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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

three-years strong
Blimey: three homes and two jobs, but only one blog. You read it here first.

hair today
First, imagine we’re having this conversation after a bottle of rather fine French red wine; a Gigondas, for instance (but if you're buying I'd like a Chateauneuf-du-Pape). We’ve both become a little uninhibited and I’m not sure how the conversation starts, but anyway it moves south.
Bikini wax. Never had one; never wanted to have one. Few reasons really: I am not offended by my body hair (or other people’s for that matter); I’ve had my legs waxed a couple of times and it hurt, a lot; I’ve always thought the expression “knickers moustache” rather sweet; I’m not sure, but fear a bikini wax may well betray the sisterhood; I’m deeply suspicious of men who like their ladies “groomed”; I prefer to save the experience of having an underpaid (and possibly under-trained) stranger poking around when I’ve got my pants off for my smear test… I guess I’ve never thought it worth paying money for something I’m not going to enjoy.
I’ve – of course – had a go at topiary. I’ve lived to regret slapdash application of depilatory cream. I’ve experienced nasty razor rash. In the end, I bought a bikini with boy-short bottoms and called it a day. I wonder if this is another side effect of my happy-pill-induced little miss perfect routine, but suddenly clothes and presentation seem more important. Recently, I’ve become rather too attached to my tweezers.
So I’m curious. I talk to an old friend who says – to my utmost surprise – that she gets a wax regularly and that it is, and I quote, “a pleasure-pain paradox”. My jaw hits the ground when she tells me that her mother gets a Brazilian.
I’m used to being in the dark about lady maintenance – my mum taught me about soap, a hot wet flannel, clean nails, combed hair and toothpaste, and to be honest I ditched the bit about soap. Everything else got filed away as a conspicuous consumption/patriarchal oppression ploy to get me to be paranoid about my body. This, I like to think, has served me well. No femfresh for me – the mere thought of perfumed wipes and intimate deodorant spray is likely to make me want to burn Boots to the ground in rage. No running to the bathroom to retouch my makeup before breakfast. No shame about my body’s functions.
And yet…and yet…
I actually really like smooth, soft legs. I love sliding into clean sheets with newly hairless pins – it feels extra naked, extra decadent. Also, I appreciate that if I want anyone (TA I mean you!) to spend a long time face first, it’s probably more inviting to minimise the amount of barbed wire security fencing.
I feel as though I need some proper tools for decision making – not an article in a woman’s magazine; not propaganda from either side of the fence.

Monday, August 21, 2006

boy wisdom
Yes, TA has done it again.
Me: Is it the magic hour yet?
TA: I guess, are you going to have a sherry?
Me: Yep – lasts longer than wine, better than stealing your Frangelico… Dad said the other day “You’re not turning into an alcoholic, are you?” You don’t think I’ve got a drinking problem, do you?
TA: No. Not at all. You seem perfectly able to get the glass to your mouth.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

mouse: the sequel (or should that be the squeal?)
A few days ago TA informed me that he had heard aggressive rustling in the night, some kind of enormous, ravenous beast gnawing on plastic, trying to reach either the rubbish or the recycling. Lovely.
TA has been suffering from insomnia for weeks and I half hope the gnawing he heard was a fevered dream. Regardless, we have done all we can to fell the beast of midnight feasting – increased the amount of poison scattered around the flat in temptingly stinky sardine tins. But as yet nothing has died. I realised today that the mouse situation has begun to really get to me.
In the half light of our pre-sunrise bedroom, I watched TA leap about the room – he picked up one mouse by its tail. He looked at it closely and sighed with relief, “at least it’s not a rat!” Then he made a darting gesture and caught another mouse. Oddly, this one looked like a tiny elephant. Then I realised with sick horror that another mouse was about to run over my head. With a tremulous voice I asked TA, “did you catch it?” He didn’t reply. I began to panic. “Did you catch the mouse on my head?” A groan sounded and I thought the worst – the mouse must be running over me. Then I thought, wait a minute, since when have there been mice shaped like tiny elephants? It was too late, I’d woken TA from the slumber he’d only slipped into at 4am. “I’m sorry sweetheart, I dreamt there were elephant mice in the room and one was on my head.” Bless him, he forgave me. Within an hour he was out of bed and checking for furry corpses so that I could get up safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t about to, quite literally, put my foot in it (my biggest fear in this regard is a dead mouse in my shoe).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

