Thursday, 27 November 2008

Let's Hear It For Nice

gratuitous pictures of badgers: extremely nice

The last few days I have caught up with friends I haven’t seen since I left New Zealand in June last year. Talking to them has cheered me up immensely. It has made me aware of all the everyday nice stuff it's so easy to overlook when you're poverty-stricken and jobless even when you can type at 67 words per minute with 100% accuracy in a test situation, surprising not only yourself but the nice lady at yet another employment agency on whose books you languish expectantly.

People being really, really pleased to see me – now that’s nice.

Having a roof over my head – that’s nice too. In fact it’s nicer than nice. I would go so far to say it’s a blessing.




Sitting in the sun today eating my lunch was nice, as was this:




All my favourite tunes in one tiny little plastic box! Nice! The gear's not flash but who cares when you can sit in the sun and eat your lunch and groove along to Shalamar!

My lunch – now that was nice. Colourful, healthy, and no cooking involved. Can’t get nicer than that.




(That’s sardines, couscous, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes and beetroot by the way. And a crispbread. A slice of bread would’ve been way too trop).

Then I had this, which was nice… very, very nice. Just a little shaky when I was trying to photograph it. The lemon was straight off Brendon’s lemon tree! How nice is that!



But this was nicer!




The ducks that waddled up Brendon’s drive – they were nice too. But possibly lost.




Te Papa, the national museum: not only is it nice, but it's just down the road (kind of) and you don't have to pay to get in. They give away the Wellington daily newspaper free (usually it's $1.40 - nice), have lots of comfortable sofas and the cloak the Hawaiian chief Kalani‘ōpu‘u gave to Captain Cook is in there!




(Which is nice for me, as I have a bit of a mini-crush on Captain Cook, but not so nice for Captain Cook as it turned out).

Remaining on the travelling theme, my flip flops - sorry, jandals - are also nice as I'm sure you'll agree. Well I love them anyway. They got me to the beach and back the other day - an eight mile stroll!



Now, please meet Bear Girls.


Flatmate presented me with this little chap the last time I saw him, as a companion for Downstairs Monkey on his antipodean travels. Downstairs Monkey thinks his new friend is nice. They are getting on very well indeed...



Very well...



Ahem...



They are clearly having a very nice time. If only I could be doing that to Flatmate: now, that would be nice.*

Let's not forget there is also a whole lot of nice right here.

Nice is great. Nice is there whether we notice it or not.

Have a nice day!





* I will own up to the hairy blue cushion but the rest of the bedding is Brendon's.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Textual Healing

I love you too honey xxx

The clouds were beautiful tonight.

A sky-wide smear of coral and violet-grey, they looked like a giant swathe of luminescent knitting.

I sat in the silence of Brendon’s front room gazing out of the window, mesmerised. Underlit by a deep golden setting sun, the clouds looked like they do from an aeroplane and for a moment I felt I was in some bizarre world turned upside down.

Brendon had taken his four year old daughter, a demanding little wench, to his mum’s for tea. I’d opted to stay home, needing the quiet time.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BK had phoned me the previous evening.

“’Ullo Weasel! How’s things?”

“All good thanks,” I’d lied.

To admit to BK you’re anything less than chipper is to invite a torrent of flaky platitude. He has no idea how to sympathise so instead spouts stuff he considers helpful. This is why I suspect him of having Asperger’s and why I generally try to tell him as little as possible.

I’d had a day from hell. I’d set out for an interview at yet another employment agency, and missed the train into town by a whisker. There was a half an hour wait for the next train. On the next train, the guard looked at me with undisguised scorn when I asked him if I could pay for my ticket by debit card, and made me get off at the next station.

Two weeks ago,’ I’d felt like saying, ‘I was somewhere where you CAN buy a ticket on a train with a debit card, and they have electronic ticket machines at unmanned stations, so don’t look at me like that you bearded wanker.’

I got off at the next station and bought a ticket, waited another half hour for the next train and by the time I got to the employment agency I was very late and very dishevelled.

