I am officially old. Frankly, the fact that jet lag took me a week to recover from is a pretty clear indication that, yes, I am old. I obviously also suffer from first world problems so forgive me if you can.
When I was a young and carefree twenty something, we would party all night and still manage to go to work the next day. We simply giggled our way through the day on happy memories of the night before, cans of coke and black coffee. Now, if I manage to stay awake until ten o’clock, I’m doing well. ‘Tis a sad state of affairs.
Yesterday on the train, I was not just an old woman, but a grumpy old woman.
“Why do they say twice at every single station, ‘Mind the gap’?” I snapped at my husband.
“I mean really,” I continued, warming to my theme, “How many people have actually fallen down the gap between the train and the platform. I’ve never seen even one!”
He peered at me over his glasses, looking a little baffled and worried as to whether or not this was one of those test questions, like “How much do you love me?” (Just for your information, this is a test question and in order to avoid divorce, the answer should be … “I love you more than the best pint of beer in the best pub with the best supermodel talking about the best Formula One cars.” This would be a perfect answer.)
“See!” I said, “Nobody has ever fallen down the gap!”
“Perhaps they haven’t fallen because they constantly remind us not to.” He replied carefully.
“Pah!” I snorted. “I’d like to test your theory. Are you honestly saying that if they didn’t say “Please Mind the Gap” in that mind-numbingly dull voice, then we’d see a plethora of people wedged side by side hanging between the train and the platform all wailing to be rescued with their arms waving?”
By now I was not only belligerent, but completely beyond all reason, so husband dearest twitched his nose and took it upon himself to find the newspaper rather interesting. In his mind, this too was clearly a test … discovering when it is best to keep quiet rather than to instigate World War III. Some times it really must be hard being a man.
I’ve been to New York before, twice as it happens; but I’ve never come with more than just a few spare pairs of knickers, a clean shirt and my makeup bag. No. This week I’m here to find a home. My findings so far:
The weather changes rather a lot. I seem to have been alternating between shivering and sweating profusely. (Don’t ever believe your mother if she delicately reminds you of the little rhyme, “Horses sweat, men perspire but ladies merely glow.” It’s either bollocks or I’m a horse.).
The local supermarket alternates between Aldi and Waitrose but with an American accent. It is also called a grocery store. The staff are either incredibly helpful or utterly terrifying in equal measures.
Every tiny and limited amount of space is crammed full with beautifully presented produce and more choice than you can shake a stick at. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly need to eat dandelion leaves or miniature kale but they make it look so delicious that I’ll be sure to give it a go in due course, once I’ve worked out where the Granny Smiths are …
The Colonel sent me out to go and get some provisions (that’s another word he appears to have adopted). It took me over an hour and I came back with two very shiny apples, a pack of Polish ham and some goji berries. I don’t know what goji berries are, but apparently they promise eternal youth. This solitary outing cost me our budget for two days and consequently I haven’t been allowed out on my own since.
Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
On our first day in New York, I learnt how to cross the road. That is to say, I learnt how to cross the road without either being arrested or run over.
In London, when you want to cross to the other side, you choose a relatively quiet moment in the traffic, randomly step off the pavement and with a few smiles and apologetic hand waves arrive safely on the other side. Not here. No.
Firstly, you only cross on the zebra crossings. I like this rule. I like things to be black and white. If only in the U.K. they would adopt this stance on drink driving. How about just saying absolutely no alcohol rather than a rather questionable amount which differs between body type, sex and how much you’ve eaten. So basically if I’m an overweight man who’s just eaten a pizza with extra dough balls, I’m safer in the car after a glass of wine. I’m getting off the point as per usual, but you get my drift.
Back to the roads .. Secondly, there are no buttons to press when you want to cross the road (saves on children’s arguments as to whose turn it is) and there are no beeps telling you when it’s safe to start walking. You have no control and have to pay attention. There is however a lit-up picture of a big red hand instructing you not to move under any circumstances, and when its time to cross, a picture of a white man who appears to be running. I’m not sure that running is necessarily required, but I’m not going to argue with this instruction, so run I do.
The problem occurs when people start moving across on the red hand when no traffic is in sight. This confuses the rules in my head. I therefore spend rather a lot of time looking baffled and starting to cross (at a run of course) and then changing my mind. This in turn, confuses everyone around me. I felt yesterday like a piece of toast being pushed down into the toaster when the power wasn’t on … I just kept on popping back up again. Unfortunately the other pieces of toast behind me bumped into me and that upset everyone. Being shouted at in an American accent is quite disconcerting, “What the fuck lady? You can notdo that.” As established earlier, I’m clearly not a lady and my response to them merely confirmed this further.
