The Antipreneur

I thought of this snazzy little title on the way to the vets, with Winnie. In fact, when approaching an awkward mini-roundabout. That beastly little roundabout is particularly good for popping blog post titles into one’s head, I’ve noticed. No wonder cars always seem to be having collisions there.

Money or the lack of it always crosses my mind (multiple times) on the way to the vets, with a cat. But today being the Sabbath it was a locum, and he mightily impressed me by not extracting money from me when he undoubtedly could have, since having nineteen cats (as he could see from his computer screen) tends to give the game away – that you will do anything for a sick or suffering moggie, even if it involves remortgaging or maxing out the plastic.

But he spent a long time making a gentle fuss of poor Winnie and listening to her alarming breathing, and then told me it was a difficult one. He said he asked himself, if this was his own cat, or a human being, would he put them through an anaesthetic, an x-ray, a battery of blood tests, to find out what was wrong. Long experience has equipped me with a mental calculator for veterinary investigations. You’re looking at hundreds, I thought. Hundreds and hundreds… in fact maybe a thousand… Simultaneously trying to recall the PIN for my credit card – the one I swore I would never again buy anything on.

There is some sort of process going on inside Winnie, he said, but without the investigations it is hard to guess. I can tell by the flecks in her eyes, he said, that she is maybe fourteen or fifteen years old (this is news to me, as she was a stray, but I am not surprised). Winnie is an old lady. As long as she is eating and drinking, and seems to be happy, I think it might be better just to watch her, and wait. Bring her back to me when the time is right.

And with that he restored my faith in human nature. I hope he won’t get into trouble for not selling anything this rainy sabbath. I seemed to be their only customer this morning, so his lack of financial killer instinct will be pretty obvious when they come to do the till at lunchtime. I hope poor Winnie’s “time” will not come for a while yet, but when it does I will know, because he also restored my confidence in myself, my own instincts.

As for Anti-preneur – I guess that is I what I must be. At intervals I research into ways of supplementing the meagre income; preferably very, very quickly; without a huge outlay for three years of evening classes in upholstery, or the purchase of a stack of books on website design. Apparently website design is now becoming a bit “niche” as an income-generator, since the technology for building one’s own website is nowadays available to all online. I throw out that hint in case any of you are also making long lists of How To Make Money.

Truth is, I just haven’t got the mindset. I need money but I am not interested in it. I need money but I am not terribly willing to do – or terribly capable of doing – any of the things that are necessary to get it. I found a very useful article in The Guardian – Fifty side businesses to set up from home.

What is a side business, I wonder. I suppose if you are making oodles in the City, a side business would be something you did in your back bedroom, after spending three hours commuting home on a tightly-packed train. I have never had a front business, let alone a side one.

I run through the list, listlessly, trying to convince myself that I could manage one, or any of them:

Antiques dealing – what do they think I am going to purchase the antiques with? (Sigh!) And would I know an antique if I saw one? (Sigh!)
Babysitting. No one would let a childless old baggage like me near their children. And I don’t even much like children. I would be like Nanny McPhee… without the magic.
Bed and Breakfast, it says. I don’t want another person under my roof – unless they are my sister, for a week, in January – and anyway, I would have to hoover, relentlessly. And what about the nineteen cats?
Biscuit-making – oven broken
Cake-making – ditto
Car boot sales (Sigh!)
Car cleaning/valeting (Sighhhh!)
Census distributor – not till 2022, and I have a feeling I somewhat failed to impress at that the time before last…
Computer repairer/trouble-shooter – if only I could, I could save myself hundreds of pounds in visits from Scary Computer Man…
Become a DJ – seriously?
Be a doula – OMG, no….

Every time I think about making money my subconscious, which utterly refuses to stick to the point in any situation, however dire – in fact the direr the situation the more it is tempted to stray from/misremember any conceivable point – reminds me, visually and facetiously, that I need only to purchase a Red Hat and walk up and down the High Street murmuring… whatever ladies in Red Hats are supposed to murmur… Hello sailor! Got a light, dearie? Maybe ladies in Red Hats did murmur that sort of thing in the days when there were plenty of sailors and everybody used to smoke. Maybe. I doubt if they wear Red Hats nowadays, and suspect that whatever they now murmur to passing gentlemen, it is  direct, and graphic.

Deceased Devon Aunt once informed me that if I bought a bottle of Devon Violets perfume I would smell like a Lady of The Brook (or, as her Deceased Brother – my Father – would more likely have put it – like a Whore’s Handbag). Perhaps I should look on Amazon to see if one can still purchase little bottles of Devon Violets perfume – or red hats for that matter – and if so set forth to supplement my pension in this time-honoured way.

If only I wasn’t so old. And if only I could bear the thought…

So I suppose I will just have to write the novel. But that will take years. And what sort of novel. And whatever sort of novel, nobody is likely to publish it. And…


Were you truly wafted here from paradise?