The registration process at the agency took three and a half hours and at the end of it all they could offer me was a four day contract doing a one-off mail merge for a company way across town.

“It’s very quiet out there at the moment,” the agency lady explained.

No shit. I would normally be picking and choosing my assignments by now.

When I finished at the employment agency I went to get some cash from the hole-in-the-wall so I could treat myself to noodles at my favourite Malaysian restaurant. When I saw my bank balance I ate the apple in my handbag instead and went back to Brendon’s for cheese on toast feeling very, very low.

His four year old daughter was there, her fortnightly access weekend, greeting every refusal of her “I want”s with ear-splitting screams.

Into this dejection BK sprang, bubbling with enthusiasm.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Auckland’s fantastic!” he said. “I’m loving it! It’s so good to be back! My job’s brilliant*, it’s even easier than before and I get all these discounts and subsidies. Richard is taking me to all his mates’ parties and he’s charging me ridiculously cheap rent and I’ve joined the swimming pool for a year – it was only four hundred bucks! - and I’m going to buy a car and a bed this weekend. You know Rich is going away for Christmas?”

“Yes.” I knew what was coming. BK does not want to spend his first Christmas as a New Zealand resident alone.

“Well you’re more than welcome to come up here for as long as you want while he’s away. We could go to all the old haunts, meet up with the old crowd, go swimming in the sea. How cool would that be!”

“I don’t know what I’m doing for Christmas yet. I want to be working.”

BK has been trying to get me to spend Christmas with him since we were in France, even though I told him then I wasn’t keen on the idea. After living with him in Cardiff, I felt we should remain friends but go our separate ways. And after my ‘experiences’ in France, I knew I would rather spend Christmas alone, in the dark, eating poo and having my extremities gnawed by rats, than share it with BK.

(It takes me a very long time to regain my faith in someone once it’s been shattered).

“Well, if you’re not working come up to Auckland. In fact come up anyway. It’s a long weekend this year. Did you know there’s a one dollar bus between Auckland and Wellington? I’ll buy the ticket for you, as a birthday present if you like.”

I made a non-committal noise. “I don’t really want to go anywhere.”

“But it’d be nice if you came up. I want to show you what my life’s like. It’s perfect! I’m so happy!”

“That’s nice, I’m glad for you.”

“You still feeling homesick?”

Homesick, no; Flatmatesick, yes. “It’s not really working out for me here yet, but it’s early days,” I said. “I’m sure I’ll settle in once I’m working. I just want to get some money together. I can’t think about anything else at the moment.”

“Oh,” said BK. “Well if you’re feeling unsettled, what about a change of city? I could get you a job where I’m working and you could live with Ben, he’s got a three bedroom house he’s rattling around in.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising. “BK, I don’t want to work in a call centre. And I don’t want to live with Ben.”

When BK gets a vision of utopia in his mind, he will try to force the world to match it. This works with his mother, who I suspect actually would jump off a cliff if he told her to. But for everyone else, while he thinks he’s being helpful and clever and subtle, the reality is he isn’t and this is compounded by him consistently failing to notice when he’s irritating the shit out of the person he’s trying to persuade.

If you are the only thing standing in the way of what he wants - and I was starting to get the idea he may want me in Auckland - he will push, and push, and push, and push, and stop only when you snap.

Then he’ll wait a bit, and push some more.

I used to find it was easier to give in to him. It lead me to some interesting new places, but my life was not my own. Now I push back, but doing so makes me cold and hard and furious. I resent having to. Why can’t he just see when to back off?

“Well you’d be able to get a job real easy up here I reckon and if you need money I can lend you some. I’ve got loads. I don’t mind.”

I snapped.

“I don’t want you to lend me any more money. I already owe you shitloads. You know my feelings about being in debt. I do not like it. All I want to do is find a job. In Wellington. That is my only concern at the moment. Once I have found a job, in Wellington, then I can worry about everything else. I can’t think about Christmas right now. Please stop going on about me coming up to Auckland. I do not want to come up to Auckland. I have been telling you I do not want to come up to Auckland since August. Since before August. If you mention it again I will scream.”

