I carried a towering pile of items to the till and placed them on the belt.
“Hi!” said the cashier.
The friendly chirpiness in her voice was probably due to the fact that it was almost closing time, but that’s just a guess. I smiled and returned the greeting, and then focused all of my limited attention on placing the heavy items at the front of the pile so I could bag them the proper way.
Little known fact, but that’s actually what adulting is all about; trying not to smoosh the brie beneath tins of tomatoes. True fact.
The cashier made a comment about the weather, and my friend smiled and agreed while I expertly separated the items in order of weight. I dropped the cartons of milk into the bottom of the bag, followed by the tins of tomatoes and the packet of pasta. I eyed the brie and broccoli as the cashier scanned it through. I was determined to absolutely nail this bagging business.
As an unrelated aside – it’s amazing the things you can trick your mind into thinking are little victories when the going gets tough.
Five minutes later, everything was carefully bagged and paid for. The cashier handed me the receipt. She smiled warmly and said, “Have a good evening now!” to which I naturally replied…
Not an ‘oh hello, didn’t see you there’ type of hello.
Not a nice, friendly, ‘Hello!!’
Just a flat, short, “Hello” in the same tone you would use if you were to automatically mutter, “Thanks” to a cashier who had just handed you a receipt.
…Which is what I was aiming for when my mind panicked and “Hello” popped out instead.
Cue an awkward pause as the cashier narrowed her eyes at me, probably trying to determine if I had some form of short-term amnesia. I grabbed the bag, turned on my heel and walked right out of the shop while screaming internally.
All this to say that today is my one year blogiversary. I know this because WordPress sent me a little notification to remind me. Thanks WordPress! One year on and I am still having awkward interactions with strangers. One year on and I am still embarrassing myself so you don’t have to. One year on and I am still waiting on that damn manual.
But in the meantime, I’ve got you guys to keep me company.
The delivery man called me a few minutes after ten o’clock.
“I’m on my way to ye now!” He said, his voice bubbling with confidence. “How do I find ye?”
I spun slowly on one foot, chewing my lip as I considered my geographical ignorance.
“It’s just…. through the village?” I said, my voice lilting upward at the end because I sincerely hadn’t a clue.
Frantically I attempted to chart the course in my mind, but it was just a hodgepodge of picture-book images in there; the post office, the church, the water pump. Was the church before or after the post office? Where was the water pump in relation to either of those? I stared blindly out the window at the rain as the delivery driver rattled down the country roads towards me.
“Alright,” he yelled over the sound of the rain. “I’ll stay on the phone. Now, I’m just at a turn that has me facin’ the post office-”
“Oh!” I shouted, like a contestant on a quiz show. If I’d had a buzzer I would have slammed my hand down. I knew this one! “Turn left there!”
I heard the click-click-click of the indicator snap on.
“Okay and now I’m passin’ a school-”
An image flashed in my brain and I cut in again.
“Yep! Just… if you just keep going past the school and past all the houses…”
“I’m passin’… another school it looks like-”
“Yep, keep going, past that…”
“An’ now I’m passin’ a house with a yella door-”
“Yep, yep keep going, you’ll reach a long stretch of nothing and then there’s a gate on the right that’s sort of at the end of the hedgerow…”
“Is it a long driveway? Have ye a blue door?”
“Ah I’m here now so.”
“Great! Thanks! If you drive around to the back…”
“Okay will do.”
I raced to the back porch and pulled open the door as the white delivery van swung round the corner. I lifted one foot to step outside and saw that the path down the garden was almost flooded. I glanced mournfully down at my unicorn slippers, then up at the driver, hunched over, dragging a box out of the back of the van. Not wanting to get my unicorns wet, but also not wanting the driver to get soaked to the skin waiting for me to find a pair of shoes, I kicked off the slippers and hopped down the flagstones on my tiptoes.
When I reached the man, he was watching me warily.
“Did ye just-” He paused as he handed me the scanner. “Did I just see ye kick yer shoes off to come outside? In the rain? Where it’s wet?”
I made a mangled stab at signing my name with the tip of my finger, then handed him back the device. There was a moment of silence as we both looked down at my feet, now shiny from the rain.
“Yes,” I said, since there didn’t seem any point in denying it.
He smiled at me with a slight frown. It was a gentle smile, a kindly-but-concerned smile. The sort of amiable, uncertain smile you give people when you’re not quite sure they’re right in the head. I briefly wondered if there was anything I could say to defend my questionable decision.
