Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend...

“Ingratitude is treason to mankind.” James Thomson

Friday 30 July 2010

Drink and dreams and shame.

Here I sit, full of hangover and self-loathing. Does everyone get those together or is it just me? Alcohol in regular doses can contribute to depression, but is a single dose - or overdose - of alcohol able to make you feel like you'd like to crawl under the carpet and die of embarrassment? Who knows.

As far as I know, I have done nothing to be so badly ashamed of, drunken or otherwise, or at least nothing more shaming than any socially-inept person might usually do during a night on the tiles. (If you know otherwise then please don't go out of your way to correct me.

Last night I went to see a reading by the lovely and talented Belgian Waffle in Kilburn and while it is true that I went charging up to her to introduce myself without realising that she was in the middle of a conversation with someone else, I was not actually drunk at that stage, so my embarrassment is modified by the knowledge that this was behaviour of which I was in complete cognitive control. Now that I embrace my awkwardness as just another personal flaw, I don't mind it so much. (I feel foolish for being thoughtless and goofy though. Definitely one of my social loser moments.)

I also chatted with The Harridan, who, like Mary Archer, was a vision of elegance, fragrance and radiance. And despite her assertion that she is the Typhoid Mary of vomiting bugs, I remain unmolested. For now, anyway.

I think it's only fair to state for the record that, though all three of us have asserted that we are unwashed, unkempt and socially useless, they lie! They were both beautifully washed and, um, very kempt. Gracious in company as well.

My thoughtful gesture of the evening was to try to keep my beery breath to myself during conversation, and I'm not even sure if that was a success. 

Possibly owing to the beer, plus the cheesy snack I ate before bed, I had a funny dream (she said as everyone instantly glazed over) in which I had a chaste, romantic boyfriend who wooed me with hand-holding and eyeball-gazing and caring and sharing. He resembled a rough-looking version of Robert Pattinson with imperfect teeth. (I should point out that the Twilight phenomenon has barely touched the periphery of my consciousness, and really only in two ways: the part of my brain that hates ugly pervy crap about passive girls in peril and the ubiquity of this bloke when I am perusing Mail Online. How his close facsimile ended up in my dream is a mystery.)

So in the dream, I realised that the lovely man had come home and was downstairs as I sat chastely with the in-dream boyfriend upstairs at our in-dream beach house. There were some stabs at silent Hollywood melodrama as I ran up and down the stairs hoping to prevent either of them from discovering each other, but eventually the in-dream boyfriend told me he knew about the lovely man and agreed to discreetly depart in haste. I awoke and gratefully realised it had been a dream and I hadn't cheated (however lamely) on the lovely man and, to paraphrase John and Olivia, he's the one that I want.

In this uncharacteristic spirit of gratitude, I have compiled a brief and partial list of things for which I am very grateful: Radio 4, tea, the two little dogs, modern dentistry and The River Cafe.

And you?

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Now with more eggs.

Eggs were to last weekend what drugs and violence were to Altamont - omnipresent, intrinsic and very, very destructive. To be fair, my weekend didn't involve any fatalities, but that's probably due to the absence of Hell's Angels. I also have had an egg for breakfast every morning this week and if you don't hear from me for a while I am probably in hospital. Or helplessly having a stroke on the carpet. What are you waiting for? Call an ambulance!

On Sunday, we had huge artichokes with hollandaise for dinner. That was almost a meal in itself, but then there was steak with, er hollandaise and meringues with cream and soon I will have the memory and attention span of a goldfish due to the many inevitable ministrokes. Steam engine. Werewolf. Millard Fillmore. See? It's happening already.

This is what I will be blaming for my inability to imagine anything interesting to write here.

So, what's been going on, you might ask?

There is an ongoing effort to clear the enormous shed which makes the garden look like an airfield with a hangar in the distance. Do I believe that everything that presently lives in there will fit in the tiny floor-level cupboards under the eaves in the loft? I do not. Do I think there's enough time to get the neighbours' teenagers to take up the decking so we can get and fill one of those huge garden storage box things before our shed is knocked down and/or we go on holiday? All of which has to be done in precisely that order? And the decking must not under any circumstances be touched by the lovely man, whose back was nearly broken the last time he tried to remove it, thus the summoning of the teenagers? Well, just call me Me of Little Faith.

