Monday, 31 May 2010

What A Way To Earn A Living

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I have been temping again, because I need the money but can't face the horror of committing to real life for any length of time.

And so the sunniest two weeks of the year saw me trapped in an unpleasantly new glass-and-concrete workhouse, typing non-stop from 9am to 5pm bar two fifteen minute breaks and half an hour for lunch which could be spent either sitting in the plastic rest area listening to girls from the valleys discussing their diets and/or weddings, or pacing nervously through Butetown cramming down a sandwich.

It has been so long since I took part in real life I had forgotten about the sinister handmade kitchen notices you find there:



Yikes. There were no less than eight notices in this company's kitchen. I wish I'd counted the exclamation marks. There would probably have been an interesting exclamation mark-to-notice ratio, worthy of scientific attention. It's the exclamation marks that chill me most, conveying as they do hidden depths of bitter, seething resentment. Or is it the clip art, the Microsoft equivalent of Chucky? Or maybe it's the passive-aggressive poetry. Whatever. All I can say is I won't make a mess or steal the food I promise, because I AM A FUCKING ADULT.

My other job at the university library finishes next week, and I will be sad when it is over because in my opinion there is no better place to work than somewhere where you are free to wear jeans, wander about, read books and gently mock students.

I found this graffiti on one of the study tables and was mightily impressed by the astuteness of the footnote:



So not all students are twats then.

I have some big decisions to make in the next week or two. The lease on my room ends on the 15th of June: do I stay in Cardiff, do I go somewhere else? How do I do either of these things with no job, no money? What kind of job do I even look for? How does a Weasel support herself when a Weasel's all-consuming passion is to do as little as humanely possible, eg read, think, doodle, go for walks, look out of windows, listen to birds etc? Why is the thought of getting a real job so frightening? Where has my bravery gone?

Sigh. Sometimes it's tough being me.

In the meantime, it is half term week and My Lovely Sister, being freed from her job for five precious days, is heading to Walesland.

The last time she did this, we ended up having an epic adventure.

The timing is good. Being utterly exhausted from the decision thing and also from having to work non-stop for two whole weeks, I am in dire need of an invigorating holiday.

Downstairs Monkey's looking forward to it too.



Wednesday, 26 May 2010

I Know An Old Lady



Today, while I was out walking, a very small fly flew up my nose and went straight down the back of my throat.

I had no option but to swallow it.

Nose hair, you are FIRED on the grounds of INCOMPETENCE.



Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fond



I saw Flatmate yesterday.

We had pre-arranged a walk for 11am - my idea, because, I told myself, I hate to lose friends.

We strolled through Bute Park in patchy sunshine as a chill wind whipped the muddle of clouds overhead. We skimmed stones on the river; ate a pub lunch; talked about nothing in particular. As we relaxed into each other's company it was as if none of the other stuff had happened.

Afterwards, I ached for him, praying he would text and suggest meeting for a coffee.

He didn't, so I went for another walk instead.

This morning, I picked up Daisy Goodwin's 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life.

In it, I found this:


I'm Really Very Fond


I'm really very fond of you,
he said.

I don't like fond.
It sounds like something
you would tell a dog.

Give me love,
or nothing.

Throw your fond in a pond,
I said.

But what I felt for him
was also warm, frisky,
moist-mouthed,
eager,
and could swim away

if forced to do so.



By Alice Walker, who appears to have crawled inside my head.



Thursday, 13 May 2010

Not Polish



"Are you still serving breakfast?" I asked.

It was 4.10pm.

The Polish girl behind the counter looked doubtful.

"Are we still serving breakfast?" she called out to the guy in the kitchen.

"It's just that I've had a really full-on day racing around all over the place doing chores and looking for work and stuff and I've hardly eaten since this morning, just Hula Hoops really," I explained slightly manically. "And you know, sometimes you just need a full English breakfast? It's a bit late, I know, but I reckon I've earned one after the day I've had."

