Monday, 28 April 2008

Commuter Woes: Part One

Or the person who thinks one minute before the train is about to leave is the perfect time to make random ticket enquiries.

So you stump up to the train station, horribly aware you have left it all rather last minute to buy your weekly travel card. You hope against hope there is not a queue, except this is Monday morning at 8am, prime peak time for all those dilberts like me who forget about such things, while organised people sail past regally with a polystyrene cup of coffee and a muffin.

Of course there is a queue, as such is life, and you join in the 5th position. On the one hand you are really glad that your last minute spurt of speed beat that portly man in the suit (grumbling in 6th), but on the other hand you are slightly alarmed to see the person at the very front of the queue looks rather casual. Where is his suit? Does he even care what train he gets? Does he know our livelihoods depend on getting that blasted 8.07?

No, he does not care he has picked the prime commuter rush to make his tedious ticket enquiries, he has reached the damn front of the queue and he is damn well going to ask his questions. We shift and mutter, shoot anguished glances at our watches and daggers at his back, as we hear the platform announcer proclaim our doom – the train is about to go. Yet still he makes enquires about connecting trains (just pick up a bloody timetable), the final destination of the 8.45 (timetable! Just over there!), and whether or not there is a train back (f*&king timetable!) before, satisfied, he strolls off, blinking vaguely in bemusement at the puce faced commuters in various stages of apocalyptic despair behind him.

As soon as he goes we rattle off our destinations like well rehearsed automatons, all now hoping for the 8.15. ‘Weekly 1- 5’, ‘monthly 1- 5’, ‘return Moorgate’ – no civil niceties for us, no time to say more than a cursory ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’. We know our part in this play, thank you very much. After 9 is for questions and queries, before 9 is for straightforward demands and exact change / cards at the ready. And if you are very lucky, a muffin.

Fly away Peter, fly away Paul

Something very odd has happened. You may recall this thread here and here, where I talked about a rather large family of ladybirds inexplicitly choosing inside our window sill to make their home, meaning I couldn’t open that window.

Well, J decided enough was enough on Saturday. We had been pandering to our ladybird guests far too long, the flat was boiling (I was mildly warm, but that was besides the point) and we still had an hour to wait for dinner (being hungry can effect certain decisions, I find). So he strode to the closed window, while I hovered anxiously, thinking of the hoards of bumbling ladybirds that would flap out towards the settee when their home was disturbed.


J opened the window wide, and no ladybirds, not a one. They’d all flown off in the night (I must check the silver) with not even a thank you note for keeping that window shut for five months (apart from *coughs* the one day…). It turns out there was a gap that the ladybirds could access to let them in and out, without resorting to coming inside, apart from the ones that obviously got a bit lost.

I felt strangely like I had lost a hundred pets, be they small, spotty and with a tendency to awkward flying. ‘Will they be back’, I asked J, gazing out of the window. But I was talking to an empty room. J had already gone to poke the roast potatoes.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


Week One
Laptops and landlines, paper and pens
Staplers and spray-mount, computer mice and men
The low hum of speech, country music a-playing
Small bursts of laughter, decisions a-making
A spreadsheet is open, looking at me
I wish it wouldn’t, I don’t know what it sees.

Week Two
Headphones and headaches, remedies and pills
Flat-screens and flat out, air conditioner chills
The low hum of traffic, hip hop a-playing
Large bursts of laughter, photocopier disobeying
That spreadsheet is still open, winking at me
I colour it in using nice shades of green.

Week Three
Scarves and shawls, jumpers and jackets
The dying printer is making a racket
The low hum of servers, no music a-playing
No laughter today, a pitch is a-failing
The spreadsheet is open, I know it so well
My life is mapped out in blocks of colour on Excel

Week Four
Think of the money, well that is what I am thinking
This is a job that will stop me from sinking
It’s not forever and then I can go back to writing
Back to the novel and all that’s exciting
I close the spreadsheet and look towards the sun
Happy with a journey that has already begun.

