the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Lockdown 2021: Day 1

So here we are again.

Well kind of.

Kind of in the sense that we’ve endured a national lockdown before. We know what to expect. The novelty, if one can call it that, the unknown curtailments on all aspects of daily life and the growing sense of disassociation from the lives’ that we lived; the notion that if the past is indeed another country, then quite possibly our old lives’ might suffer the same fate as Mesopatma.

Kind of not, in the sense I’m no longer in sunny Camberwell, but am in beardy Stoke Newington. When the last lockdown was announced, I could’ve stayed here, as I was here on the Friday just before it was announced. We all knew it was coming, so I asked Nosferatu to drive me back, partly because of the space, partly because of the garden. But mainly because that was where LMS was, and for reasons to do with my mental health I knew I’d need the sort of single-minded dedication to fun, general messing about and just being herness that sometimes drove her parents mad, but which I found refreshing.

An example – one of may – leaps to mind. One morning during the last lockdown, Joe and Marge came into the kitchen to discuss the latest death rates from COVID to wash down their cups of tea with. LMS and I, were by contrast, engaged in the more important business of classifying farts. What, for example, did a weasel fart sound like, and when did it become a trumpet fart?

I knew that I was going to miss her terribly, but this new lockdown has just made a frankly appalling state of affairs a mountain sized portion of broccoli ice cream worse.

How exactly are we spelling morning?

“I’ll see you in the morning.’ said Marge the night before last  and that was when the full impact of what this move means, hit me like. Because I realized, there won’t be any more mornings – yesterday was the last one – where she was able to do that.  I’ve left much more than a large selection of cunningly shaped walls, ceilings – some of which leak – and a chandelier. Those are just things, and the thing about these things is that they’ll be replaced by other things, Maybe not as big, but hopefully not as leaky either.

People – despite Elon Musks crazed fantasies – can’t. Marge has been part of my life for over twenty years. We’ve been housemates in three houses, so she knew me before my accident. I can’t stress enough how important this detail is; when so many ‘friends’ have disappeared; those who remain attain an even greater significance, given its just her and Nosferatu.  She has stuck by me when she could so easily have walked away, thinking,  ‘I don’t need this, I’ve got problems of my own to deal with, I don’t need to help you deal with some of yours.’ Instead of which, and in so many ways, she’s attempted to help me help myself, and if the results haven’t been as successful as she might have hoped, the blame for that is mine.

People who meet me now get the version of me that has had niceness foisted upon me, a version that’s more of an extreme immersive improvisation. Not the original and best version, the one who used sarcasm to such a vicious effect that more then fourty people who worked with him signed a petition complaining that he was rude and offensive, the one who – and I’m quoting Marge here – ‘was like Eddie Izzard on speed’ when he wanted to be and the one who when he said he didn’t care what people thought about him, really meant it. The version of me that didn’t – because he couldn’t – wake up from the coma

So her saying that was something I’d never consciously taken on board before, I mean I’d briefly thought about it, but amidst the welter of other things to get done, it didn’t register. However, all the things that needed doing have been done, and there remain no other distractions with which to occupy my mind.

So since not even the planes have started flying o’clock, my mind has been considering her words, all its many implications, and wlth all of its many unknowns. And these were what were bothering me most at shitting crikey o’clock the other morning; because they’re unknown, the mind can create an infinite variety of them, some, none or all of which might come to pass.

And for a variety of good reasons, there hasn’t been enough time to discuss all of this, and with me having left yesterday, it was unfortunately the case that all the things that have been unsaid will remain unsaid. Today is the start of a new part of my life, one without her in it; or rather her not being as in it as much I’m used to her being in it.

On being stuffed like a turkey this Christmas.

And it’s me who’s doing the stuffing!

Obviously the news that what we thought we were doing for Christmas is now not the case is an unwelcome gift from COVID. Which is putting it mildly, although not as mildly as if one were unlucky enough to get the new strain of it

Nosferatu has played a blinder though, she really has.