The guy from the kitchen had come out to listen. Now, he smiled deep into my eyes and patted my shoulder. "If you want a full English breakfast, then that's what you'll have," he said.

"Awesome. And a smoothie please."

"We don't have any smoothies left," said the Polish girl, "but have a strawberry milkshake, we do the best strawberry milkshakes. I don't know how he makes them so good but he does."

The breakfast barely touched the sides. Sausage, bacon, egg, tomato, hash brown, baked beans, mushrooms, thick, buttery toast. Replete, I settled into one of the squishy leather sofas by the window with my milkshake and a book I'd just bought from the charity shop across the road (Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris; it's fab).

A few minutes later, Polish girl and kitchen guy walked past with their coats on - shifts over, going home. I waved a cheery goodbye.

Then kitchen guy came back. Thinking he was heading to the kitchen for something he'd forgotten, I gestured at the milkshake and mimed appreciation. To my surprise, he plonked himself down on the sofa opposite me.

"We were just wondering... I had to ask... where's your accent from?"

Fucksticks. What is it with Cardiffians? I have been asked this question by every native I've met since I started venturing out of my flat. When I say I've been living in New Zealand, they nod knowingly and say "Ah yes, I thought it was either that or Australian".

Reader, this is bollocks! In my head, I sound like a true blue Kentish (wo)man (ie a yammering chav) and will fight anyone who says otherwise. Okay maybe I tend to let my sentences lilt upwards when I speak; maybe I over-use the word 'awesome'. But to say I sound Kiwi? Fukken ridiculous eh.

"My colleague thought you were Polish," kitchen guy said. "But I thought you were far too pretty to be Polish."

I tried to disguise a simultaneous barf and snort of derision.

(Polish women, as we know, look like this, whereas I look like this.)

I explained the New Zealand thing, and the growing up in Kent thing. "But I was born in Cardiff," I added. Why do I always mention this? I'm basically saying, Welsh person, approve of me, I'm not technically English. I am truly pathetic.

"I knew it, I knew you weren't Polish," kitchen guy said. "She said she'd put money on it, I wish I had now."

"Ha ha," I said, wishing I could get back to my book.

"Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" he said.

"Go on," I said.

"Are you single?"

Oh Jesus. I looked at his puppy dog face. In the kitchen, I'd guessed he was in his thirties, but here he looked younger.

"Yes," I said cautiously. Why am I compelled to tell the truth at all times?

"Can I give you my phone number?" He leant forward with a look of utter desperation.

"Er..."

Oh shit. What do I say? This is my first visit to this cafe, and I want to keep coming here because it's one of the few nice cafes in Roath Flatmate does not frequent. Also, I don't like hurting people's feelings. The answer is, of course, a resounding no, but not for the reason you may think. The truth is that I never use the phone, ever, if I can possibly help it. You can give me your phone number, I don't really care, but it would languish forever untouched, not because I find you repulsive, but because
I HATE making phone calls. I hate getting them too, unless it is immediate family, or BK. I'm not particularly great at texting either. I just... don't do phones. Have some sympathy: 2.5 million Britons are with me on this. Also, I am a crusty old celibate with very little experience of this sort of thing and frankly you have startled me with your request. I hadn't even clocked you, mate. Give me a moment to process this. And anyway, shouldn't you be asking for mine?

I went for: "Bad timing - I'm not really looking for anybody at the moment; I'm nursing a broken heart."

"Oh."

"And I'm old enough to be your mother."

The puppy face suddenly looked doubtful.

Just then the Polish girl reappeared. "Not Polish!" I barked at her, thanking the interruption angels.

"Oh! I really thought you were," she said.

"No, she's been living in New Zealand... um, sorry, what's your name?"

"Weasel."

"Weasel," he repeated, gazing at me.

"And you are?"

"Yeti."

"Pardon?"

"Yeti."

"Um... spell it?"

"E - T - I."

"Short for Etienne," Polish girl chipped in.

"That's not very Welsh," I said.