“Ok, well, I’m going to buy a car this weekend so if you want me to get your stuff from Matt’s and bring it down to you – “

Oh God, no more, please. “I’ve already told you I’ll get my stuff from Matt’s myself when I’m ready. I’ve got nowhere to put it, remember?” I was almost snarling.

At this point, he noticed I was getting shitty and brought the conversation to a hasty close in a flurry of confused and insincere apology.

She’s got her period’, I could almost hear him thinking. I have, but fuck he’s still annoying.

After he hung up, I threw my phone across the room and cried hot tears of frustration.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was woken early this morning by a text from Flatmate.

‘Hey you x’ it said.

‘Hey you sweetpea, you’re lovely xxx' I sent back.

‘Miaow too x’ came the reply.

I settled back down for another forty winks with a smile on my face. He knows I’m having a tough time of it, but instead of trying to 'help' me, he texts me things like ‘fretten sie nicht, I’ll look after you with my powerful hind legs and all my heart’. It is all I need to hear.

Where BK makes me cold and hard and furious, Flatmate makes me soft and warm and reassured.

How can brothers be so different?







*With the customary good fortune that has earned him the nickname Goldenballs, BK walked straight back into the call centre job he had to leave in 2004 when his visa ran out. He’s living with his mate Richard, who once told me I looked like a hairy-faced elephant. I hope they’re happy together.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Needs Must

What's for lunch?

So here I am, with no job, no money, and nowhere to live other than with New Zealand’s top sausage roll enthusiast.

I have been looking for work (honest) but nobody is hiring because, the nice lady at the employment agency said, it is the run up to summer (New Zealand shuts down for a month in January) and also because apparently there is some sort of ‘Recession’ going on involving a ‘Credit Crunch’ and ‘Economic Doom’.

This ‘Financial Crisis’ means I am stranded at Brendon’s until further notice, which is ‘Not Good News’ for me or for anyone else because the longer I don’t work, the more impatient I get at not being able to hop on that flight back to Cardiff.

In situations like this I feel it is imperative to ask, “What would Bear Grylls do if he was stuck here like this?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

One of the finest things about New Zealand is the sense I get here that, with a little application and initiative, anything is possible.

The sun is shining, I am in the loveliest place in the world, I have a roof over my head, and I am only a little bit afraid of hard work, so what is there to be miserable about? This, Weasel, is your opportunity to shine!

To this end I have put a sign up on several supermarket noticeboards offering my services as a freelance typist/proofreader/editor.

‘I have written and edited website content, business letters and reports, office manuals, information leaflets’ blags the ad. ‘Good copy makes a good first impression! $20 an hour.’

Well, it’s a start. It can only be a short step from here to publishing my first novel and becoming as beautiful as J.K. Rowling.

As soon as I am reunited with my stuff (still in storage until I have somewhere to put it) I will put into action my age-old plan to make things to flog down the craft market. Cool things, obviously; no knitted tea-cosies or kitten dioramas made from lollipop sticks. I have a ton of arts and crafts equipment and a whole heap of ideas which I have been too scared thus far to put out into the world but now would seem to be a good time.

The rest of my things are going to be sold. Apart from my beautiful reference books, obviously. Anyone want a coffee table?

Meanwhile I must stop getting cross with Brendon (who has shown me only kindness and whose only crime is not being as wonderful as Flatmate) and get on with the business of getting home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bear Grylls would of course rub two ants together to make a fire, suck out their eyeballs for lunch then construct a two bedroomed house with their carcasses before romping home on a raft made from berries.

The point being he would not let little things like frostbite, dysentery, or losing a couple of limbs distract him from his goal.

Cheers for the inspiration, Bear. You da man.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Run Out

it's the way I roll

Brendon is a courier.

