt to avoid the commoditisation of the self an inescapable crime.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

numbered days
Self-evidently all our days are numbered, from first to last, but for the badger folk this day is more numbered than most. So, I give you some numbers of the day a la Sesame Street. Today is TA’s thirty-fourththird birthday. It is the fifth of his birthdays that I have been present for. It is four years since he has had a birthday while in full-time employ. Today is the day after TA asked me to kill him or leave him or both – of course, not for the first time, I refused.
We talked about the possibility of continuing life in a contemplative cell. The silence and peace of white walls, the comforting confines of restraints. A mercy or an imprisonment? I wish someone could hand down a sentence for me – a monument that could give me meaning to cling to.
Endless, sacred days – is there any kind of irony that isn’t bitter? I wonder when you know your number’s up, since sundown is not an accurate indicator. I wonder when my heart will break, since I never knew it could beat with such steady endurance.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

far above rubies
What to write? Where to write? I bought a new journal from a street trader in Manhattan. My old journal is running out of pages and I’ve been glad of the opportunity to move on after six years of writing between its purple velvet covers. That journal was bought in Northampton, Massachusetts before the year turned to zeros and its pages record single adventures, multiple misadventures and much angst. It is the journal of a twenty-something. Pages are bloodstained – notably, with pierced nipple blood – as well as ink stained. I’ve been feeling constrained by it recently – I’m ready to end that chapter.
I’ve been looking for a new journal for a few months – knowing that on a purely personal level a journal is epoch making and that a new journal cannot be bought without care. I had an idea of what I wanted and I found it, as I hoped I would, while I was looking for something else. It is beautiful: leather bound with a design embossed on the cover. The trip to the US, now I come to think of it, kept throwing up issues of worth. I showed my new journal to a dear, dear friend and she smiled, was a little amazed, a little overawed: “I could never write in something so beautiful; I need scrappy notebooks.”
For the NY leg of my trip, I stayed in Queens with a co-worker who I didn’t know well. Over the course of my visit I learnt a lot, too much, about – let’s call her – Andie. I told her that I wanted to shop while there – I had a list of items that I needed to buy and would like to purchase with the flimsy dollar rather than weighty pounds sterling. Accompanying others while they shop is not something I enjoy so I was surprised that she wanted to come with me – particularly as she has always seemed careless about clothes.
Andie is large, not terribly so by American standards, but certainly larger than is healthy. Andie has a nervous laugh and is self-deprecating to a fault. She has all the “right” books on her shelves: literature, feminist theory, cookbooks. I was envious of those books – there was some overlap, but I don’t have such an extensive library. Andie is married to an out-of-work animator. Andie and I share enough common characteristics to make me uncomfortable with the comparisons. And yet, and yet.
I value myself. This shows itself in many different ways. Where I write is important to me – I am going to take intense pleasure in the decadent leather-bound journal. I will, when it makes sense to me, spend money on clothes. I will choose clothes on the basis of what makes me happy rather than on the basis of cost (where happiness is expressed by an equation where cost is a factor, but so are colour, cut, material and feel). It has taken me a long, long time to get here. Before TA started to encourage me I too chose clothes as some kind of penance: will it wash well, not show dirt, is it practical?
Is fat a feminist issue and is fashion a means of oppression? Can self-worth be expressed by eyebrow waxing or can a person’s politics be worn on their sleeve like I often wear my heart? I’m not sure I know the answers as well as I used to.
The cookbooks were well thumbed but unused. We ate takeaway and breakfasts in a diner where they knew Andie’s order in advance. Andie wore clothes with an air of disdain and a seeming ignorance of the stains on them, but in quieter moments it became clear that this wasn’t a matter of mind on other things, but rather a painful avoidance: mind over matter. Comedy earrings suggested that she couldn’t take self-decoration seriously while an absence of mirrors made me wonder if she couldn’t bear looking at herself.
I don’t care a fig for fashion. You won’t see me sporting tulip skirts or tartan city shorts this season, but I do care for style and happiness. If your style makes you happy then that’s fine by me, whatever that style may be (furry, bright, anarchic, fetish). Just don’t try to tell me that you’ve captured the moral ground with your low self-esteem because I won’t be able to prevent myself from trying to show you how beautiful you would be if you stopped hating yourself.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

shedding
I dispensed with my healthy bank balance in Manhattan. I left a big piece of my heart and most of my armour-plated skin in Portland, Oregon. I have the sinking feeling that most of my guts fell into the Atlantic while I was sleeping. I return to you now lighter, more naked, bruised and possibly spineless. The trip was intense on all fronts - professionally, emotionally and financially - and it's going to take me a while to recover. Other than that, I had a riot.

Monday, September 18, 2006

recipe for success
Over the weekend I made pie. Or, more strictly speaking, pies. There's something about puff pastry that makes it a panacea for TA's ills - at least in the short term. I made spiced bramley apple pie and pig pie. The pig pie, with a filling gleaned from trotters and supplimented with vegetables, was better than expected; the spiced apple pie was really rather glorious, or so I was told. Unfortunately, pastry is one of those foodstuffs that I can cook but mustn't eat - not if I want to wear my size 12 trousers.