Sunday, 20 April 2008


I woke up this morning and for some reason the structure of the synopsis for the novel was in my head, and so I lay there for a while planning it, thinking ooo – this sounds good! And then I dashed up to scrabble about for a pen and paper, and by the time I got it written down I couldn’t quite remember the order of words I wanted. Still, at least it is a start, and something for me to worry at like a dog with a bone throughout the week.

I’ve made a point of mentioning the novel a few times here and there at social occasions over the last couple of weeks, mainly because the first question anyone asks is ‘oh right, so what’s it about?’. This means I have an approximate two minute window of interest to explain my whole novel using the most exciting yet briefest explanation possible, great preparation for writing the synopsis and seeing what other people spark with from my description.

The quickest explanation would be that it is a dark comedy of errors set in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, with brief forays into contemporary times. People seem to like the sound of this so far, although I am sure pulling a face in my company and saying 'that sounds a bit shite' would have been seen as an appalling faux pas, so perhaps not the best way to judge reactions. However, it is really good practice for me to talk about it - makes it all the more real, and that is very exciting! Oh one day…

But in the meantime – work. I have recklessly done nothing for work tomorrow – I should have laid out clothes, made lunch, washed hair – all these sort of things, yet nope – tonight has been a night off. This means tomorrow morning will be a right arse and I’ll only have my sorry self to blame – ah well. Oh no – just remembered I have to queue up for my weekly travel card too – if you see a wild-eyed girl clutching an apple / random stick of celery wearing one trainer / one boot on the tube tomorrow morning I have the bad feeling it may well be me.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Oh that edit

Today was supposed to be a free day for me to crack on with editing, but I have caught that commuter bug that likes to hang out on the Northern line, and have spent most of today sneezing sadly from the sofa.

How annoying! I was fine to do real life work yesterday of course, and no doubt will be fit for real life work tomorrow, but today… Today has been for feeling dizzy, tired and a bit flu-y. Oh well, I might perk up enough to do some editing later this evening, if lemsip works its magic. Which reminds me, does anyone remember those vaguely threatening lemsip adverts that hinted if you dared take a sick day at home with a cold, some sod in the office would steal your job? Way to go lemsip – paranoia adds a new element when feeling off-colour.

Did you know that poets Philip Larkin and T S Eliot held full time jobs all their lives? Okay, Larkin may have been a librarian, so a bit closer to books, but T S Eliot was a banker – as far away from Macavity the Mystery Cat as you can possibly be. How do people stay creative in their spare time and yet earn enough to survive? For me it is like a seesaw – I do one, and then the other – I find it impossible to strike a balance while doing both. It seems the trick is to get amazingly organised with life, and just to keep plugging away an hour here and an hour there when you can spare them. Even if the next time you look at that hour’s creativity you score a line through it and start again, at least it has provoked some sort of spark, much more than flumping on the sofa and staring at television ever will. It's just finding the energy - and if you put children into the equation then all I can assume is that person is indeed very talented!

Although not knocking full time work at the moment at all - the thought of actually pumping some money into my totally deflated, almost-on-its-knees, bank account is very, very appealing. The problem is I submit invoices, being a contractor type person, and then I have to wait for things to be processed... and time is ticking for over-due bills! Eek.

My piece of advice for anyone who decided to do as I did, which was give up work and write a novel with no back up, would be that when you think you have saved enough to start, save an extra three months worth of money! Or possibly get a part time job in the latter stages... definitely do not do as I did and go for broke, as broke you'll be! And even worse, I noticed a hole in my only pair of smart work shoes... which leads us nicely into today's youtube offering... Come on invoices!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The London Marathon

Every time the London Marathon jogs around I watch it via the BBC, the sofa and a cup of tea, feeling vaguely unfit and rather slobby. All those shiny faced healthy people out there in the sun/rain/hail, and I only have to look in the mirror to see the contrast – I look grey. *puts on kettle, grabs snuggy jumper*

The thing is – I cannot actually jog. It really isn’t my thing. I have made two attempts at jogging – one at University where I think I wavered to a gasping stop at the top of my road, and once around the large block here where I live when I got terribly embarrassed by builders whistling after me, probably because I looked like I was about to keel over.

