80. Pick n Mix

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I’m helping my friend pack up her house. I said I didn’t want to help her on the day of the actual move, because it’s too stressful, and everyone ends up arguing because they’re bone tired. It’s the same reason I gave when I didn’t want to go to Ikea with her. Everyone knows someone whose had an argument in Ikea. Someone I know had a theory that they sell you the dream and slowly draw you in. That’s why it’s so cheap. Before you realise it, you’re in a giant warehouse queue wondering if all of these boxes will fit in the car, and there’s the dread of knowing you still have to build your own furniture.

However, I am expert packer, even if I do say so myself. I’ve done it dozens of times. I know what I’m doing, so she’s left me to it, whilst she packs up her books. I’m on kitchen duty. Bubblewrap. Check. Sellotape. Check. Boxes. Check. Parcel tape. Check. Marker pen. Check. Spray kitchen cleaner. Check. Kitchen roll. Check. May as well clean as I go.

Headphones on. 80s pop. Sleeves rolled up. A bag of chocolate eclairs. A bottle on the go, well, some gin in a small bottle of Pepsi max. It’s what Scroobius Pip drinks, so we call it a ‘Pepe Pip’.

After an hour or so of mildly repetitive and strangely satisfying packing of glassware, plates and saucepans, my friend finds me. She’s carrying a few hardback notebooks. “Check these out.” she says excitedly. “These,” she says, holding up the books, “are my teenage diaries.” She hands me one.

“Oh wow!” I exclaim. “Can I open it?” Everyone knows you don’t read someone else’s diary, no matter how tempting it is or entitled or jealous you feel.

“Sure. It’s probably all bullshit anyway. Angst about why doesn’t he like me or how my life would be totally perfect if I was thin or had a nosejob or better tits. Comparing myself to other girls. That it’s so unfair that I have to have a part-time job. That kind of self-obsessed crap.”

Over the next hour, we forget we are supposed to be packing up her new life, whilst we unpick her old one. We laugh at forgotten fashions, sympathise with emotional problems that meant everything, and remember how easy and carefree everything seemed back then.

“Oh my god.” She says “This is too real. This is what I wrote when I was nineteen.

My ideal man.

  • Cannot be bald, short or fat.
  • Has to have good teeth and be very clean.
  • Must have a sister, so I’m not the first girl he’s ever met.
  • Cannot have gone to an all-boys school, because they’re all weirdos.
  • Cannot be allergic to cats or snore.
  • Has to live near to me and have his own car. (Not share his mum’s)
  • Cannot be on the dole.Must have a full-time job or be studying for a degree in something worthy, like Medicine or something with prospects like Law or Engineering. (Not a Micky Mouse degree like Media Studies)
  • Cannot smoke.
  • Cannot have a criminal record.
  • Must love children, but cannot already have any children.
  • Must have already had a girlfriend but she can’t be a psycho stalker.
  • Cannot have been married or have lived with anyone.
  • Cannot have a female flatmate that he has already had sex with.
  • Must play an instrument or be able to cook.
  • Must love his family but not be a mummy’s boy.
  • Not be racist, sexist, homophobic or posh.
  • Must play sport or be in a band but cannot be a rugby lad, football meathead or have groupies.
  • Must be generous. People who are tight with money are also stingy in bed.

I must have passed up on so many men over the years, because they didn’t match everything on that list. Why am I so picky?” she sighs, and closes the diary.

I put my arm around her shoulder and squeeze it.

“God. If my mum had read this at the time, then I would have probably left home and never spoken to her again, god rest her soul. It would have been such a betrayal. I would have been totally mortified. And now it’s just a pile of crap. Wishful thinking about how life was going to be. I had no fucking clue did I? When did we get this old?”

“We’re not that old.” I say. We’re no spring chickens, but who wants all that aggro? Anyway, we’ve had our time. You only think you’re old because you could be the new bloke at work’s mum. Remember, he didn’t even know who Noel Gallagher was!”

“True”

“Do you think kids these days keep paper diaries any more?” I ask. “You know. I reckon they do it all online now, with private blogs. Selfies and pictures of them semi-pornstar posing naked under the pretence of being hashtag body positive, you know, that clean eating bollocks. I read that there is no market for paid porn for female pornstars aged between 22 and 30, because the market is flooded with so much amateur stuff. You’re a schoolgirl then milf”

“That’s really sad.” She says. “They’re obsessed but it’s all so fucking fake.”

“Except hipsters, obvs.” I say. “I bet they go to open mike nights where people read out their own teenage diary entries, to feel deliberately awkward. They probably type their journals on old typewriters or do that bullet journalling. Ha. I’m saying it like I even know what it is.”

“I’ve no idea.” She says. “Did I tell you about that time we were clearing out my nan’s house after she died, and we found some photographs of her posing in her big pants when she was young? I reckon that’s the equivalent of sexting these days.”