He looked down at my feet again, raised his eyebrows in an expression that seemed to say, ‘Well I’ve seen it all now!’, then got back in his van and backed out of the driveway as I skipped back over the flagstones to my warm fluffy unicorn slippers.
I was buying 20 eggs and a bottle of spiced rum – a questionable grocery list at the best of times – when the young guy working the till stopped and looked at me expectantly. There were about five people waiting in line behind me, so as if looking for answers or permission I first glanced at them, and then back at him, and chewed the inside of my cheek nervously. Anytime I – for any reason – hold up the line at the checkout, I’m (I think not unreasonably) afraid that a riot will break out behind me and I will die, suddenly and ignominously, when somebody throws a bottle of Elderflower Cordial at my head.
After a pause that was probably only five seconds long but felt like the eternity of time compressed and squeezed into a matter of seconds, his mouth twisted at the corner and he said, “Sorry, but I’ll need to see your ID?”
As if it was obvious.
As if I pass for an 18 year old on any given Tuesday.
I can say with certainty that I don’t look 12 years younger than my age, so this came as a bit of a surprise. For a moment I wasn’t sure I even had any ID on me. I started to get preemptively annoyed about potentially being prevented from buying my bottle of rum.
The person behind me in the queue shifted his weight from one foot to the other and this tiny gesture (the first sign of the aforementioned riot; I’m sure of it) spurred me into action. I dug into my bag and pulled out my passport card, which I was only carrying by pure chance and have literally never used for any practical purpose.
I handed it over with a face that might have read ‘You have absolutely got to be kidding me‘ but might also have read ‘Please hurry up before someone lamps me with a turnip and I have to go to intensive care for the sake of two cartons of eggs and a bottle of rum.’
He took his time looking the card over. He tilted it to check the holographic shine, then scanned it for my date of birth. When he found it, his eyebrows shot up into his hairline and he looked at me and said, “OOooooooOOOOOOoooOOOOoooh!”
The man behind me shifted his weight again. I swear I could see his fingers twitching. He was probably having graphic, detailed fantasies of throttling the two of us.
My face started to burn and I turned an unnatural, almost-fluorescent hue that lit up the shop with a rosy glow. Unfortunately, not only do I flush red when I’m embarrassed, but I also find blushing to be absolutely mortifying, and so it becomes a cycle; I turn into a human traffic light stuck on red.
The guy still held my passport card, and was now grinning at me with one eyebrow raised. He slowly moved to hand it back to me, and although I itched to snatch it off him and sprint out the door, I forced myself to move at a normal pace. I took it back and busied myself burying it deep in my bag, hiding my face with my hair in an effort to get my skintone back to an earthly shade. He handed me my rum, still grinning, and I felt another wave of heat wash over me. I tapped my card on the machine and grabbed the receipt off him a moment sooner than might have been polite, and as I turned to walk away, he called after me:
“I hope you have a wonderful night!”
And then, when I didn’t reply straight away, he added (with a touch of innuendo):
Without turning, I lifted the bottle of rum in acknowledgement of his comment and continued out the door.
It’s cold in the Dublin evenings now, but not to worry; my flushed face kept me warm for a few minutes longer.
*I suspect he either thought I was a tiny alcoholic with a penchant for spiced rum and omelettes OR he thought I was on my way to get properly hammered and egg someone’s house**. Neither is particularly flattering.
When I was a child, there were always things I had to do before I could go out to play with my friends; homework, tidying, dishes, extracurriculars… Whatever it was, I had to finish it perfectly before I was let loose to climb trees, or to run around in the undergrowth, or to make up terrible, terrible dance moves, or to collect earthworms and snails to “rescue” them from being stood on by careless pedestrians.
I was a weird kid.
Anyway, I would take care of my tasks, and then I was free to leave the house and find my friends*. My mind would empty of school worries or drama, and I would throw myself into whatever crazy fictional plot we had dreamed up that day. Elaborate scenarios were created during playtime only to dissolve at sunset, imaginary sandcastle worlds washed away by the tide of bedtime.
Today, if somebody were to ask me what it’s like to be an adult, I would say it’s like never getting to playtime.
As you grow older, the tasks and chores start to stack up on each other like LEGO. Not fun LEGO. Not here’s-a-bin-of-multicoloured-bricks-have-at-it LEGO. No. I’m talking Belville LEGO.** Once you’re officially An Adult™, this Belvillestack of tasks just grows and grows until it becomes a veritable wall of responsibilities; an insurmountable barrier between you and the blank-slate mindset of playtime. Now, at the age of thirty, I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I had nothing pending. There’s always something hanging over my head.
