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Back to school this evening and off I went replete with a brand new pad of paper, new pens and new term optimism. Because my class is closely related to work for once I’m studying something I know a little about and I find myself answering questions. From this day onward I need to focus on reading and finding time to study, a discipline found lacking in previous forays into academia. I think I started off on the right foot by getting a haircut from my local hairdressers, ‘Jim’s Barbers’, on East Street where Charlie Chaplin spent his formative years.
Suddenly and without warning we are setting up appointments to look at homes we’re interested in buying. No more renting but full on home ownership. I think what tipped the balance was the 3am dripping on the wrong side of the wall. Not only do sounds seem 10 times louder during slumber but clothes and possessions were being drenched. As tenants we complain, someone comes to take a look for themselves, we run around removing any evidence that we own a cat, they say they’ll speak to someone else and nothing gets done. I’ve had enough of people ducking responsibility.
Birkbeck College - an illustrious seat of learning in the heart of London. A thriving mix of students drawn from all corners of the globe gathered with the collective aim of broadening their horizons… … I eventually found the classroom weaving through a myriad of corridors and stairs. Situated in the basement adjacent to the toilets ‘Understanding Social Policy’ will take place amidst damp, cracking walls, an incomplete ceiling allowing a rare view of electrics and ventilation that halts an hour into a 3 hour class. Which would be ok if we had some natural light but alas, we’re windowless.
The world moves on and other stories start headlining the news and front pages’ interest is taken elsewhere - are the horrors of September 11th diminished by time, or are we moving on constructively in an altered world? On a personal level, I fucked up today in the laundry stakes. With all the best intentions I stuck Kim’s tomato ketchup stained silk wedding robe in the washing machine. Bad move. When they say ’dry clean only’ they really mean it. It pays to heed such instructions. I was relieved to hear Kim say she loved me more than the robe.
House hunting began today. Snooping round strangers homes became acceptable and lesson no.1: judge from appearances at your peril. Walking to the place with trepidation I wondered what it is that makes some estates seem threatening? Maybe it’s the industrial surroundings with chimneys, piles of tyres and warehouses adorning the view. All preconceptions were blown out of the water soon entering the house. The small garden was overflowing with pot plants and a small pond housing some goldfish nestled at the end. For a moment, the house was immaterial. I met an old cat. 22, blind, deaf and still purring.
We think we found our future home today. Depending on your viewpoint the flat we intend to take is either a shabby, decrepit hole with a foot of water in the cellar, backing onto a graveyard or a bargain with massive potential next to a graveyard of great historical and environmental significance, with a foot of water in the cellar. Naturally enough, we’re plumping for the second option and gabbling excitedly about sanding, painting and furnishing. One of the strongest pulls is the 54 acre magical woodland of a graveyard that took our breath away as we walked wide eyed.
Couldn’t stop making plans for a house we’re not even close to owning. Flicking through furniture catalogues, DIY books and chattering about the order in which we would work on the house - I think we agreed on cleaning, painting the walls, sanding and varnishing the floorboards, moving furniture in and buying stuff as and when we have the money. For now, we’re sitting watching the first night of military action in Afghanistan so let’s get a bit of perspective here. Pictures of the night sky lit up by missiles and the stream of interviews will continue through the night.
Having heard about foreigners being possible targets for attacks in Indonesia I picked up the phone to speak to a friend who teaches English in East Java. The first attempt failed, the second attempt being slightly more successful I asked for Pete and the female voice replied ‘I don’t speak English’. Trying to avoid further confusion I thanked her for telling me she couldn’t speak English in perfectly understandable English and put the phone down. I am sure Pete is just fine but I need to speak to him to be sure so I was left with several unanswered questions.
My highly esteemed lecturer announced yesterday the longest anyone should work in a caring service is about 5 years before taking a long break or doing something else. People who stay longer are considered ‘lifers’ and more at risk than the people they are looking after due to the relentless stress of such work, leading to relationship breakdowns and depression related to emotional and financial burdens. This all sounded very familiar to me and here I am nearing my 5th year in the care sector. Hmm… trouble brewing? It is my sisters’ birthday today, so Happy Birthday to you Leisl.
I adopted the Mediterranean habit of taking a siesta today. The temperature outside did not warrant such behaviour, the sun was unlikely to scorch my fair skin and the only heat to speak of emanated from the stove. Its mid-October in London but why not draw from personal experience of other cultures? In justification, I was resting before my social policy class. There are fellow students who, frankly, need to relax and stop trying to single-handedly save the world. Especially the guy who was wondering what all the alcoholics and drug addicts would do without his services for an evening.