"I'm half French," Eti said.

I laughed a hollow laugh. "The man who's just broken my heart is half French too."

"Oh well," Eti sighed. "You will still come to the cafe, won't you?"



Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dinner For One



I cooked a Sage meal tonight.

That's it there - a big pile of peppery cabbage, dripping in butter; fresh asparagus; two juicy lamb chops.

I ate it the correct way - plate on knee, fingers and fork - and sat back afterwards to slurp the grease from my hands and my oily, satisfied face.

It was the first meal I've cooked for a long time - I mean proper cooked, not just microwaved - and I take that as a sign I'm starting to feel better about life.

I don't know if Sage will read this but if she does I would just like to say this to her: I think about you often and hope your new kitchen is as fabulous as you wanted it to be.

I hope the course is going well and the whanau are behaving.

The meal was just like one of the ones you rustle up so nonchalantly for a houseful of people except this one was only for me, the lamb was Welsh not New Zealand, and the spear grass wasn't from the garden.

Due to an absence of dog the bones went in the bin, but the washing up was a doddle.

Thank you again for everything you shared with me.

Arohanui, I miss you.



Tuesday, 11 May 2010

You Will Not Thank Me For This



Click here for THE BEST timewaster on the internet.

Yes.

Be sure to play with sound turned on. Without sound, this game is nothing. If you squint, it is almost exactly like being in a real office, only without the retards and the annoying telephone calls.

Found here.

Now run along.



Sunday, 9 May 2010

Home Is Where The Dirt Is



I am going to take a break from moaning about Flatmate to tell you all about my new flat.

It is nice.

It is a bit cold - today, for example, my room is possibly colder than the dark side of the moon which as we all know can plunge to a rather nippy minus 233oC - but it is nice.

The main reason for its niceness is I haven’t yet met my new flatmates. I haven't met them because they are never here. I like this a lot. I am a solitary soul, and the absence of unfamiliar humans in my immediate habitat is an unexpected bonus.

Another reason for its niceness is that the rent is only £180 a month.

Another reason is I have become intimately acquainted with the flat via the medium of bleach. When you have spent a few happy days scrubbing up a place to make it sparkle, you get quite fond of it.

Another another reason is its location. It’s above a shop, in a pleasant shopping street in Roath. My usual coffee house is just across the road, and if you crane out of the front window you can see the church and the treetops of the rec. There is a library within striking distance, and a million trillion very cool charity shops to rummage around in nearby (okay, about nine). The city centre is a half hour stroll away; the lovely Roath Park, closer still.

Also, someone in the neighbourhood has very kindly not secured their wireless internet connection. I can pick up a very weak signal that rarely works during the day and drops in and out randomly at night, but I am not going to complain about that as technically I am stealing it.

So yes the flat is pleasant and convenient, but it’s not flash. The first time I saw it, it was dirty. I mean, really, truly, shockingly, oh my god call the health inspectors dirty. Neglect is a tragedy. I felt sorry for it.

To get to it, you have to go through a locked gate, down an alley, and through the back yard. The Chinese landlord met me outside. A smartly dressed Indian man was also waiting to view the place.

“The boys, they are lazy, they never put the rubbish out,” the landlord explained as we picked our way through a stony expanse he described as the garden. Weeds grew liberally through the gravel. A mound of torn, animal-investigated rubbish sacks looked as though they’d been there for months. “Very nice for sun.”

At the top of the stairs, he pointed to a tiny room. “That is the bathroom."

Detritus including but not limited to bits of plastic, paper, paint peelings and big balls of dust covered the carpet. About fifteen dead toilet roll tubes lay scattered about, but there was no toilet paper anywhere. The underside of the toilet was grey, as were the pipes - they should've been white. The water in the toilet bowl was a deep dark brown. I flushed the toilet. The water in the toilet bowl stayed a deep dark brown. The upper reaches of the bowl were encrusted with speckles of shit and the rim was sporting new life forms. A layer of sticky matter coated the windowsill and every other dry surface, while the bath sported a delicate film of red mould. A sad, stained bathmat squelched underfoot.