For example, my immediate To Do List says I have to:
Finish this blog post.
Work on my course project.
Discover the (presumably revolting) reason why my uncarved pumpkin is leaking.
Go grocery shopping, because the fridge is empty and I can’t survive without a steady supply of milk.
Then, later, once those are done, I will have to:
Feed the kittens, because otherwise they will eat me in my sleep.
Make dinner, or I will be eating cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner***.
Make a few home decisions.
And, more generally, I have to:
Clean the windows (this one’s been on the list a while…)
Plan on planning a wedding at some stage.
Get my eyes tested.
Make life decisions.
….And countless other small, niggling things that have been waiting patiently for my attention.
There is never a moment when I’m just… done. I can be done for the day, sure, but I don’t think I will ever have a moment in my life again where I feel like every single one of my tasks have been checked off the list and I can devote myself wholeheartedly to the kind of mindless playtime I once enjoyed. It’s exhausting to even think about, but it’s true. When you’re young, you’re unaware of the people around you shouldering the burden of life’s responsibilities. Slowly, they sneak up on you, and before you know it the To Do List is several thousands of items long and you’re wondering where your abundant spare time went.
I think this is why people call childhood “carefree.” Of course children have worries and chores and struggles and lessons to learn, but somebody has already reached across the able and carved everything up into bite-size chunks. The worries and lessons are usually workable. Except for in tragic circumstances, children’s lives are carefully managed and engineered to ensure that not too many tasks fall on those tiny shoulders.
And then you grow, and your shoulders start to press against something unfamiliar, and then it starts to press down on you, and before you know it, you’ve become the Atlas of your life, with your world carefully balanced between your shoulderblades.
So here I am, the Atlas of my life, trying to fit things into my calendar like an actual old person. Ticking off boxes like An Adult™. Sighing heavily because I realise the To Do List isn’t just the twenty things I have written down, but the never-ending, scrolling list that whirrs through my brain at 3am, making that KRSSSH SHHH WHRRRR SHHHKSH sound that receipts make when they’re being printed.
Now I better go feed the kittens before they start chewing on my toes….
*ticks another item off the list*
*I know, I’m as surprised as you that I had any at all with my fists full of earthworms.
**Does anybody remember Belville LEGO sets? They were completely rubbish. They were just like regular LEGO, but everything was larger and lacking any sense of fun or accomplishment.
***Which – although this is something that I can (and do!) do as An Adult™ – is something that should be reserved solely for times of stress. Or lack of groceries. Or high sugar requirements.
I’ve been seeing this #metoo trending hashtag everywhere and I’ve had fairly mixed feelings about it, honestly. When I sit down to comment on it, I either get so agitated I can’t type coherent sentences or else I feel a bone-deep weariness and sit, staring blankly at the screen, until I give up and close my laptop.
I thought that perhaps now, after dragging a 27kg box down my road and up a flight of stairs, I would be tired enough to tackle this issue, but I’m still sitting here jiggling my leg anxiously. I don’t like the #metoo campaign. I just don’t. I don’t like it, even though of course ‘me too’.
Perhaps because ‘me too’.
Have I felt harrassed?
How about the time I was 16 and a man in his mid-thirties stopped his car in the middle of traffic to run over and chat me up?
How about the time a man at least two decades older than me sat – uninvited – at my table during my lunch break, followed me back to my workplace and then sent me effusive poetry?
How about the many times I’ve had my ass grabbed, or the men who have slid their arm around me and nonchalantly stroked my breast? How about the guy who almost followed me into my house? Or the men who have forced their unwanted, unasked-for compliments on me and then acted like I owed them? Or the guy whose name I didn’t even know, who made me mix CDs I never asked for and followed me on my commute home? Or the guys who have kissed me against my will? Or the man who stalked me from store to store despite not a single sign of interest? Or the many men who don’t listen to the first no? Or the second no? Or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth….?
Here’s the thing about sexual harrassment; 98% of the time, the people doing it would never admit to themselves or anybody else that what they’re doing is harrassment. I think that a lot of the time they really are completely unaware that what they’re doing is creepy, or intimidating, or frightening or enraging or just plain inappropriate. They think they’re flirting. They think they’re being charming, or “cheeky,” or that they’re – shudder – wooing you. They either don’t realise or don’t care that your laugh is a nervous one, or that your smile is plastered on over gritted teeth. They are completely oblivious to the fact that you flinch when they try to touch you, and they ignore any subtle hints you might drop about them leaving you alone.