fingers and toes
I have history, by which I mean case history. As a child I used to watch early morning telly but eschewed the children’s programmes, preferring instead to watch the kipper ties and chalk and talk on BBC2’s Open University output. I learnt three things in this period that have stayed with me – vitamin K makes blood clot; baked beans are mass produced, arrive in sacks, are white before they are doused in “sauce” and are only sampled by some weird hypodermic-like process; and, lastly, I learnt about thalidomide.
The learning outcomes were something of a mixed bag. Years later I told my secondary school teacher about vitamin K – she was doubtful and had to look it up when she went home, but the Open University was correct. Generally then this was a good thing. I refused to eat baked beans for a while, having been revolted by the sight of millions of the little blighters being poured into vats. While my parents were bemused at this turn of events perhaps it did me some nutritional good. Lastly, learning about thalidomide affected me the most. I began to practice picking things up with my toes in secret just in case I ever lost my arms. This went on to a greater or lesser extent for many years and, as a result, I now have fairly flexible and fairly strong toes. Of course, I have no real use for them at the moment, but one never knows, eh?
I thought of this tendency for obsessive and inappropriate forward planning the other day as I was approaching The Sett. My train of thought had somehow gone off the rails, left at the traffic lights and was ploughing new furrows of fear as it does semi-regularly. In my mind’s eye I had gone through the following scenario in excruciating detail.
I opened the front door, all was quiet. I shut the door behind me and walked towards the living room. I saw TA’s feet a foot or more off the ground. Here my thoughts diverged and carriages headed down several different routes – he’s blue, I don’t touch him; I run in and grab him and his skin is cold and clammy; he’s wearing shoes and they are dangling; he’s barefoot and his gecko toes are curled inwards. Enough! Let’s get the carriages back together. I haven’t touched him – I might be a murder suspect. I have to call someone – who? – the police, an ambulance. Next I have to call work. I’m going to be taking compassionate leave for the foreseeable future. Do I call my parents? Dad is so sick right now that I’m not sure I should. Oh god, I have to call TA’s parents. I could ask my mother to call TA’s parents. Where will I find their number though? Have I cried yet? I don’t think so. Will I sell the flat and spend the rest of my life rocking silently in my girlhood bedroom being looked after by my ageing parents? Perhaps.
I climbed the stairs for real and remembered that pilots do so many emergency landings, take offs and other anomalies in the simulator that if the worst does ever happen the training just takes over. I opened the front door and heard the familiar soundtrack of Neverwinter Nights coming from the living room. I walked in and TA was at his desk playing on the computer – he’s so tired after many nights of broken sleep and many years of broken dreams and ambitions and he looks as though he's carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Today especially, I’m so incredibly happy to see him, but terribly sad to see him looking like this. I can’t do anything to help except hold him in my arms and stroke his hair.
I went into the kitchen, took off my rucksack and made myself an iced coffee. I cooked dinner, popping in to talk to TA, listened to the radio and tried to decompress from the day. At one point I said to TA please, please don’t ever commit suicide – I couldn’t bear the thought of having to tell your family. He looked at me quizzically and said that he wouldn’t – admitting that putting me in the role of bearer of the worst news would be rather selfish. I returned to the kitchen only half reassured.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

