Monday, May 28, 2007

sixth sense

The builders had been very busy on the cottage all week so I thought I would drop by and see how things were going as I was at a loose end this weekend. When I got there the cottage was deserted. I stood, all alone, in the empty kitchen. I stared at the wall. The wall was now completely plastered, unlike me unfortunately. My husband had forgotten to order supplies for the weekend. The nearest decent wine merchant is bloody miles away from here and I would rather suffer the raving DTs than be seen setting foot in Bargain Booze. The decorators had only finished the day before and the aroma of fresh paint and turpentine tantalized me like that heady mix of aftershave and pheromones coming from a handsome stranger on the crowded tube on a hot day. It had been a long time to get to this point. The cottage was old, that’s why we fell in love with it, but it was the wrong kind of old so we totally gutted the place and replaced that old oldness, which let’s face it was so last century, with the much more fashionable new old look that I’d seen when reading all those period home magazines that my husband buys in motorway services and hides under the mattress.

I stood and listened to the silence. I have spent my life learning to listen, it’s my craft, my art. My skill has become an intuition, a sixth sense. What I love to do the most and what I’m best at is simply to listen and to understand what other people think and feel, although obviously I only really want to listen to people who think and feel the same things as me. That’s why I listen to Radio 4 and only read the Sunday Times. I listened to the kitchen wall, then I talked to it, in fact a surprisingly good conversation was soon struck up, better than any with my agent that's for certain. With him it really is a case of talking to a brick wall. ‘Whose house in the village is the fairest of them all?’ I asked the wall. ‘Why your’s is of course, darling’, said the wall, ‘and you’re looking pretty damn hot yourself Rilly, if I may say so’. I smiled modestly and breathed deeply. For the first time in a long while I didn't feel so tense. I was breathing in more than air, I was breathing in the future, and happiness, I was breathing in hope, and above all I was breathing in seventeen different kinds of solvent based decorating products and it felt good.

When I got back from my communing with the new house Natalia was looking very concerned. ‘Mrs Super’, she said, ‘I’m worried about Milly’. ‘Whatever is the matter dear?' I asked, rather preoccupied with whether we should have ordered Dimity instead of Tallow with which to paint the inside of the broom cupboard. ‘I think your daughter has been spending too much time reading Wife in the North, Mrs Super’, she replied gravely. ‘I don’t know what you mean dear!' I snapped, 'it's quite impossible to spend too much time reading Wife in the North!' Suddenly the subject of our discussion herself appeared in the doorway. Natalia and I both turned to my daughter. ‘Well, she looks fine to me!’ I told Natalia. ‘Mummy!’ Milly began excitedly. ‘Yes Milly, what is it dear? You’ve had Natalia all worried about you, you know!' I said. Milly’s gaze shifted to somewhere over my shoulder. She hesitated for a moment. 'Mummy', she began, 'I see dead people'. I looked at Natalia, looked at my daughter, and grabbed my keys. I hoped the hope of the doomed that Bargain Booze was still open.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

dimming of the day

The weekend arrived. My husband called to inform me he had to spend a few more days in the South of France with his secretary Fabio, the Belfast sink that was delivered yesterday turned out to be a protestant, I had forgotten to post friday's blog entry and the interiew therein described which I had done for the lovely lady from DollyMix had, I feared for a brief while, been left on the editor's cutting room floor. This weekend marks three months since I reached out into the interweb and although I thought nobody would read this blog it turns out that in cyberspace, someone can hear you scream. I read somewhere that there are over seventy blogs on the internet and this one has the loveliest readers of all of them so thankyou, everyone that visits. I hope you all have a super weekend and when you are out enjoying the sunshine try not to think of me sobbing uncontrollably over a sodden keyboard, lamenting all of my lost dreams, alone in the north as the rain beats mercilessly on the window, beating out the sombre drawing to a close of another dark and lonely day, no, you mustn’t think about that. If there's one thing I'll never do it'll be to exaggerate my own struggles in a desperate attempt to elicit sympathy, no way José.