Also, we have a handyman. He will be doing the lion's share of the shed-related things. He is a super-nice, lovely family man with good manners, very personable and always fragrant with laundry soap smells. He doesn't sleep much, and is usually up at dawn, pottering about and getting all eager to get started. Shortly after, he comes to my house.

Last time he was doing work here he and I had words - well, I had words. He is a dropper-in. He is well known for spontaneously knocking on your door at 9ish on a Saturday or Sunday morning to discuss some future project. He may have said that he will start on Wednesday, but that won't stop him from coming to drop stuff off on Monday and Tuesday. He is always early. He also likes a cup of tea and a chat.

That should separate you, dear readers, into two handy categories. Group A will be thinking, How lovely. I wish I could find a builder who doesn't stink of sweat, fags, concrete dust and last night's whiskey binge, who turns up when he says he will with his manners and polite conversation. That woman really is an Ingrate! Hmmph!

Group B will be rocking in a corner, hands on face, trembling gently, firmly headbutting the wall.

In my home, there is no unplanned early. There is no version of dropping in which is welcome or encouraged. Emergencies are different of course. By all means, if you are on fire or being chased by an angry mob, please feel free to knock. We probably wouldn't turn you away. The phone is cordless, so you won't mind calling the emergency services from the porch. Just leave it there when you're done. Good luck to you. See you on recycling day!

Why does this bother me so much? Aren't builders known for starting work early in the day? Well, yes, that is true. The thing about our handyman is that he gets earlier and earlier. I can be ready for him at the arranged hour of 8am, but at 7:50, when he rings the bell, I'll be brushing my teeth in my dressing gown. The next morning when he arrives at 7:45, I'll be naked smearing deodorant on my armpits with a toothbrush poking out of my mouth. The following morning when the door goes at 7:40 I will be peeing and apoplectic. I will be weeping tears of fury as I belt my dressing gown and descend the stairs, knowing that for the following 30 to 40 minutes - the first minutes of my waking day, minutes when I could be sleeping, drinking tea alone or staring into space - I will instead be forced to sit politely and interact with someone with whom I do not sleep or live. In other words, I will be strapping down and ball-gagging my Real Self, forcing all that early-morning lizard-brain bile down where it will bubble and fester.

In the early days, the handyman did a lot of work in our house. At times it has felt like he lived here. This was during my hibernation period, when I was settling into the house and getting used to living in a community. I may only have moved a few streets away, but my last home was a first-floor flat, with no one walking past your window, waving and chatting when you went out with the rubbish, no one ringing your bell and then looking in your windows to see if you were in.

I was simultaneously attempting to settle into domestic life with the lovely man. As lovely as he is, how easy is it going to be for two people - one on the near verge, one on the far verge of 40 - to successfully set up house together when they have both been living alone for the last 12 or so years? That's at least 24 years of combined singletude! What are the odds?

I went a little bonkers during that first year. (Maybe 18 months.) I'm better now, but for how long?

Okay, just one more quick paragraph about this. Handyman is also a crazy gossip, proudly enumerating the many faults of various neighbours, how they neglect their homes and never want to pay the going rate, etc. So having him stroll into my pestilential kitchen of an early morning gives me major agita. Finally, before you ask, yes I have asked him approximately a thousand times to please ring before he decides to drop in, and it would be great if he could arrive at 8 and not 7:30. He just doesn't listen.

So. And how are you?

Monday 19 July 2010

About myself.

I am not in a bad mood as such, but I seem to be struggling to refrain from lecturing people about their stupidity. More of an eye-rolling mood really.

I receive a mystery letter in the post. A survey. Specifically, PATIENT EXPERIENCE TEAM SATISFACTION SURVEY. A satisfaction survey from the Hounslow NHS makes me feel a little... funny.

Odd. Antsy. I find it difficult to quantify what the exact feeling is, but I know it is going to provoke careful, vicious pedantry.

NB: I want to state clearly that I do not think I am a better, more perfect person, grammatically or otherwise, than whoever composed this survey. I merely want to mock. And complain.

First of all, they have spelled my address incorrectly. Secondly, in the first paragraph, as a noun, take-up should be hyphenated, snapshot is one word and I think you mean 'disadvantaged' with a d on the end. Also, About Yourself? How about trying the word "you," as in, "About You." Figure out you vs yourself, I am begging you.