Betty was my black dog, my little cackling demon, the ogre clutching on to my back. Haven’t we all had a little of her from time to time?
The majority of us have suffered from moments of depression, anxiety or a combination of both. I had my fair share, yet whether mine was worse or not than anyone else’s, who am I to say? I had moments of feeling blue, but then don’t we all? Perhaps that’s all it ever was, just a little bit of blue.
Like all the evil bullies of this world, in the end Betty found me to be a rather repellent host and has consequently moved on.
The sun is shining, the world is a happy, if complicated place and I can see Betty and the bullies for what they truly are. Having used every resource available to me, (see my post Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) I can confirm that this slightly unhinged woman has indeed killed Betty and moved on.
“Ha! Don’t you get so cocky!” I hear someone say with a smirk. Perhaps they’re right; but in truth I don’t want to be around that person. I only surround myself with positive people who like me want to live in peace, love and optimism. Yes, I have to be careful and keep an eye on myself, but that’s what we all do anyway.
Life is for living. But most importantly, life is for living in the light and not the darkness.
The British Post Office is a fairly depressingly dire place. But we need it. I think.
The queue at my local Post Office always reaches the door, and yet of the six tills, only two are only ever manned. There is usually someone else wandering around in the background but they never appear to be doing very much apart from talking to the teller whom you have just waited twenty minutes for. Hence, irritation starts to rise with ferocity as you feel you have deserved and want to claim the tellers undivided attention for just a few minutes. You have stood beside the birthday card stands, the array of stationery and the plastic toys for sale for too long. And yet, if you stand for long enough, you start believing that you actually need some paperclips with coloured unicorns attached to them.
Then, uproar. A man comes in, bypasses the entire queue and heads straight to a momentarily empty till. The wretched teller is ignorant of his blatant lack of adherence to the British queuing system. The line of waiting men, women, grumpy children, angry old women and a random dog begin by hissing amongst each other. The young lady beside in front of me sucks through her teeth and says quietly, “Excuse me?” in disbelief at this. I however am clearly feeling hormonal.
“Excuse me! Are you not aware of this queue?” What should have been uttered as a polite question comes out as an overly loud bellow of indignation.
All eyes on me.
Man looks horrified and scuttles amid apologies to the end of the queue.
I am mortified.
“Oh God,” I whisper to my lady friend, “Now I feel like such a cow.”
“Nah!” She says. “We’re all with you.” And as I look around, I am being given nods and smiles of approval, apart from the rather sheepish man.
Unity. Yes, there is strength in unity!
Although, having come from Scotland, had this happened in Glasgow where everyone calls a spade a spade, this would never have started. Well, it might have, but there would have been a full-blown punch-up, the police would have arrived, someone, probably me would have been tasered, ending with all and sundry having a good glass of whiskey and a three hour discussion.
Oh I do love a bit of human interaction. So good for the soul.
A fellow blogger and friend Chelsea, wrote yesterday about friends and being judgemental. (How to win friends … ) Excellent post and something that I suspect a lot of us can resonate with. I know I did.
Historically I struggled to make friends. I was a loner and I didn’t feel as though I could fit in anywhere. But, at that time I was very unhappy. I was hurt and angry with the world and subconsciously I believe people were picking up on this, which made me more isolated and consequently more unhappy. I was on a little miserable hamster wheel of self-indulgent misery!
And alongside this (as if it wasn’t bad enough), I was extremely judgemental. I was like the bulldog looking over the garden fence and seeing the pretty little cat in it’s pretty little garden with it’s oh so green grass. And I hated that cat and all it’s friends with a venomous loathing and frankly wanted to eat the little blighters for lunch.
Yes, I was indeed a bulldog.
At social events I would stress beforehand, arrive in a jitter, and become the infamous wallflower, desperate for someone to talk to me. I’d leave early and then berate myself for being so unutterably wet. But I simply didn’t think that I had anything worthy to talk about and at that time small talk was an anathema to me. What had happened to the carefree young woman of years ago?
However, a strange thing has happened. I have now got a busy little life and what with one thing and another, my days pass in a blurry fizz of happiness and often exhausting, but well received brain-overload. And having of late been forced into a flurry of social occasions with people from different situations, backgrounds, parts of the world and dare I say it, social and class status (I’m in England, it exists) my entire mindset has changed. People are fascinating, and they all have a story to tell!
