October 30, 2006

Mother's Ruin

Oh dear. I have been home again for only two days, and already there is a problem.

The problem is this: we have no gin.

Seems quite simple, does it not? Not so much a problem as a small hiccup between trips to Tesco. There is no gin, therefore we put it on the shopping list and buy it next time we go up. Then we can have gin and tonic and sit around whilst we argue about whose turn it is to cook and who failed to notice we were out of chopped tomatoes*. Huzzah. There may even be some olives, which is always nice.

However, this fails to factor in one other quite important point of note: my mother.

You see, way back in the beginning of the summer, when I moved back in, my mother was against the presence of The Gin. Gin was a bad thing: it was expensive, bad for our health, and an all round Extravagant Bad Habit. Nevertheless, as a twenty-something non-smoker and ex-caffeine addict, I felt that I was allowed an EBH; moreover that it was my positive duty as a young person to keep up one EBH; and so I fought for The Gin, and The Gin stayed. As did some tonic and half a lemon wrapped up in clingfilm in the fridge, but they were just optional extras, and you know, nice.

So The Gin entered our lives. Only for half an hour a couple of times a week, of course, but it soon became a regular fixture.

And soon after that, it was not down to me offering to make us a nice drink with my mother yielding delicately and naughtily after a little persuasion, it was my mother coming in and going ‘pour us one, go on’ and as she drank, rolling her eyes and telling me what a bad influence I was, and if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t be drinking it. But apparently, despite the way the tables have turned, I am still responsible for driving my mother to a drink once or twice a week.

And now that we have no gin, a whole new dilemma is born.

There are four possibilities:

1. Buy more gin. Allow vicious cycle and recriminations to continue, but also ensure that gin and tonics are available for weekends and the odd ‘needing a drink’ times. But then must shoulder the guilt placed upon me by mother.

2. Buy more gin with own money. Mother feels grateful to me for allowing her to share, and therefore blame is lifted from my shoulders as am doing a Good Thing. But I have very little money.

3. Don’t buy gin. Although technically sensible option, will end up going to pub to buy drinks, and as mentioned before, have very little money. And when friends come round, will have nothing to offer them but tap water and something disgusting in a 2ltr bottle in the fridge that my brother abandoned when he went off to university. Maybe even end up trying this out of desperation and dying from rabies or similar.

4. Buy something less desirable to mother. However, as proved by the ‘Baileys Is Such A Teenage Drink’ debacle of six Christmases ago, this could be difficult.

There is, of course, option five, which is waiting for my mother to crack and purchase some gin herself, unprompted by me or a shopping list. However, this could horribly backfire and still all be my fault, and moreover be a far worse offence than merely persuading her to buy the stuff in the first place. I’m not sure I want to wait for this to happen, and should it happen, it may even tip me over into teetotalism (for a month at least, until the scandal dies down.)

----------------------------------------

*In this house there are either too many cans of chopped tomatoes or not enough. It is impossible to have a satisfactory number of cans. Much research has been done, many experiments have been carried out, but it is a problem that will probably never have a solution.


August 07, 2006

Only Collect

I have a problem.

My problem is with Stuff.

Stuff, it should be noted, is not Crap. Where as Crap applies to all those objects which are, essentially useless and pointless whimsies*, Stuff applies to things that one day will have a purpose. You can identify Stuff by the arguments about said Stuff that usually result in conversations along the lines of:
'What's this?'
'That's my oogamaflip.'
'When are you ever going to use that? Chuck it.'
'But what happens when one day, I want to flip my oogas, and I haven't got my oogamaflip? What then?'

Stuff is all those things that one day, somewhere, sometime, will be used, in a universe where everyone flips oogas on a regular basis and the sun shines and money trees grow out of the ground and your hair is always, always ,shiny and flicky and gorgeous.

So, you see, Stuff and I have a somewhat precarious relationship. It needs me to pretend that one day I will use it and it will have a purpose, and I need it to pretend that one day I will be living a life where I will use it and it will have a purpose. It's co–dependency, of sorts.

And it worked, whilst I had two homes. My Stuff could be distributed evenly between the Wirral and the Leamington, and so as I moved my Useful Items back and forth with me, the ratio of Useful Items:Stuff in any place in which I was living stayed at roughly 50:50, which is about the level present in any normal household.