Because I need to find a job but am reluctant to go temping, and because he has an eye on training me up so he can have a day off at some point, Brendon invited me to accompany him on his run yesterday.

Decked out in a red and yellow company T-shirt (which clashed with my cyberpurple hair) I felt quite the part. It was such a lovely sunny morning even the seven a.m. start didn’t wipe the eager smile off my face.

Three cups of coffee, a McDonalds breakfast, and a cream bun later I was feeling less enthusiastic.

Lack of adequate nourishment played its part in my mood slump but unfortunately Brendon also contributed. Brendon, you see, while being a Very Nice Man, isn’t the greatest conversationalist.

I don’t know if it’s because he fails to listen, or if it’s because he doesn’t comprehend, or if he doesn’t retain information due to some adverse wiring in his brain, but when talking to Brendon one finds one repeating oneself one thousand fucking times, on subjects so dull one shouldn’t even be talking about them in the first place.

“So ya like sausage rolls then, do ya?” he will say.

“Yes indeed,” I’ll reply, “Although they’re not very good for you. They have so much fat!”

“They have so much fat,” he’ll say.

(Brendon tends to repeat the last thing you said).

“But you like ‘em, eh?”

“Yes. Sausage rolls are very nice.”

“Very nice, sausage rolls. Yeah. I like ‘em. Do you like ‘em? Not very good for you though, eh.”

“No, they have a very high fat content.”

“High fat content. They’re nice though, eh.”

“Yes.”

“I like ‘em. They're really nice. You gotta like ‘em. Do you like ‘em?”

“Yes, I like them. But only as a treat; I wouldn’t have one every day.”

“Every day! Why not?”

“Because they’re not very good for you.”

“Is that right? Not very good for you?”

“No. Full of fat.”

“Fat. Yeah. But they’re nice though eh? I like ‘em. Do you like ‘em?”

“Yes.”

Etc.

But we didn’t just talk about sausage rolls for eight hours! No. For the remaining hour we discussed other topics which I shall share with you now for our mutual enjoyment:

Letterboxes – British letterboxes! Are they really just slots in the front door? Really? You mean, they don’t have letterboxes at the end of your drive like they do over here? No way. So nobody at all has letterboxes like these [points]? You have to put mail through the front door itself? Shit, that’s amazing.

Nutrition – So you reckon it’s better to eat fruit and vegetables than bread and pasta and shit? Do you really think that? Fruit and vegetables? Better for you? Yeah white flour’s got all the goodness processed out of it eh. But what about vegetables, they get sprayed with all sorts of shit. Oh, organic, yeah, I guess that’d be the best thing to have. But are vegetables really better for you? They are? You’d rather have some fruit than a sausage roll? Really? Better for you? You reckon? What about fish? Yeah, fish is good for you eh. Crumbed, though, not battered.

Ancestry – Your mum’s half Irish? Really? Awesome! Great people eh. Half Irish! Wow! What do you make of that accent then? Irish people eh. They’re great. So you’re half Irish? Oh, a quarter Irish. So your mum was born in Ireland? No? What about your dad?

Employment Prospects – So do you reckon you could do courier work? You like it? You don’t want to go back into office work eh? So you might want to give courier work a go? Do you like it? Better paid eh. You don’t want to go back into office work do ya. So you might like courier work. Do you think you would like it? You should try it. You might like it. It’s different from working in an office eh. Better paid. Not sitting around on your arse all day. Do you reckon you could give it a go? You might like it.

Yes, yes, and yes, Brendon. Just like I told you about three minutes ago.

Brendon, I must reiterate, is a Very Nice Man, but there’s only so much of that a Weasel can take before she starts wanting to kill.

At the end of the shift, we came home and I retired to a darkened room for an hour then went for a very long walk.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Happening

where am I again?