Most of the time, people do ask about us, and we ask about them. It’s a rather symbiotic relationship, however fleeting, but I guess that’s just small talk for you.
And sometimes, we’ll meet someone completely fabulous who becomes a true friend. There’s that saying, that if you throw enough muck at the wall, eventually some of it will stick. Like online dating, if you meet enough people, probability states that eventually, you’ll meet someone that you gel with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really referring to people as muck, but you get the point I hope. Neither am I promoting multiple dating, bed-hopping or anything quite so insalubrious … again, I hope you get the point.
So perhaps now I’m not quite the bolshy bulldog that I once was. And, because there’s no need, I don’t bother looking over the garden fence (unless the neighbours are having a bbq).
I’m more of a little, green happy, hoppy frog bouncing around in my own little garden pond. Yes indeed … I think I’ve found my inner frog who loves everyone. Well, mostly … I am human after all.
Are you a grumpy bulldog or a happy, hoppy frog?
Do you like socialising? Or do you find it difficult?
Some of you might know that I’m doing a wee bicycling trip through France next month. 1150km of pottering along cycle paths and tracks, through villages, past (and into) boulangeries, and following the coast south all the way to where my husband’s family will, fingers crossed, be waiting for me with aftersun, paracetamol and a vat of ibuprofen gel.
I’ve chosen the scenic route which with any luck will mean avoiding the lorries and buses, but may of course mean that I have to endure the sound of my own voice and thoughts for many, many hours a day at a time. Thankfully I’m no singer so there won’t be any renditions of The Sound of Music, but I do ponder on whether I’ll be ok with just … me. It’s not a safety thing, God forbid should some poor fellow think it’s wise to take on this feisty old bird! No, it’s more about being bored of my own thoughts and if things get bad, will I be able to stop the downward spiral of negativity without my usual routines and a practical and heavenly husband just a few miles away.
Well, time will tell and any suggestions are genuinely welcome.
I’ve been going out most days and gradually getting stronger, fitter and more confident. People on the road never fail to astound me however, cyclists and drivers alike. Yesterday I had only three shrieking moments, once with a lorry cutting me up, once with a woman suddenly deciding to cross the road and the last one, much the worst, with a fellow cyclist in front of me deciding to ‘gob’, yes ‘spit’ his phlegm out which promptly landed on my leg. Arghhhhh! Yes, I damn well did give him hell. To be fair, he didn’t know that I was right behind him, but did his mother teach him nothing?!
I got a little lost as per usual, but found Fleet Street, The Strand, Covent Garden and little secret squares tucked away with the occasional terribly smart restaurant hiding within. Beautiful. I was looking to bicycle along Southside which I’d heard was rather fun, but having been stampeded by a school trip of children simultaneously with a group of Japanese tourists I made a bit of a diversion, not even sure if that was Southside.
I ended up in the borough of Lambeth which is dodgy old place, well the part I was in certainly had little to recommend it. Huge tower blocks, screaming children, an ominous feel about it and a few too many ‘young’ loitering (with or without intent I know not). Certainly the blood was pumping as I passed a small group of lads who thought it amusing to try to intimidate me. Standing up on the pedals and pushing on hard, I got past in one piece despite one of them thinking he might outrun me on his skateboard … pfff … as bloody if.
At the far end of this particularly dubious area however I found myself at The Vauxhall City Farm. Quite extraordinary to find Alpacas and chickens in the middle of London. I stopped and watched and listened as two girls had rather an amusing discussion as to whether or not donkeys were carnivores and their safety was in question.
Having a little bell on a bike is now fairly pointless, as people 80% of the time who are walking, have headphones on so can’t hear you, dogs are unpredictable (nearly took out a Dachshund last week) and other cyclists … well I’ve only overtaken three so far and one of them was stationary. I think perhaps I need a socking great foghorn instead, but being slightly highly strung myself, I may well find it’s not awfully good for the blood pressure. I give myself enough frights … the other day in the bedroom I was opening the sliding door of my husband’s cupboard and screamed blue murder as I discovered someone standing in front of me in the cupboard. Dear God! Thankfully it was in actual fact just my own reflection in the mirrored cupboard door, but I needed a bit of a lie down after that. You get my drift … perhaps a foghorn is not the answer.
I’m getting fitter of that there is no doubt and my stamina is improving (particularly with the incentive of a bloke on a skateboard shouting obscenities and chasing me). And the other day I managed to overtake a girl going up a particularly long hill towards Wandsworth as her boyfriend waited patiently at the top for her. It felt good.