Last Tuesday evening, after all my stuff had been put into storage, and we had stopped off for a cheeky McAcne, she suggested that we book up somewhere near to our holiday destination. Just for two nights, in case of a lockdown, so we could still have our holiday regardless. She asked, expecting – with good reason – me to say ‘Yes, go right ahead’, and not, as I did, to say ‘No, I want to spend the last few days at the house’

She could constantly be making reference to this, seeing as how I’m the one who always bangs on about how anyone can be wise after the event, but the trick is to be wise before the event. I mean, yes, she mentioned it a couple of times yesterday following  the announcement, which was even then remarkably restrained, but since then, hardly anything..

She could also have made reference to the fact that on Friday night she wanted to come and get me, and had she done so, we could’ve still gotten away.  But no.

I know her game though, don’t you worry, oh yes!  Thinking that by staying calm when she should be by rights blowing her stack – and me knowing she should be, has loads of good reasons to – is only going to magnify the guilt I feel. That’s the kind of stunt I’d pull, actually probably have, knowing me, or knowing the version of me before the accident. In fact I should refer to the accident as The Fall, less of a reference to Mancurian misanthrope Mark E Smiths band, but more of a reference to my over-inflated ego.

The truly perverse thing for me is that my feelings towards being in the house have changed. When our holiday was still happening, I wanted to make the most out of the reaming time here. Then it was finite, ending, so of course I’d feel that way. But that was then and this is now, and now the holiday is no more, in part due to my unwillingness to leave the house, I’m ready to go.  

Well it makes sense to me.

Especially as its gone a bit “I’m Alright Jack” here.

“Should’ve gone to Specsavers!”

The Christmas tree in our house is many things, but ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ isn’t one of them. The tree reminds me of a man who only irons the parts of his shirt that’ll be visible when he wears a jacket. So not the arms, not the back and above all, no taking the jacket off no matter how hot or unbearable it becomes. Admittedly, they’ve only started decorating the tree and LMS is of the opinion that it needs a lot more of everything before she’ll be happy, but if previous years efforts are anything to go by, probably best she doesn’t hold her breath. There are lights, tinsel and baubles, easily enough for a tree a fifth of its size.

I think back to a Christmas some years ago now where I had the weirdly disorientating – is there any other kind? –  experience of visiting my girlfriends parents. In America. A really posh part of New York state. I should’ve been aware that all wasn’t well in the state of jmhplc when a limo picked us up from the airport. But hey, a free holiday is a free holiday after all so I went with it, and the limo to her parent’s house. ‘House’ doesn’t do it justice, it was a house in the same way that David Beckham was alright at football. It made me think of ‘Southfork’

Another sign should’ve been the bizarre transformation that affected Lou as soon as she pressed the bell. Gone was the independent, quasi-feminist I’d known, one who rejected anything that smacked matriarchal control. That person I knew, I didn’t know the person who was all ‘Yes Daddy’, all little girly, simpering, compliant and…totally Stepford. Worse was to come. We’d arrived on Christmas Eve and dressing the Christmas tree was a thing they all did, a family Christmas tradition.

First off, the tree. It was fucking huge, a big and bushy fucker! ‘There’s no way we’ll be able to decorate that’ I foolishly thought before I glanced down at the boxes of decorations at the foot of the tree. Which had been carefully packed away after last they’d taken the previous years Christmas tree.

Now my childhood experience of dressing our Christmas tree rather summed up what was to follow. Festive it wasn’t. Dad would go up to the loft and armed with a torch and swearing would return down with the Quality Street tins that the decorations were crammed into. He’d try and assemble the tree, which even if it were assembled perfectly would never look like it did on the box.

Then came the untangling of the lights. This would precipitate more swearing, only for there to be yet more when after he’d eventually untangled them, he’d discover that some of the lights weren’t working. I’d try not to laugh at him, a grown man incapable of not being bested by his own apathy a year earlier. Successful I always wasn’t. My brother didn’t help matters either. We’d always do something to annoy the other, start bickering, which would get my Dad involved with more swearing and alcohol.