The problem has only arisen since I've crammed all of my Stuff into one room again, and now, by some fluke, the levels of Useful Items to Stuff are heavily unbalanced, listing somewhere around 30:70. My Stuff surrounds me, and taunts me with all the things I could, one day, do, and I dare not open my wardrobe, for fear of a rain of flippertygibbets, thingamajigs, and gadgeterijitas.

And yet, if I throw them all out, what then? It's like admitting to myself that I will never live a life that requires any of these things; that I will be living a Thoroughly Useful Life for the rest of my days, and that in itself is more terrifying than possible concussion every time I need a clean T–shirt. My Stuff gives me hope that one day, despite 9–6 and minimum pay, life will be a bit luxurious, a little frivolous and ever–so–ever–so slightly bizarre around the edges.

So the Stuff must stay, at least until I look in a mirror, see grey hair and wrinkles, and accept the fact that I will never flip an ooga again. But, to be quite honest, if I was still wrinkly and aged and living at home, I'd probably have bigger things to worry about than Stuff.

—————————————————————————————————

*Whimsies count as crap except in the case of those suffering from a Whimsy Addiction. Depending on the severity of the case, they can be classed as either Stuff or Useful Items, although you may need to prduce your medical records before a reclassification can take place.


July 01, 2006

Just me and the yellow wallpaper

I'm not used to living in a room with nothing on the walls. Apart from the blutac stains (please still give me my deposit back, Mr Landlord…), all my posters, cards and odds and ends of material and fairy lights are now all sitting in bags in the spare room, probably causing some sort of health and safety hazard. It's all very odd.

And to add to that, now that there's no wistful Pre–Raphaelite women and pretty cityscapes to distract my attention, I've been forced to contemplate just how weird the colour of my walls actually is. I'm sure they weren't like that before. I'm positive they were a lovely shade of cream, not the colour of goopy mustard.

I'm also sure my typing never used to sound so loud and echoey and ghostly, and my floorboards didn't used to creak in such an ominous way. And just now, my wardrobe door mysteriously swung open, for no good reason, in a way I've never seen it do before. I'm waiting for the lightbulb to flicker, my candle to gutter, and strange shadows to be thrown across the wall. I have this feeling this could all go horribly Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and tomorrow will see me being carted out of the house in one of those complicated straitjacket things and sent off to a Victorian madhouse.

Having said that, it's nice to think of this room as haunted by objects past. I like to think, when I leave tomorrow, I'll leave a little of me in this room (not counting the blutac stains). It's been a wonderful final year, in a wonderful house, with wonderful housemates and wonderful friends, and I couldn't have asked for more.

Hmm. I was going to actually write something about how I can't break the habit of carrying my university card around with me, despite the fact that is is now merely a useless piece of plastic with a really bad photo of me being eighteen and trying and failing to look pretty (because I was a hopeless, if hopeful, teenager) but I think this entry has descended so far into mush that there's no hope for it now.

But if ever a moment was deserving of mush, this is probably it. Thank you to everyone who has made this year what it was. I'm going to miss you all so much.


June 28, 2006

Ten Things In Our House

The Cupboard of Doom
Nobody mentioned, when we signed the house lease, that we would have a fifth housemate waiting for us. Or more specifically, waiting for me, on the night I moved in before everyone else. My mother had left me, night had fallen, and it was only then, on my own, in the dark, that I saw there was a curious door under the stairs, and decided that obviously, on my own, in the dark, it was a good idea to investigate said door. So, I pulled it gaily open, only to be confronted by a dismembered doll head splattered with a red substance gleaming evilly in the electric light.

That, readers, was, and continues to be the Barbie Head Of Doom. She sits in the window in the cupboard under the stairs, and we like to think of her as our house guardian for scaring burglars and disconcerting our house guests, kind of like a bull mastiff but pinker and more smiley. And after my first shock, I have come to feel more affectionate towards her, and will actually be sorry to bid her adieu.

My Desk
My desk is beautiful. No really, it is. It's made of real wood and everything, and has beautiful slidey drawers and a lovely solid polished top. And to think it almost wasn't mine.

You see, when we moved in, my room almost had it all. Almost. There was a bed, bookcase, dressing table and wardrobe, but no desk. And even though I tend to do most of my studying, such as it is, in/on bed, I felt I needed a surface on which to stack the books I hadn't read and to write the to do lists of things I would never actually do. So when the landlord came over, I sheepishly asked him if I could have a desk, and moreover, if he could possibly find me a desk that would fit in the niche I'd left for it.