The handbasin was unlike any sink I’d ever seen, encased in a thick, white, bumpy guano formed by years of toothpaste build-up. It reminded me of caves. I stood there gaping.

“They don’t clean much,” the landlord offered.

“What’s the water pressure like in the shower?” It was the only thing I could think of to say.

The kitchen was not as bad – certainly not as bad as Invercargill, eg no evidence of rodents or insects – although there were many suspicious sticky brown stains on the floor and the worktops looked grimy. A loaf of bread was quietly turning green in one of the cupboards, but at least there were no festering dishes piled up. Everything was washed and stacked in the drainer.

“The oven is brand new!” the landlord exclaimed. I looked at its smeared and sticky hob in disbelief. With a flourish, he opened the grill and pulled out a pristine grill pan. “They never cook with oven,” he said. "They never cook."

The lounge was a wasteland, a huge empty room housing just a TV, a broken fridge, a cheap stained two-seater couch, and a dusty table with three ripped and mismatched chairs. Big bay windows looked out over the street. The window frames used to be white UPVC, but now they were even grimier than the bathroom.

the windowsill midway through a damn good Weaselling

The available bedroom, by contrast, was a tidy, spacious single up in the eaves of the house, overlooking the back yard and surrounding rooftops. The feeling of calm in the room was palpable. Painted cream with low-key, matching furniture it felt good, soothing. “Morning sun,” the landlord said, “Nice.”

I would be sharing with three boys, he said. He thought one of them might’ve moved out already, and another worked long hours. He didn’t know much about the other one – he’d only just moved in.

“They okay, just very bad at tidy,” he said.

The smartly dressed Indian man made his excuses and fled.

I took the room, because a few germs never hurt anyone.




Saturday, 8 May 2010

So Long And Thanks For All The Shit



Last week, Thursday night, about half past eight, Flatmate texted.

Want to go out tomo evening? I could call 4 u? How does 8.30 grab u? X

It didn't grab me, because I was in Kent. I'd gone back to pick up my stuff from My Lovely Sister's house, because I'd just taken a room in Cardiff because I'd got a part time temporary job at the university there on Sunday evenings because Flatmate had said it would be nice if I was in Cardiff for a while, until he left to go to France in October anyhow.

So I'd started the job the previous week, and he'd said I could stay at his place so I'd crashed there afterwards, and the next day I'd taken this room on the spur of the moment because it was cheap and the landlord was fine with a short term let, and Flatmate had said 'Oh you can have all this stuff I don't need: a spare duvet, a lamp, a toaster, plates, pots and pans' and I'd said 'Okay, that'd be really useful thanks'.

And then we'd gone and sat in the sun in Bute Park and he started going on again about how, when he said he loved me all those times, he didn't actually mean he LOVED me, not like THAT, because we were always just friends weren't we? and that he didn't think I'd really thought we actually had a future together, because wasn't it always just a bit of fun? and that while he thought of me as a best mate and valued our special friendship he never considered for a moment that he'd settle down with me because to be honest he really didn't want to settle down with anyone at all, well not until maybe he was about 50. And then it would be with someone younger.

By now I'd heard this so many times I knew it off by heart. But it still didn't stop the sensation of my heart being ripped to shreds, then grated, then shat on, then set on fire, then finished off with acid. I replied as I had done before, wondering why I'd put myself in the position of having to repeat it: "Well, I've told you I feel much more for you than you do for me, so I can't just be friends with you, which means we will have to stop seeing each other."

Feel? Felt. I was getting rather tired of this. I'd heard it every time I'd been up to visit him. But between the cold spells he still acted like he wanted me around. Still said he loved me.

He would miss my friendship, he said. He would have a total of zero friends without me, he said.