Friday, September 15, 2006

cost of everything and the value of nothing
What would you do if there was nothing you needed to do? I'd like to think I'd read more, study more, cook more adventurous food, work out more, escape to the country more... The list goes on and on but the word "more" crops up fairly often, along with the words "farm", "horse", "swimming pool", "look fabulous" and - most especially - "staff". In my lottery-win-fuelled life, I imagine myself as a cross between Barbara Good and Lady Lara Croft (as played by Ms Jolie): riding, farming, lording and (ethically) shopping.
TA shows us the error of our ways. With nothing he needs to do he has found his life reduced rather than enriched. Putting aside the finance issue, I try to encourage him: galleries, art, craft, DIY, singing, dancing, running, walking, volunteering, reading, writing, drawing, modelling (both kinds!), learning, cooking, cleaning... But the truth is that when the world doesn't value your time you don't have the time to value the world.
I remember the rising panic and claustrophobia well. The feeling that there's a whirling dervish of pain spinning round and round in the brain, all that energy and thought, but going nowhere - abort, abort, abort before you see your life disappear down the plughole vortex. I only had three months of it and I was clinging on to my sanity by my fingernails. Could you tell?
I admire my husband; I'm incredibly proud of him. Through sheer luck - and with constant emotional support from TA - I managed to escape after sipping the poison he's been drowning in. He's a survivor. He's a hero. But is it any wonder that he's looking for an escape route?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

only happy when it’s rained
Monsoon season is here in global-warming London and it is wonderful and disquieting in almost-equal measures. Last night I was woken by the downpour. There’s something irresistibly sexy about water falling in sheets from the steamy sky – I’m still waiting for the day when someone takes me dancing naked in the rain. Under the covers, my body came out in sympathy by sending rivulets of sweat down my neck, limbs and chest.
Although the weather is freakishly hot, the days are resolutely getting shorter – autumn is here even if the temperature says otherwise. My circadian clock has responded by making it virtually impossible to get out of bed before 6.30am, no matter that I’m usually asleep before 10pm. There’s something wrong about putting on summer clothes in a room lit by electricity.
I celebrated the sweet smell of damp leaves and grass by walking the long way to the office through Embankment Gardens and found myself remembering the 7 July Remembrance Garden, which has long since disappeared. That thought led me back to 9/11 – my memories of the day itself focus on talking to TA who, working at a bank, had access to the latest news on Bloomberg; leaving work early; walking through a deserted city; seeing that the Evening Standard sellers had gone home – all their papers sold; and a quiet evening with TA in his studio apartment. These memories are misted with the romance of the earliest days of our relationship – when that tiny studio was a bubble of extraordinary possibility, a nest of intimacy. My mind wandered, tracking the path of diminishing returns since each anniversary. That first 18 months when every article I edited name checked “the recent terrible events” no matter if it was for a hospital, aviation, defence, hotel, oil and gas or superyacht title. It seemed as though the world had been knocked off its axis.
To bring things full circle, it seems as though global warming really will knock the world off its axis – making London feel equatorial. Meanwhile, our leaders are too busy building sandcastles and fighting the war on terror to notice that the tide is rising.
workday blues
Here's what I don't need on the Monday I decide to work from home because TA&I were playing FateStorm with German goths all day Sunday and late into the night and I'm exhausted:
  1. Discover I've left my RSA security token on my desk at work - no network access
  2. Discover Kinko's have failed to print a job sent by the US team on Sunday
  3. Discover that although Kinko's has indeed printed the document, the document has a typo
  4. Try, somewhat unsuccessfully, to guide a co-worker to said Kinko's branch via mobile (a mobile that was passed to me by TA while I was myself passing water - thank god for Kegel exercises)
  5. Discover, on arriving at the office with a new batch of the document hot of the press, that in fact somewhere in the editing process (not edited by me) the document corrupted - there are "typos" throughout
  6. Receive word that a release that is slated to be sent to the US and European wires should now be sent to Australia and Asia too.
  7. Find out that there is an "emergency" release floating about that will "hit" me soon.