Surprisingly, he smiled and nodded, and said 'Of course. You've made it look really nice in here – it would be a shame to have to mess it up." This was on the night he came round at 9pm with his toolbox and also rehung a door, fixed the toilet lock, and brought a new mattress for my housemate. And at 3pm the next day, he pulled up in his car with my lovely solid wood desk that fitted perfectly in the space. We love Spa Estates. Anyone looking for South Leam houses next year, go to Spa. They are lovely lovely people, and deserve your business.

Our living room ceiling
Our living room isn't really a room, as such. It only really has one wall, which is the exterior wall of our house, and which also includes our kitchen window and the sliding glass door leading to Steve's room. The other three walls are plastic conservatory windows, and as for the roof… well, it's a beautiful construction of corrugated translucent plastic.There's also a small paint–splattered basin, and a mains drainage cover which you can have hours of fun bouncing up and down on. It's surprising how quickly you get used to it, and also how useful the kitchen window is as a service hatch.

Spongebob the toilet
When you flush our downstairs toilet, it sounds like Spongebob Squarepants. That is, if you can get it to flush without sticking your hand inside the tank and tugging at random bits of the mechanism. It is also decorated with some interesting mould patterns on the walls, and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the famous biting spider discovered by Layla, and several families of woodlice. It's like Nature Corner. We're probably doing our bit for several endangered insect species, and probably creating a few exciting mutant ones as well.

The inexplicable hole in my ceiling
There has been speculation, there have been theories. There has even been brief and fruitless investigation. All that can be ascertained is that it is there, and it is now forever inexplicable.

Steve's window
Steve has a window that is not so much a window as a sliding door leading to the living room. It's quite useful as an escape route for situations when unexpected guests arrive and we're caught in the living room in pyjamas and no makeup. And in most situations, instead of cowering behind the freezer as happened on one notable occasion, we can slip silently through Steve's room and hightail it up the stairs before anyone is the wiser. Cowering behind the freezer is only useful as a last resort, and if the unexpected guest is a certain boy, it's fairly fruitless, as he will chase after you. You have been warned.

The Stairs of Intellect
Every intelligent discussion we've ever had in this house has been conducted on the stairs. Despite having four nice bedrooms and a well–appointed living room, we will still gather on the stairs. Jess sits at the top, Layla near the bottom, and I favour the turn of the stairs, as I can curl up in a corner and nod sagely. If all discussions about world politics and religion happened on a flight of stairs, I'm sure the world would be a better place for it.

The 'orchard'
Our garden is a carport, a mysterious shed, and two fruit trees. These two trees have gradually been trying to take over the house and have had to be restrained at various points over the year by rakes, brooms, and an elderly washing line. They did, however, also provide edible apples and pears and pretty pink and white blossom, so we don't hold their transgressions against them.

The ladies' bicycles
Should you ever feel like having a famous five moment in this house, fear not. We have the materials for such a jolly jape. Two lovely old ladies' bicycles, with bells that go triiiing and baskets on the handlebars. You can stow your luncheon meat and ginger beer safely away and go trolling out through the streets of South Leam in style. We have been tempted. Very tempted. What larks, eh, what larks.

The assorted nails in the picture rails
We've put them to many uses. I have a fluffy white feathered fairylit halo hanging above my bed. Layla hangs a handbag from one of hers wedged into the wall at a convenient height. And Steve wins the prize for most innovative with a halfsize guitar dangling merrily from one in his room. We know how to make the most of what we've got in this house, that we do.

Goodbye and thank you house. You have done us proud. We'll not be forgetting you.


June 12, 2006

Fake–A–Holiday

So you've finished your exams. Your bank balance is looking alarmingly red, and yet all around you people are swanning off on city breaks and jaunts to Spanish beaches whilst you sit in your room and stare at the horribly familiar hole in the ceiling that is still, even after nine months, inexplicable. You want to be one of those people tugging a little case to the airport, who have a bottle of specialty alcohol and some local colour jewellery now standing on their desks and who have albums on Facebook with their happy shiny post–exam faces obliterating landmarks. Unfortunately, your overdraft forbids this. You haven't even got a generous other half who might, possibly, even in the realms of fantasy, sweep you off on a surprise mini–break. In that sort of situation, a girl could hope. But alas, this is not to be.

