Cum On Feel The Noize

The above track, originally recorded by British group Slade, must surely be a contender for Shoutiest Record. Subtract a couple of centuries, put him in a brocade jacket and a tricorne hat, give him a giant hand-bell and their lead singer, the jovial, curly-mulleted Noddy Holder, would have made an excellent Town Crier.

On the same theme – more or less – I recall one afternoon many years ago walking into the entrance hall of my teacher training college to find it suspiciously quiet. All eyes were focussed on our English/Drama lecturer (I have forgotten his name and no doubt he’s dead by now but in my mind he will forever be associated with Beowulf or vice versa) who was in the process of chalking a message up on a blackboard in that kind of fluid, cursive script you never get to enjoy nowadays. With many a flourish, he wrote:

‘Wanted – shouty records. Example: Shirley Bassey.’

To this day it remains a mystery to me that an elderly, softly-spoken, bearded academic should have discovered an urgent requirement for Shirley Bassey or her ilk. Even now, in idle moments, I find myself attempting to reconstruct a lesson-plan or lecture notes incorporating ‘shouty records’.

Of course there’s shouty and then there’s shouty. There’s the ear-grating, murderous-thoughts-inspiring shouting that mothers direct at their kids, and kids at each other in crowded shopping malls. Then there’s the melodious shoutiness of Edith Piaf as she laments lost lovers and promises them her total, heartbroken obsessive love for ever more. So It’s not exactly the loudness of shoutiness that’s so irritating, it’s the mindless, purposeless superfluity of it.

Today I have workmen digging drainage channels across my driveway. So far we have had the rotary saw – I’m guessing from the clouds of brown dust gusting past my kitchen window, since I dare not look out. And we have had the attacking of crumbling concrete with what may well be a stout metal bar. Still to come, the promised “hired man with a Kango hammer”.

Oh happy days…

On the eating of frogs for breakfast

I try not to get distracted by the internet but I do, just like I get distracted by everything else. Usually at ten past midnight I find myself trawling through strange but fascinating photographs – of a man with seven arms but very little of anything else; of plastic surgery mishaps so bizarre you wonder what on earth possessed the patient to have it done. Could it be a case of the spider and the fly? First lot a disaster, second lot to put the first disaster right, second lot a disaster, third lot to put the first and second disasters right… How do people – women, especially – end up looking like something out of a travelling fair when they started off (by my standards, anyway) naturally beautiful?

Sometimes, however, I click on something that catches my imagination. I do believe it might have been one in the morning last night, but I did doze off in front of the TV – the end of yet another Andromeda repeat followed by Australian policemen apprehending one motorist after another for speeding and complicated drugs offences – for a couple of hours. As you get older, you do tend to do that – same amount of actual sleep, but collected in increasingly random instalments.

I am, however, hoping not to take after my mother who now speed-walks around her care home all day and most nights, collapsing in a chair for an hour every now and again, to fall into a slumber so profound that no one can wake her. They say she’s the fastest old lady they’ve ever had – like Road Runner, almost. They intercept her by the meds trolley to dole out her tablets but by the time they’ve got the pills into the little cup she’s off again and they have an awful job to find her. She’s wearing out her new pink slippers. Even her fingernails seem to have speeded up. We keep having to remind the carers to cut them.

road runner.jpg

Beep! Beep!

But frogs. For breakfast.

Well, according to this motivational video I stumbled across in the wee small hours of last night, the way to get things done is to eat one’s live frog first; the frog being the task you are least wanting to do. The idea is that the frog, if not eaten, will weigh on your mind. Yes, its uneaten-ness will exhaust you, stress you, de-motivate you, even if you don’t realise it’s doing so. What you should do is make a list, each morning. Having made the list you circle the frog, and you tackle that first.

So I did that. At one o’clock in the morning or thereabouts I made a list for the next day – which was of course by now today. It began something like this:

  • To Post Office to return Amazon parcel (cat carrier too small to house any known cat – a gerbil maybe)
  • Strip bed and sheet washing (I do that every Saturday)
  • Ironing
  • Blog post
  • Keep fingers crossed bank statement doesn’t arrive (it did, of course)
  • Go through solicitors’ paperwork (more important but dull letters, important but dull forms, important but dull energy assessments, dull this and dull that – than you could shake a stick at).