Unbelievable! My sister finally has a job. The story of Leisl is one of a cosy, undemanding existence, doted on by loving parents whose strict rules and regulations I was accustomed to mysteriously evaporated when I moved away. She’s 22 and this will be her first job, a pretty remarkable statistic by itself. Throw in the fact that she gave up work experience at University after a day because it was ‘boring’ and you get an idea of the fluffy world she lives in. It is only brotherly love which makes me her harshest critic. I’ll try and ease up.
My dog ran up the garden the other day and came back limping. A trip to the vets revealed she’d broken her foot in 3 places. She’s hobbling about on 3 legs with her fourth in plaster for 6 weeks. This event took place at my parents place, somewhere I’ve not visited for months - since I’ve been married. A fact I put down to simply being busier than anything else. I’d not even thought of visiting until Minty broke her foot - behaviour symptomatic of a son too wrapped up in his own affairs to visit his own family.
A warm October day and the humidity is unexpected. My head is heavy, thick with warmth. The resulting sluggishness is frustrating, today is one of the few days I get to spend with Kim these days. If there is any consolation it is that she feels the same which dampens our plans for a movie this evening. The weekend has not been a complete wash out, we did get to see Tindersticks and we did see a couple of flats. One with 3 bedrooms offering all sorts of potential. Fuck, I’m even sounding like an estate agent. This must stop.
The cat is playing with a toy we bought from a cat shop, not a pet shop but a cat shop, in New Hope, Pennsylvania. This town on the Delaware is easy to fall in love with, and so I did during a day there in April. A shop selling enduring cat toys and the strongest catnip our cat has ever experienced is rare indeed. New Hope appears to have everything. Half a car park had been taken over by geese protecting their young and any fool ignorantly wandering into their half was given a good dose of goose grief.
A rare evening where we don’t feel the need to go to bed and we can stay up, talk and relax in each others company. For once the partly self-imposed cycle is broken. I had a conversation today with someone today about the stress and strain of living in London. She argued that the city ensnared her and got her leading a hectic lifestyle and she didn’t have enough time to spend doing the things she wanted to do. We agreed this was a common experience, not exclusive to London but anywhere you happen to be. An organised head helps.
All we need is £3000. Not an impossible amount to save seeing as we both work full time but the desperation is palpable. Saving means waiting, putting plans on hold, shelving a dream. Well, that’s the way it is. Getting used to staying put will take some time. I did get very excited - last night I could not sleep for decorating plans but now I can just go back to thinking whatever it is I think before sleep, like listen to the Old Kent Road, the cat snoring at the foot of the bed and hold my darling Kim.
Why is it some days you wake up simply not in the mood for the day to happen? Today was such a day when all I wanted to do was stay in, ideally in bed but at the most in the flat. I’ve found that the events of the day can brighten this feeling with an interesting conversation, a chance meeting or seeing friends. Today was not one of them. Indeed, I lay in bed now wishing I had never left it. It was a day I am glad is over so my head can fix itself while I sleep.
So what’s the deal with this anthrax scare? What is going on over there in the U.S? Come to think of it, what is going on? I am used to newsreaders reporting on unemployment figures, how the price of petrol has increased 1p, why politicians disagree over reports and other everyday events which make up the news. Suddenly, planes full of people are used as missiles, others are opening letters of anthrax, ministers are being gunned down and the news coverage continues to talk of bombs, missiles and military tactics. Talk of bio-terrorism and widespread panic over anthrax is ominous.
So, we are at the beginning of something here. Our offer was accepted so if all goes according to plan Kim and I will be proud new homeowners before long. Now that would have been a laughable concept not so long ago. Life ratcheted on a few notches when I met Kim, like I’d been put on a fast track program to happiness or something. I had no idea marriage and home owning could be so fulfilling and exciting. I’m also weary of raindrops pattering gently onto the carpet and the foot of the bed throughout any night it rains.
Lazy Saturdays. Sleep, sex, feeding ungrateful geese, cooking and baking new recipes. Watching sport, playing games, making plans for the new flat. This is what weekends are all about I’m told. The bliss halts tomorrow - work beckons and so the idyll ends. I spoke to some old friends I haven’t seen for months. Little was I to know conversations would be about pregnancies, miscarriages, broken elbows and terracotta paint. Such is the rate of change that we’re going down next weekend to visit. Admittedly, I’ve been wrapped up in my own affairs to pay much attention to my friends.