Yes, hon, you've already mentioned that several times. What do you want me to do about it? If you'd only stop blowing hot and cold I could work out where my head is on this. I said nothing. But I thought, in my experience spending time with friends is usually life-affirming, but every moment I've spent with you since I've been back has left me feeling damn near suicidal. I thought, while the fact you find it impossible to forge meaningful relationships truly concerns me because I care about you and your well-being, I cannot go on like this.

Back at his house, the atmosphere was not good. I was curt, snappy. He got cross. So I hastily gathered my belongings: my overnight bag, a sleeping bag, some groceries, cleaning fluids for tackling new-flat germs. "Shall I take the duvet and all that other stuff now?" I asked, wondering how I'd carry it all - wondering if he'd offer to help.

"No, I'll bring it over later," Flatmate said.

I left, laden, for the half an hour walk to my new home, while he smoked a spliff in his back yard.

That was the last I saw of him. Even when I texted him midweek to ask if I could nip round to wash my hair at his flat prior to work at the weekend because my shampoo, conditioner, hairdryer and straighteners were still in Kent, and he'd replied 'Of course you can!'.

Yesterday, Thursday night, about half past eight, Flatmate texted.

You can't hide from me! Fancy meeting up tomo? X

I regarded my phone with raised eyebrows. I would've raised just the one but I unfortunately I'm not blessed with that particular skill. What the fuck was he playing at? I guessed there was something specific he felt he needed to tell me. I slipped the phone back in my pocket without answering. I needed time to mull.

Twenty minutes later, I bumped into him in Tescos. Literally - we both came round the end of an aisle from different directions. Seen with fresh eyes he looked thin, gaunt, sallow, small. And really nervy. Caught by surprise, he barely knew what to say.

He gestured to his phone. "I... I... I just... you, um, haven't replied!"

"I saw your message. I'm not hiding from you," I said. Curiously, I was not getting the butterflies-in-tummy effect. I felt uncharacteristically steely. "Yes for tomorrow. What did you have in mind?"

"About 8.30?" he said. "I could call for you."

"Can't we just have a coffee somewhere, a bit earlier, so we can chat? I don't really fancy going to the pub. It's too noisy - we won't be able to talk."

"Um, I'll think about it. Shall I text you tomorrow?"

"Okay."

He texted. He suggested that he call for me about 8.30. He did. We went to the pub. He made some awkward chitchat about chess then repeated all the stuff about loving me but not loving me. Then he added that he didn't like the way I'd been speaking to him the other day, and explained at great length why. I sat there gritting my teeth, wondering whether to smash my glass of cider over his head. It was too noisy and I was too upset to formulate any coherent thoughts. Into my silence he rambled on and on. After one pint, I suggested we leave.

Walking home, he was anxious for me to agree that we should go our separate ways for good. I couldn't tell if he actually wanted this to happen, or if he was trying to pre-empt me. Was he hoping for a glimmer of emotion from this stony-faced Weasel? Because he wasn't going to get one.

"I thought we'd already gone our separate ways," I said. "I thought that two weeks ago when I didn't hear from you. I thought that when you didn't turn up with the stuff you said I could have, with the duvet you promised me and I froze to death in my new flat for two days because I was expecting you to bring it over. I thought that when I had to go to work on Sunday like a frizzy-haired cunt because you said I could use your straighteners, when I asked if I could come over to wash my hair and you said 'Of course you can!' and then you didn't get in touch. When I had to go out and buy plates and lamps and all that shit because I waited and waited and I didn't hear from you. I've had a gutsful, dude."

"I didn't realise you were waiting for all that stuff," he said after a pause. "And I thought the hair thing was, er, theoretical. I can bring the plates and whatever over tomorrow?"

"Too late now."

A grim silence ensued. Everything I wanted to say imploded into a silent howl of pain.

"It feels like we're divorcing," he said.



(He's so dumb he probably thinks this is all about the straighteners. I'm so dumb I put up with this idiotic shit since February. Never again. Phew... I feel better for having got that off my chest. Thanks for listening. Job's great by the way. What election?)