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The 18th of January 1964. The day I was born. The eldest female child of a disappointed woman who had planned to bear three sons, to care for her when she grew old.
It was a terrifying birth. I was breach. Stuck tight. A flesh cork. Wedged inside her, doubled over, I panicked and shat myself, breathing in my own faeces.
When they eventually managed to haul me out, I didn’t have the breath to cry. I was blue and coughed up a cloud of baby brown bubbles.
I was arse-about-face, choking on my own shit.
Nothing much has changed.
My life is a rehearsal. Repeating patterns, learning lines, reciting scripts. Over and over, round and round.
Aged forty-two, I find myself in the same melodramatic mess played out in my twenties. The difference being that I no longer have time to reach the performance’s final scene.
My time for the spotlight has passed. I missed my cue. Don’t get me wrong; stage fright was never a problem as a child. I used to love the spotlight. Nowadays the glare accuses and stings. These aren’t tears. I have an allergy. That’s all.
And I’m still not ready for my close-up.
The wall opposite me is alive.
The bricks are uneven. Some are missing corners, like the ragged ears of a bad-tempered tomcat. Others protrude from the wall at subtle angles, as though the house behind them is inflating. It might be breathing in the warm spring air. Warming its old bones after a winter hibernation.
There are random patches of colour; a disorganised riot of reds, pinks and browns, that flush and ripple as the late afternoon shadows creep.
The tracks of grey mortar are less uniform than their maker intended, expanding and contracting with the bricks.
The wall lives.
Day Four of the “100 Words” exercise and I’m already running out of words worth preserving for future generations. Yesterday I wrote about a brick wall. It’s hard to know where I go from there.
I tried to keep a blog once, but failed dismally because I had nothing to write about. Having signed up for a creative writing course starting at the end of May, this is an inauspicious beginning.
Shit, that’s only 77 words. Even reworking that to read “seventy-seven” won’t do me any good.
Wall again? Tree? Sky?
Thank god, nearly there now. Three more and
My local power pylon experienced its nanosecond of national notoriety not so long ago.
A chemical fire erupted in the scrap yard where the pylon stands. The flames seared its high voltage cables and they melted like liquorice under a hairdryer. The cables landed on my street. And a couple of houses and a car.
When I came home that afternoon, the cables were flopped across the road like the severed tentacles of a beached giant squid. They were cordoned off with half a dozen traffic cones and a battered metal “Keep Out” sign.
We’re very law-abiding in my street.
In the beginning was Jazz Factory.
Andy went forth from Jazz Factory to join Here and Now and Planet Gong.
Griff and Rees went forth and formed Crowforce with Count.
Count went forth to found Three On A Meathook, Dogburster, The Filthiest People Alive, Oriental Yum Yum, Disciples of Solid Sound, Obelisk Builders of Old and Subirach.
Rees became King Razor, begetting both UK dance hits and experimental electronica.
Then King Razor became Rizlo
Griff and Rizlo formed Ultrapure with Shalini (until she accepted a development deal with EMI).
Griff begat Kamikaze Records with Matt.
Matt formed Tex La Homa.
Mrs Bailey came to my flat for the job interview. Tendrils of tweedy disapproval preceded her as I after you’d her inside (although she had already marched ahead).
“Of course” she sniffed as we reached the lounge, “I prefer to clean more prestigious properties on Evening Hill. Such wonderful vistas over the harbour and marina.”
I was meant to notice her eyes dart sideways to the window, where my panoramic view of the scrap yard on the skyline was interrupted only by a pylon.
“Still” she stiffened, squaring her shoulders, “times are as they are. I shall start on Thursday.”
The pigeon perched in the cliff gorse as though imagining itself to be a significant character in a Hemingway novel. It gazed into the horizon, seeing more than the waves and clouds apparent to passers-by on their Sunday constitutional to the pier.
Gulls wheeled and danced in the gusty air, skimming the sea, calling out for more fish and a faster chase.
Runny-nosed children in winter coats played catch with the breakers, occasionally disappearing into tears as a slow retreat resulted in swamped wellingtons and sodden socks.
The pigeon fluffed its feathers against the cold and settled down to wait.
Who you are: Five of Cups reversed. Beginning a process of recovery.
A difficulty: Knight of Cups. Dreams conflict with everyday life.
Energy for this reading: Death. End of something burdensome or meaningless.
Physical occurrence: Chariot reversed. Weakening will, a situation out of control.
Recent past: Magician reversed. Weakness, suppressed energy. Lacking will. Confused purpose.
Near future: Moon. Instinct, wildness. Imagination enriching life.
House and home: Six of Cups reversed. Looking ahead. Stripping away illusions.
Hopes and fears: Three of Pentacles reversed. Mediocrity.
The unexpected: King of Cups reversed. Self-expression before responsibility.
The inevitable: Fool reversed. Failure to follow instincts.
There are few smells in life worse than the symphony of disgust emitted by a regurgitated mouse on a vivarium heater.