insert your own leg joke here
I would think of a puntastic headline, but my heart's not in it. My dad has been sick for nearly two weeks now - laid up with the worst case of cellulitis he's ever had (and he's had a fair few). Standing and walking are agony and he's thoroughly miserable, bored and depressed. He's told work that he'll never go back to do another 12-hour stand-in shift; he's retired for good now (he's 74). He feels old, tired and useless. It sounds as though his masculinity is draining out of him. Mum is perky and patronising (after all, it's not as though he's been hospitalised for a week so that a surgeon can untangle his deformed multiple urethras, is it?) and I'm stuck at the end of the phone not knowing what to say. I sent a care parcel of DVDs and am hoping that the super-strength antibiotics kick in soon.
Meanwhile, back at the badger ranch: work is dull (I'm working on changing this, but nothing has happened yet); TA has hit a bleak patch; I've got to book a trip to the PR mothership for next month...and, well, things are just ticking over. I'm fine, but all around me plates are precariously spinning.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

word perfect
It’s not just me, is it? Certain times and certain people seem to bring out the neologist in me. Most words just get new or more nuanced meanings, but some are completely and utterly new. Moogie, for example. If you ever overhear a couple discussing the lady’s moogie you’ll know it’s us – feel free to interrupt and say hello.
Now, I can tell you that to us the word moogie so obviously encapsulates the thing itself that I find it hard to remember that other people do not use this word or understand its meaning. So, I often – more often that you might imagine – almost mention my moogie to other people. The few people I have shared “moogie” with tell me that to them it sounds like it will describe something entirely different.
Distressingly, the charger/adapter for my moogie went missing from my desk following an office move and I was distraught. I barely managed to say the well-understood phrase instead of “moogie” when explaining shamefacedly to the IT boys what item of personal electronics might have got mixed up with the official supplies.

Monday, August 14, 2006

deal or no deal
In the darkness, a bellowing voice echoed outside. I didn’t wake enough to make out what he was saying, but luckily TA did.
Man shouting into his phone: I want some crack. Nah, I’m gonna smoke it. Yeah. Um, I’ll be there in ahbat three minutes. Yeah. Yeah. No, I'm walking. Oh. I hope no one’s listening…

Sunday, August 13, 2006

plug
That thing about writing well on any topic, even the challenging ones? Well, it's achieved here. She's my latest crush.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

five
It was a week or so ago that we turned five and I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. I thought I’d jump straight in but hesitated, wanted to be certain that I could get it right; much like I was five years ago.
I was sitting in a north London pub opposite you. I gave myself a stern talking to – be sure: be sure before you drink any more and certainty becomes proportional to blood-alcohol levels. So, perhaps your recollections of me being stony faced and silent aren’t too far from the truth. You see I had already half fallen for you, as silly as I knew that was. I don’t talk on the phone easily to people I don’t know well, yet we talked for hours. I don’t like staying up late on a school night, but I gladly talked to you until the Cinderella hour. I needed to burst my bubble. I needed to wake up from my dream, I told myself. I needed to meet you. So I stared at you intently, weighed every word you said, looked for cracks.
And then? Well, somewhere between the second and third pint I relaxed and decided to just ride the wave. The play we saw was beyond strange and the acting was terrible. Oddly, that helped us make the date a success, I think. And when it was over and neither of us wanted the date to be over so we went for dinner.
Your misstep of choosing a chain restaurant was swiftly followed by mine – filling my own wine glass to the brim, remembering my manners (such as they were) and filling yours until the wine spilt. Somehow these mishaps were endearing. In fact, months later, you told me it was then that you were sure about me. I relaxed.
We got a minicab, but the driver had no clue where he was going and in the muddle I realised we were closer to my house than yours and so it was that the evening continued into morning – with tumblers full of Black Label Smirnoff that we both had the wisdom to leave undrunk. Wrapped in your arms, I slept fitfully until it was time to head to work.
E-mail followed during the day as I knew it would, never fearing that kissing you goodbye on the Bakerloo line train would be our last kiss. I returned home that evening to discover your silver chain and pendants wrapped around my bedpost. But I had only the faintest idea that your fingers were already entwined around my heart.
We look young in the photos taken just a month or two later on the Isle of Wight. Facing the camera head on we already seem so certain. I know I was. Of course life or fate or whatever you want to call it had some nasty surprises for us. It hasn’t been easy, has it? But I wouldn’t swap any of it for not having met you.
Here’s to reaching double figures.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