So the sight of neatly ordered boxes of decorations, a real fuck off tree, together with a general air of calm that I thought couldn’t last, was something I was wholly unused to. ‘Of course it’ll be all smiles and politeness at first, but give it time, usually about the time belligerence and alcohol gatecrash proceedings, and it’ll quickly descend into something more familiar.’ But no! The calmness continued, helped by some good natured joshing, that seemed to be as well loved and well worn as some of the decorations. And to help with decorating the tree, they’d placed it in the centre of the room and bought a folding stepladder so they could dress the entire tree. Properly, not just the bits you can see, but the bits you can’t, the places deep within the tree, that were only going to be known to those who’d decorated it. Pride in job well done wasn’t even in it! It was for them as much a family Christmas tradition to be enjoyed as ours were to be endured.

Christmas tree’s are a good example of ‘before’ and ‘after’. ‘Before’ they’re just rather drab, rather green and rather busy large indoor plants. But ‘after’ is when the magic of Christmas has transformed it into something wonderful, sparkly with lots of tinsel, lots of fairy lights – multi-coloured natch – lots of…well everything. Subtle and understated it isn’t meant to be, what is meant be is something that if it were an item of clothing, Liberace would wear it.

Liberace wouldn’t be seen dead in…oh, I forgot!

LMS wants to move the tree into the centre of the now empty dining room, the problem with this being – and which is why it’ll never happen – is if it is, the full extent of its Scroogeness will be clearly evident. Quite how anyone could look at the tree, declare it good, and then not immediately see it as a sign that they needed to have an eye test is beyond me.

Last night Joe said he might get around to reading my blog sometimes. I warned him and Marge not to read this one.

Putting the tears into a Tier 4 Christmas

FUCK!

NOT SO MUCH A WHITE CHRISTMAS AS A SHITE ONE

Thank you for the music.

It had all been going so well. Feverishly searching for a straw to clutch onto, salvation – and this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me – came in musical form. Whenever I’ve been feeling down or worse, music has always managed to take me to another place mentally. I don’t know how it happens, I’m just glad it does, and yesterday it really did. As my post of yesterday will attest, I was so not the laughing queen of jollity farm. Sat in what was my former bedroom, with just a heater, a wicker sofa to sit on while I wrote my blog on my computer, and a Bluetooth speaker.

Hold on, a Bluetooth speaker? Didn’t that I could play music through that via my computer? And with the room being devoid of all furniture, didn’t that mean that the acoustics were good? No. They were great! Trying to convey in mere words how much better they were – and how I could tell it they were – would be like trying to describe the colour blue to a blind man.

So I went on a bit of a Ryuichi Sakamoto journey, with pit stops from Maxence Cyrin, some brass bands, the ‘La la land’ soundtrack and of course Michael Nyman.

 

I felt a bit better after all that. And then.

 

Then I popped into my chemist to pick up some eye-drops that had been missing from my prescription. No fuss there. It was all ready for me to collect. Bingo. Then the pharmacist gave me a present of a box of chocolates as a thank you for being such a good customer. Now I’m sure they meant well and everything, but really? Your life must’ve taken a seriously wrong turning if the pharmacy is giving you presents as a reward for your loyalty.

 

Mulling on this I returned home and waited for my scheduled therapy appointment. Usually, these sessions bring up unwelcome or unhelpful incidents that I’d long forgotten about, or else I make unwanted connections between events years apart. If you’ve ever been in therapy, you’ll know what I mean, how condensing so much into so little can be rather something. Thankfully this session wasn’t like that.

 

She never called. Talk about a confidence boost! Really affirming, the positivity is almost palpable. It’s not like I asked her at during our last session to call me and not do it via Zoom because I wanted privacy or anything. Nor have I repeatedly mentioned how difficult I’m finding the whole move. I sat in the dark for quite some time, thinking rather too much. I remembered lying awake in bed as a boy, staring really, really hard, at the dark trying to imagine what death was like. So in order to ward off these thoughts and to stop me going down the labyrinth I did what I knew would make me feel better.

Like this.

And this.

And, and, and..

“I call this a Camberwell carrot, because I rolled it in Camberwell and it looks like a carrot.”

Events this morning have put me in mind of a Graham Greene short story. I can’t remember exactly which one, as I read it years ago. But if memory serves, it’s set in a post war bomb damaged part of London, and there stands in the middle of all the devastation, a big and grand many storey house. A gang of lads are bored, the usual wanton vandalism that makes up their childhood summer is starting to lose its appeal.

