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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Being Mostly About Doors

The house is breeding, rooms have appeared and while the two parts might have seemed small, the sum of them together far exceeds our expectations. Money – lots of it, naturally – well spent.
We are now eyeing, with envy, T10’s “suite,” which joins to his brother by means of a shared bathroom (and yes, we are treating the ingrates to some juicy glass tiles for which I have driven to furthest westest Wales: not my greenest outing, my carbon footprint trembles).
Our quarters seem sad and shabby by comparison and piled high, still, with oddments of possessions we have grown to loathe.

For the woods we ain’t out of yet.

The banging continues. The obstacle course to get out of the gate gets more interesting and limb-threatening each day.
The kitchen has been knocked into the new dining room, which is the old outside, and into the old dining room which we used to call the caravan (evening sun meaning you have to wear sunglasses to eat, people drifting past on the Right Of Way at the back of the narrow garden, etc).
It’s bloody enormous.
E, or Bill, as perhaps it is easier to call him, had an awkward moment when I was in Wales. He was making tea, a strawberry punnet already full of sodden bags, it being ten in the morning.
Jase leant on his axe. “Big room, this,” he said, “as big as my whole house.”
Bill stiffened at his kettle. Actually that sounds obscene, he just went still and quiet and a little red in the face.
But help in the form of a “No,” was at hand.
“No,” said Gaz.
A pause.
“Your house is only as big as this bit here.”
Bill stirred his spoon briskly, eyes averted like Princess Di, praying for Scotty to beam him up.

As Bill has said in his blog, he is busy with doors.
Doors, things you open and shut in normal life, which the children let slam in your face when you’re struggling in with all the shopping. But also things which have another use which the kind passing of time causes you to forget: choosing them; getting them; getting handles; buying handles from the fourth place you trail round, all close to tears; realising once home that these cheap handles are cheap since there are no “keeps”; going out again rather brisk and bad-tempered to buy keeps - whatever they are; varnishing them; them getting stuck when the floor shifts and cracks appear upstairs.
Hours of recreational purpose meted out by a door.
Starting with getting them.
Last week, Gaz barged into the kitchen waving a screwdriver.
“These doors, Carmeel. Chippy’s here to hang ‘em.”
I went wide-eyed.
Had I been warned that I should have 21 doors hanging around to be placed on hinges within 20 minutes?
I don’t think I had.
I whittered about having found some "cheap" ones but that I had to get them delivered yet.
"Good," says Gaz, "damnfool go spending fifty pound on a door." He and his son chortled at the idiocy of the middle classes.
I gulped. My "cheap" ones were over a hundred. Smoothing of the way required to produce a middle path in that antsy ground where sensible son of toil meets mimsy Mrs quasi-Posh, but prior to that was another quandary.
"Oi, Carmeel," he said, "you having artex in these here ceilings or what?"
I blanched.
"No, I think not," I said, appearing to give the idea some consideration.
His eyes rolled evesoslightly heavenwards.

His lovely son meanwhile had gone off in the truck to get themselves a hot dog from the stand on the by-pass.
“Give us-selves a treat, Carmella, well tidy that van, nice, yeah” I can report, with yet another tiresome and patronising stab at a full-on Gloucester accent. I can do nothing to convey its up-beat cheeriness which is a shame because he is a sweetie. Or well tidy.

Outside the house is Gaz’s wife’s motor. I thought he was calling it a hearse. Well it is black, and an unlikely Chrysler.
Unlikely in a horribly judgemental sort of way: this goes without saying.
Given the tum, the tats, his dislike of any fancy frippery which might have led one to believe that a truck was the natural recreational vehicle of choice, with or without high heels, in or out of normal building hours. I'd sort of read his tastes into hers. But then I've never claimed to have any imagination.
I frowned, “I sort of see what you mean,” I mused, looking it up and down, edging Lolly off from nipping my ankles.
“You what?” he said.
“Calling it a hearse,” I said, “kind of long, I suppose, dark.”
Needless to say it was “the hers” he meant. The motor what belongs to Mrs Gaz, the car being hers.
“Ah,” I said. “OK.”
Gaz gave me the look he reserves for the skip monkey, (another cheerful little soul, with his asthma inhaler in one hand and a full wheelbarrow in the other tottering along a rotten plank).
I hastened to the kettle.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Tagging stuff

It seems I’ve been tagged – yet another thing I don’t understand. I thought tagging was what kids play in the playground til Health and Safety stop ‘em, or what happens to young offenders (or what used to be called “burglars”).
Before I start, do I have to pass on the baton?? If so, it's to exmoorjane!
But meanwhile it’s 8 things I have to say so, here goes:

1. I’ve been attacked 4 times.

Once, trapped in a self-locking underground car park with a man who told me “no-one need ever know.” I lost my temper and yelled at him that I’d had a terrible day and wasn’t in the mood for being raped. It was pre-central locking days and I managed to get into my car and drive out with him spread-eagled on the bonnet – watch the paintwork, sonny!