“I wouldn’t be young again now, you know. Too much choice. It’s all swiping right and hooking up. Yolo. Fomo. Whatever. I reckon most of them have never even risked asking someone out face to face without being pissed, and are too scared to put in the effort into getting to know someone in case they miss out on their perfect person who is just around the corner. I bet there’s loads of men out there who have never even seen public hair or unshaved legs on a woman. God, I sound bitter. Do I sound bitter?”

“Nah. You’ve not been deprived. You make sense. Someone should tell the young uns that the perfect person doesn’t exist and to enjoy what they’ve got while it lasts. It ain’t gonna be me though. No-one wants an al woman telling them not to have fun.”

Just then the doorbell rings.

“That’ll be the pizza.”

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62. To Absent Friends

Sometimes, no, quite often in Winter, I am the first person to walk in virgin snow down my street. I leave the house for work before most people’s alarms go off. The quiet hush of morning. Getting up and about at 4am is very different from still being up at 4am. It feels safer to walk in the dark that early/late than it does at midnight. Too soon for food; maybe not coffee though. Polite nods to the regulars. I can’t imagine chatting to anyone on my commute, or I will have to talk to them every single day for the rest of my life. Life before earbuds and mobile phones? I guess people read a book or the newspaper.

I’m not sure if acquaintances, colleagues, and family count as friends. People who are there through habit, obligation or payment, rather than choice. I do try and find some common ground with the people I spend the most time with, even if they don’t like me. I know I’m not for everyone, and that’s fine. If I know people for long enough, then we are bound to find something we dis/like something about each other. We all move between the levels of circles of trust in each other’s lives over the years. If you asked me about someone I’ve worked with for five years, I might answer, “I knew them quite well a couple of years ago, but not really so much now.” I’ll never understand how a person can be on their best behaviour at the beginning of a relationship, and expect someone else to feel ok that they’ve got to know a person who only exists in very rare circumstances.

Detective Lieutenant William Somerset in Se7en could have been talking about me when he said, “anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me finds me disagreeable.”

Those popular people who get invited to everything, go with the flow, know when to shut up and agree with the consensus, regardless of their own viewpoint. I can’t even do group socialising unless there’s an activity or it’s structured. (Craft class, theatre or meal.)

Occasionally, I bump into someone from my past and am surprised at how enthusiastically I am greeted. At the time when we knew each other, I was unaware that we were such good friends. I have no idea if I’m doing this friendship thing all wrong. I suppose the surprise of meeting again after years doesn’t give anyone the time to prepare their reaction, so it’s one way of knowing. I wonder why people don’t tell each other how much they mean to each other at the time. Kindness is free.

A little bit of rose-tinted nostalgia is nice now and then, but I like to live in the present. FB doesn’t appeal to me although I know it must work because it’s massive. The constant reminders of forgotten times. If I was feeling low, the comparison between the edited highlights of someone’s life and my mundane would be unhelpful, at the exact time when I would need friendly support the most. It would be impossible to leave, and keep that easy network of contacts. There’s only a handful of people that I like enough to make the extra effort with, so even though I might have fewer than 20 numbers in my phone, I’ve always got someone to go to the cinema with.

1. Not My First Rodeo

Hey you

This isn’t my first attempt at a blog and so far, I’ve had five twitter accounts. FB didn’t really suit me, and I have no idea what the snap apps are about. I don’t do selfies and rarely take pictures of my food. I had a theory that I was on social media way too much, so every time I got to 1000 followers or 10,000 posts, I would delete my account and do other stuff, like crafting, until I got the bug again, gave in and created myself a shiny new account.  This is, however, the first time I’ve had a WordPress account, and I follow tons of people who use it, so I guess I’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.

I’m not expecting many readers or followers. I’m not really doing this for that anyway. It’s more of a personal challenge. You know in that Scroobius Pip song, “Death of the Journalist” where he says that he meets so many people who like being writers more than they actually like writing? Well, I’m the other way round. I write ALL the time. It’s just that I don’t write anything very specific. It’s all twitter posts, diary entries, etc. No novel in progress. I’m a big letter writer. I still have penfriends. I know, a dying breed. But the love letters in the shoe box under the bed between me and him had to actually cross an ocean to reach each other. Imagine. One or two sheets of that tissue paper, taking days to reach the other side of the world, and then they get to read your mind whilst you sleep. Emails don’t quite have the same feeling.

I’ve been wondering lately whether I need to stretch myself a bit more. That’s both physically and metaphorically.  Walking to work and a bit of yoga for the physical part.  That’s a whole other post. But for now, I’ll just concentrate on this. Hell, if I can write on Twitter for hours at a time, I can give this a crack.

Thank you for visiting. Please let me know if you enjoy my ramblings! Nx