My youngest sister mentioned, in passing, that she had no sense of smell – never had had. How could I have shared the world with her, albeit somewhat distantly, for so many years and not known something that fundamental? I think the answer is that she herself never thought it significant enough to mention: she does not miss what she has never had. This would explain why she was so blasé about changing nappies whereas the one time I was forced to undergo this ultimate feminine rite (with her baby) I all but fainted. How could anybody endure that foul, foul stench, over and over again? And now I find it hard to look my thirty-something niece in the eye.

I’m probably over-sensitive to smells. Maybe I got my sister’s share. Commanded to peel a kidney in Cookery, I was soon on the way to sickroom, wilting and green and supported by two classmates. My one attempt at colouring my hair nearly killed me since – as I discovered – even in minute quantities ammonia stops me from drawing breath at all. When you have cats and are indoors with them most of the time your nose becomes immune to any (delicate) ‘catty’ aromas. However, I can tell whether one of the litter trays needs changing well in advance because I start cough, cough, coughing. Avoiding that cough costs me a small fortune in wood-based cat litter.

I inherited from my paternal grandfather an allergy to the smell of most commercial paints; luckily not to artists’ oil paints or my marriage to Ex would have been unbearable for yet another reason. I don’t mean I don’t like the smell of paint – though I don’t – I mean my tongue goes numb and swells up, I feel dizzy and sick and my head starts to pound. I once worked in an office where they were always repainting walls and corridors. I used to take those days off, if given any warning, but often there was none.

Anyway – probably far too much information. What am I telling you all this for?

I was thinking – hackneyed thought, I know – how smells can bring back memories. I expect everyone’s got their own ‘memory’ scents. Most people seem to loathe the smell of creosote but I rather like it. It reminds me of one hot summer’s afternoon when my father was painting the lattice-work fence that divided the garden in half (before the fence lawn; after the fence fruit and veg). He had taken his shirt off and I remember being amused by the way a ruddy neck and suntanned face could grow out of a milk-white chest. He was a racing cyclist in his spare time – I suppose those were the bits the sun caught. For some reason that afternoon he was in a good mood and I wasn’t frightened of him. He even chatted to me. Maybe it was the sunshine.

I also like the smell of fresh fish, even though I’m a vegetarian and dislike the idea of fish being caught and killed. I think that one’s because of the Dunks’ the fish shop in Station Road. The briny smell used to hit you in the nose on the way up and follow you down the street on the way down. The shop was at the end of a terrace and on the gable end wall, in faded shrimp-pink capitals, the motto WET DRY FRIED FISH. (Even as a child the lack of commas, and the fact that it wasn’t a proper sentence, worried me.) Dunks’ also did fish and chips: it was rumoured that Granny Dunks was confined to a room behind the shop where her sole occupation, day in and day out, was to peel potatoes and cut chips into a series of watery pails.

Lilies – can’t abide them them. They make me cough too. Loathed them even before I discovered their pollen was deadly poisonous to cats. I believe they have the disgusting things in funeral parlours to cover up the smell of the corpses. I’d prefer corpses. Conversely, freesias – I like them. What is it about freesias? Possibly they remind me of the Avon Lady calling to see Mum. In those days everything Avon seemed to smell of either freesia or lily-of-the-valley.

Evening in Paris (Borjois). When I was a very little child I used to dig in the garden and one day I dug up a little blue bottle. The stopper opened, the most beautiful perfume-genie came out; the most beautiful thing I had ever smelt. Mum said Evening in Paris was “a bit Woolworths” but to me it was pure delight, which reminds me of my Devon aunt, who told me I was not to buy a bottle of Devon Violets. To me it smelt like parma violets, those tiny lilac sweeties, but Devon aunt said it would make me smell like a Whore’s Handbag or Lady of The Brook! Apparently, in the twenties or thirties, The Brook in Chatham was the road where ladies of easy virtue strolled in the hope of picking up a sailor. My aunt hadn’t been back for a while. Nowadays it’s where the Job Centre is, and a whole lot of buses.

Chanel No 5 – it’s been a long time since I possessed a bottle of this magical stuff. We used to get trips to Le Touquet in a light aircraft piloted by a friend of Ex. Duty free Chanel No 5. Ah, those were the days!

What is your favourite, or least favourite smell, and why?

“Were you truly wafted here from paradise?”

“No – Luton airport.”

Featured Image: Serge Bloch

To tattoo or not to tattoo, that is the question

Yesterday I was trawling through some ancient Daily Post prompts* having rejected that day’s, which was about fashion-nostalgia – something else I don’t possess – and came across this one about tattoos. Specifically: If you were forced to get a (or another) tattoo, what would you get and where?


dragon 2

Unlike most of the (televised) human race, it seems, I am totally untattooed. I have been amazed, recently, by the inkiness of everyone’s flesh. Even on Strictly Come Dancing – that treasure-chest of all that is glamorous and pristine – male dancers now seem to have tattoos hanging out under the sleeves of their powder-blue spangly tops – I mean, what is the world coming to?