The top notes form an acidic, throat-catching tyre fire reek.
The melody plays out as the sun-ripened decay of a two day old cat corpse, left out in warm weather.
The bass line is the gut deep thump of human vomit.
The snake responsible, meanwhile, will not care that it caused your home to stink like a gothic charnel house in high summer. It will merely sense that its stomach is empty and that it needs a good meal.
Did you see the Pink Floyd reunion onstage at Live Aid last year? Hilarious. David Gilmour looked like a bloke who'd unexpectedly met an embarrassing ex-girlfriend near the frozen peas in Sainsburys. The body language translated roughly as:
Roger Waters (grinning and mugging at Gilmour): "Hey! Wow! This is fantastic isn’t it? Hey! Yeah! It's so great to be back here again! Just like the good old days! Woohoo! What a gas eh David? Davey-Boy? Right? Dave?"
Dave Gilmour (staring into the distance): "Er... whatever [mutters]
Don't make eye contact with the loony don't make eye contact with the loony..."
I’ve had another conversation with my mother about her funeral. She’s sixty-three. Her cholesterol is high and she’s overweight. If she ate less crap and moved about, she’d be fine. Mum had a DVT five years ago. She believes that she’ll die any day now and refuses to fly.
Her mother – my grandmother - is eighty-two. She has two boyfriends, one in the UK and one in Australia. We think she’s settled on the UK one, but she has to keep flying round the world to make sure. Granny had a DVT last year. Her next flight is already booked.
My friends sometimes ask me why I fret so deeply over my snakes, as though I shouldn’t care. So I say:
If a snake bites me, then I understand that I’ve done something stupid and I deserve it. I can never figure out what I’ve done wrong when people hurt me.
My last two boyfriends lasted seven and a half years and eight and a half years, respectively. My oldest snake is Jonah. He’s nineteen and has lived with me for sixteen years. No contest there.
My snakes can never leave me. Mainly because I have them locked into vivariums.
My dinners were shared with the dog. My mum didn’t want a jealous pet in the house (they’d bought the dog two years before I arrived) so my meals were shared to avoid the appearance of favouritism.
I was a scrawny toddler.
As a result, I used to enjoy dog biscuits. My mum would hold the dog’s collar and the back of my nappy, my dad would throw a Bonio down the hall, then myself and the dog would be let loose simultaneously. The dog won for while, but eventually I had her beaten. I probably needed the extra calcium.
I’m trying to work out where I go from here. I’ve tried Egyptology, breeding snakes, poetry, computing and textile design. None of them really worked out for me.
Some people are polymaths. I think of myself as a demimath; I can engage in a wide range of different activities, but I’m pretty shit at all of them. At best, I’m mediocre at one or two.
When you hit the age of twenty, people stop asking you what you want to be when you’re grown up. They shouldn’t stop asking. After all, I’m forty-two and I still haven’t figured it out.
More than anything in my eight year life, I dreamed of finding an ichthyosaur skull.
Living in the west of Dorset, Lyme Regis was a favourite destination for school outings. In lukewarm Spring weather, my class would be ferried to the grey cliffs to spend the afternoon ferreting around for fossils.
We always found the outlines of a pterodactyl or dinosaur footprints, in the heaviest boulder. They were too big and heavy to lug back to the coach, so nobody ever believed us. We would return home, our pockets heavy with belemnites and ammonites.
I never did find that skull.
Me and cold, slippery, steep surfaces, don’t mix.
I have nothing against mountains. I’ve seen a few in my time and they’ve been lovely in their own ways.
Ireland has some mysterious, heathery, misty Celtic ones. They crash into the Atlantic with all the drama of a James Cameron epic (and with considerably more style).
Switzerland has some jagged ones, ramming up into the sky from blue-green glacial roots.
But the idea of me sliding down any of them at high velocity is horrific. If God had meant me to snowboard, he would have given me a sense of balance.
I’m throwing away my fairy wings.
I bought them at a festival. They’re a glorious confection of blues and greens. All nets, feathers and glitter. When I bought them, I was on a roll. They were frivolous and so was I.
I wore them to work for a bet. One of my managers asked “What DO you think you’re doing?” And I replied, “Making people smile – oh look, I did it again!”
They did make everyone smile for a while. But not me, not any more. They’re out of fashion.
Plus they came with a free wish that didn’t work.
“Benign Joint Hypermobility Syndrome”. Sounds harmless, doesn’t it? Well it bloody hurts.
Doctors just see pain as an annoying side effect. It’s not even useful as a diagnostic tool as it’s subjective. Different patients will report it in different ways.
But if they just dealt with the pain properly, we’d all be happier. I mean if arthritis didn’t hurt any more, who the hell would care that they had it?
Although that would mean many redundant rheumatologists, plus a cut in revenue for the drug companies. Probably best for the medical industry to tell us the pain is our problem.
Just because you put a male and female Corn Snakes together, doesn’t mean that a) they will mate, b) the female will become gravid or c) the eggs will be fertile. And that’s without the d) of whether the female will survive egg laying and e) of whether the fertile eggs will hatch.
