Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Head desk

   
  I’ve always had a desk. Always. From the rickety little wooden toy school desk with lift up lid & fake inkwell, to the vast mahogany expanse of my teenage homework years of paper pile ups, discarded ink cartridges, and abandoned glasses of Ribena, the boardroom table of my first years in employment,  which dominated my office to the extent that no other furniture would bloody fit in the room, on to the flat pack laminated cheapy naffness of my 20s & early 30s that may also have been used as a babychange station for The Girl at times, and then finally, a much beloved bureau belonging to my parents that sat in the corner of the living room in my last home.

     Now, when I remember that desk, I feel guilty for not appreciating it more. It was a beautiful thing to look upon, golden walnut wood and black leather, with space for my laptop, notebook and a glass of wine cup of coffee. It had useful little shelves at the back to put photos and notes and special sentimental items (also, handy for The Blondies to stuff sweet wrappers and Chupa Chup sticks and bits of paper and all other sorts of fluff and crap I’d discover lurking on  the rare occasions that I deigned to flap some polish around). I did all sorts of things from that desk. My first real attempts at writing. My first tweet. Sitting at that desk, I made friends, had arguments, discovered things I’d never known, I opened up my world to a new perspective and understanding. I sent happy emails, sad ones, angry ones, silly ones. I saved photos and paid bills, I organised things, I changed the course of my life irrecoverably on so many occasions, sitting quietly at that desk in the corner over the space of four years. And I never really considered the desk at all. It was just there, being a handy piece of furniture that was useful in every area of my life.

     But it wasn’t mine. So when I moved, it did not. And in the general complete pigfuck that was the process of moving house, I had to jettison several items that could easily have been pressed into service as a flat surface on which to write (moving was a complete disaster. Maisie’s slightly quirky in that the front door is upstairs, meaning that all of the furniture for living room had to be taken down the very tight and winding spiral staircase. Or not, as it transpired, because hardly any of it would fit. Seriously, I lost all of my bookshelves, my beloved Indian dresser - the first piece of furniture I ever bought – my gorgeous six foot pine antique dining table… and then the crowning glory of not getting the sofabed down the staircase to the living room, which is why it got dumped in my bedroom instead, and I’m still sleeping on it now, a year later, and god, moving was a disaster. It should have taken three hours. It took nearly seven). 

     No desk? No problem. I’ll just use the kitchen table instead. Except that the kitchen table is a bit dodgy and has two wobbly legs. Fine for sitting and eating at, but rather unnerving when you’re typing away furiously, and the table lurches away and to the left of you as though it’s about to collapse in on itself, meaning you have to leap up and hold your laptop aloft every few minutes. 



Oh, and wifi in the kitchen is rubbish, so communication with the outside world is curtailed every few minutes, which is hugely frustrating and rather like living in North Norfolk.

     I thought I’d found a solution. The coffee table in the living room. Sturdy, hardwearing, dependable, and unlikely to develop an aversion to being close to me. Only problem is that it’s about 30cm off the floor, so to ‘sit’ at it, I had to arrange a couple of cushions on the floor and lean against the annoyingly prickly wicker sofa. Ever tried sitting like that? It’s fine for an hour or two. But adopting the same position for hours, day after day, for months at a time gets trying. It’s never wholly comfortable, leaves you with an aching back, pins and needles, and a persistent feeling that things could somehow be more enjoyable. A bit like a rubbish shag, to be honest.


     And because positioning myself like that became such a chore, writing stopped being enjoyable too. The only times I did write anything was in my notebook when I was in the pub, but the thought of then having to drape myself across the floor to transcribe those ciderfuelled scribbles onto my crappy laptop on a narrow table that was usually covered with magazines and books and craft projects and games and toys by The Blondies… It was just dispiriting, and made me feel like I wasn’t using the table so much as banging my head against it. But there was no other space in the house I could use. So I wasn't writing. And when I'm not writing, I'm... frankly awful. And the longer I went without writing, the more unhappy and full of doubts I became and felt as though I was never going to write again. Or, if I did attempt to write something, it would be utter shite. The world does not need more shite writing, trust me. There are already far too many people who can't even type a coherent sentence, let alone a piece that ebbs and flows and is funny or clever or thoughtful. I should know, I seem to end up reading most of their output and twitching as I do so. I felt like I couldn't even hoik my judgeypants at them though, because at least they were writing and being read, shared and valued. I wasn't even managing to come up with a single idea. I was sodding miserable without writing.