Then one boy, in an effort to usurp the leader of the gang, comes up with a plan so daring, audacious and ambitious, it can’t fail to enthuse all who hear it. His plan is to totally dismantle the insides of the house. Everything, and I mean everything must go, as they say. The whole lot, so only the shell remains. The plan similarly excites all the other local gangs, who immediately see its appeal. They keep watch on the house, note the owners movements, so that early one morning when he leaves the house, they break in.

Actually, they don’t. The plan hinges on there being no outward signs of anything untoward happening in the house, so they get in and get work. And what work it is. They start at the top, and dismantle every fixture and fitting, every floorboard and staircase and pile it all up in a massive heap on the ground floor. This house, which survived the brutal ministrations of the Luftwaffe while all of its neighbours didn’t has been reduced to just four walls and a ceiling in the space of– it must be a Bank Holiday weekend thinking about it – by gangs of bored young boys wanting something to do. They aren’t teenagers either; the oldest one is twelve, as I remember.

That’s what it feels like, the sound of activity, an activity that moreover that is as necessary for Marge and Joe, as it is deeply discombobulating for me. Perhaps it is the same for them, perhaps not. But I know how the man in the story felt when he returned home, opened the door, and saw the devastation within. The inability to make sense of what his eyes were telling him, an almost wilful refusal to comprehend the shockingly awful enormity of it all, how the sheer scale of it was utterly overwhelming.

The removal men are here to take Marge’s, Joe’s and L.M.S’s stuff down to Swanage. Hopefully, they’ll have come up in a big fuck-off van, as a couple with a tyrannical overlord have a lot – a lot – of stuff. L.M.S really threw her toys out of the pram when Marge and Joe were deciding which of her toys could be thrown out of the pram. Happy she was not.

Anyway, it’s all organised chaos here, and not just because Joe has made some of the foulest smelling coffee that has ever bedeviled my nose. Proof, – as if any were needed – that coffee is indeed the Devils sperm. It is. I am sat here, typing this, in what was my room, but is now just a sun lit mausoleum with water stained walls, a heater, and a wicker sofa. That’s it. I’m – as Sheldon says – transcending the situation. With varying degree’s of success, it must be written.

Marge had suggested that I should watch the removal men do their thing, on the grounds that she maintains that there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching people do things and criticizing them for not doing it the way I would’ve done it. The problem is that thanks to my brain injury, I can no longer tut loudly until my frustration gets too much and I push them out of the way and do it myself, properly. Firstly, I can think of a lot more things I’d enjoy doing more, and secondly, it’s not exactly a feeling Marge is unfamiliar with.

I really miss drugs, proper drugs I mean, a big fat spliff – a Camberwell carrot! – a big bag of skunk or some magic mushrooms. Ideally both.

Pet Shop Boys meet Sisyphus

It wasn’t exactly what I’d call a red letter day for me yesterday. All of my possessions went into storage and all of the furniture went to Nosferu’s house in Stoke Newington. She rather wonderfully came over to help, and on the journey over to the storage unit, I remarked that not only should the weather have matched my mood – grey and miserable, not a gloriously sunny.

It was a real headfuck, seeing all my stuff being put into a storage unit and then locked way I would have felt more…more, but I just had to get through it, so a kind temporary functional anesthetic descended over me. Allowing me not to focus on the harsh reality of it all. Although it was no match for what await me when I returned. The room that now used to be mine was just an empty shell, four walls and a ceiling enclosing nothing.

Then today it was trying to deal with social services so my care package could be transffred. It seems like sorting out one thing invariably leads to another to be sorted and so on.

It seems like a lyric from the Pet Shop Boys song ‘ Yesterday When I was Mad’ has crashed into my head and Sisyphus is pushing it around in there.

Yesterday, when I was mad, And quite prepared to give up everything, Admitting, I don’t believe in anyone’s sincerity, And that’s whats really got to me.

Mea Culpa.