But fear not, I have been trialling a solution all this week, and am pleased to announce it a success. It's very simple, when you think about it. All you have to do is bring the holiday to you.

Let me introduce you to Fake-A-HolidayTM

Spot the difference. The girl on the left is on holiday, the girl on the right isn't, but you couldn't tell, could you? Looks like a holiday, smells like a holiday, but essentially isn't a holiday for me, thereby coming with very little of the attendant confusion, expense and general hassle of the usual going–away lark. I spent the first part of this week being at home with my university friends who were 'on holiday', and the second part of this week being at university with my home friends who were also 'on holiday.'

You see, the way it works is this. If I was at home with my home friends, I wouldn't do half the things I did on the Wirral this week with my university friends. Similarly, if I was here in Leamington with my university friends, I wouldn't do half the things I did this weekend with my home friends. It's like living in a whole different place, albeit a confusing one where everyone you've ever known and all the places you've ever known suddenly seem to squish themselves together into one big gaily patterned lump.

So on the Wirral I spent more time on the beach than I would normally, and in Leamington I went to a few more bars and restaurants than I would normally, and everything seemed just a little bit different.

I suppose it did help that the sun had also decided to pretend it was on holiday this week and go a tad tropical, but I reckon the theory would still work even in our lovely normal English weather. Even if it had chucked it down for three days, I still reckon that staring at the inexplicable hole in the ceiling could have been a new and exciting activity if attempted in the right company. Try it. You'll see.

The holiday, not staring at the hole in my ceiling, although you're more than welcome to do that too if you want. It's oddly shaped, is disconcertingly dark in the middle, and is, as mentioned before, completely inexplicable. If demand is high, I may begin charging entrance. Who knows, I might even make enough to actually go on holiday.


May 21, 2006

I just thought you should know…

Revision is less mind–numbingly awful when you are wearing red shoes.

Try it. You'll see.


May 18, 2006

Much Ado About Fruit

I have a problem. There is a banana festering somewhere in my room, and I'm not sure where. I picked it out of the fruit bowl this morning because it was getting to the stage where the browny black bits were starting to outweigh the yellow, meaning to eat it for breakfast. However, after a few choice diversions including Facebook, frozen milk, spiders in the hallway and fixing my umbrella, breakfast and the banana were both forgotten. Until now, and now I can't find said banana. I have no recollection of where I might have put it down. All I know is that it is lurking somewhere, probably in my room, and probably slowly rotting as I speak.

I would quite like to eat this banana. But if I don't find it within the next few hours or so, it will have gone beyond the point where it would be decent to eat it, and much as I loathe throwing food away, I think the only place for the banana will be the bin. And even worse, if I don't find it soon, I may wake up tomorrow morning with a funny smell in the room, and find the mangled corpse of my formerly yellow friend stuffed in a desk drawer or concealed under the bed.

The fact that I don't know where it's gone is starting to bother me more than a little bit. Not least because I seem to be losing my memory, which I thought only happened once you'd had children. It won't be long before I start forgetting conversations that happened yesterday, and trailing off in the middle of sentences, and sounding even more like my mother than I do already.

On the upside, any day that contains Sigur Ros, thunderstorms, red wine and rainbows can't be bad. And even if my memory gets worse, I do have a digital camera to remind me of things like this:

Right. Now all I have to do is find that bloody banana…


May 17, 2006

For the sake of art…

I have had a revelation. A blinding flash of inspiration, that came to me this morning as I lay in bed looking at the pile of books looming on my desk, and thought I'd really rather not, thanks. And then, my gaze stretched to the wall beyond, and the picture on the wall. I could do that, I thought. That, there, is my vocation. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

Yes, that's right. I don't need my degree. Not at all. For I am going to give it all up and become a Preraphaelite model.

And here, should you still doubt the wisdom of my decision, are five good reasons why.

  1. I will get to lie about all day in bed, probably somewhere nice. And even if there is no bed, there will be many many cushions.
  2. I will never ever need to use hair straighteners ever again. I can let my hair free to curl and wave and go crazy in the way it loves to do, all the time, and I don't need to feel ashamed next to all the other eng lit girls with their perfectly straight and shiny hair in manner of Pantene advert.
  3. I can spend all my time in flowing skirts and dresses in pretty colours. No more jeans.
  4. There will probably be a a few lithe young men in strategically draped grecian robes hanging about the place. This can never be accounted a bad thing.
  5. My big hips will be attractive and desirable and will be magically transformed into things of beauty by the artist's brush, befitting goddesses and heroines of literature.