sauce
I took creative writing classes at university – I have a lot to thank that class for, possibly more than I can articulate. I met American K in the writing class; I learnt more about literature in writing class than I did in a number of literature-specific classes; I learnt more about myself than I had ever done in my mother’s attempts at ‘therapy’; I read a wide variety of other students’ writing; I interacted with a number of people whose cultures and experiences were completely different to my own; and I met Corpse Girl.
Corpse Girl wore a chocolate brown puffa jacket and had long, brown, drowned-Ophelia lank hair. She wore pale foundation on her round face. Corpse Girl really tried hard, I believe she aspired to Victorian heroinehood, she was clever and intelligent, but she was constrained by conventionality and a lack of creativity.
Corpse Girl was ahead of me when I went to collect my writing portfolio from the essay return box. I smiled at her and found my portfolio in the pile. Opening the page I sighed with relief – I had a very high 2:1. Corpse Girl sidled over; she too had got a good grade. She informed me that another girl, Carolina, had got an unprecedented double first. Corpse Girl had read Carolina’s portfolio on the sly. With pursed lips she waspishly said, “She wrote about reaching orgasm. If that’s what you need to get a double first then I’m never going to get one.”
Aside from the shocking breach in etiquette, I was astonished by Corpse Girl’s blindness to quality. Carolina deserved her double first. She wrote with a rare directness and passion about many difficult subjects, not just orgasm, infusing the reader with beauty, pain and understanding.
I sometimes wish I could write about different topics. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I censor myself to save me and others embarrassment. Particularly, I would never write anything intimate about TA for public consumption, which is why you won’t be reading an account of our ‘marital relations’ or any of my past adventures here.
However, I admire other women (and men) writing with honesty, humour and perhaps bravery about their sex lives. In our porn-saturated, commoditised world it is a refreshing sanity check to be able to read unmediated accounts of the relations between people. Equally though, the writing I value most is that where every word is chosen with care and accuracy – the structure adds to the intensity of the prose and not only the subject matter but the means of expression is breathtaking and makes the heart race. Frankly, blogging does not often lend itself to this purity of expression married to devotion to craft. I tend to have higher hopes for novels. I wish someone would find Carolina and offer her a publishing deal.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

paper cut
I left the weekend papers behind for dad to read if he wanted to. Turns out he did as last night on the phone he asked me if I had read the Observer article on one man's search for his birth mother. Dad, quite hesitantly, wanted to know what I thought of it.
Where to start?
The temptation is to think because something is true for me it is true for everyone who is like me - I try to avoid this sweeping generalisation. My experience of adoption and my feelings about it are different to my brother's and we were adopted by more or less the same people (recognising that the parents he had were different people in some ways to the parents I had). Therefore, the likelihood is that, for all that there may be some similarities between adopted people, listening to other people's adoption stories with an expectation of identification or mirroring is only going to result in a feeling of alienation.
There were no parallels between my feelings/experience and his. I think dad was relieved to hear this! To be honest - and I am willing to imagine that this might be the result of the way the extracts were taken out of the context of the book as a whole - I thought him a self-ignorant, self-centred idiot. He combined a quite astonishing lack of self-awareness (or inability to recognise/reassess his motivations) with a breathtaking lack of empathy. And here I admit that my own empathetic abilities leave a lot to be desired.
Certain aspects of his story had me shaking my head with astonishment. Why on earth he thought adopted people - as a group - are drawn to other adopted people rather than wondering why it was he seemed to be drawn to adopted people (or even perhaps discounting the whole thing as coincidence), for example. I know lots of adopted people, I might hypothesise that I am drawn to them - if it weren't for the blindingly obvious fact that there are lots of adopted people around and that - if you say "I'm adopted" usually someone in the room will say either "me too" or "so's my cousin/friend/uncle/wife". The comparison I made to dad was that I come from a Catholic family, TA comes from a Catholic family. Although this is an interesting frame of common reference it does not have any bearing on why we are together. Those of us who have Catholic families are not necessarily drawn to each other because of it.
I could go on and on - and in fact I did rant rather on the phone last night - but I'll spare you.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