Friday, May 25, 2007

ladies who launch

‘Ah well’ sighed the reporter ‘They did warn me it wouldn't all be hobnobbing with famous people in this job’. She peered at me across the table in the corner of the Badger Baiter pub in Keighley. ‘One day I’m interviewing Nora Jones, next day...' she looked me up and down. I didn't look my best, I admit. ' day, Nora Batty. Nowt but bloody Noras lately!' I smiled meekly. ‘I tell you what’, she said, inhaling deeply on her big cigar as she balanced the twins on her knees. ‘This smoking ban’ll be the death of this business’. I nodded, and tried to concentrate on my agent’s exitement at announcing the launch of my media career with this first proper interview. ‘You mean the pub business?’ I asked. She shook her head ‘No, Journalism’, she replied. ‘This is your first interview then pet?’ she asked. I nodded. ‘Aye, thought as much’. She looked down at the twins and raised her eyebrows. ‘Work life balance, heh?’ she said, ‘Bollocks’ . She paused. ‘Run along to bar now girls, fetch mummy another vodka. Make it a double, it’s like pulling teeth with one’. She blew some perfectly formed smoke rings which floated above the table as we waited for the girls to return. ‘I met that girl from 'my boyfriend is a twat' last week, you know’, she said. ‘Now she were a real lady’. ‘But I’m a…’ I sighed, what was the point. Her daughters returned with a large vodka. She looked at her watch. ‘Oh bugger it!’ she exclaimed. ‘I’m late for Dulwichmum's book launch, we’ll have to leave it there pet’, and she got up to leave. ‘Have you got any more questions?’ I asked 'well…’ she began. I looked hopeful. ‘Are you going to eat them chips or not pet?’ I shook my head and she grabbed a handful off my plate and pushed her way out through the door, wiping mayonnaise from her chin with her sleeve. I sighed and quickly wrote down the address of Dollymix where my women who blog interview would soon appear. I just hoped that when I wrote about this interview on the blog Linda the journalist wouldn't spot any minor inaccuracies which might have crept in to my account as a result of the amount I had had to drink that lunchtime. I thought it would probably be alright. I finished my bloody nora, I mean bloody mary, and went to look for the ladies.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

the belles, the belles

It was by a curious coincidence that following the wistful remembrances of youth described by M&M, who has the misfortune to live even further north than me, the poor girl, my own childhood memories were pricked by the news of a new St Trinians film. I did feel a pang of regret that I was not asked to act as educational consultant on the production but if my agent tells me that wife in the north got the job because she was The Times education correspondent then that would be but another arrow in my broken heart, sigh. I did just want to dispell the rumour right now that the downshifting blogger's friend, Tom Watson is to star in the new movie as Billy Bunter. Thomas is a lovely young man and I won't have that kind of thing put about, thank you very much. I rang my husband to see if perhaps a rare trip to the cinema could be on the agenda but he was in a meeting so I told his assistant Fabio, who answered the phone, to pass on the message to my husband but to remind my beloved that I hoped he didn’t expect me to sit and watch him drool over a bondgirl for two hours. Fabio, however, the darling that he is, reassured me that it was Rupert Everett as the headmistress that was the performance to which he and my husband were really looking forward. Fabio is so very thoughtful and immediately upon sensing my unease reassured me that he was absolutely certain that my husband would come up and watch the film with me when it eventually arrived in The North because it would have been so many months by then since he had watched the premiere in London, for which he and Fabio had VIP tickets. Fabio then advised me that I should hang up. He and my husband were on business in Cannes, he explained, and stressed business, and they had both forgotten to bring the adaptors for their phone chargers. I put the phone down, took off my straw boater and school tie and sighed. I would find something else to re-engage my husband's amorous interest. I looked at my watch. I was late for my german class.