Now, you can guess which is going to be the frog, can’t you? That massive bundle of solicitors’ paperwork. This has to be done either today or tomorrow because on Monday I have to ring the solicitors and make an appointment to go in and discuss it all, have my signature to the contract witnessed, etc., etc.

I dutifully circled it and wrote in big letters FROG!!!

Then I went to bed, and couldn’t sleep. It hardly seemed worth it by that time, and I was being interfered with (no, that doesn’t sound right…) by three cats. The Gingery Gentleman seemed determined to get under the duvet for a dribble-and-purr; Mary seemed to be determined to beat up said Gentleman, and Missy – Mary’s fluffy double apart from a mad-looking eye – seemed determined to beat up both Gingery Gentleman and Mary. The claw-swiping, fur-scattering battle raged on around my head. And it was hot – too hot. And down the hill some poor outdoor dog barked on and on the night. And my head was still full of uncooked frogs, seven-armed men and plastic surgery disasters.

And this morning – did I consult my To Do list and consume my frog?  No, of course not, because I am constitutionally incapable of taking either my own or other peoples’ advice. Frog will be eaten next, I promise, as soon as I’ve finished watching that yellow digger thing digging up the front garden of the neighbour over the road and all those men standing about, conferring with one another but not actually doing anything.

Do you know, there was a giant lorry as well, this morning, with a hoist for taking away the soil? Do you know, one of those men decided to take a voluminous pee against one of the giant tyres of the giant lorry? He stood with his back to my front window (one small mercy) for all the world as if my net curtains made him invisible…

Not in Kansas Anymore

I don’t know what it is but driving to the vets with cats mewling pitifully in the back – No No Mummy, Not Claws Clipped Again, Don’t Like Nursie…etc., etc – tends to bring out the Muse in me. Or should it be Muser?

I was just musing, as I approached the Island’s Eccentric Traffic Lights, as to whether there was such a thing as home for me anymore, and coming to the conclusion that probably there wasn’t. The traffic lights chose to stay red for some considerable time. Other times they just bully you through.

I’m moving soon – fingers crossed, no date yet – and what has been ‘home’ for the last three years or so has now become an un-hoovered, inconvenient brick cube full of stacked cardboard boxes and jumpy, confused cats. There are no shades on the lamps. There is nothing much in the garage apart from flattened cardboard boxes. I am hoping there will be no more trips to the tip with car-loads of rubbish. Everything’s in the wrong place. I’m eating off the same two plates and drinking from the same two mugs; the rest are packed.

How many times have I been through this before? How many photos have I got of cats curled up on cardboard boxes, enjoying a transitory patch of sun, wondering where the next meal will come from – assuming their cat-food stash hasn’t also been boxed up.

After three years of doing nothing much about the various problems in this road, all my neighbours seem to have sprung into action for some reason. The lady next door has suddenly decided to replace her boundary fences with lovely new, expensive wood panels after three years of no fences in part – so we were continually catching sight of one another bleary-eyed in our dressing-gowns and slippers first the morning, shambling about the garden – and fallen fences in other parts, leaning drunkenly on my garden shed and slow-motion dismantling my water-butt. The fence man has been here for days, his radio on at full blast, hammering and clanking, his white van blocking the road to my right.

The man over the road has decided to dig up the scruffy square of concrete in front of his house. This might even cure the torrents of muddy water that have been cascading down the hill, making a beeline for my driveway and deluging my back garden every autumn and winter: except I won’t be here to appreciate it.

All day yesterday, over the road, there was a pneumatic drill controlled by a man with a white hat in a small yellow machine of some description. He too had a portable radio on loud. He couldn’t possibly have heard it over the pneumatic drill but he had it on anyway. Now the road in front of my house was blocked, by a big lorry with a trailer on the back and yet another white van.

Reversing out of my driveway has become an even greater challenge. The workmen pause and wave their arms around, grinning – those mysterious ‘reverse this way’ signals which only confuse women. Shut eyes tight, wrench steering wheel hard left and pray that Jesus has control – that’s the way to do it.

not in Kansas

Not in Kansas Anymore: Eric Diaz

What makes a brick box a home? I wondered. And what stops it being home?

Silence. The traffic lights at last turned amber. First gear. Handbrake off.

When was the last time you felt at home?

I never did. I am a stranger in a strange land. I was born one and I will die one.

So what is home?

Home is not a place, it’s a knowledge. It’s being loved by someone else, loving someone else. Home is feeling safe.

Have you never felt safe?

Have you never felt safe?

Have you never, ever felt safe?