The Great British Workman

Being able to look at something, suck your teeth and scratch an intimate part of your anatomy before delivering the verdict, "Well, it isn't working properly" is a skill taught to all tradesmen when faced with the blindingly obvious. (When was the last time you called a tradesman in just to look at something fully functioning and admire its successful operation, by the way?) Along with all workmen's tea/coffee requiring two sugars or more, teeth-sucking, scratching and stating the obvious are clichés concerning workmen that are disconcertingly true...

6'4" of lanky, aging hippy, complete with Grateful Dead bandana, arrived this morning to fix my shower door. Since I arrived at my new abode, every joyous ablution has been sullied by a pool of water making its egress from the bottom of the shower, to form a slippery pool that spreads across the bathroom floor. Oddly, he removed his shoes before entering the flat - I'm fairly sure it has never been a temple or mosque at any time so I was curious as to why, but decided it was probably best not to mention it...

After a good few minutes of looking at the shower door - no actual touching of it (perhaps they hadn't been formally introduced, or it maybe seemed shy?) he sprang into action, "I'll go get my gun..." He left me standing by the door feeling more than a little perplexed and alarmed.

Some strange images flitted through my head: are lanky hippies licensed to bear arms? Doesn't it go against some great karmic code to inflict harm? Would threatening the shower door make it
behave itself better? My mind - and not for the first time - boggled. I was of course relieved to see him return with nothing more threatening than a tube of silicone - with which he set-to in a fashion best described as an enthusiastic bodge.

For more than fifteen minutes he prodded, poked and squeezed at my shower door while sitting cross-legged on my damp floor. Without so much as a trickle of water to test it, he sprang from the ground in one smooth motion and declared it fixed. Stopping only to slip his feet into his shoes, he left with unnerving rapidity.

As yet, I am unable to tell whether or not the shower door is now fully functioning and admirable - the silicone needs at least another hour to set before I can risk running water over it. Thankfully the weather is now less oppressively hot and so my simple lust to be washed clean isn't as urgent as it might have been were it warmer. Nevertheless, I am still keen to discover if the holistic diagnosis of the fault and it's enthusiastic siliconing as remedy has worked.

However interestingly presented, the aging hippy was indeed still very much a British tradesman - as such, my faith in his ability to successfully administer a repair is therefore subject to some skepticism. It certainly made for an interesting morning. Well, interesting-ish. You'd certainly find it interesting if it were your shower door, I'm sure...


I think I need to get out more...

Night turns into morning eventually

I have things running through my mind.
I can't sleep.
It is now nearly five in the morning and the sky is already light.
I have- not to put to fine a point on it- cooked, fretted, fussed, snapped, paced, drunk and smoked in order to try to dull the ache of... conscience? Hmmm. Maybe that's the word I am looking for. No, I think it's integrity. My integrity is aching - I have a dilemma, maybe more than one.

I am making no sense - but I'll try to write it out.

I am appetite and hunger: physical longing - specific and precise, buoyed by emotion and a newly won sense of myself. I am not just a mind trapped in a body, I am an integral whole. But I am still appetite and hunger - it is there, it is a part.

I am spirit and soul: heartfelt yearning - expansive and expressive, steadied by a corporeal reality and an image of myself. I am not just a body governed by the mind, I am complete. Even so, I am spirit and soul - and meaningless without the physical form.

I want to be impulsive and spontaneous - and yet I fight my impulses, I try to conform, to not offend, to be safe and tame. I want to be emotionally open, free and brave - but I keep coming across barriers of fear and convention that I am wary to cross, some physical, some spiritual and emotional.

I have stopped living a life in my head and now live it in my body. This is new for me. I look at the back of my hands for comfort. I have seen them countless times, I would recognise my hands were they photographed and their picture laid out before me amongst thousands - and yet I cannot describe them, I can't even picture them should I close my eyes. So many things I take for granted - I should look closer, I should remark more, question more, seek more.

