Who’d a thunk it?

Firstly, I have realised something about my fridge-freezer. It isn’t. I bought it thinking the bottom half was a freezer because, after all, top or bottom, one half of a fridge-freezer is always a freezer, isn’t it?

I suppose I did vaguely wonder, over the eight months or so that this great white monster, larger than any fridge I ever owned before, purchased in a fit of post Brexit/Apocalyptic prepping, was not actually making the many loaves of cheap sliced bread I stored in it rock hard. I had a vague memory of having to defrost frozen bread before eating but this – this was just a bit on the parky side. Half an hour in the fridge proper and Bob’ yer Uncle.

Yesterday, the on which the British Heat Record of 2003 was broken – the hottest day in Britain ever – I staggered out to the garage in search of my acrylic heart-shaped ice-cube moulds. Why they were in the garage is a long story. To do with ill-fated soap-making. I filled all the wobbly moulds with tap water and wobbled them back across the kitchen to the “freezer”, spilling quite a bit. I left them in the “freezer” and forgot about them.

The hottest day has come and gone. Canadian Sis rang up and, after an hour of (once again) advising her how to deal with her intrusive, borderline bullying next-door-neighbour and (once again) explaining that negotiating with, defending against or manoeuvring around Other People is not a generic Man’s/Husband’s Job, but something that, male of female, we all need to set our minds to sooner or later. She is so angry at her deceased husband for leaving her with all these unsuspected complications that she actually berates his Ashes, in their Urn on the mantel piece, in passing. How could you go and get cancer and leave me to deal with all this… stuff? You weren’t supposed to do that! Anyway, after that hour, I peeled the landline phone from my left cheek to find it – the phone, that is – running with sweat. No wonder it crackles.

After an appalling night spread-eagled naked on top of the bed (not as exciting as it sounds) which had somehow been wheeled into some sort of nightmarish oven full of itchy, hot cats, aching heads, lightning flashes and distant thunder, waking at fifteen minute intervals to drink lukewarm water from a row of plastic bottles, and then at thirty minute intervals to totter out to the loo to spend a penny – after which my face still looks like some puffy, puce balloon – I staggered to my “freezer”, remembering my “ice cubes”. Which of course were still unfrozen. A bit colder, perhaps, than they would have been in the fridge but definitely still liquid.

I can’t say I understand, but I think the best and cheapest option is a change of nomenclature: my fridge freezer is, henceforward, the fridge-and-ever-so-slightly-colder.

Secondly, we have a new Prime Minister. I doubt if anybody is very hopeful. Pity us poor Brits, all hope has been leached out of us – leached, I say. How could the Government have stuffed things up so very badly? How can we possibly escape from this dreadful mire? All is lost. We might once have hoped for greatness from Boris, and maybe we still do, secretly, in a dull, dispirited sort of way. However, he is if nothing else telling us to lighten up. He is standing at the Dispatch Box, waving his arms about, laughing, joking, and assuring us that everything is going to be all right. Better than all right, in fact. Fantastic! Somehow. And it’s the greatest relief. Not the extravagant promises, not the fractional likelihood of success, not the grim political odds against him, not the likelihood of this brilliant but careless man making some gaffe or blunder and thereby ruining it for himself, but the humour. Humour is our national medicine, like grass to cats. It’s the way we cope. It’s that Monty Python thing. It’s our weird, homegrown kind of courage and it’s the glue that holds us together. Irreverence, bad jokes, the refusal to take our opponents, however formidable, at all seriously; wild, wonderful laughter – is perhaps, right now, our only faint hope of a cure.

And finally, the Meaning Of Life. Never say I don’t end with a biggie. Many years ago when I was still, if precariously, living with Ex, I was driving home from work one day and fell into a kind of reverie, and out of the blue it came to me: The Meaning Of Life. Which was (wait for it) The Two Worlds Are One. I remember being overjoyed as I drove down this long, twisty country lane across the Marsh, avoiding deep ditches on either side, that The Meaning Of Life had miraculously been vouchsafed to me.

The next day, although I could remember that The Two Worlds Were One, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what that meant – or what I had thought it meant during my Road to Damascus moment. I suspect I am not the only person that has happened to.