Top news stories in New Zealand this morning [from Yahoo.Xtra]:

- Councillor wants bells put on cat collars
- Female footy fans keen to give their opinions
- Dead puppies in bag shocks animal welfare group
- Opposition claim Prime Minister flip flopping over Emissions Tax Scheme
- More time needed to get to airport tonight
- Injured farmer crawls for four hours to get help
- Arrest made over Mt Roskill assault
- Endangered birds off to a flying start

I notice last week's New Zealand election result failed to impress the world's media the same way Obama's did.

I wonder why.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Stunned Mullet

giving fish a bad name since 1973

Manfeild [sic] is an annual motor racing weekend held in the New Zealand town of Feilding [sic] in which men walk around looking at each other’s cars as if they were interesting.

Brendon asked me to accompany him to this year’s meeting because he was racing his own car (which is red, with blue and white bits) and had nobody to go with.

I didn’t want to go. I cannot describe to you how much I didn’t want to go. For a start, they can’t even spell ‘field’. And who in their right mind wants to spend two days of their lives gawping at cars? Cars are things that get you to the supermarket and back. Cars are things you give a cute name to and drive to the beach in and sleep in if you want a cheap holiday.

Cars are just cars, i.e. a mode of transport, and anything beyond that is clearly insanity.

But I went to Manfeild [sic] with Brendon because Brendon really wanted me to go with him and I didn’t have the heart to refuse.

Saturday started well when I realised there was some sort of agricultural show going on in the showground next door but staring at cows and sheep through a chain-link fence can only entertain a girl for so long.

I walked around and looked at cars for a bit, then I watched some of the racing. Yawn. What time was it? Quarter to eleven. Oh dear. This was going to be a long weekend. I went to find Brendon who was tinkering with his mode of transport.

“Having fun? It’s primo eh!” he beamed.*

“Yes!” I lied brightly. “Cars!” I nodded, to add weight to my statement.

Brendon’s dearest wish is to find a woman as into motor sport as he is. He takes any failure to share his joy as a personal slight. I wandered off quickly lest he notice my boredom.

‘There must be something I can do to make the next two days of my life tolerable and less like being subjected to constant, baffling, ear-splitting noise while breathing in dust and dirty, dirty fumes and feeling like crying because I miss the tranquillity and reassurance of Flatmate’s clean, quiet, low-key, chess-playing, soul-balm company?’ I mused. 'There has to be something here to distract me from the fact I find men leering at other men's engines and even taking photographs of them extremely creepy, like engine porn?'

The answer strolled into view.

A man with a frightening hairstyle: short on the top, cropped at the sides, and flowing freely down the back. The mullet! Yes! An aspect of Kiwidom I’d forgotten all about. The challenge was set. How many mullets could I spot over the next two days, and, crucially, how many could I capture on camera without being beaten up?

Suddenly I was excited.

Let me be clear here: many, many Kiwi men have what I would call a demi-mullet. Demi-mullets can be distinguished from mullets proper by the following aspects –

- lack of true length at the back
- application of hair product indicating conscious regard to projecting pleasing self-image
- decent styling resulting in ‘trendiness’

Demi-mullets can look all right and can be seen on many public figures including some All Blacks.**

But I was not after the pretty boys with their ironic haircuts. I was not after the pretenders with their normal haircuts that had ‘daringly’ got a bit long at the back. I was not even after flowing locks swept over the ears.

I was after the Real Deal. I wanted mullintention.

Manfeild [sic] Day One mullet count: nine.

Manfeild [sic] Day Two mullet count: a disappointing three.

Check out these babies:

first prize

pure gold


barely out of nappies yet putting the grown ups to shame

third guy along had the best one but he wouldn't sit back so I could get a decent photo, the bastard

Click here for further mullectation, if you dare.***

If any of you are still struggling with the concept of the mullet because, for example, your first language is not English please click here for a handy list of what mullets are called in non-English speaking parts of the world. In the States I understand they are referred to as 'Canadian Passports', which surely has a touch of genius about it.

Brendon was thrilled I was taking so much interest in my surroundings my camera was never out of my hand.

"You can take lots of pics and email them to your boyfriend back home," he said. "He'd like that, eh."