They don’t stop to think about positions of power, or whether or not women feel like they can shut it down. They mistake any gesture of politeness for encouragement. They mistake silence for enjoyment. They don’t stop to consider that maybe politeness feels like the only option. They don’t bother to contemplate alternative interpretations of the silence.
Did I say or do anything?
I once had a job in a large office block. I worked on the front desk of the building, but since it housed several different businesses – each of which had their own receptionist – I didn’t have very much to do. The office I interacted with the most was the one on the ground floor staffed solely by a group of middle-aged men.
Most of them engaged in what they considered “friendly banter” with me, and a lot of it was inoffensive and light-hearted, so I didn’t mind. There was one man in his early sixties, however, who routinely said things that made my skin crawl. It started with outrageously over-the-top flattery and escalated quickly from there. After a week or so he was saying things like, “You’re way better than the last one, that bitch was no fun. And you’re much easier on the eye!”
“Come down to the garage with me for twenty minutes and I’ll give you anything you want!”
“I’m going away with my wife for a sexy weekend, but I’ll be thinking of you the whole time!”
“Oh you have a form for me? Come sit on my lap and read it to me like a good girl!” – and when I slapped the form down on the table, narrowed my eyes at him and walked out – “That’s okay, I like to watch you walk away too!”
Every time he approached my desk I felt a mixture of negative feelings. Revulsion. Fear. Intimidation. Discomfort. Powerlessness. Shame. Rage. He would say these things – and many others – in front of his colleagues and then wink at me, flashing his dentures in what I’m sure he thought was a dashing grin. His colleagues would laugh, or groan and then laugh. At no point did anybody pull him up on his behaviour. At no point did anybody say that it was inappropriate. At no point did anybody say anything at all.
And neither did I.
I was young and not very confident.
I was afraid of how he (and the rest of the office) would react.
The fact that nobody around him ever said anything made me feel completely outnumbered and made me second-guess myself, wondering whether I was making a big deal about nothing.
I wasn’t going to be there for very long, so I figured I should just stick it out.
My job wasn’t actually linked to his office, so I wasn’t sure who I should even talk to about it. If anybody would be moved it would be me.
… So, you know, the usual reasons people don’t report these things. Or rather the usual reason, singular, because it really always boils down to the same simple truth:
I was afraid of the consequences.
Whether you’re afraid the repercussions will be violent, professional, dangerous or simply awkward, it always boils down to the consequences of standing up for yourself to people who are generally larger, more powerful, more important, and completely unpredictable. The #metoo campaign is like picking up fistfuls of sand and feeling it slip through your fingers; there are so many ‘me too’s. Too many ‘me too’s. It would be better to ask for people who have never experienced it to step forward. Find the scant handful who have never felt that tingle of fear, or that burning shame of not feeling able to risk their job/reputation/safety.
I feel like there’s something about it that gives you an embarassingly personal insight into my life. Then again, I think I’ve probably covered that in previousposts, and honestly there are posts coming up with far, far more intimate information, so I suppose this is really just tiny training wheels for the future.
Also, if you haven’t realised I’m a bit weird by now, there’s probably no hope for you. You need to work on your cray-dar.
You know, like gaydar, but for crazy people.
Yes I just made that up. You can use it. Don’t credit me.
First of all, can we all agree that in this day and age, phone calls are unnecessary. Unless you are having a crisis, or need to tell me something that cannot be trusted in writing, or I know you almost as well as I know myself, there is absolutely no need for you to call me. That’s what Whatsapp is for. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat. Communicate with me in a way that gives me time to go over my reply please. I’m in the Slow Learner group and apparently I still haven’t mastered the art of french braids (STILL!) or telephonic communication.
Secondly, I would just like to state for the record that phone calls make me deeply uncomfortable.
Not all phone calls, obviously. When I need to call Scrubs to remind him to pick up two litres of milk because I’ve guzzled the entire household supply overnight, I don’t even think twice about it. When I call my friend to catch up on life, I don’t feel anxiety. I’m fine with friends and family. I know their voices. I understand their intonations and their pauses and the words unspoken behind the words that are said aloud.
“Official” calls – anything even slightly professional – is a different matter entirely. If I have to call a stranger or a business, I will rehearse what I’m going to say because I suddenly develop the most ridiculously irrational fears.
Hypothetical 1: The other person answers the phone and I involuntarily vomit out random noises instead of words. Just… a string of consonants and vowels with no meaning. It just spews out of me and I have no control at all over what I’m saying.
