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I hand you bread, you take the butter. I give you red, you say it's blue. I say we're close almost like brothers, you say we've always felt like two. I ask for love, you give me hassle. I want for laughter you hand me shit. I say that you really should be kinder. You say that I was asking for it. I want to sleep, you rap your saucepans. I cover my ears, you drill right through. I say I'm leaving, pack my bags. You pack your own and come along too. I cannot think what else to do.
My sister has been tormenting me for years with her skreeky fingernails. It's her little ritual. She cuts them on Sundays and chooses a different room in the house each time. She leaves the trimmings in a little pile somewhere where you don't immediately see them - so you kind of stumble upon them when you least expect to. It's a type of voodoo, I think, because I can't just dismiss it. I feel as if there is some sort of jinx being put on me, as if their presence is a way of pointing a finger at me, judging me.
It's done. I've been so excited about this writing course but have been dithering and procrastinating about sending the email out. I'm worried that others won't share my enthusiasm. The email has been in my drafts box ready to go for days, but this evening I clicked on "send" and it is now winging its way to the chosen hopefuls. Nothing to do now but sit back and see who will be joining me on this journey. If no one signs up, I will still go and will sit there writing on my own, because I am committed to this.
I am doing research for the writing course I am planning and I come across details of a pigeon experiment which appears to indicate that pigeons are superstitious: "One pigeon was making turns in its cage, another would swing its head in a pendulum motion ...in an attempt to receive food from a dispenser, even though the dispenser had already been programmed to release food at set time intervals". This really tickles me and I start wondering what other superstitions pigeons might have. I'm particularly wondering what pigeons think will happen if they step on a crack in the pavement.
Sunday starts with promise. I fill the morning with creative thinking, daydreaming and planning. By the time I've got up, showered and started the day properly, it is nearly lunchtime and panic sets in. I had wanted to clear the conservatory, empty the shelves, dump the clutter, sort the paperwork, plant out the seedlings. The phone rings. E has changed her plans and caught the earlier train home instead. I leave to collect her from the station. Suddenly the long afternoon has been sliced in two and the two halves don't feel nearly as useful as the whole afternoon did.
I work late again tonight. I know the family misses me at dinner and they are pleased when I get home. As I pull up outside the house, the curtain pulls back and the kids are looking out of the window and waving at me. It makes me laugh to see two teenagers behaving like toddlers. I hold up the milk I had bought and point to it. They give a little clap in the house. I hold up the biscuits I bought. They clap harder. Then I point to myself and they clap their hands like two trained seals.
I stop to buy cakes for the team for my last meeting with them. I am prepared for a regular meeting but soon get an inkling that something is up. The head of service says some nice stuff about me - which is unexpected. Halfway through the meeting they do a presentation and I feel awkward to be centre of attention but also really touched by their generosity and warm thoughts. G makes a speech which is so lovely. I mutter something in return and open my gifts and card. Then the meeting resumes and I get back to taking notes.
She was such a busy person and whenever you were around her, she never really relaxed. You could feel the busy-ness but it was a manufactured thing. It always felt as if her brain was churning on the next idea. She was kind and thoughtful but could also be impatient and she found it hard to hide that. She was passionate about so many things and her passion sometimes came across as aggression because she would raise her voice and become very animated when she felt strongly enough about her subject. It really was time for her to go.
Damn! but I'm good at this. I weave through the obstacles on my roller blades. I leap over walls and glide down bannisters, the rub of the wheels against the metal making sparks fly. I lean into speed wobbles and feel the minute tremble of a miss-glide and am able to nudge my whole body into a miniscule correction. People stand aside when I approach at speed, and watch in awe as I sail past. I leave them spinning in my wake. When I slow to a stop, it is slowly and gently, a leisurely roll that runs out.
I decide to dump the work I brought home with me. It makes no difference if I leave it for another day, does it? There is lots to do to get the house ready for my sister's visit. So I get cracking and finish just in time to head off to the station, park up and trot across the footbridge to Ashford International and into the domestic terminal to meet C from London. Then back across to the International to meet the Eurostar. It's always lovely to see my sister and good to have my lovely girl back from uni.