Monday, May 21, 2007

all clichés great and small

‘Rilly, darling’ began my agent. I sighed. I knew what was coming. ‘have you read Wife in the North this weekend?’ I had indeed. ‘She’s talking bullocks dear, and so should you be!’ I paused before answering ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been doing since you told me you could get me a book deal dear, which I am increasingly thinking, by the way, is nothing but a figment of your imagination!’ ‘Rilly, I assure you it’s just a matter of a few final details, how to translate talking bullocks into Japanese so it remains the brilliant and sparklingly original witty pun that it is in english, how shabbily you should be dressed in your publicity shots without people thinking we were trying a bit too hard to make you look like a normal struggling housewife, that kind of thing.’ My agent is very convincing. He is the top agent in London, they say, well, he says. However, I refuse to resort to innuendo about studs and rumps and beefcake. This blog is high literature and if I can’t write the book I want based upon my grim life then I will just have to return to my novel where I'm not under pressure to resort to cliché and stereotype. ‘I’m not going to try and turn this blog into a James Herriot story you know’, I told my agent. ‘That’s already been done and much better than I could do.’ ‘Oh gosh!' exclaimed my agent, 'who by?' 'Erm..' I said ' by James Herriot’. ‘Crikey, he sounds awfully good’, said my agent, ‘do you know if he’s got a book deal at all?’ I sighed. Anyway, if I wrote lovingly about farm animals and then it came to light I had complained to the council about the cockeral that woke me up well before ten almost every morning it wouldn’t look good. I said my goodbyes to my agent and read through the letter from the environmental health department. ‘Dear Mrs Super’, it began, ‘further to your complaint about noise from the farmyard near your house we have now agreed that no cocks should be allowed within half a mile of your bedroom’. As if that was going to change anything, I sighed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

hinge and bracket

I gazed out through the hole in the wall of the cottage and sighed. It reminded me of the hole in my heart where my old life used to be. My husband stood outside, all innocent and smiling, the walls of the garden surrounding him like the edges of a photo. He was framed by the yard, a bit like that poor chap Lord Levy really. A door would soon fill the space, a door that currently lay out in the sun, unloved and unhinged, would soon fit into place like the rest of my life. I felt a bit like the door, exposed to the wind and the sun, to the gaze of passers by, when all I wanted to do was find a door shaped space where I belonged, keep my family warm, and shut out the North all together. Soon there would be a new door and a new dawn. When Gordon Brown takes over, everything will fit into place for everyone, just like it will for me. Everyone will buy the house next door and knock through and the housing problem will be solved. Everyone will have to take over the house to the left of them of course otherwise it would be chaos, like when somebody uses their neighbour’s desert spoon at a dinner party. That's why we need the government, to make sure everyone uses the correct cutlery. I looked down at my diary and crossed out ‘chase builders for door’ and drew a thick line through ‘vote in labour leadership election’, then I looked over to the windows suspended in the breeze, a fresh coat of paint and now hung out to dry. Life’s a bit like that, I thought to myself. I rang Natalia to remind her to collect the children and pick up some Pimms on the way and then reflected some more on doors and the end of Tony Blair's good works, sigh.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

strife of bath

Father Patrick seemed to appear from nowhere and I was unable to make my escape before he caught me. ‘Ah Rilly, my child’ he said ‘I wondered if I could have a word’ I knew what was coming. ‘Look, if it’s about the pew and the confessional door incident, that was Mrs Arkwright, I swear’. ‘It’s about the holy water Rilly’. 'Oh', I sighed. ‘Traditionally, the church’s allocation has always been one immersion per child per lifetime. Is there some kind of problem at home my dear?’ I told the children to hurry up and get dried off. I suppose it was only a matter of time before my use of the font for post-babtismal ablutions was spotted. ‘We haven’t got a bathroom’ I said. 'The builders are four weeks behind.' ‘I’d love to help, really, Rilly’, said the priest, ‘but there’s only so much holy water available, global warming you know, and you're using so much the church is having to tanker it in from Rome’. ‘But how did you know?’ I asked. Father Patrick smiled. ‘The lord moves in mysterious ways my child’, he said. ‘You left this by the way’ he said and handed me a rubber duck. ‘And I believe this is your’s too’. He held out a tube of veet. ‘It’s not mine' he said,' and Father Connor insists he never squeezes his in the middle’. 'Well', I sighed as we left, 'so much for helping the needy!'