If I could train in secret, and then pop out on the pavements already a fully fledged jogger, then perhaps it would be better rather than hitting the road as a wheezing mess. The only problem is then finding an accessible gym that I can a) afford and b) go regularly enough to make it worthwhile. If I could find ‘A’ then ‘B’ wouldn’t be a problem – I quite like the gym in a weird sort of way, when I live near one. There is a spit and sawdust gym down the road that I poked my head into when we moved here, and a bloke with no neck told me that if I didn’t mind being the only female then I was welcome to join… I decided to give it a miss.

But back to the race of the day – they announced that entries for the 2009 London Marathon would be open at midday (although already open, so it looks), and my imagination leapt into over-drive. I can do it! Why not – look at those healthy happy people! Oh – ignore that one being helped away… look at the rest! And then I came to my senses – it would take me much longer than a year to prepare for running 26 miles and those odd yards that lay in wait to bite you at the very end. Can someone of no actual ability run a marathon?

Then again, perhaps I should start small – there is a ladies 5k jog around London in September – 5k sounds easy enough. Oh – 3.125 miles. So I could practice that by jogging to my mum’s, which is 4 miles away. *Looks outside window, pointless exercise as cannot see my mum’s house from here*

Hmm. I might make a bacon sandwich and retire back to the sofa to consider it more…

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Ten things

What I have learnt this week:

1 - The earlier the train, the darker the coats of the commuters onboard.

2 - Arriving home after 8 means dinner will be whatever you can quickly grab.

3 - It is possible to live on board room biscuits and fruit.

4 - It is more than possible to be mown down by a jogger along the Embankment at lunchtime.

5 - Printers are contrary machines - they will time to run out of paper/ink/some odd bit you never knew they needed just when you have an important document to print.

6 - As soon as something is fixed in an Agenda it will no doubt shift times.

7 - BBC morning news seems transfixed with George Clooney.

8 - Office air conditioning will be set at freezing or boiling.

9 - It is possible to use the next door neighbour as a 6.30am alarm since he slams his front door at that time every bloody morning.

10 - Morning porridge is lovely... Mmm. *whispers - especially if you make it with cadburys highlights*

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Edit or rewrite?

Today it was far too wet and cold, and my wallet far too empty, for me to contemplate leaving the flat. All was quiet, so I pulled the novel towards me and thought it was prime editing time. I wish I could say I twirled my Montblanc pen with a jaunty flick of the wrist, but rather it was a mad flap around the house that only revealed an Ikea pencil. Something eats pens around here… it’s probably the ladybirds.

The edit started off really well, just changing a few bits here and there, and then suddenly realised I had practically rewritten three pages. Hmm… but the rewrites sort of flow better I think. This however means editing might take a bit longer than I had initially expected! Still, it is fun to actually write by hand, and then go back to the computer. I do need to find a pen though. Maybe a trip to Argos?

And now J is back, and Jeremy Clarkson is talking in the living room. I do like the way he emphasises every other word when he delivers his lines – I wonder if he talks like that in everyday conversations? I might have to adopt it… “J? Have you finished chopping the mushrooms for the truly exquisite spaghetti Bolognese we are having… (pause for emphasised flourish)... tonight?"

Bet he has a Montblanc pen.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


Today was a good day. The rain splattered against the glass but still I imagined the sun was out there waiting, and by the time I stepped out of my front door the rain had retreated to hover instead in the clouds.

Today was a good day. The train came on time and for once I fitted in with everyone else, and looked like I belonged in their world. A seat was waiting for me, and I sat down with a smile.

Today was a good day. The clothes I had chosen were strangely just right, and I was wearing the rose quartz ring I had bought myself on a happy day. When I felt nervous I clasped my hands and felt the smooth stone, and reminded myself of all I have achieved.

Today was a good day. I felt confident and articulate, and things just seemed to flow smoothly and quickly without panic or fuss. It turns out I am a lot stronger and more resilient than I gave myself credit for, and that is a most empowering feeling.

Today was a good day. I have the best friends in the world and a boyfriend who is building a future. Between us all knowledge is vast and far-reaching. I am blessed and humbled by knowing such fab people in my life.

Today was a good day, as it signified an ending and a beginning, all in my favour. Hooray for good days, may there be many more, and for all of us.