…After a brief pause, the person on the other side of the phone says, “Excuse me?” and I hang up in a cold sweat.
Hypothetical 2: The other person answers the phone and I start my sentence, only to completely forget what I wanted to say. Half a sentence hangs awkwardly in the air like a deflating balloon while I frantically struggle to remember where I was going with this now meandering disaster of a phrase.
…The person on the other end of the phone eventually assumes I’m having technical difficulties rather than just moronic social ones and hangs up, shrugging to themselves.
Also, not ideal.
So yes, to avoid either of these nightmare scenarios, I rehearse what I’m going to say. I don’t rehearse it word by word, sentence by sentence – I’m not that anal – but I roughly sketch out what it is I need from the call, and how I’m going to start the conversation.
As if that will somehow vaccinate me from the risk of stumbling over syllables.
As the phone rings, I feel butterflies. Not the nice kind of butterflies that are a little addictive, but the horrible, biting kind of butterflies that flutter around in your stomach with tiny butterfly petrol bombs, gleefully lobbing them at your stomach lining like insect arsonists. Then, in my mind, a spider diagram erupts with all the possible conversational catastrophes that might happen during the call, and I scramble to cover every possible base before the other person picks up the phone.
And then there’s that tell-tale click, and the other person intones their robotic greeting that always ends with, “How can I help you?,” and it’s as if there’s a tiny man in the wings with a clipboard who has been counting down from five, and now he just yells “GO! GO! GO!” and I stutter to life, and trot out my own rehearsed line to get the call going.
That makes me sound like a serial killer. Let me rephrase.
I remember seeing my first dead body.
It was my maternal grandmother’s – my Yaya’s – and she was lying in a coffin with white satin lining. It was propped up, almost standing to face those coming to pay their respects, and she was pale. Unnaturally pale. Much paler than I had ever seen her. Her expression was serious, her mouth turned down at the sides. There was no joy in her face at all, which was very unlike her. She was a woman who was always smiling, always laughing, always trying – like a stereotypical grandmother from a storybook – to feed you delicious food until you burst at the seams.
She was a woman who was always shuffling around the kitchen, or fanning herself with her abanico as she leaned back, out of breath from laughing, sighing “Ay!”
She was a woman who always took the time to pin a brooch to her breast and put lipstick on before going out, who always sprayed herself with perfume and made sure each blonde curl was in place, and who had a faith in God that stayed with her even after hope had been abandoned.
Now she lay, silent and still, in a box behind glass; an unsettlingly strange and wrinkled doll in a building of tears and heartbreak. She no longer looked like herself. She was missing that spark that made her her. This wasn’t my Yaya, this wasn’t the woman who would envelop me in her arms and kiss me over and over again until I wriggled away laughing. This was a husk. A shell. This was the discarded coccoon of a life well-lived, of a woman well-loved.
Death frightens me.
Life frightens me.
It frightens me how fragile we all are. It frightens me that we go through life as thin-skinned human popsicles made of nothing more than a pinch of star dust and earth, brought together and animated by an ember of life.
And when that ember is extinguished or extinguishes itself, leaving behind the curling smoke of memories and loss in its wake, it can be suffocating. The after-effects of the end of a life can feel like your heart is in a vice, and every thought of the person you loved and lost is a turn of the screw.
Death is something that enters into all our lives, and it visits more often the older we get. We like to ignore it, skirt around it, pretend it won’t touch us with its long, cold fingers, but it does. It will. It is unavoidable.
When it will come to us is largely unpredictable. It can slip in and out of our lives at any time. As we grow older, we become more aware of its presence; we look over our shoulder every so often and do things that we hope will make death pass over us, at least until we are old and infirm. We stop smoking, we exercise, we eat healthy food. We become more risk averse. We understand the full weight of life. If we’re lucky, we accumulate loved ones and experiences and hobbies and passions that we don’t want to say goodbye to, and so we shrink back when we feel death nearby.
Don’t pick me. Don’t pick us.
We support our friends in their times of grief. We cry with them, because we know the pain. We may not feel their loss, but we feel their suffering. We read terrible, tragic stories about strangers and feel sorrow, but also relief; glad that it didn’t happen to anyone we know, glad that it happened to someone else, somewhere else. No matter that their grief is just as profound, just as crushing as it would have been for us.
Death is busy elsewhere, and we have the audacity to feel safe in its absence.