I still have a long way to go and watching a YouTube video in the front garden on how to change a bicycle tyre last Friday certainly was a little too public as I ended up having various very kind and well meaning people offering to help, but that wasn’t really the point! How sweet they were, but as I explained, I do need to work out how to do this for myself! People are kind really, they’re not all axe-murdering psychopaths.
So onwards and upwards. Have a lovely day my friends and remember, if you’re in London, avoid the dodgy end of Lambeth past the farm, and for certain, avoid a blonde bicyclist wobbling her way through town with an array of expletives on the tip of her tongue and a rather pathetic tinkly little bell on a bicycle called Claude.
I’ve been saving this up for you. Just in case you thought you were a tad unhinged, I think I’ve now overtaken you and reached the top of the class in that department. (Nb Photo with lassie above is not me … even I wouldn’t clean the car in heels …)
A glorious day in Scotland, and it was not raining, in fact the weather was positively tropical. Everyone still wears their coats though, after all, it’s common knowledge for the Glaswegians that if it’s not raining, it’s about to and if you’ve not got your coat, you’d be well advised to nick someone’s else’s.
By now I think you will have understood that ‘The Car’ is my husbands true love (along with Jaffa Cakes, women with long legs and beating me at Scrabble). With time on my hands, I figured that an outing to the car jet wash was the order of the day.
I must confess that being somewhat mean with money (the old fear of dying broke with 5 children from 5 fathers in a studio flat in the darkest depths of some God-forsaken city surrounded by beer cans and cigarette butts regularly rears its ugly head) …. moving onwards and away from that particular thought … this forces me to not be frivolous with the old notes and to generally get out the bucket and sponge and wash the car myself. However, a moment of madness and a simple trip to the car jet wash ensued. Or so I thought….
My money is in the machine. I’m not wasting a penny. The timer is going. I sense urgency to get the darn car clean; I have only eight minutes to complete my task and the clock’s ticking … they don’t call it a pressure washer for nothing. What started out as a blast of water that ricocheted off the car onto my face, was quickly replaced by bubbles. A lot of bubbles, with force.
The hose is stuck under a tyre; I’m flicking it away, it’s caught on the stumpy aerial on top of the car, I’m flicking it away again … every flick comes with a drenching of white bubbly car detergent all over yours truly. Eyes stinging and streaming, I look as though I’ve entered a wet t-shirt competition for the over 60’s – it’s really not a good look. Perhaps wearing a coat would have been a good idea.
Suddenly the hose is snatched from my hands by a huge Scottish man who barks at me in a language I can only assume is native to the farthest part of The Outer Hebrides …. I comprehend nothing. I snatch it back …. However, I am now not alone in being covered in bubbles.
His eyes are narrowing and yet he once again lurches towards me to grab said hose with more of the guttural, phlegm-inducing sounds which I can only assume are more words …. ahhh but I’m quick off the mark here! I can see Angelina Jolie in myself as I swiftly dodge his swipe and point my brush at his face, bubbles exploding over his huge chest and now bubble-splattered hairy face.. God he’s enormous. “Go away!” I squeak. He responded with words that my brain couldn’t register, except for two, “help” and “mad”. He shakes his head in bewilderment at me, bubbles flying from his beard.
Dear God, he was trying to help me. Another squeak, “Oh … Bugger!” Back-tracking required with speed.
“Um, gosh, thanks awfully. But um, I rather enjoy this …. see?” When in fear, the frightfully British accent lurches forward overtaking all normal speech. The thought of a burly Scot vigorously rubbing the paint off my husbands pride and joy was too terrifying to contemplate, so I now spend the next two and a half minutes pretending to simply adore washing cars as I rub and squirt and spray with gusto and all the time gibbering and thanking him profusely for his offer. He looks baffled, bewildered and somewhat wet.
At long last, the timer rings and the furious noise and force of water diminishes, and I am left standing in relative silence opposite a mammoth soggy Scot with bubbles in his beard and a now flaccid hose which rather halfheartedly gives a final and rather pathetic little spurt of water before dribbling onto the ground. “Sorry.” I mutter and hand it to him, whilst ineffectively wiping at his bubble-soaked jacket. I wisely leave the beard alone as I make out another two words, “Focking nootter …”
“Yes, you’re quite right … awfully sorry.” It’s the Noel Coward accent again, but I’m in the car pronto and making a hasty exit.
Sometimes you know, even if people look scary, they’re as kind and soft as … well, they’re just not. Think I’ll stick to the bucket and sponge in future – infinitely safer.
Do you ever judge people wrongly? Do you ever act like a complete fruitcake?