I thought of Flatmate, an ardent cyclist prone to fits of road rage against alpha male drivers.

"Um, yes," I said.




* Translation: ‘it is very good’
** Although this is beyond the pale
***Warning: only the very brave or very foolhardy should attempt to search Google Image with the word 'mullet'.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Not Croydon



So what is New Zealand like, I hear you ask?

On the 18th March 1840, a Mr T M Partridge, recently arrived here from Britain, summed it up nicely when he declared “the natives… are a jovial, laughing, fighting, good-natured, pork-eating set of savages”.

Substitute ‘pork’ with ‘KFC’ and the same pretty much applies today. But I will expand a little on T M Partridge's description as I’m sure you are wondering what’s so great about New Zealand that it’s lured me away from Flatmate for a while.

New Zealand’s a bit like this:

My plane into Auckland landed on time and when the captain said "Thanks for flying with Air New Zealand" he sounded like he meant it.

Native birdsong piped through loudspeakers as I walked under an intricately carved Maori gateway towards Immigration. The sense of calm was palpable.

The Passport Control Officer said “You’ve been away a long time. Welcome home!”

My luggage was returned to me quickly and unscathed.

Next to the luggage carousel a lady sat behind a counter underneath a large sign proclaiming ‘Free Tea/Coffee’.

“Excuse me,” I asked, hardly able to believe my eyes, “But does that say ‘Free Tea/Coffee’?”

“Indeed it does,” she replied with a wide smile. “What can I get you?” *

There were a gazillion trolleys and none of them had wobbly wheels and instead of fierce, man-eating German Shepherds, the Customs Officers had cute little beagles.

Arriving an hour later at Wellington airport, at Downstairs Monkey’s urging I deposited my two suitcases in the left luggage facility, stepped out of the terminal into blinding sunshine, turned right, walked for eight minutes, and sat on the beach.



Downstairs Monkey and I frolicked in the surf for a while then went to my favourite fish and chip shop for lunch.

Walking along the beach I endeavoured to pick up the most beautiful things I saw to send to Flatmate. I collected several shells and some sea glass but I couldn’t put in my pocket the smiles and greetings from every person who walked by, the tail of the waggiest dog in the world (he was digging and digging and digging just for the sheer joy of it), the expression of the baby feeling the cold slap of the sea for the first time, or that vast, wind-fresh sparkling blue sky.

Two days later, already running out of money and (coincidentally) unable to resist any longer the constant text messages from my mate Brendon tellling me to come and stay with him, Downstairs Monkey and I left the dingy hostel in which we’d been nursing our jetlag.

Dragging my suitcases to the bus stop, I was offered assistance by a man pushing a pram which had two extra, occupied, toddler-seats buckled on top. He’d doubled back to ask me if I needed help. I assured him I was grateful for the offer, but was going to refuse it on the grounds he already had his hands full. He laughed. “Are you sure?” he said, sincerely. “I’m sure,” I said, “But thank you.”

I caught a bus to Brendon’s. Brendon lives in a suburb despised by latté-slurping urbanite Wellingtonians for being utterly plebeian.

Brendon’s gaff, an entirely average three bedroom house, is in a road which looks like this:



His street is an ordinary street. Those are council houses (called state houses) behind the trees. This bucolic scene is a few steps away from Brendon’s front gate. When I lived in Cardiff my street looked like this:



It looked a bit like that when I lived in London too.

The railway line into Wellington – which, I must remind you, is the capital of this fine country – runs close to Brendon’s house and looks like this:



We are talking commuter belt here - it is half an hour by rail into the pulsing heart of the city. The New Zealand equivalent of Croydon, and yet you could have a picnic on the railway tracks if you wanted to.

Brendon has welcomed me into his home for as long as I want and has taken me round to his mum’s every night for a feed too.

He has even installed dial-up internet for me.

This is a hospitable race of people. I guess we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So that’s what New Zealand’s like. It’s also like this:

Public toilets are free, plentiful, unvandalised, always have paper and usually have soap.