There is a unique and precious freedom that comes before we learn about mortality. As children, we exhibit a recklessness that we lose around the same time we begin to comprehend the concept of consequences. Even though this is obviously an important part of growing up, I’m starting to think we could all do with adding back a little of our childhood bravery. I know I could. After all, we don’t know when death will come to call.
Is there anything to be gained by dreading it the way we do? Is there anything to be gained by pressing ourselves against the wall, hoping to make ourselves invisible?
I’m not suggesting we all go BASE jumping in the morning.
I’m not suggesting we start a diet consisting solely of donuts*.
I’m just wondering out loud whether we – I – should live a little less fearfully. There are things I haven’t done yet because a thin, reedy voice in the back of my head makes it its mission to spook me every time I think about them too hard. If I talk myself out of things I wish I had the courage to try, am I really living my life to the fullest? I can’t keep putting things off for an indeterminate ‘someday’ when I don’t know how many somedays I have left. I should make the somedays today.
And so should you.
I hope that when death comes for me, I have lived a long and full life. I hope that like my Yaya, I leave behind memories of love and laughter, good food and good company. I hope that like her I have time to say goodbye to those I love, and that I face it with courage and acceptance. I hope, but I don’t know.
So in the meantime, I’m going to try to live fearlessly… or at least, less fearfully.
I enjoy being with people, don’t get me wrong. I like spending time with people. People are great! I have a lovely time whether I’m out with friends or at home chatting over tea.
It drains me though, and it drains me fast. Fast like my Samsung S7 battery that runs down after a few hours of intense usage, not like ye olde Nokia 3210 battery that lasted five days if you played Snake on it constantly, and twenty-three days if you barely touched it at all. When I spend time with people, afterwards I need to retreat, relax, and recharge, and usually my recharging station is my home, where I work or study at the dining table next to the window.
This is how I first became aware of my neighbours.
My window overlooks their balcony, and every day out of the corner of my eye I would see a man and his dog – who we will call Frank for the purposes of this post – coming and going on their walks together.
I can’t fully explain my obsession with Frank. It started out as a pretty benign distraction from my day; I would see Frank (an English Bulldog) and Frankman (the name I gave his owner) exit the building, and then I would watch, amused, as Frank lay stubbornly down on the grass and refused to go anywhere.
Frankman would sigh, exasperated, and half-heartedly tug on the lead.
Frank would dig his barrel chest into the grass.
Frankman would grumble and pull with all his might.
Frank would duck his head and hunch his stocky shoulders, as immovable as a rock formation.
Frankman’s pleas would go from an exasperated, “Come on, Frank” to an increasingly desperate “FRANK! FRANK! COME ON! FRANK!”
Frank would stare implacably at his owner.
Frankman would yank on the lead in a sort of daily exercise in futility.
Frank would lie on the grass stoically refusing to go anywhere before he was ready. Then, as if he hadn’t just been making a scene for the past five minutes, he would calmly get up and trot off with a flustered Frankman in tow.
This would happen before almost every single walk. I would watch these scenes, and over time I grew fond of both Frank and Frankman. There was something really endearing about Frank, who made it clear that if he went anywhere at all it was only because he was allowing it, and there was also something endearing about Frankman, because he always looked so buttoned-up and serious but would lose all and any air of authority around Frank.
Frankman also has a wife (Frankwoman) and together the three of them were the Frankfamily. They brightened up my days considerably with their Frank-related antics. Even on his own, Frank would bring a smile to your face. Like a creep I would sometimes take photos of Frank’s more memorable moments. I have, for example, a video of Frank falling off a chair and quickly getting back up to look around and check if anybody witnessed it. He was a character.
And then one day, Frank was gone.
One week he was being his usual obstinate self, and the next there was no Frank, no walk, no tug-of-war happening in the garden. I barely saw Frankman or Frankwoman. Where was Frank? Considering I had never spoken to Frankfamily, there was nothing I could do but wonder. I rationalised it to myself coming up with a variety of reasons he wouldn’t be at home, but in three years Frank had never to my knowledge been apart from the Frankparents. If they were at home, so was Frank. The whole thing was worrying.
The following weekend, I watched as Frankman arrived home with a tiny bulldog puppy in his arms.
Frank was gone.
Since I never spoke to Frankman and Frankman never spoke to me, the mystery was unresolved until one day when my father dropped over for a visit. As I walked in with him, we met Frankman and the new addition walking out. Unaware of the delicate neighbourhood ecosystem in which nobody directly addressed anybody else, and instead only ever communicated through comments directed at each others’ pets, my father asked Frankman what had happened to “the big dog”. Frankman looked down at the ground and explained that Frank had had a heart attack while they were out for a walk. A congenital heart defect, undetectable until it was too late. He said it casually, scuffing the toe of his shoe into the grass as he spoke, but his voice was gruff with emotion.