The removal van is coming to take my gear – not that sort of gear – into storage this morning, so in the best traditions of “Blue Peter”, here’s one I made earlier.

A few words about injury inflation. 

You know what it is, even if you didn’t know it had a name. If you’re female you’ll possibly have experienced it and if you’re male, you might well have caused females to experience it. It’s the curious phenomena whereby regardless of whatever injury a female has and how serious it is and mentions it to a man, hoping to elecit a modicum of sympathy from him, something happens. Maybe it’s deeply embedded in a mans DNA? Or just that men don’t like it when the attention isn’t on them?

The man immediately – instinctively, – responds with an ailment of his own, possibly one hitherto unmentioned – because he’s so stoic! – that whilst seemingly trivial to her, is nonetheless more serious than hers.  And therefore the expectation is that sympathy given by, and not received by her. She may not be happy about this. In fact, she’ll never be happy about this, and will let the man know it, at length and in clear, unmistakeable language, which will involve swearing.

I know this only too well. I mentioned the spot on my back a couple of posts ago. Well later that day I was speaking to Nosferatu who made a passing remark to some minor thing. Falling down a flight of stairs. Hurting her hip, her ankle, and most grievous of all, my ear, when I mentioned my spot. She called it nothing more than a boil and my brain immediately latched onto the fact that a boil is more serious sounding than a spot. I immediately assumed the position on the milking stool with gusto. A neat bit of deflection then took place which was all too soon spotted(!) with results as outlined.

Of mice and man. This man. But not for long..

There are a great many things I’ll miss about this house when I leave it for the last time on Friday.

But one of them won’t be the mice.

This morning I was woken up the sound of something’/s making a noise my bedroom. At 2am. The thing with it being all dark and everything is that whilst I could hear them, I couldn’t actually see them. That’s when an ancestral throwback kicked in, telling my brain that the source of a noise that I couldn’t see, but could hear scampering about, wasn’t good. And that’s the thing about the dark. It amplifies whatever noise there is.

Turning on the bedside light didn’t help either. As soon as I turned it on, they stopped. The fuckers. So I turned the light off, tucked my feet under the duvet so there were no gaps – I have a morbid fear of something getting under the duvet and nibbling my toe, or something more precious – and tried to go back to sleep. The chances of that happening were inversely proportionate to them returning. I lay awake, my ears primed to detect any sound, and sure enough, some time later, I don’t know when, they returned. Searching for whatever, doing whatever, but making a noise as they did it. Cue a repeat of before. Light on. Noise stops. Me encasing myself like a mummy in my duvet. And wait for the noise begin again.. A few times

Then when I did get up, I was greeted by the sight of mouse hairs in my toilet sink. Sadly, not the first time, but hopefully one of the last. Then I got dressed and went into the kitchen, made myself a cup of tea, and as I drank it, reflected on the irony that everyone knows we have mice, but because all their rooms are on the first floor, it doesn’t matter what state they leave the kitchen in.

Or left, because something has in the last few weeks awoken in Joe a hitherto dormant cleanliness gene. The kitchen floor, usually a recipient of crumbs and other rich pickings for mice, is now mopped seemingly every other day. He’s bought a handheld hoover thing to help him in his obsession. No surface in the house is safe. Part of me wonders if this is a wind up. At the time when the house is at its most dishevelled and most untidy, he decides now is the time to go all OCD?

As I sat drinking my tea, I was able to get a good look at the skirting board next to the kitchen. Furniture has been moved so it gave me a great view of the large gap, wide and long, from which the mice have been launching their foraging expeditions. It made me think of the time when Marge had for some inexplicable reason decided to leave food out – yes leave food out – for a mouse. Because something. Anyway, a few days later my mum was visiting, saw the mouse just calmly eating away, and did what any girl brought up on a farm in rural Ireland would do, and stomped on it.

So no, I won’t miss the mice.

Sorry to drag Brexit into proceedings, but did the news that the talks between Britain and the EU to sort out a deal have been extended, shock anybody? Is it just me, or does it seem that every set of talks to resolve a dispute, be it either between unions and management over pay etc, or between two sides in an armed conflict, or talks between the G7, the G20, or the Dave Clark 5, are always extended?