Once on a sunny Sunday morning on the tube where an enormous Rasta first of all stopped me getting on the tube I wanted, then arm-locked me once on another, and uttered the immortal temptation, “we’s goin’ all the way to Cockfosters.” Too polite and scared to whisper, “Help! Please!” to all the other travellers studiously ignoring the incongruity of our closeness, what’s a girl to do but to knee said Rasta and leg it at Russell Square? (far more my sort of destination, frankly).

Once at a party where 20 Young Offenders gatecrashed having cut the phone line. They started grabbing the hi-fi and booze and promised, “we won’t touch your women!” (this annoys on just so many levels). My boyfriend was last seen grabbed round the throat with a bottle against his head. People were bleeding on the floor. Someone jumped from a first floor window and called the police and when they deigned to show up, I shouted at them to call an ambulance, to be told, “we ain’t a public service.” Oh really. Sill tax-payers. They kept themselves locked in their van and only the Asian officer ventured out because, as another officer said, “they hate the blacks more than we do.” Needless to say it was a long walk back from Acton Hospital at 6 in the morning. Ah, the good old days.

Once by a man with a knife at Baker Street tube where me and my boyfriend were catching the last tube. We had legs. We ran.

2. I’ve been in several road accidents. I sold the moped after the last. I’ve been lucky. Still horribly ghoulish about scars. Still meander across the road hopelessly. I clearly never listened to that bossy squirrel telling us what to do on the TV when small. No ability to follow the simplest rule.

3. My strangest tasks while at work involved sticking white ‘m’s onto m&ms for the filming of the pack-shot (I used to work in advertising), time well spent or what?
And also operating the eyes and mouth of the Spitting Image puppet of The Duchess of York.
Cor, was that difficult. I do not multi-task. I multi-start (but that’s another story).
The most interesting thing I’ve been asked to do recently (and no, strangely, I don’t include a request to iron a PE kit at 5 to 9) is to be a graveyard judge. Sort of intrigued, but since it was going to entail driving the other judge round and round Gloucestershire for ever and ever, neither of us with any sense of direction whatsoever, I possibly foolishly declined.

4. We lived in the Beirut of Bristol when first married (burgled on our honeymoon, sob; husband mugged) but once I was given work by my old boss to cast for extras for a fairly long-running and truly abysmal supermarket campaign, and fed the roles out among the locals, word went around and we were left alone.
Besides no-one looks threatening in the street when you’ve seen them behind a trolley pretending to be interested in pet food.
We still shudder and give thanks to our guardian angels for selling that particular house, mind. Let this be a lesson, children: location, location, location, every time. Do not be lured by glorious decaying architecture and a cheap price.

5. I was once mobbed by a pack of ten year olds in Southampton, thinking I was Boy George. The sticky hands, the pestering. Actually, the outrage! I must have been a third of his weight. The true horror ending of this story came later when the real Boy George, a fearsome beast with terrible skin and mean ole eyes, took a fancy to my boyfriend.
Lesson number 2: never go out with someone prettier than you are, and always avoid nightclubs, and Southampton when wearing a hat.

6. Please don’t ever try to see me without my eye-make up on. I don’t do the orange stuff, and I don’t do mascara, but I reserve the right to be buried in eye-liner and eyeshadow. Otherwise, I will swear. I swear appallingly. My mother said it was fine as long as we had recourse to a wide vocabulary, and felt that an expletive was the right word. However, I did not swear in childbirth, not in front of the midwife. She was very stern and I limited myself, out of fearful respect, to a yowling “lordy.” I prefer all the swear words in the world to the following: 'appropriate,' 'toilet,' 'moist,' 'gusset,' 'community,' 'what's for supper?'

7. I appeared in a documentary made about Tom Stoppard. Hastily, not by invitation, but by dint of his being friends with my parents long ago when my father shared a flat with him and other artists / writers, and when he left Bristol, my mother and he had “separation dreams” about each other. John Boorman made the film (and a couple of others featuring my father) and I’m romping fetchingly in a red swimming suit with a natty white belt to it.
I peaked then. Other random TV appearances have included the epitome of dismal: awkward child dragged onto Points West to whitter about a book called Children’s Bristol; feeble flailing on Top of The Pops when I was pitied and dragged onto an elephant pedestal thing with one of their star dancers (the cringing never leaves you); incompetent jabbering about my job when at the BBC; the afore-mentioned Godawful TV ads. Now, I need a little lie-down to counteract all that retrospective shame.

8. I’m married to Bill.
It was a holiday romance – can you imagine resisting? I knew I was going to marry him just from hearing his voice. I was reading “Invitation to a Beheading” which made him gulp, but he wrote “I love her” the first night on the tablecloth (the waiter dug it out of the bin to show oh-me-of-little-faith the next day: I had scurried down on the dolmus to check). He asked me to marry him numerous times from that first evening onwards while I said “no,” meaning “yes.” He then stopped asking me, but come the end of September we will have been together 20 years. Blimey.
Cushion-issues apart, he's really quite a nice chap.
You can read more about him, and his intolerant little ways, here: http://rotwatch.blogspot.com/2007/06/who-is-rotwatcher.html