Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Will people give up their seat for me on the bus now? (blog)

Do I look old? Don't think so. I've got those lines around my eyes but every has them, don't they? Ha ha, yes, of course, but seriously, think about it, there are people born in the ninties who look as old as I think I look, which I fear can't be possible. I was born in the seventies and people talk about the seventies like it's some kind of distant historical era these days. Am I crossing over into that stage when you don't realise that you're dressing like a teenager and your friends cringe but don't really want to say anything?
Will people take me more seriously now? They bloody well should, there has to be some benefit to the big three-o. Will I miraculously not be totally gullible now? Hmm. I'm waiting for a mature lightbulb moment when all the sacred grown-up knowledge of the world will be passed on to me and I'll suddenly understand politics, have an intelligent opinion about the oil crisis and be able to sew hem lines properly or something.
Right now it's 11 o'clock AM on my 30th birthday and no such lightbulb moment has occured so far so I'm feeling like a bit of a fraudulant 30-year old. I hope nobody catches me out.

To distract myself I'm going to peer in the mirror for a bit and see if I can find any grey hairs.
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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Ode to the Summer of '96

We sang Wonderwall down the pub, arms linked,
Sticky, sickly rum and coke, glass after glass chinked.
We were truly invincible, the most beautiful, the best,
that summer was a huge wave and we were riding the crest.

‘Whose turn to drive tonight?’ ‘Mum lent me her car!’
A gaggle of girls, lip gloss reflecting the stars.
We were breathlessly racing towards the rest of our lives,
terrified, exhilarated and dressed up to the nines.

Me, Julia and Andrea screamed during Euro 96,
of course England didn’t win (it must have been fixed).
In the day I worked in the bakery on Oak Green Parade,
selling Chelsea buns and pasties and counting the days.

Exam results brought the smell of the future in the air,
We were Columbus sailing off without any cares.
What if God was one of us?’ sang Joan Osbourne on MTV
and I knew the answer: Right then, God was me.


(I'm turning thirty in a frighteningly short time and have been thinking a lot about the future. '96 seems at times like yesterday and at others like a hundred millions years ago, a different person, a different planet. Peering back into my memories is like watching the film of someone else's life. Still, bizarre as it is, it feels great to take wander down memory lane and amazingly, the feeling of excitement about going off to uni and leaving home is still as fresh as ever.)
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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Drafts and Dusting (blog)

We’re having crazy weather right now in Italy. Two weeks ago it was so hot that I nearly fainted on the bus, I only managed to cool myself down by fishing two ancient Tic Tacs out of my bag and sucking on them madly. I had smugly sat on the shady side of the bus, but of course it soon swung round a bend and plunged me into the sun’s full glare. Within two minutes I had gone from English rose to limp lettuce and was awash in a pool of sweat. It was 37 degrees (that’s really high in Fahrenheit for those who aren’t familiar with centigrade) and a weather warning had been issued the day before telling old people to stay in doors or risk death-by-melting on their daily shuffle to the local shops. That morning, as I cowered in my house -bless Italian houses with their thick stone walls that keep inside cathedral cool- I could hear the elderly lady upstairs banging around with the vacuum cleaner. For the love of God, I thought, not even an official government health warning will stop the woman from cleaning.
To say that cleanliness is next to Godliness in Italy would be an understatement. Whereas Brits are more concerned about the outside of their homes, Italians will happily live in huge ugly tower blocks with pollution-stained plaster crumbling off the façade, but they are positively maniacal about the inside of their homes. White walls are de rigueur with stone tiles or wooden floor coverings. You might find the occasional rug but mention how you grew up in a house with wall-to-wall carpets and people will run away from you screaming. Carpets are, quite simply, the devil. They are accused of sucking up an inhuman quantity of dust and dirt that only the daily sweeping and moping of a tiled floor can completely eliminate. A colleague told me that when her Italian mother-in-law was sick recently, she came out of her delirious fever for a few seconds to then fall into a fit because the floor hadn’t been moped for 24 hours.
What this means is that you could eat your spag bol off the floor in most Italian homes but you couldn’t exactly describe them as cosy. In fact, the word ‘cosy’ doesn’t really have an Italian equivalent. My dictionary suggests accogliente but this is more like ‘welcoming’ or ‘warm’, it doesn’t quite catch the essence of ‘cosy’. Having said that, for most of June, July and August in Italy you’re not really interested in curling up on the sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea, you’d rather be laying naked on your cool (and immaculately clean) floor tiles, preferably with someone pouring ice cubes on your back.
Anyway, as I said, the weather right now is crazy. Dogs dissolving in the heat on the pavement in the mornings and torrential monsoon-type rain in the afternoons. This has dire consequences for a country of people who suffer the subtlest change in temperature, people who immediately crumple if exposed the slightest colpo d’aria (cold draft). In terms of danger, a colpo d’aria is second only to wall-to-wall carpets. Unfortunately, after eight years of living here I’ve lost all my British backbone and can’t get on with cleaning my home today because I caught a colpo d’aria myself yesterday and have a terrible ache in my lower back. Oh well, nobody expects a British person’s home to be that clean anyway. My neighbours always look surprised to see me (the foreign one) buying things like milk, bread and cleaning products in the local supermarket. If I tell them about my colpo d’aria attack though, we can really bond.
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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Dear Nan,

Where are you? Not in your house where
I’ve seen a fancy car there in your drive and new
curtains. Not at the church vying to make cups of tea and
slicing jammy Victoria sponge for the vicar. Not popping
to June’s for a loaf and some stamps, or down at Jan’s.
Not at bowls (‘They’re all so old,’ you used to say,
‘don’t know why I play. Last week a man died on the
bench and we didn’t realise till the end of the game.’)

Where are you? You didn’t come to my wedding.
I wanted you there. I couldn’t bear to see your empty chair.
Where? Not in the earth under a stone, cold and wondering
why we’ve all left you alone. Surely not. I’ve got so
much to tell you but it’ll have to keep. I think mum could
do with a word too, so don’t forget us, please.
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Mr Finch (a very short story)

Mr Finch was a quiet, mole-like man. His mother told him to be careful of girls as they were only ever looking for a fool to take care of them. Secretly though, he longed to be someone’s galloping knight. As it turned out, he spent much of his adult life looking after his mother and was too worn out to practice rescuing damsels.
One day after his mother's funeral when he was shuffling home from work, thinking about a tricky crossword clue, he slipped off the curb and fell hard on the pavement. A brunette with an olive green scarf swept down to help him. She smells of daffodils and morning dew, he thought, blinking up at her. They married a year later and as they rode into the sunset he held onto her tight, eyes closed and smiling.
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