A rough looking man in an apron stood behind the counter. ‘I need a baarth’ I told him. The man stared at me blankly. 'You do sell baarths don’t you?’ I was irritated with him already. Northern and trade, the very worst combination. ‘I can do you four candles pet’, he proffered, grinning. I sighed. ‘This a baarthrum shop, is it not?!’ I snapped. ‘That is what its says on the sign’. ‘Hmm, well, we got the work experience lad to do the sign didn’t we. The school's don’t teach ‘em to spell owt anymore', he sighed. Another man appeared behind the counter. Words were exchanged between them. ‘Oohhh, you want a bath, why didn’t you say so pet?' With that he led me towards the display area. ‘Here’s a very popular model love’, he said. ‘Do I look like someone who bathes in fibre glass?' I asked, annoyed. 'We may be a normal struggling family but we're not that poor you know!’ ‘Well’, he said, the next model up is this steel bath, a very good make’. I was now becoming very annoyed indeed. ‘Less poor than that too dear’, I said, motioning him to move along. ‘We have this lovely cast iron model, very exclusive’. ‘What about that one over there?’ I said pointing to a large roll top resting on feet shaped like swans and adorned by gold taps’ ‘Ah, yes, The Cherie, a very good choice, our most expensive bath.’ 'I’ll take three’, I said. ‘Pay the man dear’, I told my husband. 'And I do hope you won’t even think about delivering the showroom model by the way, young man!’ I explained. ‘I distinctly saw some northern children sitting in it earlier!’ and the very thought made me shiver. I would have to go home and summon up all my strength before we even started looking into toilets.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

resignation, resignation, resignation

I picked up the local paper. A large photograph of a proud smiling young local man in military uniform looked out from the front page. I sighed. Yet again somebody else’s bad news had pushed my bad news from the headlines. My agent was going to be furious. I used the newspaper to mop up some baby sick. Just then the phone rang. ‘Rilly, darling!’ said a man’s voice. ‘Who is this?’ I demanded. ‘It’s me dear!’ said the mysterious stranger. ‘You remember, 1997, you, me, the vicar?’ ‘Tony? I thought we weren’t going to mention that night again, and anyway, haven’t you got something else on today?' Then I remembered that was the year I got married and sighed. ‘I’ve got a big surprise for our wedding anniversary!’ my husband told me, excitedly. ‘I’ll pick you up in an hour’. I yawned. He only ever got that excited when he had managed to get Barbara Streisand tickets. What could he possibly have in mind?

I should have known. We stood in the drizzle. Trimdon Labour Club on a wet thursday lunchtime. The great orator, up north for his final oration, but we were out in the cold. 'It’s not that I’m ungrateful’ I said ‘but didn’t you think to get tickets dear?’ I asked my husband. ‘Yes, but the chap from the party I gave the money to was arrested by Scotland Yard five minutes after I left. That kind of thing’s a bit hit and miss at the moment. If anyone tries to sell you a raffle ticket today, just say you haven’t got any change. It’s too risky’. ‘Remind me, why are we here again?’ I asked. ‘Tony Blair is part of our history!’ he exclaimed ‘You’ll be part of my flippin' history if we don’t get in the warm soon!’ I told him. ‘Oh look, I can see some people I know, I’ll see what I can sort out’ he said and he shuffled off with an ‘air hellair’ here and a ‘good to see you old chap’ there until he faded from earshot and from sight.

‘Mummy, why do you like Tony Blair?’ asked Tilly, tugging on my sleeve. ‘Because Tony Blair likes people that work hard dear’. ‘Like Natalia you mean, Mummy?’ ‘Mummy works hard as well dear.’ Tilly looked at me blankly. 'Mummy?' I looked down at her inquisitive expression. 'have you ever met the prime minister?' 'You'll have to buy my memoirs dear', I replied. ‘Mummy?’ 'Yes Tilly?’ ‘Who was that man that Daddy was talking to?’ 'That was Peter Mandelson dear.’ ‘And why did Daddy put his hands in his pockets?’ ‘I think he was just trying to look working class dear.' ‘Mummy?' ‘Yes Tilly, dear?’ 'Who are those men dressed all over in orange and shouting at Tony Blair?’ ‘They are very bad men Tilly.’ ‘Are they terrorists Mummy?’ ‘No, dear, I don't think so, they must be Liberal Democrats’. ‘Mummy, one of those bad men said Tony Blair drops bombs on children. Tony Blair's not going to drop a bomb on me and Milly is he, Mummy?’ 'No dear, he only does that to bad foreign children, but maybe we’ll move a little closer to Wife in the North and Tom Watson over there just to be on the safe side.' ‘Mummy? ‘Yes Tilly, what is it now?' ‘Why are you wearing a red rose?’ ‘Because if I buy a rose it offsets the carbon emissions from Tony Blair’s private jet from London, dear’. ‘Mummy, I need a wee’. ‘Oh, I can’t take you now Tilly, I’ll miss the speech, go and ask one of the men in orange jumpsuits to take you.’