But where is the line drawn? What barrier is it that halts me in my tracks, that gives me pause, that makes me reflective and scuttle back to my safe interior world? I need to test out boundaries, to not be afraid of travelling too far that I cannot come back.

-And there is the fear.

I can't simply not be afraid- fear is an emotion and I need to be open to emotion - but I can battle my fears. I can take them on. I can overcome fears - I already have faced so many. But what if by facing my fears I lose something of myself - the self that I have fought so hard to regain and keep? Can I be simply physical and lose nothing of my soul? Can I be merely spiritual and not neglect my physical wants? Should I even try?

I have friends who have faith that I can do and be whatever I want. That I can do and be hard things, things that threaten my body and my soul, and come out stronger, better, more. I'm not sure I share their faith.

This is the abstracted truth a sleepless night brings me: more questions that I can only answer by testing and trying. -More questions to which only I can find my answer...

Of sutures and seething...

I woke up this morning.

No, not a blues song, just a sign that I actually slept. The pain in my jaw that made me wake up every time I turned over in my sleep and placed the right hand side of my face on the pillow has subsided enough to allow me not to wake up every couple of hours or so. Even better, the dissolving sutures holding my gums together are finally beginning to soften and break down. Soon I might even be able to clean my teeth properly, rather than relying on industrial strength mouthwash, delicious dreamy codeine and very ginger brushing of my butchered gingiva.

This is the good news.

The bad news is that I received my final pay cheque from the college. I looked at my online bank statement in disbelief. The sum was paltry. I'm not sure what sort of redundancy settlement they think it is, but pathetic and insulting spring to mind. Were I relying on it to pay my rent this month I would be fucked over a barrel with a very long pole indeed. As it is, I am merely seething that for all the effort and dedication I showed I am remunerated with something that looks like the tip a group of lecturers out on the piss would leave for the impoverished waiting staff. I've probably given more to charity over the past year.

-Tant pis, as the French might put it - it's no use fretting over it now - better it is in my account than elsewhere I suppose, but a five minute peevish seethe has helped me realise that I really do need to do something that rewards me better. Not just in terms of hard cash, but something that makes me feel as though I am doing something that is recognised and rewarded in a way that makes me feel as though I am doing some good and can feel good about myself. (Not that I don't feel good about myself, but you know what I mean...)

In other news, I have added to my collection of bruises. Over the past fortnight, my legs - my shins in particular - have looked as though I have been hacked down by marauding shinty players... Bruises have variously been described as resembling a map of Leeds, Manchester and London (particularly around the Isle of Dogs, now located five inches below my knee...) have taken on the colours of Norwich City FC and West Ham, and even been compared to the spotted coats of giraffes. My newest bruise is not on my legs, however. It sits, barely discernable, in my scalp from where I cracked my head somewhat stiffly on a hand basin. Worse still, I was sober as a Mormon. I did get to see tweety birds and stars and sat dazedly watching Big Brother thinking it fine entertainment... so it wasn't all bad.

Needing a storm....

When I come through the door of my new flat I feel an immediate sense of calm. This is space that I control, that I influence and change. From the smell of the air to the placing of furniture my space reflects me and supports me. I think other people find it calm too. Maybe I am a calm person, underneath the angst and turmoil? I'll find out, I suppose.

I have needed my space and calm - the past few days or so have been challenging, to say the least. You read this blog, so you know that I fell in love with my very dear, very inspiring, very much cherished friend - and I've been struggling with that, along with everything else. We have been trying to sort things out - to recognise, acknowledge and accept some of the blurriness that has occurred between us- to explain and listen and give ourselves some way to refine and redefine who and what we are, to ourselves and each other.