In front of me in the foreground a clock radio and lamp on a small, white cupboard with the door falling off its hinges. Behind that, almost on top is an old basin with torn stickers from when it was new. 12 white tiles fill the space between the basin and a cheap, mirrored bathroom cabinet which looks uneven from here. Next to the basin is a blue plastic cup holding 6 assorted toothbrushes standing upright, the bristles facing every which way. A desk, chair, shelves, a broken wardrobe, filing cabinet and fire extinguisher also surround me in my slumber.
I skipped class today because I finished work 9 hours late. It bugs me when people simply don’t show up for work. Not just because I’m tired and want to go home but I can’t leave until someone shows up. So I finally get home just about the sort of time I should leave for my ‘Working in the Care Sector’ class. It was during the ride home I made my final decision to stay home. It also struck me as ironic that the only thing stopping me from attending this particular class was me working in the care sector.
Kim is in the other room working on a paper due in tomorrow. ‘I’m an idiot’, she cries. I let that one go - I think she’s baiting me to disturb her. I am in this room so I don’t do this. I am beginning to notice how much time we spend together. Whether that’s because we have no choice, or that we really do love each others company I don’t know. I can’t wait for our vision of the new flat to take shape, to create our home. Before I fell asleep I was thinking about installing solar panels.
I’ve been using buses more recently and subsequently succumbed to their uncanny ability to render me barely conscious. The traffic from Camden to Holborn was creeping along while the bus was warm. My head lolled against the window and sleep came quickly. Usually, when this happens I wake frequently as the bus jolts and check to see where I am. Today was different. The bus jolted same as it ever does but when, for whatever reason, I awoke my sense of disorientation was full, I’d been out cold. I now heed sound health advice so attended only half a lecture.
They say it’s the little things in life which are important. These moments of no consequence to anyone, the everyday details that get forgotten. This is an ideal forum to give such moments a sanctuary. With this spirit in mind I feel proud to elucidate a bona fide ‘important but meaningless to others moment’. I bought a bag 3 weeks ago, primarily to use for college but mostly to replace a ragged, 15 year old school bag. The strap length had been causing me problems and today I found the perfect length and have one less hassle in my life.
They must come quickly but they will only come as quick as I can think, which is not very quick at all. So I am destined to sit and wait like a patient fisherman until a thought comes along, and then another one until I feel I’ve had enough. Most thoughts I toss back in so as to keep the stocks up to regulation levels, but the better ones I keep. Thoughts that are too big must be thrown back and if they’re too small they slip through the net anyway. And that’s before we even get started on bait.
So we do our duty and visit my parents and sister. Fortunately, we also visit a couple who were having a casual relationship a few months ago, recently moved into a flat together and expect a baby in 2 months. Their relationship is still casual and they are not going to do anything silly, like get married and stay together for the sake of the kid. It was clear from this evening they are very happy with their lives and busy preparing for unexpected parenthood. Dave reacted by laying floors, installing fans, lights, painting and decorating like a whirling dervish.
I grew up in a beautiful part of the country. A place I love to re-visit every once in a while. The council recently undertook some renovations of the old groynes at the beach so I went to take a look. What used to be slimy wooden bollards stretching out a couple of hundred metres to stop the beach shifting are now impressive jetties of rock replete with walkways for couples to walk and kiss. The troubled sea is calmed and the bays created by the rocky groynes are perfect to sit by in the weak October sun with Kim.
I’m just waiting for the solicitors and estate agents to give us the go ahead so we can move. This transitional stage where I am right now is not good. Knowing we’re going to move at some point in the near future has affected the amount of housework done. In my mind I am done with this flat, I loved it, I felt completely at home, it has served its purpose and now I’m ready to move to a bigger place where we can have an office. Images of improved organisation and performance abound. My spirits are eager to move.
Throughout the flat are small but growing piles of papers, books, bills and other paraphernalia. On the few occasions I have tidied recently I find myself shifting each pile to another part of the flat. My initial hunch was that the contents of the majority of piles are Kim’s so why bother to shift piles of papers around the flat which are not my responsibility. On closer inspection a surprising number of items are mine which I have uncharacteristically left to fester. A collaborative effort might ease the burden but when all is said and done we are hopelessly lazy.
Such is the pace of life for us domestic duties have very much taken a back seat of late. Looking at my day tomorrow I get up around 10, leave for work around 2.30 which leaves 4.5 hours. I have set aside 2 hours to do college work leaving 2.5 hours for housework. This is a good theoretical model which fulfils my desire to sleep in, keeps me up to date on my studies and even allow me time to get the flat recognisable. Regardless of the inevitable diluted outcome of tomorrow I at least have something to work on.
The Tip Jar