‘When is Tony going to make his big speech?' I asked the lady next to me. ‘It was over an hour ago pet’, she said. ‘We’re just waiting for the raffle to be drawn’. I looked down at my glass of champagne. The bubbles had gone but the raindrops falling on the surface made it appear not quite completely flat and the cold damp northern wind had kept it cool. I looked up and a single raindrop fell on my face and ran down my cheek like a tear, like having a real emotion.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

american pie

‘Mummy?’ Tilly raised her sleepy pretty little head up from her breakfast and rubbed her eyes. ‘Yes dearest?’ I said, the paragon of parental perfection despite the hour. ‘Why are we having apple pie for breakfast?’ I smiled at her childlike innocence. ‘Because we have to cater for our American readers now darling, and my agent says that apple pie is their national symbol or something and shows we are just a normal family with a normal life with which they can identify’. ‘And why are we having maple syrup on it?’ continued the sleepy headed questioning. ‘Because a maple is a vegetable and it counts towards our government healthy eating ‘five a day’ target, and it shows what a good mother I am’, I smiled. ‘But Mummy...’ said Tilly. ‘Yes dear?’ I sighed. ‘Why are we having breakfast at five in the afternoon?’ I laughed a loving motherly laugh. 'Because it’s breakfast time in Los Angeles darling, so shut the f*** up and eat your pie or we'll never manage to have lunch before the ten o'clock news at this rate!' said I, with a loving smile.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the long bad thursday

I don't talk about politics as you know because I always find that whenever I take an interest in anything other than myself I have to go and lay down in a darkened room for several days to recover but last Thursday were the local elections and my agent told me to show that my very expensive education hadn't been totally wasted so I thought a little bit of politics would be just the ticket to show I still had my finger on the pulse. I didn’t know who to vote for so I studied the newspapers and the different party leaflets to see who was the most good looking. I decided I wanted to vote for Ségolène Royal because she was lovely but someone told me you had to be French to vote for her, and a socialist. When the book royalties come rolling in then I will be a socialist too, and I will be able to move to the south of France, so maybe next time, Ségolène. In the end I voted for the Green Party. I don’t know what their policies are but they had the candidate with the healthiest diet judging by the election poster. Nobody ever regreted voting for a vegetarian.

Well, the electricity has been restored to the village after the weekend, even if several days with my husband hasn’t restored it to my marriage, sigh. My husband doesn't like politics either. He's always had trouble with his elections. I was so depressed already by only Thursday afternoon in fact that I went to see the priest. I’m not terribly religious but there aren’t many people in the village who’ll talk to me. I wedged a chair against the door on his side of the confessional before I went in, just in case. ‘Father, forgive me, it has been several weeks since my last confession', I confessed. 'Don’t worry my child’, said Father Patrick. 'I’ve been reading your blog so there was no need for you to come to confession. I know everything already’. There was a pause. 'In fact, your blog saves half the village the bother of coming to see me too. Is there anything else my child?' he asked. ‘I was late returning The Da Vinci Code DVD to the video shop, Father’ . ‘Ah, so that was you was it? They said it hadn’t come back yet when I tried to borrow it. Is there anything else to declare?’ ‘Well, I told my neighbour I was going to call her a terrible mother on my blog, although I was provoked Father.’ ‘Whatever did she say to you Rilly?’ he asked. ‘She said I should visit the Angel of the North.' I replied. ‘That’s not so bad is it? He suggested. ‘She said I should go and stand next to it to prove that there really was nothing else in the North East bigger than my self-pity’. 'Well, I can give you a penance or I’ll let you off if you get me Wife in the North's autograph’ said the priest. I sighed. 'And light a votive candle on your way out'. 'Oh Jesus, I came here to get away from elections!' I sighed my most exasperated sigh, and with that I left, pushing an entire pew against the confessional door on my way out. The lady who was sitting on the pew mumbled something but I told her she should jolly well stop complaining and stop thinking just about herself for once.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