However, there are also, as with any career choice, a few downsides to consider.

  1. Loss of feeling in arms from prolonged lying around in ravishing poses.
  2. Possible pneumonia from floating about in little clothing in rivers emulating Ophelia and the Lady of Shalott etc.
  3. Problems with maintaining a vacuously attractive and wistful gaze, as as proved in my exam yesterday ('Mathematicians are reminded they may NOT take string into this exam'), I have difficulty keeping a straight face for long periods.
  4. Men staring at me for any length of time borders on being a little creepy, especially whilst I'm asleep.
  5. Wearing trailing skirts continually, whilst tempting, may pose a bit of an issue in rainy English weather. May become so waterlogged whilst, for example, buying groceries, that I can't physically move.

Hmm… Maybe I'll stick with the revision a little while longer. After all, the main thing is that I have options, I suppose.


May 14, 2006

Garbage

Which is what I'm listening to, and also what I'm reading. I'm sure it must actually be a book about something very clever relating to King Lear, but there's something wrong with my eyes that is turning all the words into bleughbleughbleughybleughsquiggle. This is not really a good sign, and I don't think will be appreciated in an exam situation either.

The next door neighbours have also been playing trance music very loudly for about forty–eight hours, which is doing something very odd to my head. Even when I leave the house, there's part of me that can still hear duhduhduhduh following me round the streets of Leamington. It's got to the point where I'm wondering if they actually stopped long ago and it's simply that the sound is still echoing round my worryingly empty skull.

I'm also starting to have conversations with my housemates that only exist in my head. Yesterday, whilst I was filling the kettle, I was sure I'd called through to the other housemate present, asked him if he wanted tea, and then told him I'd added an extra cup just for him. Only I didn't actually ever let the words cross my lips. However, he did want tea, which says something for my psychic powers (though admittedly not a lot, as nobody ever declines tea in our house).

I'm not sure what to expect of the next stage of revision madness. Talking to the Complete Works? Hearing the wasps buzzing in iambic pentameter? Hallucinating the fine figure of Shakespeare whole and real in my bedroom?

If he's lucky, and sticks around long enough, he'll probably even get a cup of tea.

Squiggle.


May 07, 2006

The Tragicomedy of Revision

Or How Love And Labour Were Both Lost

This sunny weekend I have been mostly at home, looking after my sniffly cat in my mother's absence. It was all going to be so perfect. I'd have lots of time with no distractions to revise, a cat for company and a beautiful weekend to sit out in a garden that isn't just a square of concrete with a plastic carport roof.

So I gaily packed all my books into Coco on a hot Friday morning, crawled up the M6 at 30mph most of the way, and arrived home roughly five hours later with an insect graveyard for a windscreen. I believe this is what Macbeth might have seen as a portent. (If I'd actually started revision a bit earlier I might have picked up on this.)

Because, you see, since my mother left, on Saturday morning, a somewhat uncomfortable and semi–murderous menage a trois has developed: me, my cat, and Shakespeare.

Obviously, they both need my attention. But unfortunately, due to a combination of sniffles, drool and general movement (cat) and just being too damn heavy (the Complete Works) the three of us cannot all be together at the same time, in perfect harmony. Which is a shame, as it means that whenever I have the cat on my lap, Shakespeare upbraids me from the corner, and whenever I pull out my books, the cat jumps up and threatens to drool all over the pages, which would be fine except that I don't think her markings will be significant enough to help me in an exam situation.

I can't leave them alone together, either. I've caught her sharpening her claws on Shakespeare when she thinks I'm not looking, and there was a particularly nasty attempted murder when Shakespeare took a plunge off the kitchen table, missing her by a cat's whisker (literally). I've had to start having secret assignations with Shakespeare in my bedroom when she is downstairs eating, and she gets early morning cuddles when Mr William believes I am just taking a breakfast break.

All I can hope now is that things take a turn for the better, and this plays out as a comedy, where the cat starts crossdressing as a tom, there's some jolly japes with box hedges, my mother returns in disguise with a guiter and everyone gets happily, suddenly and unsuitably married off.

However, the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if I turn up in Leamington next week wandering around in a shift, raiding the herbs and spices rack, and pressing oregano and dried bay leaves on my unlucky friends and relatives.


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