Winners, losers and survivors

When I was a child I was very tall.

After that I stayed very tall and at least some people (mostly men) caught up with me.

It caused me endless problems. On my first day at school I was put in with seven-year-olds because the teachers decided – in their muddle-headed stupidity – that I was the right size for a seven year old. I couldn’t read or write, of course, but it took them a long time to find that out, by which time Chronic Bewilderitis had set in. It has never left me.

Other problems – teachers would call you out to reach up to the top shelves for the things – art supplies and such – that other children could not reach.  And they would always make some silly joke about it, usually involving giraffes or clouds. This made the other children sneer at you.

And then there were school sports days. You’re tall so you’ll be good at running: the biggest fallacy of all time. Being tall just means there’s more of you to lug from one end of the field to the next. It doesn’t give you access to great rushes of energy. It doesn’t make your lungs work any better. Most importantly, it doesn’t make you competitive, in fact rather the reverse. In my experience it has always been short people who won things because short people seemed to want or need to win things. I only wanted not to be looked at.

That’s the trouble with winning, isn’t it? Up there on that podium, clutching that gold medal, doing that pretend ‘biting’ thing for the cameras as if to check that your gold medal really is gold (which it isn’t – it’s 1.34% gold, the rest is silver) everybody’s gawping at you. I can’t abide being gawped at.

The Job Centre sent me to be a barmaid. I said I couldn’t do it but they made me. I lasted all of eleven days. It’s like being on television. Men’s eyes follow you from here to there, from there to here, from here to there. When you turn round they are inspecting your bottom. When you turn again they are inspect your ‘front-bottom’ – and not even in an admiring kinda way: in a bored-and-too-many-beers kinda way.

I’ve always thought of people in terms of stray corks bobbing around in a stormy ocean at night. A few will bob high up on the surface. They are life’s winners. They are the people who will always win everything because everything is destined to be theirs.

Then there are the sinkers. They’re the factory-damaged ones, the ones made of hopelessly poor materials. Whatever luck comes their way, they will lose it. They are destined to end up on a street-corner somewhere, clutching a bottle of cheap cider.

And then there are the survivors – those who bob about half under, half above water. Comes a big wave and under they go again, only to pop up, take a despairing gasp of air and await the arrival of the next huge wave. Not even allowed the luxury of drowning. I suppose that’s the majority of us. It’s certainly me.


All the right words but not necessarily in the right order

My friend who-shall-be-known-as Daisy keeps sending me words for an app called Words With Friends. Now that I have a Kindle Wotsit I’m sitting target for apps. Words With Friends is more or less Scrabble, and as I suspected I am just as hopeless at the teensy-weensy electronic version as I used to be at the large cardboard-and-plastic version. ‘You’re good with words,’ people say, ‘so you’ll be good at Scrabble’. Alas, I’m impatient, and hopeless at strategy; I can’t resist a long, showy-offy, low-scoring word when a three-letter triple-word-thingummyjig would have been wiser.

When I was at Junior School teachers used to say ‘You’re tall – we’ll put you in for the 100 yards on Sports Day’. Since when does being tall mean you can run without banging your knees together and falling over your feet? Since when does being tall mean you give a rat’s patootie whether you stagger across some arbitrary white line first or last?

I was hoping Daisy might enlighten me as to another game app-thingy called Dark Echo which I foolishly downloaded in order to practice app-downloading, and because it was free.  How I wish I hadn’t. I just don’t understand. I mean, you’re in the dark, right? And there’s these little white clickety footsteps, right? And they clatter along, scarily, like a pair of foolish high-heels in a midnight underpass, giving off these little lines, which presumably represent echoes, only visible. And that’s supposed to help you find your way out, if the monsters don’t get you first. I haven’t met a monster yet. If you click on the little white feet it sends out a whole starburst of little lines, which seems to equate with noise, although it’s no noisier than the little white clickety feet themselves, and it is this hypothetical, visual noise that may attract a monster.  I think.

I did find my way out, once, but I don’t know how. It was an accident. And when I was out it was just as dark as when I was in, so what’s the point of being out? My little white footsteps go backwards and forwards, creepily retracing their steps, marking time at invisible walls, backing off, retracing the steps before the steps before, and I don’t know why. Is there some proper way to play Dark Echo? Why are there no instructions?

You can tell I’m tired, probably. Perforce, I’ve been doing housework all day – with breaks for this new electronic Scrabble-thingy – since it’s the first of my two Open Houses on Saturday. To get the house looking anything like presentable I shall be doing housework all day tomorrow, too. It’s done my hip in. You know you’re getting old when you start to realise you have hips – and knees – at all – because they hurt. The cats have temporarily lost the raggle-taggle saggy old beds they used to be able to flop into all over the house, and dirt-boxes have been strictly rationed. Net curtains are festooned everywhere to dry. Tomorrow they’ll have to go back up. I shall have to remember not to whip the bedroom curtains open to greet the dawn, in case I amaze the down-hill neighbours.

‘I am playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.’ Eric Morecambe 1926 – 1984, English comedian.