radio romance

I pulled over by the side of the road and my wife in the north talking book CD faded out from the blaupunkt with a sigh. I looked out of the window and up the hill that rose from the roadside. Could it be true, I asked my self, could that lonely figure atop that distant windswept northern hilltop really be what I thought it was? I had to find out if my eyes were really deceiving me. I began to run up the hill, stumbling over Heather and Dale (It was going to cost those two if they didn’t want to be shamed on my blog, I can tell you, this isn’t a bloody Melvyn Bragg novel you know, sigh). The car began to vanish below me as I climbed and climbed. Suddenly, a sound in the silence, a voice? Yes, a voice in the wilderness! Was it calling out a woman's name? I must be imagining things but no, ‘Cathy!’ called a man’s voice, ‘Cathy!’ I stood silent. ‘Cathy, is it really you?’ I could still not see the source of this most insistent and urgent cry, for a frightening and terrible mist did descend upon the hillside, hushing the very wind and drawing my world closely around me. The voice grew near. It was almost upon me! I shivered and drew my shawl tighter round my shoulders. ‘Cathy, Cathy, I thought I had lost you for ever but you have come back just as you promised you would!’ The man must almost certainly have been but yards away now. I turned and gave a start when a tall and imposing figure strode out of the ghostly swirlling fog . He was wild and tall (hmm, did I mention he was tall already) and handsome. ‘Cathy! He cried, raising his arms as if to embrace me. I was now within reach of his strong masculine grasp. I too opened my arms to receive him ‘Oh’ he said ‘bugger’ I lowered my expectant arms. ‘Most terribly sorry, I thought you were someone else’ He looked nervously from side to side. ‘Oh crikey, I feel like a right tit now’, he said apologetically. ‘I’ll be, errr, getting along then’ he said. ‘pleased to meet you and all that…’ and he vanished into the mist, the tails of his long coat being the last bit of him to disappear into the gloom. I shrugged and carried on towards the top of the hill.

I paused as, at one with the moor, the clouds and the birds, the object of my devotion, the subject of my dreams, the answer to my loneliness, which was abject and to my social status, which was reject, stood tall and unyielding before me at last upon the hill top. I began to fumble with my buttons, my fingers numb with the cold. At last, sign of life, a glimmer of hope a ….'No signal!’ My hopes were dashed as my phone told me this was not a phone mast before me, just a repeater for Radio Two. I should have known such a thing up north was too much to answer for. All the others I had seen had just been mirages. I hoped at least that chap I met earlier found who he was looking for, sigh. All at once, the mist enveloped the fell in a mistlike misty mistiness once more. Was that another voice I could hear? A woman this time? Not so much a voice, more like an eerie ghostly wailing . ‘Heathcliffe!’ cried the plaintive voice ‘Heathcliffe, it’s me, Cathy, come home!’ Where was it coming from? I looked around but saw nothing but the swirling fog. Oh, the lonliness in her voice, oh how I identified with her desperate unhappiness, oh if I could only meet her and tell her of my earlier encounter. The voice faded, to be replaced by 'Hello and top of the mornin' to my listener!' The new disembodied voice contined, 'That was a request from a loverly lady in Northumberland who says she misses her husband, so she does, who's on the other side, so he is, down in London, and if it wasn't for reading Strife in the North she doesn't know how she'd survive, so she doesn't, and now the traffic news...' I sighed. I knew now that my accounts of my grim life, painful as it was for me to relive each grim day at night in front of my computer, had brought solace to another lonely soul out there, although I wondered whether anyone actually spoke like that fellow on the radio in real life. I began to walk back down the hill and, as the sun broke through the clouds, I understood now how to really reach people, I understood how to get FM on my phone, and it was a long weekend coming up and I had managed to get in a romantic depiction of a radio mast before the power to the village went off untill Tuesday, sigh.