I don't want to be a grown-up anymore. I want to be a tree.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

hey pesto!
As they say, life goes on. Seasons turn and autumn sun can sometimes be the gentlest kiss of warmth for tired hearts. Shelter from the buffeting wind may take many forms. Today it takes the form of planning my first harvest from the windowsill farm.
At first glance, my basil plant appears a bit straggly with long stalks supporting heavy crowns of leaves, but look closer and it's positively lusty - with many leaves beginning to shoot from the base of those tree-trunk stalks. I'm planning on encouraging this bushy burst of growth by removing the basil-tree crowns.
What to do with this glut of basil leaves? Well, clearly make pesto. The pinenuts are in stock already and tonight I'll buy some parmesan. Oh, oh, oh - the joy of darkest green, slick, pungent, fresh pesto. Perhaps it will be oil enough to soothe our troubled waters, if only for a moment's respite.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

oblique
I'm all at sea and everything’s rocking. I feel a bit green. Emergency planning isn’t settling the mind or the stomach and each fresh wave makes me feel as though I’ve fallen through the floor. Luckily, those big waves don’t hit often – most of the time things are just a little choppy. I’m prepared to launch life rafts if it comes to that, but I’m praying that it won’t.
Watching the sky and reading the currents, I realise that it’ll be one storm after another for the foreseeable future. I signed up for a lengthy voyage of discovery and knew, of course, that it wouldn’t all be plain sailing, but I recognise now that the sea and the storms – call it nature, call it fate – have me at their mercy. Perhaps I am an inadequate sailor; certainly, I am not entirely the master of my own destiny. Heroism makes me think that, as the duty captain, I should go down with the ship – heroism is a tricksy hobbit. My never-restful mind wonders whether it was senseless heroism that landed me in this storm in the first place.
I love this vessel. I have devoted hours to caulking it, rigging it and polishing the decks; it contains all my worldly goods and more of my soul than I can enumerate. If it goes down a large part of me will sink with it. I am committed to steering it through these storms, past Charybdis and Scylla, and will sacrifice much to reach calm waters; but I know that – heroism be damned – I won’t sacrifice everything. The rope tying me to the mast is a long one and if necessary I have a knife, but if this voyage ends in failure I know I won’t have the heart to set out to sea again.
priorities
I’ve got a short trip to NY for work happening at the end of the month. I’ve also orchestrated a mini-windfall for myself, thanks to the agency having a rather fab scheme that allows me to sell my holiday allowance. I need the mini-windfall to get our maxi-overdraft down to manageable proportions. Also, it’s TA’s birthday in October and I’d like to make an appropriately large fuss of him. These are both high priorities. The very highest. So why am I thinking about shoe shopping in New York? Is it thoughts like this that created the overdraft in the first place?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

going dark
Life is difficult at the moment, but it's nothing I can write about here. Over the years UB (and, I suppose, I) have changed. This space is not so wide open as once it was. There are many things I choose not to write here. In fact, at the moment there's a lot going on in the dark circle of the Venn diagram of my life - so much so that to write about owt else is akin to lying.
I won't lie - to you, to myself: the dark circle fills my thoughts right now. Is it empty, is it a lifesaver - have I been clinging to a hollow thing? Should I be clinging to a hollow thing? When my crises were my own I felt more than happy to involve the surfers and the readers, but now the undertow that has lifted me off my feet has been born elsewhere and so I can't allow others to surf it.
There may be comedy and observations to be found here for a month or few, but there won't be excavations like there used to be. Just a warning, to those who come here for the inside track...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

a rose by any other name
We’ve been having trouble sleeping recently. It’s strange the conversations two people can have in the wakeful dark.
TA: I can’t believe you just said “willy”.
Me: I can’t believe we’ve been together five years and this is the first time you’ve heard me say “willy”. What do you want me to call it? I don’t have a word.
TA: I don’t know, but not something so childish.
Me: I don’t have any words for my own genitals either; not romantic/erotic ones anyway – everything is either too porno or too biological/specific. We should think of our own words. “Nightstick”, “lance of love”
TA: That’s good, but I think has too many associations with violence.
Me: For me: “Amphitheatre of joy”, “pleasure-dome”…
TA: Would that make your bottom a thunderdome?
Me: That’s not funny! Hey, why are you laughing so much…what?
TA: [stifling giggles] No, it’s too awful!
Me: [getting paranoid] What???
TA: The tagline for Mad Max
Me: Yes?
TA: Two men enter. [chokes laughter] One man leaves.
Me: [In best Muriel’s Wedding voice] You’re terrible!
So, you can add “amphitheatre of joy” to the list of words only TA and I say.

a nugget of purest green
I went to the Iggly Wiggly for a long weekend, returning to a satisfying day of laundry and chores on Tuesday. The Iggles was great – a long walk along the old railway line to Newport; a short walk up a very, very steep hill; scones and clotted cream in Godshill; a barbeque with friends; inspecting my father’s leg (yes, it’s still keeping him couch-ridden); a visit to the show home to see what (ex-beauty-therapist, now a social worker and undergraduate) E’s new flat will look like once it’s built… It was great!
Yesterday, TA put up the blind in the kitchen and assembled a second IKEA planter. I hauled home a huge bag of compost from Lidl and spent a happy half hour repotting all my herbs – parsley, mint, chives, basil and coriander – into the two planters. Then I spent another half hour or so mooning over the glories of my kitchen windowsill and dragging TA in to admire my “farm”. I’ve put my name down on the waiting lists for all the local allotments. I’ve been told that there’s a seven-year wait. It’s going to be a long seven years.