sand and sandals
On Friday I walked out to the cliff, along the beach, through three villages, up over Brading downs, through another two villages, past my old high school and was home in time for lunch. Thus fortified, I persuaded my father to go for a little stroll with me through a nearby wood (and up a steep hill). We stopped off on the way home - via a deliberate detour - to sample the delights of the Minghella ice cream van. I had an oriental ginger cornet (one doesn't hear those words often enough, does one?)
Following an afternoon nap and a rather spiffing dinner, I set forth to my friend's house. I've known A since the first day of primary school and was looking forward to spending some quality time with her and her overner friends. A was anxious that the grockles experience a true Isle of Wight night out and, despite her best efforts, they did!
We started by the pier with the weary travellers succumbing to the delights of a Wimpy. They were served by a corpulent chap who would only take one order at a time. We were there for -well, let's just say there's nothing as slow as English fast food. Then onwards! A promised her mates a drink in "a real old-man pub - literally one man and a whippet". It was, therefore, with a sense of trepidation that we approached to hear 80s hair metal being resurrected by a man with a voice flatter than a slashed tyre. "It's karaoke!" I said in horror. A, in her infinite wisdom, thought otherwise, "It's a covers band!" And she was right. The pub was packed with an enthusiastic audience of "looks like crimewatch / dressed like baywatch" ladies and gents of a certain age (victims of the ageing effects of vodka, fags and gravity) rocking out to guns and poses anthems. We beat a hasty retreat to the - frankly chilly - beer garden and replaced conversation with frantic gulping.
The next stop was a fairly reliable bar on the High St, that said the last time I was there was during Euro 96 (or similar) and someone threw an empty pint glass at the television when England went out on penalties. I wasn't going to hold that against the place - especially when it appeared that it was packed with bronzed adonises (adoni?) decked out in fetchingly skimpy togas. Sadly, they left en masse while we were being served. I sipped possibly the worst glass of red wine I have ever had the misfortune to encounter as we huddled on a sofa. That wine must have packed a punch because, before I knew it, it was last orders!
The night was still young and - although we are not so young anymore - A was determined that the experience should continue with a visit to the Sandringham Hotel bar. A2 (A's boyfriend) was excited, "The caberet! The caberet!" A surly night porter waved us up the stairs.
The caberet was a, presumably mother and son, duo. He was playing a bontempi organ with all the smiling good cheer of Vince Clarke. We noticed that there was a suspicious wealth of noise to dearth of finger movement. Ah! The miracles of pre-programming. She was wearing a bold red dress slashed to reveal a cheeky amount of decolletage that heavily featured frills and flounces. She was dancing and singing with practised abandon and actually she was pretty good! Macy Grey song followed Keane song; rough growl followed smooth croon - we were almost won over. However, something was wrong. You know how I feel about sandals. I like sensible shoes...but even I had to admit that this was taking comfort too far. She was wearing orthopaedic sandals!
Eventually the show came to an end and so it was I waved them goodbye as they headed for a final drink and I walked towards my childhood home. You see I was worried that my sandals, linen trousers and silk camisole (in fetching muted browns) would look out of place in the Jolly Sailor, where the bouncers operate a door policy best summarised as "if you're not permatanned, you're not coming in".