I suppose it’s part of getting older. Things strike you as odd and gratuitously new-fangled that younger people don’t even notice. I recall a story about a woman going with her mother to stay in a hotel, and her mother being kind of affronted that hotel room-keys were now pieces of plastic to be swiped rather than actual metal keys. The older woman was not so much upset by this new piece of technology as dreadfully wearied. It made her feel that she had lived too long.

I begin to can relate to that now. You do get to a point where you just don’t want to have to a) absorb and b) try to suss out the logic behind a new fashion or development. Sometimes there just seems no reason why things have changed. There seem no possible benefit, no sense of progress – just change for the sake of change. The old adage If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it has now been discarded in favour of If it’s getting boring, change it.

In my younger day, tattoos were only seen on tarts and sailors – or sailors’ tarts. They were only to be obtained in the back alleyways of certain ports. Mostly they were of mighty anchors with elaborate twists of rope, or luscious ladies wearing very little.

Re tarts – I have to say there were rather a lot of things that would get you called a tart in my younger day. Ankle bracelets, I remember. Bottle-blonde hair. Hankies stuffed in your bra to make you look more luscious-er. Too much back-combing. Skirts too short. When I was at school they measured your skirt: you had to kneel on the floor and a teacher would check to see that no knee was visible beneath your skirt-hem. Nail-varnish – even clear, or that weird clear-pink stuff: straight to the science lab where a sadistic lab technician would remove the evil decoration with industrial strength acetone from a stoppered glass bottle. Any little cut or hangnail – you’d find out about it. Stockings too sheer. Stockings were meant to be thick and orange/sludge coloured so that (gasp!) men a) couldn’t see your actual flesh through them and b) wouldn’t even be tempted to look. Even patent leather shoes. I have a feeling that was Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch saying that the nuns at her convent school banned patent leather “Else men should see your underwear reflected in it”. Really?

The worst two things you could do (instant tarthood) was get pregnant without being married or get divorced. If you got pregnant, people hardly spoke of you except in whispers. They certainly wouldn’t talk to you. Or your parents. Or your auntie. Or your second cousin twice removed. And divorced – divorces were so rare they hit the headlines. Divorces were scandalous. A divorcee had failed. She knew she had failed. She had failed to hang on to her husband. She must have done something to make him beat her up or go with other women. A divorcee was no better than she ought to be. Women saw her as a threat. Men homed in on easy pickings.

And then there was the thing about hats. You daren’t go out in a red hat because it was well-known: Red Hat, No Drawers! Not that I would have done anyway as I loathe both hats and red. There were parts of every town that only tarts frequented. I remember wanting to buy a little bottle of Devon Violets perfume whilst visiting my aunt in Devon. Oh no! she said. You’ll smell like a lady of The Brook! The Brook in Chatham, now home to the Job Centre, a load of traffic and some very ugly buildings – had been, in her day, the place where prostitutes walked. Waiting for sailors. She seemed to have a thing about sailors. Well, Chatham was a dockyard town so hardly surprising. On one of her visits she remarked on how tall I had grown and that I would soon be spooning with a sailor in the front room. Spooning? In those days it just meant a romantic kind of cuddling. But a sailor? Where was I going to find a sailor? Couldn’t even find a boy.

So, it was easy to get yourself a ‘name’ – and a tattoo – well, that was a permanent name. A red hat can be taken off, bottle-blonde locks can be shorn, an ankle bracelet removed. But – in those days, at least – you were stuck with a tattoo. No one would have employed you to work in an office if you had such a disfigurement, though you might have got a job as a debt-collector or “door staff”. And people would automatically assume you’d been to prison.

But of course things have changed. Both my sister and niece have tattoos, in fairly discrete regions of themselves. I even – yes, I have to admit – at one point considered investing in one myself. I was thinking of intertwined dragons – one red and one blue – on my arm. There – I said it. I thought about it. Fortunately I didn’t do it.

The dragons – well, I was born in one of the Years of the Dragon so dragons have always felt like my totem animal. I like the look of dragons in old illustrations – their sinuous and elaborate nature. If I could draw I would draw fantasy dragons, like the ones you can find on the internet nowadays. Mega-dragons, all fire and nacreous scales. And the significance pink and blue intertwined? It was some sort of weirdo-psychological stuff I was going through at the time. Kept dreaming about dragons. Pink dragons, blue dragons…

And power-stations… and pebbly beaches… and men in long black coats who might have been my father…

Wonder what it all meant…


* Sorry, got that wrong. I mentioned, and linked to, a Daily Post prompt called Tattoo, You but the wording is slightly different. I’ve just stumbled across the one I actually used which is from the One Minute Writer blog.