Question 5 - 'What do you consider to be your ethnicity?' contains the options 'white' or 'other white background,' along with a further variety of ill-conceived choices.

Indulge me, just for a moment. WTF?:


I can't even think of anything funny to say about this. To be clear, I find it funny, I just don't know what I can add to make it funnier. 

And finally, hilariously furious chicken-scratchings of myself. Just call me Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells. At least this should save me the trouble of filling in the bit about mental health.

I scribbled this "comment" indignantly until it dawned on me I could never send it for fear of looking like a disturbed shut-in. I'm not sure how different it is posting it here, except that this is where it apparently makes me feel good to parade things I am normally embarrassed about.


If you cast your mind back, you may remember that I mentioned a certain medical procedure that is supposed to take place. A letter was received, with a form which wants returning, via oddly-inscribed enclosed envelope.

Hi Charlie!


In the "On The Other Hand" files, in the midst of having a tantrum on the phone with my dental insurance provider due to an ongoing argument about what constitutes 'maintenance' vs 'treatment', I find out that I have paid them £600.59 and they have paid me £1440. So woo-hoo me and my fucked up teeth. I'm now not as bothered by the £81.50 I maintain they owe me. So, lemons and lemonade, etc.

And on a final technophobe note, I ask you, why is my Macbook dashboard always wrong about the weather? There is a little weather widget in my dashboard which contains vaguely seasonal weather information (summer=warm, winter=cold) which is never accurate.

Does this seem right to you?

Wednesday 7 July 2010

In which I (wo)man the barricades in a slightly jaded fashion.

Every time I see my Muji smock I think "I should throw that out." Then I put it on and wear it because, despite making me look sixteen months pregnant, it is amazingly versatile and for that reason I love it. It can be worn over leggings or jeans or pajamas. It's cool in the summer but warm with layers in the winter. It has a delightful blue and white ticking stripe which goes with everything. It doesn't bind or chafe or cling and it has a sort of classic shape, so while it is true that it is an extremely comfortable and casual garment, it is not the sort of caftan-tent that might signify you have given up all hope and shrouded yourself in preparation for burial.

Just this morning I threw it on over my minimal summer sleepwear because my dressing gown was in the wash and I prefer to avoid startling the postman with the sight of my merrily unbound bosoms. And now I feel like a Jane Austen character doing some delicate watercolours in the sunshine in a meadow. I'm pretty sure it makes me look like one too. Or Edina Monsoon.

Having read this and this and this, (thank you Invisible Woman and That's Not My Age for the food for thought) I'm feeling a bit bolshy. I used to think that Trinny and Susannah and Gok were sympathetic and understanding, acknowledging that not everyone is or can be young, tall, slim and modelly, but actually, is that all we're hoping for? Forgiveness for our grave inadequacies? Tight knickers to make us look slimmer so we don't need liposuction?

Just altering the script a little - changing thin to healthy or firm or flattering - is that enough? I would prefer the whole of this misogynistic appearance industry to please get off my back about how I look. Also, I know this undermines my argument, but I would rather look like Germaine Greer, Patti Smith, Grace Jones, Molly Parkin or Zandra Rhodes than any of the automatons proclaiming the new black.

We are all formed and twisted by patriarchy and consumerism and fear, inescapably so. Like many others, I am ambivalent and conflicted about femininity and image and appearance; I refuse to care about it and I can't help caring about it. But some women are living well in it and with it. Swearing and spitting, dancing and raging and not worrying about how it looks, or at least not letting their worries stop them.

I am an ordinary person in my middle years, slightly eccentric, more than a little lazy and I have other stuff to do than worry endlessly if I am putting forward my healthiest, firmest, most flattering self today. I  love the creativity and drama and glamour of dressing up, but now I have a chest of drawers to paint, for god's sake. And I need to buy dog food and dental floss.

And on that note, let us all look upon the awesome spectacle of Miss Grace Jones, in her smock.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Door in the middle, love.

If you happen to be a person like myself who sometimes idly watches Location Location Location of an evening, you probably won't may remember the one where a couple traipse around the countryside disagreeing on what house is acceptable for them to buy and live in. Hang on. I need to narrow it down more.