Every since, at intervals, I have wondered whether The Two Worlds Are One meant anything at all. I mean, how likely was it that a mediocre legal secretary would intuit something that people like Einstein had been unable to tell us? But finally, cheeringly – today I opened a book called “You Are The Universe” by Deepak Chopra. It had just come through the door. I stripped off the Amazon cardboard, took a sip of coffee and opened it randomly at page 232, and there was this (subtly ungrammatical) paragraph:

“The great pause can be found in the words of a scientist, including Heisenberg and Schrödinger, who suddenly sees, quite clearly, that there is only one reality, not two. There is no inner and outer, no me and you, no mind and matter, each half guarding its own marked off territory. The realisation is like a pause because the mind has stopped conceiving of reality and now starts living it.”

Ta da!

Drawn to the Dark Side

I find myself increasingly fascinated by politics as the years go by. By politics I mean the sharp end, the game of chess at the top, the intricacies of gaining and holding power rather than the trudging of streets, the knocking on doors, the envelope-stuffing, placard-wielding or vote-counting in borrowed halls.

I tune in to The Papers every night on the BBC’s 24 hour News channel and try to get some inkling of what goes on at Westminster, paying attention to the various journalists’ analysis of selected newspaper headlines for the coming day. What I thirst for the story behind the façade. Exactly why did the ghastly Gove dispose of Boris? Exactly how did a single, rather pedestrian comment from this odd little man suffice to end a glittering career? What games of bluff and double-bluff are they and their colleagues playing even as I write? Do they hunch over mugs of cocoa and tumblers of whiskey at the end of the day and plan it all out? If he does this, I shall do that. If he doesn’t do this, I shall do that

Ex collected a whole range of things – strange things such as faded 1940s Christmas decorations and those metal inn-signs once given away (I think) in cigarette packets; obscure blues albums; clockwork toys and the sort of stuff that falls under the general heading of Railwayana – enamel station signs, signalling lamps, station-masters’ hats and so forth. This last was the greatest of his obsessions and it was in the pursuit of enamel signs and signalling lamps that he came up against his nemesis, a collector of exactly the same stuff but on a vaster and more ruthless scale. I shall call him the Agronomist.

I have to say I rather liked the Agronomist, possibly because was like a saner and richer version of Ex – well, richer.  Ex made every effort to look as if he liked the Agronomist, and I suspect he actually did – or would have done if the blighter hadn’t repeatedly swooped in at the last minute to buy up the very item or items he’d wanted for his own collection. The Agronomist possessed a cool head and an apparently bottomless budget and, unlike Ex, was good with people. He had a knack of appearing to be listening with interest to your every word; deeply interested in you even if he wasn’t really. Whenever the two arch-rivals met you could feel them metaphysically circling one another whilst appearing to be engaged in harmless manly chats.

I rambled off there because that I remembered something about the Agronomist. He made handwritten charts which he called his Critical Path Analyses. These charts – which he must have used in his agronomical work as well – charted his collecting career-path. He was a driven man: by the time he reached forty he would have collected so many of these, obtained this, and this, and that. It was all so brilliant, so neat, so detailed – and so not to be. The poor man started getting vile headaches that painkillers wouldn’t touch. He learned he had a brain tumour, and fairly soon afterwards he died. We used to drive backwards and forwards to London to visit him in the hospital, taking his wife, who couldn’t drive, up with us.

I suppose I am drawn to this ruthless streak in people because I was born without it – one of a whole range of items that were not in my suitcase when I landed.  I would so like to have mastered it, the smiling deception, the manoeuvring, the subtle playing of the long game. This same blank area in my brain made me hopeless at office politics. I was continually blundering in on conversations I didn’t understand and blurting out all the wrong things to the wrong people. People hurt and upset me, constantly. I made wrong decisions; I let myself be fooled, over and over again; I fell into one job after another, unable to plot a career, just taking whatever came up. I could no more have designed a Critical Path Analysis than I could have taken flight.

I’ve never been able see my nose in front of my face as far as my life or my future are concerned but strangely, nowadays, I can often work out what the politicians are up to.  Or what I’d be up to, if I was them. In my mind’s eye they become little players on a distant stage or characters in a novel I’m creating. How would I have disposed of the inconvenient Boris, if I’d been the ghastly Gove? And if I was the inconvenient Boris, how would I plan to revenge myself upon said Gove? Would I bide my time, lurking in carpeted corridors, a dagger concealed in my sleeve? Or would I swallow my hatred, smile that sunny smile – c’est la vie, old bean, all’s fair in love and politics – until, one day…

I may have been a Borgia in another life, or a Machiavelli, keeping my friends close and my enemies closer. That must be it. Echoes of another existence, the past casting its long shadow.

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