Bus drivers wear white shirts, navy shorts, long white socks and black shoes. They are helpful, and often cheerful. When passengers get off buses they shout ‘Thank you Driver!’ as they disembark.

Streets are wide and sleepy; rarely are two houses the same. Each house has a garden and each garden is crammed with trees and flowers. Roses and hibiscus flaunt astonishing colours. People leave shoes and sofas outside their front doors and nobody steals them. Most houses look freshly painted. Birdsong is noisier than traffic.

The spotty youth who sold me an ice cream yesterday engaged me in real, proper, interesting conversation as he served me. People are genuinely friendly and curious to know why you’re here. They are always delighted to hear that you’re here because you think it’s a wonderful place to be. They will always agree with you on this point. They always have a friend or relative travelling or working in the UK. They look at you expectantly as they impart this information, as if you may have met their friend by chance. They hope to go to the UK too, one day. Life stories tumble out as you stand there waiting for your ice cream. It is an act of trust. They are anxious for you to like their country, feel as proud of it as they do.

There are people of all races walking around but nobody seems to hate each other. There is plenty of room for everyone.

Folk say hello when you walk past them in the street. Smiles abound.

It’s really, really not like Britain.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s Downstairs Monkey’s first time in the southern hemisphere and so far I think he likes it. He is certainly getting comfortable in Brendon’s spare room:



…although he never forgets home is where the heart is.



New Zealand? It's a really, really nice place.





* She actually said ‘Undeed ut duzz, whit ken oi git yew?’, but there you go.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Episode Two, In Which Weasel Is Bewildered

the view from Brendon's couch

So the next day I got on a plane and flew to New Zealand.

Why am I here?

Reason One: Because all my stuff from when I lived here before is stored in places in which my stuff, for various reasons, cannot continue to be stored.

Reason Two: Um… there is no Reason Two.

It is clear to me that, no matter how wonderful New Zealand is (and it IS wonderful), my mission now is to remove my stuff from storage, and bloody well go home.

However, to remove my stuff from storage I need to put it somewhere while I work out what to do with it.

To have somewhere to put it, I need to find somewhere to live other than my mate Brendon’s spare room.

To get somewhere to live, I need to have money to pay for a bond, rent, and all those other sundry inconveniences.

To obtain money, I need to work.

To work, I need to update my CV, go to an internet facility (for Brendon’s house does not possess such luxuries), email it to a selection of employment agencies then sit back and wait for the offers to come flooding in.

(Or something like that).

So, folks, I think you can clearly see my problem.

In order to go home I have to stop moping around feeling sorry for myself and get my fat arse off Brendon’s couch.

Yes.

Or win Lotto.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

No More Goodbyes



Saturday afternoon.

Flatmate texts.

‘how did yr halloween go? any lovebites during the nite? were u attacked by any ghoulies?’

‘i wil b askin u the same things 2moro afta yr party!’ I reply.

‘decided im not goin2 party 2 expensive no costume stayin home with my monkeys’.

‘want sum company?’ I ask after a long, considered pause.

A long, considered pause follows.

‘i dont think we shud little weasel, we’v already had 2 many goodbyes’.

You’re right, of course, and I’m sorry for asking. I know I shouldn’t have suggested it. But you know what, I just thought what the hell, carpe diem and all that. I love spending time with you and here are a few extra, precious hours we could share. But yes you are right, we’ve already said our goodbyes, and another goodbye might just kill me.

Four hours pass. My phone beeps.

‘u r welcome 2 pop over 2moro if u want. it seems i am irresistible afta all!’

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday morning.

I am ready to leave, coat on, bag over my shoulder. It is not quite light outside. I stand in Flatmate’s bedroom, clutching my head, tears streaming silently down my face. This is agony.

“Fuck,” I say through gritted teeth. I am trying to leave but my feet are rooted to the carpet. I cannot make myself walk out the door. “Fucking HELL.”

Flatmate lies on the bed, clutching his toy monkey. He is naked, curled into the foetal position. Tears stream silently down his face.