It always comes back to the same thing: we are friends. I would-and will- defend her blindly (and still be gently frank enough to tell her privately, to her face, if I think she is doing something wrong) and I have absolute faith that she would (and has, and will) do the same for me; I would - and will - continue to tell her of all the amazing, fantastic, enviable, unique qualities and gifts she has and of the potential - and actual - greatness (of soul, strength, character, creativity, compassion, love, integrity, loyalty, empathy, energy, vision, expression, passion...) she possesses. She has inspired me to be more than I am or seem, to be braver than I think I can be, to be confident that I have something to offer and that I should not be afraid of success -nor should I listen to the mocking voices of ghosts from the past. I admire her dedication to doing the right thing, rather than the easy one- even when I see it ties her in knots and feel her agony in trying. I respect her morality, values and philosophy. I accept her flaws as she accepts mine: I love my friend.

Selfishly, I mourn that we cannot be lovers and yet I can still celebrate that we have a friendship built on love: this is not some weak consolation prize - this is a unique prize in itself.

We have said a lot to each other - things I will keep close to my heart and not share here or anywhere- and much of it I will probably think and reflect upon for a long time to come. This sullen heat the summer has brought seems like an apt pathetic fallacy. I tend to overdramatize, I know - but the weather is turning the world I am in into some kind of crucible, burning and combining and making something new. All that is needed is a storm to clear the air, to temper what has been formed - I think we've had our own personal storm, but a meteorological one would seem fitting.

"I'm gonna make you an offer you cannot refuse..."

Yesterday I had some nasty periodontal surgery. (I will spare you the details - but it was nastier than I had anticipated. The bits of blood and gum hoovered up by the aspirator blocked the pipe and caused the engine to whine like spoilt brat and eventually pack up...Nice...) Today I have woken up and the right side of my face looks like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, or maybe as though I have a single mump, possibly I have hamster ancestry, Pete Doherty's fatter twin sister... You get the picture...

One of the things that makes it bearable is the liberal use of codeine as a painkiller. The precioussssss caplets were given to me liberally at the dental hospital as I was advised that "post-operative pain is 100% likely" - I do love a dentist that doesn't mince his words: not " a wee bit of discomfort" nor, "a bit of an ache" but "pain.. 100% likely." Anyhow, the codeine makes the world floaty-light and I slept for over 9 hours last night, which is a miracle in itself. I'd even had a very lovely snooze earlier in the evening...*sigh* Very lovely indeed.

My next surgery is in August - I look forward to it (only because I can't look back on it....) and hope that the codeine lasts....

Boxed Up

Well, I'm down to the last three or so boxes to unpack - and thanks to the most delightful dyke to ever wield an allen key, even my books are displayed on reasonably sturdy shelves and my voluminous underwear safely hidden in a chest of drawers.

Oh yes, and I am back online. Which is a relief...

I will blog more, more comprehensively and more reflectively once I have had time to reflect: as much as the flat looks relatively settled and homely, I am still in a state of "Woooooooooaaaaaaaaaaah!" (-to be said in the best Keanu-in-Bill-and-Ted voice). I can't really express it any more clearly than that.

Today brings the joy of oral surgery: two hours with my mouth open while a dental surgeon does something unspeakable with my gums... to be repeated a further three times later in the year. What fun! no, really! I've never had it before: it's a new experience!

So, in short - I am well, I am settling in and down, my head is clearer. I am optimistic, hopeful, eager to seek new challenges, meet new people, be a new person, just "be" - and I am boxed up, tidy, safe, sorted.

Ah - and next year I am going to be climbing Ben Nevis. Bring it on!


I won't be blogging much in the next week or so.

Right now I am packing my life into boxes and figuring out how to "be". (Not who to be - I'm not going to be on Stars In Their Eyes - but simply how.)

How to be single
How to be happy
How to be a friend
How to be independent
How to be open
How to be restrained
How to be responsible
How to be able to make mistakes
How to be able grieve
How to be able to repair myself
How to be able to forgive
How to be able to forgive myself
How to be hopeful
How to be me.

I'm sure there are more things that I need to figure out how, but these will do for starters.