I wish I could switch off and enjoy the time we have together but I am finding it hard not to stress out about everything that needs to get done at work before I leave. It is so stupid. I cannot relax and I'm aware that I am only half in the moment which is unfair to everyone. Even when I'm asleep, I suddenly wake in a panic. I've had to invent new ways of getting back to sleep. I now do the three consecutive letters of the alphabet words... AraBiC, BaCkeD, DEaF, FiGHt,GusHIng, HIJab and stuck on IJK.
I met her on my usual website. We emailed a while.I have learned to be patient. I sent her a picture of myself fifteen years younger on the beach, tanned, slim. She sent a black and white photo of her standing at a railing near a waterfall, looking over her shoulder and smiling. I tell her I like the same things as her: holidays, music, partying, walking and nights in watching movies. The internet gives me whatever information I need to convince her. We finally arrange to meet and I wait at the restaurant. The bitch doesn't show up.
The minute I saw him, I could tell it was him from the hat. God, did I remember that hat. We had been wandering through Spitalfields market in June 2009 after an afternoon in the pub. He had wept during lunch and I had told him she wasn't worth it, that he should move on. He said I was right, that it was time for change and as we passed a hat stall he brazenly picked up the hat, put it on his head and carried on walking. Now here he was again, weaving through the traffic in his hat.
The fly hits the window in the same spot every time. I have watched it all afternoon. Bzz thlik bzz thlik. It makes no sense for it to stay in the tiny area. Two inches to its left is an open window. I have confined myself to the room so I can write. I have spent the hours reading and re-reading the first chapter of my book. I know it's not working but I cannot bear to turn my back on all that work. I'm hoping a little tweak will finally get me there. Bzz thlik. Bzz thlik.Thlik.
I have never been much of a runner but I ran that day. The pebbles on the beach rolled under each step and the sound of their crunching was reassuring. I leapt the weathered breakwaters as they appeared. I didn't have time to smell the seaweed and the sewage. I was moving too fast to acknowledge the breeze or to feel the sun on my head. My chest ached with each heaving breath, my mouth was dry, my eyes stung. But the further away I got from my mother, the stench and the shit-smeared walls, the lighter I became.
My purse is red. It has 8 credit card pockets with my NI card in the see-through pocket. I've three loyalty cards, two debit cards and one very full credit card. Inside there's an envelope with two small swirly shells I collected on Robben Island, a large button and the little book that E made for me for mother's day - when she was so ill in hospital with MRSA. I have £65 (notes) and £10.51 (change). I have more cards and receipts in the other pockets and a list of E's dizzy spells for our next doctor's visit.
Oh, the day just slithers into the night and I feel as if I am wasting time when not actively engaged in some hard work. There is washing to be done, and cleaning and filing. Phone calls to make and things to sort. And I have spent all day chatting, lolling, eating, drinking tea and thinking, thinking, thinking. I wanted to paint, write, draw, play scrabble. I wanted to be creative and sparkly. I fizzled out by 11pm, Like a firework that started off with the promise of some amazing display but which doesn't quite get off the ground. Mmm.
The water is pouring from everywhere when I get home. I first hear it when I put the key in the lock and wonder if I left the television on. Then I realise my feet are wet and water is pouring underneath the door. When I open the door, the force hits me, knee deep and cold and after the initial surge, things start to float past me: papers, letters, magazines, the pillows from the sofa. I'm trying to think where the tap is so I can turn it off, when the cat struggles past, furiously paddling, bedraggled and panicky.
Yellow egg yolk, deep and rich trickling down the edges of my burger and soaking into the bread. Yello dust on the inside of a lily, speckly and enticing. Yellow urine when you haven't drunk enough in the day. Yellow syrup - grenadine flavour - drizzled artistically over the cheesecake. Delicious yellow shapes in the stained glass window. Yellow bear. Yellow ribbon round the old oak tree. Yellow sunshine striping the ripples in the water. Yellow banana shamed by its black spots. Yellow honeycomb dripping. Yellow pepper - shiny and sweet. Yellow snot. Yellow pages.Old yella. Yellow cowardy custard. Yellow, yellow, yellow.
It's my first day. While walking to my new office, I have a sense of deja vu and realise the feeling is the nervous anticipation of my first job at the bookshop twenty five years ago and of all the new jobs I have started in between. Because I am anxious, my senses are heightened and I take in more than I normally would: the new location (paved streets, shops, others making their way to work), the sounds in the street (delivery vans reversing, cathedral bell chiming on the quarter hour, market traders laughing)and the weather (sunny but cool).