“Get out of here you crazy bitch,” he says. His voice is muffled, choked, but he is trying to be lighthearted. I look at him lying there, his face wet with tears. It is me who has brought him this misery.

“I’m sorry,” I weep, “I’m sorry I’ve put you through this.”

He burrows into my arms. Neither of us speak. I stroke his hair and kiss his tears and hope that when I recall Flatmate’s face, I remember the happiness of yesterday and not the pain of today.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We’d had a day I can only describe as perfect. Walk, talk, coffee, canoodle – same as it ever was, only with one big difference.

“I love you!” he’d kept saying, off his tits on happiness, my super-soppy, beautiful friend, “I love you! It's great!” The smile hadn’t left his face all day; he’d enveloped me in hugs and kisses at every opportunity. He talked about the possibility of a shared future. He confessed he thought I was probably The One. Would I come back, one day, after I’d done whatever I needed to do in New Zealand? Would I like to join him in a year or two in France, perhaps, or maybe Spain? We could get a house together. It would be nice, wouldn't it?

I hadn’t intended to stay the night but it was inconceivable that I leave in time for the last train. “You can’t go now!” he’d said, “Get the first train in the morning instead.”

Not wanting sleep to rob us of time together, at 1am we went for one last stroll in Roath Park. At 3am we were still there, unable to let each other go, whispering ‘I love you’, holding on to each other for dear life.

Fatigue eventually forced us back to bed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And now two hours later it’s 7am and it’s all over.

Here it is - the last goodbye.

Flatmate gets up from the bed, stands me up and holds me very gently. He walks over to the door and opens it. He comes back and holds me again. We kiss and hug and kiss. His skin is soft and warm beneath my hands. His smile is sad and beautiful.

I leave, quickly, with one last ‘I love you’, because otherwise I will never go.

I am numb. Too numb for tears.

I walk to the station. Ghosts of our time together are in every street. I shake my head, frowning and averting my eyes, trying to ignore them. But they are everywhere. “No,” I mutter under my breath, ordering them to leave me alone. Too many memories; I don't want to remember. My face is a wince of suppressed grief. I must look like a mad woman. I am hollow inside.

Approaching the station, the pain kicks in. I let the tears come.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Knitwit



I was knitting. Bethan was doing embroidery.

Together, we were knimbroidering, and we were loving it, curled up on the sofa with Fluffy the cat beside us on a cold dark rainy Saturday afternoon.

"Gah!" said Bethan, on a particularly tricky bit.

"Wassup mate?" I asked.

"I'm going over the flowers Nana has drawn in pencil, right, but she's drawn this flower really faint and I can't see where to sew."

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, girlfriend," I said. "Just take a step back from it, have a look from a distance, and you'll be able to tell what you need to do."

"But what if I get it wrong?" she said.

"Back yourself, Bethan," I said. "You'll be able to see it. You'll just know."

"Oh yeah!" said Bethan, holding her 'tapestry' at arm's length. "Cool! Thanks, Weasel! Oh..."

"Now what?"

"I've just seen I've done that bit wrong over there. How do I correct it?" She pointed to a flower with a rather wonky stalk.

"Ah. Well, you've got a choice. You can either unpick the whole flower -"

"No way man!"

"- or you can learn to love the fault."

Bethan looked at me hard, looked back at her masterpiece.

"Learning to love the fault is probably easier," I said, "I didn't even notice it anyway."

"I hate being rubbish at things," she said glumly.

"You've never done embroidery before, Bethan! Instead of thinking you're rubbish at it, why not think 'hey, for a first attempt, this ain't bad'?"

As she thought this through a slow, triumphant grin crept across her face. "Ok!" she said. "Thank you Weasel! You rock! I love making tapestries, I'm going to do it all the time!"

Step back and see the wider picture. Accept what you can’t change. Trust your inner voice, it knows what’s right.

I kissed the side of her trusting little head and sincerely wished I could heed my own advice.