     Until last Tuesday. When that arrived. A desk. My desk. Mine. And it might not look like much to anyone, and it’s small, and it’s fairly plain, and inoffensive, but I love it. The first time I sat down at it I felt this ridiculous rush of happiness that made me laugh out loud for the first time in too long. It may seem such an insignificant thing, but it means the world to me. Not least because on the surface of it are ghosts of writing past. Tiny little fragments of words that have been written into the very fabric of the wood by another’s pen, pressing slightly too hard on the soft pine. ‘ighton’ and ‘what is PE?’, marks of doodles and zigzags, a deliberate graffito into the desk of ‘I heart B’ and hundreds and hundreds of jumbled up hours of other peoples lives and stories and homework and letters and admin and idle moments and times when inspiration  struck and days when despite staring out of the window for hours, not a single thing got done. All of those marks are there, from people writing at this desk, people making their mark. Perhaps, now that I have a desk, my desk, their desk, our desk, I can start writing again too. And make my own mark, in one way or another.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Warning shots

   


     We need a word. A word that means ‘that feeling of grim satisfaction when your warnings were ignored and things have gone tits up as you knew they would’. That inward sigh and tut of disapproval that accompanies an ‘I told you so’. That feeling of being both ever so slightly smug that you have been proven right, frustration that you weren’t listened to in the first place, and weariness that you’re going to have to deal with the fallout of a situation that you had already advised against.

     The thing with me is that I ‘get’ people. I can write a pen portrait of 500 words of pretty much most people, based on their twitter bio. Trust me, it’s a skill I have. I’ve written about it before. A natural curiosity, a lifetime of observation, and quietly, unintentionally processing what I see happening around me. I don’t try to understand people, I just do. It’s become innate.

     So bollocks doesn’t work on me. I know when people are dissembling, when they’re masking their true motives, even when people are lying. I know what you’re trying to achieve, or what you’re trying to hide (especially you reading this on your laptop with the guilty expression, you just tried to smother it with a half laugh and now your eyes are flickering from side to side. That’s it, take a swig from the drink next to you as you try and plan an escape route from my unintentional scrutiny…. But you should know that there is no escape).

     It sounds like this should make my life easy. That I can see behind every word, every action, every carefully constructed profile. Well, no. No, it really isn’t easy. It’s bloody hard. Because everything then becomes a process of evaluation. Why is this person lying? Who is that person trying to impress? He quite clearly fancies her, but she’s too shy to realise. Those two are shagging. That person is a single issue fanatic and not hiding it very well. That man is a selfish fucker and is very soon going to see the error of his ways.

     The problem I have is do I say something? Do I call the selfish fucker on their behaviour? Do I speak up when someone is lying? Do I warn others about something dodgy? Because the risk is twofold. Firstly saying ‘Look, I just have a feeling’ makes me sound like some kind of purple crystal woo bollocks purveyor who says we all have auras and trust your sixth sense and let’s all dwell by waterfalls and positive energy has healing properties. Someone, in short, not to be trusted. If I go the other way and try to explain what this feeling is based upon, the evidence is scantier than a crotchless lace g string. Because it is always based on tiny things. Teeny tiny, unimportant, unremarkable words, gestures, and actions. And to have observed, understood, and then filed away such mundane little moments makes me look like a creepy fucking single white female stalker nutjob, which also does not bestow an air of credibility upon me. Quite often the reverse of what I intended, usually – warning against a person or course of action – is achieved, and my warnee, as I might term them, very deliberately does the very thing I’m advising against, out of contrariness, a desire to prove me wrong, or just sheer fucking selfishness.

     And then of course, it does all go wrong, falls apart, gets to fuck. And in the smouldering wreckage of a perfectly avoidable calamity, in the hurt, confusion, and anger, I yearn to say ‘I told you this would happen.’ In some cases I actually want to grab people by the collar and snarl ‘Why the mascara arse did you think you knew better? How many times have I been right before? Why the buggery hell did you not just pause and consider what I was saying, instead of creating this?’ I don’t do that, obviously. It’s hardly likely to help an already difficult situation. The meal I warned you against eating has already given you food poisoning, and all I can hope for now is to ameliorate the effects.

     But I can do one other thing. Remind you that whoever you are in my life, whatever role or function I perform, whoever I am to you, you have chosen to have me there. Maybe you like me. Maybe you care a bit. Maybe you just have to tolerate my presence in order to achieve something for yourself. And if I am concerned enough to issue a warning, it means that I think my worst fears are going to be realised, and I am urging you, with every strand of The Mane, to listen to me. Because I know people, I know behaviour, I know how a sinkhole can open up in your life unexpectedly, and if I can avoid that, I will.

     So if I am worried, so should you be. If I am worried enough to tell you that I’m worried, listen the fuck up. Because as I said in an email to someone not so long ago ‘I will not discuss this further with you. I sincerely hope that this decision of yours will not come to be a cause for regret.’


     He regrets it now. But then I knew he would.