My second day in the job and I am left to it. I struggle with basic tasks like answering the phone and printing labels. I find it hard to concentrate and I check things over and over to make sure they're right. I attend a team meeting and am briefed on the many tasks that lie ahead of me. I feel overwhelmed, sick and inadequate. Lunchtime is excruciating. I long to be back at my old job with the familiarity of the people, the place, the routines. I leave work emotionally and physically drained and never wanting to go back.
Things I saw during my day: two police cars and four police officers dealing with a runaway shetland pony; a huge room with a long meeting table in it and people I didn't know; torrential rain; a lot of stained glass windows; a pile of paperwork; a woman shouting at her elderly mother; an ambulance and fire engine parked in the town centre; three homeless men, drinking and swearing; someone remotely connecting to my computer to try and fix it; a defensive man in the meeting who avoided telling us who he was; a puddle in the carpark; my family.
It's seven o'clock.I have been awake for an hour and a half. I've had a cup of tea and I've checked through some paperwork. I've had a stupid argument about cloud computing. I've recycled. I've fluffed up the sofas and wiped down surfaces. I washed the dishes that the kids should have done last night. I talked about things that need doing urgently. I made plans for the weekend: an early start on Saturday to get down to the school in time for the opening ceremony at 7.45 and an even earlier start of Sunday for the bootfair.
The river bed was dry. It took us awhile to find the exact spot. At first we were too far downriver and had to retrace our steps. When we found the zig-zag path and the leaning tree we knew we were near. The land was barer and the silence in the air was drowned out by the heartbeat in my ears. When we broke through the clearing, I slumped at the point where the bank ended and river had begun and relived your hand slipping from mine before you vanished in the raging torrent that the river had been.
She doesn't remember much about her wedding day except that she was really, really happy and that her mouth ached the next day from all the smiling. She remembers feeling nervous, of smiling at her father and the vicar as she stood at the door to the chapel. She remembers seeing all the people in the pews as she walked down the familiar aisle and she felt very special. She loved the fact that he took her hand at some point and squeezed their code for "I love you", which none of the guests could see. She loved him too.
We didn't pay too much attention to the information for the cache. I remembered something about orchards, meadows and hidden pipes. That was what we looked for. We were struggling to find it, so stopped for a while on a little wooden bridge in the shade to see if we could access the website to check the info. We had no luck accessing the browser so admitted defeat and headed home. It turns out the meadow and orchard were correct but the pipe belonged to a completely different cache. The revealed clue told us the cache was under the bridge.
The bees droned in over his head while he was busy at the bottom of the garden. This caused him to run in a panic up to the house, yelling, "bees, bees, shut all the windows!" So we did, and then watched from the conservatory as they buzzed around for ages until one by one, they disappeared through a gap in the compost bin lid. When we phoned the bee man, he laughed and said they were no danger as they would have already eaten and would not have been bothered with humans. They had better things to do. Buzz.
I have grown rather fond of the bees over the last couple of days and felt blessed they'd chosen my compost bin. The bee man is soft spoken and friendly. He dons his gear which is a cross between a truly awful bridesmaid's outfit and baggy cricket whites. He ensures no part of him is exposed. We have to stay indoors. Afterwards he tells us that was quite some honeycomb. He takes the box to his car and puts up a sign, "Bees in Transit". I start to imagine all sorts of scenarios involving bumps in the road and accidents.
I will not be going on strike tomorrow. I will not march down the street protesting about my pension. I will not make a banner saying, "What do we want? David's pension. When do we want it? We want it now". I will not chant with fellow marchers, will not raise my fist and sneer into the camera, I will not paint my face or daub it with provocative words. I will not shut down my workplace and leave others to deal with the consequences. My life has changed, oh, but my heart is at the front of the procession.
The way you have folded is amazing. You bend is strange places, and parts of you lie flat against other parts of you. The creases vary. Some are imperfect, some are crisp. One side of you lifts gently in a breeze that is coming through the open window, a corner waving gently. when I pull you to me and slowly unfold you, I feel such anticipation. I have forgotten how you looked before and with each unfolding, I discover the hidden messages and secrets that lie at your heart. I press and smooth you flat and marvel at your unfoldedness.
The Tip Jar