The new addition was called (let’s just say) Ariadne.
Ariadne was adorable, but she wasn’t Frank. She was too small, too cute. She bounded out for her walks with great enthusiasm. She didn’t know Frank’s trick of standing up on the chair and placing both paws on the balcony railing to survey his domain. She didn’t bark as often. Her best moments came when she attacked Frankman’s shoes and when she waddled off with a leaf or a stick she’d found, proud as punch.
We switched Frankwoman’s name to Ariadnewoman, but Frankman remained Frankman.
You know, in memory of Frank.
A year on, Ariadne is almost Frank-size. Oscar and Maya are fascinated by the way her stocky little body romps around the garden. She’s a fan favourite. She still doesn’t know the trick of standing up on the chair to look out over the garden, but she has been starting to show sure signs of stubbornness. The other day I had to retreat to the back of the apartment laughing because she wriggled under a bush, sat down, and no amount of begging, shouting, pleading, threats, offers of treats or cajoling would coax her out. Ariadnewoman eventually sat, defeated, on a bench to wait out this episode of hard-headedness.
And now, Frankfamily are moving away.
Naturally, I didn’t get this information from the source – I still have never had an actual conversation with the couple – but the information is legitimate. They are leaving. When I first heard this, I was more upset than anybody should be about strangers moving house.
“They should have warned us,” I muttered darkly to Scrubs.
“Don’t be weird.” He said.
“Do you think we could start a petition for them to change their minds?”
“We should be able to lodge an objection. Do they not know Ariadne is essential to neighbourhood morale?*”
Scrubs sighed and eyed me with considerable alarm. “Please hide your obsession with their dog for just a little while longer.”
Of course, I couldn’t do that. How could I let Frankfam move without letting them know they would be missed? I decided to buy a card. I went into town and bought a card that said, “Sorry You’re Leaving” on the front and, “Wishing you all the best” on the inside. Perfect, I thought… But then the overthinking started.
Ariadne can’t read, I reasoned. A card won’t make her happy. I bought a dog toy – a white, fluffy alpaca – and a gift bag to put it in. I nodded, satisfied with myself.
Maybe I should add a dog treat, I thought.
I grabbed a pack of chicken twists from the shelf.
Maybe two, just to be sure she’ll like one of them.
I grabbed a Jumbone.
I turned towards the till, but it was too late.
I had lost the run of myself.
I can’t just address the whole thing to Ariadne… My brow furrowed. What about the humans? What about Frankman and Ariadnewoman? Is it rude to exclude them?
A couple of lollipops, a bag of fizzy sweets, a couple of chewy bars and a box of maltesers got swept into the basket.
When I got home, I wrote the card to Ariadne and her humans. I thanked Ariadne for brightening up the block, told them we (the humans and the cats) would miss seeing them around and good luck with the move. I threw everything into the gift bag, took the maltesers back out because they seemed like overkill, and left it on their balcony.
Then I went home, sat down, and realised that:
Having never had a conversation with them ever in my life, it might not have been the most reasonable thing to go so overboard with the goodbye present.
They probably wonder a) who I am and b) how on earth I even know they are moving.
I now have no choice but to avoid them until they leave because I am so embarrassed.
When I told Scrubs he groaned and asked why – WHY – I would have done such a thing without consulting with him first. He is naturally mortified by association, but at least he can claim ignorance since I am obviously the nutter who wrote the card.
I am still sad that they’re leaving our neighbourhood. They just seem so lovely and I like to think in another life they would have stayed another four years and eventually we might have worked up to greeting each other with actual words and eye contact. Who knows. Dream big!
On the other hand, at least once they leave I can stop feeling myself turn red with embarrassment every time I see them, now that they know without a shadow of a doubt that I am their number one fan.
Swings and roundabouts.
*Not complete hyperbole; for about a year somebody in our apartment block named their wifi ‘CAN WE PLAY WITH ARIADNE PLS”
One of my first posts on this blog was about the concept of hygge.
As part of being a real live adult with a home, Scrubs and I are in the middle of an attempted renovation. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic – no quilted leather walls or extensions for the craftroom I dream of eventually having – just making the place more home-y, more calming, more hygge.