The chap is a military man if I remember, and he's quite hopeful that they can nail it down before he goes off on a mission and leaves his wife on her own for a further six months, while the wife seems determined to not be happy with any of the houses. No? I need to be more specific.

They have got the wife's mother involved, in what sort of seems like revenge on the husband for leaving her on her own too much. The mum will be living with them in her own building or annexe or compound and she's retired but very very active, and wants to find a home where she has access to a local choir, theatre, opera, rowing club, kickboxing gym, rockclimbing centre - I don't know, lots of organised social and cultural stuff that you don't normally associate with living in the country. She's also got a massive budget for her bit of the house, many and various very high standards and won't settle for anything marginal. It's proving to be a challenge to meet the needs of both the wife and the mum in anything like a reasonable timeframe.

For me, the highlight of the show is when they arrive at yet another attractive, double-fronted country property and the bloke, quietly desperate to acquire a house that meets these disparate needs, points out that this one, even at this early kerbside stage, is looking hopeful. He helpfully gestures up the walk. "Door in the middle, love."

Sometimes the lovely man and I seek something unlikely, something which may not even exist, and even beginning the search we feel less than optimistic about finding it. And some time later, there we both are, walking down a quiet street or reading the paper or filling the car with petrol and something promising appears. And whichever of us spots it first turns to the other and says, "Door in the middle, love."

Thursday 1 July 2010

In which very little is achieved.

Well, that Harridan is a wily minx, as hopped-up on the Twitter as she is, and now I'm up to my eyeballs too, twatting away - or whatever you call it - ten to the dozen. 'When is there time to do anything else?' I ask myself. Then I have a little nap.

Today the lovely man had an appointment to see a specialist, which we thought meant that a thing, like a sort of procedure, might take place, but hallelujah and hurrah, it was yet another consultation. You wouldn't want anything therapeutic to take place at a breakneck speed, providing all the relief and wellness and getting-it-all-over-with which one might desire. "I didn't get where I am today by providing timely relief from minor but uncomfortable conditions which I am suitably qualified to treat," the consultant might say in a CJ-like manner.

So that was a bit of a shame, but now we have all the looking forward to it to do for the next indeterminate period of time (ie now until kingdom come aka who knows), which is nice.

I used the remainder of the day* to tidy the house, run errands and generally try to prevent my head from exploding due to the heat, humidity and stupidity of others. First I nipped into Chiswick to get the dry cleaning. 'Nipping' is an English thing, I think? Like 'popping.' In this case I 'nipped' into Chiswick in dense traffic moving at glacial speed, slower than if I had ridden a burro, running the gauntlet of various be-motored psychopaths in thousand-degree heat. Then I 'popped' back again to collect the mothercracking credit card I had left there, tossing pound coins about me like rose petals, buying various odd denominations of parking time (80p for 30 minutes/£1.80 per hour, minimum 90p/blood from the crown of my firstborn) all over west London.

There was a problem with the cleaners' card reader, so they had taken the card reader from me and managed to coax some action from it, but they forgot to hand me back my card. Instead, they wrapped my loyalty card in receipts, which, if anyone from The Real Hustle is reading, is an adequate disguise. By the time they rang me, I was in Brook Green to pick up some expensive and pretentious Ye Olde Heritage Paint at the fancy fixtures and fittings shop. The Shoppe was out of stock, so after attempting to buy food at the world's lamest Tesco, and realising I had no cash to buy a chicken from the butcher, I took my dwindling fistsful of change back to the cleaner, collected my card and came home, three hours after I had left. I've been reclining on the chaise with the vapours ever since.

And my best news is that I may have an eBay stalker, whose aggressive attempts to make me sell stuff to her for arbitrary small amounts of money are beginning to disturb. You know how they have that "make an offer" option? She has taken that ball and run with it. My auction had no such option, but she made me an offer, then berated me for not accepting it and argued that she could buy my item in the sales (for more money) and anyway "we should end this correspondence** because we both know I'm not going to pay you what you want for your item." Forgive my paraphrasing, but I instantly deleted her scary emails and blocked her because she scared me. Yes, she even scared me through the computer.

We may not have chicken, but we have beer.

*I now am thinking continually in CJisms, as in "I didn't get where I am today by not using the remainder of the day." I accept that that may only be funny in my head.

**Uh, yes? Please?