I'll blog when I've moved/when I feel like it.

Hair today...

In a fit of madness, I've had my hair cut. I say madness, but actually I was just maddened by my sweaty mop falling into my eyes and my looking as though a dishevelled Yorkshire Terrier was sitting atop my head. The recent muggy weather has been playing hell, trichologically speaking - and along with an anti-depressant induced tendency to sweat at the mildest exertion, my hair has been a wild indicator of my physical and mental state.

I have a curious relationship with hairdressers: once, I wanted to be one (but school wouldn't supply me with a reference - they insisted I sit my A-levels. Bastards...) now I shy away from them, fearful of what their mighty scissors might do. When I was a young teen I was visited by a young dykey hairdresser, who would cut my hair in the lounge while gossiping to me about the exploits of her gardener girlfriend. (I didn't stand a chance of heterosexuality, did I?) My hair has never been cut better. Alas, she disappeared one day - after her girlfriend had been discovered to have been doing more than simply trimming a neighbour's bush - and was last heard of in Brighton...

In the past, hairdressers have done some fairly dreadful things to me- the "very nearly a mullet, but not quite" , the "Princess Diana (after she died)", the "football player manqué"... and then there's just the, "too short, too bloody short". Luckily, my current hairdresser - a Scots-Italian socialist whose small talk was today mainly focused on the World Cup - errs just on the right side of sensible when he wields the scissors. I don't have much to complain about - and I haven't been asked about my holidays once - I have been grilled on what I thought about eco-tourism, but it's not the same thing.

Today's 'do is a little on the short side, but not hat-wearingly so. Give it a couple of weeks and it will be fine-I have to keep telling myself that: it's my post- haircut mantra to deal with the rising panic every time I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror.

-Bet the weather changes, now I'm prepared for the heat...


There is an art to flathunting in Edinburgh. It is an art I would appear to lack...
I have been stood-up by one particular letting agency twice, arrived at another place only to find it was never to let in the first place (don't ask...) and been given excuse after excuse as to why a broom cupboard is actually a really sensible place to put a shower and why an airing cupboard makes a great toilet. (Actually, I had a flatmate who thought the same thing: trouble was there was no plumbing in the particular airing cupboard he favoured... dirty, pissed bastard).

Any large-ish space that can have a stud-wall partition -to separate normal rooms into teensy weensy ickle rooms -can be considered a "one bedroom flat" and therefore cost an arm and at least the lower half of a leg per month to rent. Seriously, if you have money to invest, some plasterboard and no morals at all you could do worse than invest in the property letting market in Edinburgh. Indeed, you could probably turn an ordinary one bedroom flat into a dwelling for at least three or four people, given a creative flair with "cabin beds" and a total disregard of health and safety legistlation.

Thankfully-references and non-bouncy cheques notwithstanding - I won't have to participate in this particular pastime any longer: I've hunted myself a flat! It's a bit crummy, the bathroom is scarily bleak, but I've been promised (ha!) a new shower at the very least and a fresh coat of paint, even some new furniture. It even has a newish kitchen and double glazing (which seeing as it's on a main road should prove handy...) I should be moved-in by the end of the month.

Now, if only I could sort out the job thing... Hmmm...

Le Crépuscule du matin

La diane chantait dans les cours des casernes,
Et le vent du matin soufflait sur les lanternes.

C'était l'heure où l'essaim des rêves malfaisants
Tord sur leurs oreillers les bruns adolescents;
Où, comme un oeil sanglant qui palpite et qui bouge,
La lampe sur le jour fait une tache rouge;
Où l'âme, sous le poids du corps revêche et lourd,
Imite les combats de la lampe et du jour.
Comme un visage en pleurs que les brises essuient,
L'air est plein du frisson des choses qui s'enfuient,
Et l'homme est las d'écrire et la femme d'aimer.