I am not a tidy person; I am always late for everything and so my last moments in the house are often frantic scrambles to get myself together. Since I never leave myself enough time to go through everything in a relaxed and methodical manner, I instead turn into a human hurricane, flinging items out of the wardrobe with reckless abandon until I’ve found what I’m looking for. Then I dash out the door, only to come home several hours later to a room that looks like a bombsite.
Naturally by that stage I’m already late for something else, so I don’t have time to tidy up…
And so it goes.
The only exception to this rule is if everything looks exactly as it should.
If my place looks staged – as if it’s been set up by Chip and Joanna Gaines before a viewing – with everything exactly where it should be, down to the candles and the plants and the woollen throws, then my Dr. Junkyard Jekyll turns into Ms. Houseproud Hyde. Even one thing out of place will rub me the wrong way. I need things to look right. If they don’t look right to start with then there’s no point in even bothering, but if they look right and then somebody moves something… woe betide them.
I don’t honestly know where this comes from or why this is. Unfortunately, as I said, this strange compulsion only comes over me when things look exactly right, which doesn’t happen very often. At the present moment, the only thing that looks exactly right is the bedroom, and even that could really do with a rug and a coat of paint. I’m almost afraid to get the place done up exactly as I’m imagining it, because I have a not-completely-unfounded fear I’ll turn into some sort of monster of meticulousness*.
Luckily hygge life gives a lot of scope for flexibility, since it’s all about cosy reading nests, and soft textures (very important), and low lighting, and making yourself a relaxing refuge from the world. Hopefully with the aid of candles and white linen and soft blankets and white-stained oak and a lick of paint the place will turn into the most beachy beachhouse that isn’t at all a beachhouse in any way.
So far I have a few questions though:
Why all the floral bedsets? What is up with that? I am not a floral fan.
What is a thread count and when does it matter and should I even care?
How do you choose the right pillow?**
a) How difficult is stripping wallpaper?
And part b) am I just as well painting over it?
How can I create storage space out of thin air?
Why is everything home-related about five times as expensive as your estimate?
Can it be a bank holiday every week so I can use the Monday to catch up on life?
I’m off to google all these things and more.
Happy Hump Day, everyone.
*Except when I’m crafting, because that inevitably takes up every available surface (hence the need for a separate crafting room/shed/barn/house)
**At this stage I think I need an Ollivander-style shop where the pillow chooses me…
It’s Friday. Or as some people insist on writing, “Fri-YAY!”
I am not feeling ‘yay’ about today. In fact, if today had a sound it would be more of a ‘meh,’ or an ‘argh,’ or even just a heavy, deeply frustrated sigh.
If the past two weeks were being summarized by an action, it would be that of a dog turning around and around and around in an effort to get comfortable. I am still not comfortable. We’re still not fully unpacked from our move, my days seem to consist of lifting alternating kittens off the table, and my mattress has been trying to stab me in the night with its errant springs. A new bed is on the To Do List, but since I’m so far behind on checking things off, it might have to wait a while.
My home currently feels like one of those annoying puzzles you used to get in party bags as a child. The ones where you have to slide the pieces around until the smiley face comes together. I was always brutal at them. I would end up prying the pieces out in an effort to make it work but could never manage to put them back in, so the smiley face always ended up littered across the patio in tiny square pieces.
Which, now that I think about it, doesn’t bode well for my living space.
Currently there is too much stuff, and not enough storage. There is too much to do, and not enough time or energy. Every action feels like reaching the end of a particularly challenging Super Mario level only to be told Princess Peach is in another castle.
Deadlines I set myself a month ago have become elasticated, stretching like old gum to accomodate my slow trudge. So many things that I just want to be finished with still loom over me, casting an ever-darkening shadow of shame over me. Sun-seeking sourjourns set me back, yes, but so did a few (far less enjoyable and far more common) slumps in mood and motivation. Even this blog has run into a few brick walls this past month.
I’m pushing through it by focusing on the positive. At least one corner of my home is exactly the way I want it, which I find deeply soothing. Also, other than their aforementioned hard-headed insistence on exploring the dining table, the goofy goobers – Oscar and Maya – are being extremely well-behaved. I think they are even starting to like me. They have had neighbourcat landing parties a few times now and nobody has lost an eye. Almost two weeks in and they are still alive and thriving, which while not being a surprise (give me some credit), is at least a relief.
So it’s the end of the week. I hope everyone has something fun lined up over the next few days. I hope the clouds lift, literally and metaphorically, and I hope I finally reach that damn Princess Peach castle.