Then we have the f) of will the hatchlings eat?
A baby snake can starve itself to death. Either they never feel hungry, or they don’t recognise food. One percent of wild Corn Snake eggs result in a hatchling that reaches adulthood. In captivity, it’s ninety-nine percent.
I must be the only person on the planet to have swum with dolphins and disliked the experience.
Dolphins are nasty fuckers. Put a hand in the wrong place and they’ll think you’re making sexual advances. Then heaven help you if you fail to mate. I hope you WILL fail to mate. Of course there was the man who dated Funghi the dolphin off the Dingle Peninsula, but the less said about that, the better.
He was prosecuted, in case you were wondering. Although from what I’ve seen, he was lucky not to have ended up like John Wayne Bobbett.
The cherry tree outside my window started to blossom today. This is the second year that I’ve sat here, watching the sky turn from grey to blue. Watching the tree turn from brown to pink. Watching the clouds go by, and the world go by, and waiting for everything to be better.
During the Spring, the magpies come to pick about in the buds for bugs and beetles. During the Summer, they hide in the leaves, waiting to torment the local cats. In Autumn, they sit in the branches and stare back at me. Through the Winter, they ignore me.
I was playing “Zoo Keeper” yesterday and something happened.
For those of you who don’t know it, this is a computer game that involves recapturing escaped animals. A simple enough premise on which I can waste many hours.
Part of the game myth is that the character of the zoo keeper is in a permanent bad mood. Last night I found out why.
My game was interrupted by a story. The zoo keeper started the zoo and devoted his life to it. Then his wife died, leaving him a bitter and twisted individual.
Why did I need to know that?
My physiotherapist reckons that my back aches because I’ve started to work more.
Wanna know what I think? I think my back aches because once a week, a tracksuit-clad Valkyrie pokes around my spine, finds the part that hurts most, then sticks her thumbs in it and pushes down with all her weight for five minutes.
Perhaps I’m jumping to wild conclusions here. I could be putting two and two together and making squid. But I have a hunch that my ongoing pain is nothing to do with an additional hour and a half a week spent in the office.
And another thing about dolphins. They feel unpleasant.
They feel like wet wellington boots or the type of rubber material that inflatable dinghies are made from. What right does any animal have, to feel like a man-made substance? And what the hell is a mammal doing larking about in the sea anway?
They could at least have the plain common or garden decency to have the same slimy quality as fish. But no. They actually manage to feel dry even though they’re wet. That simply cannot be right.
Bloody dolphins and their free-spirited fun. They think they’re so damn clever.
My Nintendog seems to be depressed.
I feed him, walk him, wash and brush him. I’ve taught him a variety of tricks and told him he’s a good boy. He’s been on several long walks each day. He’ll occasionally eat a banana peel or scrap with another puppy, but he seemed OK to me.
Then today I powered on my game console and he just ignored me. I threw a rubber bone and two types of ball. I blew bubbles at him, played him a music box and gave him every trick command.
Even my virtual dog hates me.
I’ve been swapping stilted emails with an ex-boyfriend. You know how it is. Trying to remain cordial whilst not wanting to re-open old wounds.
So I asked him whether his pregnant wife had been coping with morning sickness. His reply?
“I don’t know. I leave for work hours before she gets up.”
So what’s that about? Monday to Friday he doesn’t ask and at weekends he just ignores the retching noises coming from the bathroom?
The ability of some people to remain detached from situations, never ceases to amaze me. Pity the poor kid at the end of it all.
Franz Kafka said something like “The point of life, is that it stops.” He nicked the idea from Socrates, but all philosophy is a form of recycling.
It may help us to remember that life is going to stop sometime, so we ought to shake our tail feathers a bit more.
I came to terms with life’s finite nature, when I was seven. I watched a film called “Green for Danger” and had hysterics for two days at the thought that I was – one day – going to die.
In later life, I discovered that the film is an Ealing Comedy.
I’m waiting for one of my Corn Snakes to lay eggs. The same sort of waiting that I’ve performed over her for the last two years.
She exhibits all the signs of being on the verge of laying – going off her food, settling into a laying box and shedding – and then fails to lay. She sheds, exits the box and eats the first meal put in front of her.
If there is a reptilian equivalent of “ner-ner-ne-ner-ner”, then this is what I have been receiving for the last two years.
Still, I live in hope. She’s in the box again.
And another thing about dolphins. They’re sly, vicious little beggars.
There are a wild pod of dolphins at Monkey Mia in Australia. Tourists wade into the shallow waters and the dolphins come inshore to be fed fishy treats supplied by the local conservation officers.
The dolphins figured out that if you nipped the tourists’ ankles, they’d drop the fish sharpish and bugger off out of the water. Thus leaving the dolphins free to scoff the goodies at their leisure, without all that tedious interaction nonsense.
Devious. Nasty. Dolphins. If the wretched creatures ever evolve opposable thumbs, humanity is in trouble.
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