Les maisons çà et là commençaient à fumer.
Les femmes de plaisir, la paupière livide,
Bouche ouverte, dormaient de leur sommeil stupide;
Les pauvresses, traînant leurs seins maigres et froids,
Soufflaient sur leurs tisons et soufflaient sur leurs doigts.
C'était l'heure où parmi le froid et la lésine
S'aggravent les douleurs des femmes en gésine;
Comme un sanglot coupé par un sang écumeux
Le chant du coq au loin déchirait l'air brumeux
Une mer de brouillards baignait les édifices,
Et les agonisants dans le fond des hospices
Poussaient leur dernier râle en hoquets inégaux.
Les débauchés rentraient, brisés par leurs travaux.

L'aurore grelottante en robe rose et verte
S'avançait lentement sur la Seine déserte,
Et le sombre Paris, en se frottant les yeux
Empoignait ses outils, vieillard laborieux.

— Charles Baudelaire


Outside the barracks now the bugle called, and woke
The morning wind, which rose, making the lanterns smoke.

It was that hour when tortured dreams of stealthy joys
Twist in their beds the thin brown bodies of growing boys;
When, like a blood-shot eye that blinks and looks away,
The lamp still burns, and casts a red stain on the day;
When the soul, pinned beneath the body's weight and brawn,
Strives, as the lamplight strives to overcome the dawn;
The air, like a sad face whose tears the breezes dry,
Is tremulous with countless things about to die;
And men grow tired of writing, and women of making love.

Blue smoke was curling now from the cold chimneys of
A house or two; with heavy lids, mouths open wide,
Prostitutes slept their slumber dull and stupefied;
While laborers' wives got up, with sucked-out breasts, and stood
Blowing first on their hands, then on the flickering wood.
It was that hour when cold, and lack of things they need,
Combine, and women in childbirth have it hard indeed.

Like a sob choked by frothy hemorrhage, somewhere
Far-off a sudden cock-crow tore the misty air;
A sea of fog rolled in, effacing roofs and walls;
The dying, that all night in the bare hospitals
Had fought for life, grew weaker, rattled, and fell dead;
And gentlemen, debauched and drunk, swayed home to bed.

Aurora now in a thin dress of green and rose,
With chattering teeth advanced. Old somber Paris rose,
Picked up its tools, and, over the deserted Seine,
Yawning, rubbing its eyes, slouched forth to work again.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

I was awake at dawn this morning. A grey light smeared itself across the wall and I could hear the birds begin their vicious territorial chatter. Rimed in a cold sweat and struggling with half remembered nightmares, I stared at the ceiling. Some days time catches up with you: some days you catch up with time.

Last week was hard in many ways: so many things still unresolved; so many others resolved, but not as I would want them. I keep learning things about myself, dredging up strengths and frailties from the past and re-incorporating them -or looking at them with a surgical eye and considering them for amputation.

The darkest time for me is the dawn: when the first light wakes me, I feel disoriented and have to piece myself together bit by bit. My body feels strange to me, on this unfamiliar mattress. I look at my hands for comfort: they are still the same, still the hands I have used to feel the world, to gesture, to shield, to make love, to make fists, to write, to rip apart, to grab, to let go. Maybe I try to handle too much? I don't know, but I made this bed and I shall lie in it...

A few short thoughts on beer. *

  • Beer dissolves money.
  • Beer causes strange bruises to appear on one's body - for which there is no explanation.
  • Beer can alter the geography of a city and make pavements very uneven indeed.
  • Beer makes one's bladder shrink to that of a small child.
  • Beer alters the dimensions of time so that when you speak there is a time-lag between what you are thinking and what comes out of your mouth.
  • Beer makes a packet of crisps into a satisfying three course meal.
  • Beer alters the dimension of space making the floor both simultaneously nearer and further away.
That is pretty much all I have to say about beer, at the present time. Oh yes, apart from the age-old beer dictum: "never again."

* the exception is Alice Beer: she is merely irritating.