A Room of One’s Own

So after three long weeks of homelessness verging on despair, I have been saved from making a decision about either leaving London or abandoning my cat. Which is good, because I didn’t fancy either one really.

On Saturday I moved into a flat in Twickenham, home of the sport with the funny-shaped balls. A friend was moving out, and I took the opportunity to move in. It all happened pretty immediately, saving me from any more nights in a hostel bunk bed.

The relief I felt at having a room of my own when I slept there for the first time on Saturday night was immense. It is one thing travelling the world, not knowing where you will sleep from one night to the next, but when you are trying to hold together a normal life, with a 9-5 job, living out of a suitcase is not easy.

The last three weeks have taught me that life will not always give you what you want without a fight, and that when it does, you better be damn grateful.

I met a friend yesterday afternoon, and he was asking me what the future holds for me now. I burst into tears.

While this is not uncommon behaviour for me, it highlighted the fact that while I had come to the conclusion last week that I didn’t want to leave London if at all possible, I really hadn’t been able to think past finding somewhere to live. That is what the future hinged on – I could not stay if I couldn’t find anywhere to live. Now I have that, it’s time to put a future plan into place.

Right now I’m on a train heading North to Lincoln. I’m going to visit friends and family, before retrieving my stuff from storage and collecting The Bish at the end of the week. I’ll use the weekend to sort my new room out, then next week it is time to focus. I don’t want to waste this chance I’ve been given. If I want to make a go of it here then I need to write write write, as well as getting organised with my finances and dejunking properly. Writing so I can pave my future. Saving so I can pay my future. Dejunking, so that my future is clear of physical and emotional baggage. It feels good to have a future. It was always there, but it has been clouded the last few weeks. While I still can’t see what is round the corner, I can at least feel able to walk the path, knowing that I feel brave enough to face whatever lies beyond.

Republica – Ready to Go (1996)


Woman on Top

When I was a child, I begged my parents to get me a bunk bed. I remember we bought one second-hand and I was so excited to sleep on the top bunk. It was high up in the sky, far away from the real world. My own little personal sanctuary.

I’ve been on top three times this week. As a woman in her mid-thirties, this should definitely mean sex. But no. I’m still talking about bloody bunk beds.

Having run out of money, I could no longer afford the privacy of having my own little en-suite hotel room in Turnham Green, and had to go for the cheaper option: hostels.

“You can have a good meal, you can do whatever you feel,” sang The Village People in 1978, back in the year I was born (I think it’s a myth to be honest, much like The National Express, which certainly doesn’t sell crisps or tea). I’ve never been particularly fond of hostels. When I was travelling the States in 2011, I stayed in a few hostels but did more Couchsurfing, which is an organisation that links travellers with those who have a couch, bed or even floor spare. Couchsurfing is a cheaper option, with it being free, although the idea is that there is a mutual cultural exchange. I met some of my very good friends while Couchsurfing, one of whom lives right opposite the beach in Santa Monica. Find me a hostel in the same location and I’d take the Couchsurfing every time, because at least you don’t have to climb a ladder to get to bed.

I fell out of a bunk bed once, when I was a little girl. I was staying at a family friends’ house with my parents and brother, and in the middle of the night they all came running to see what the loud thumping noise was. It was me having fallen out of the top bunk, yet still fast asleep on the floor.

Life can drop us from a great height sometimes. Occasionally, we won’t feel a thing, and life will carry on regardless. In other circumstances we will end up bruised, and have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and put preventative measures to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen in future. My parent’s friends swiftly fitted a bar on the top bunk, and I quite happily went back to sleeping on top, while they slept a bit easier knowing it was now a no drop zone.

Climbing in and out of bunk beds at the age of 35 has been an interesting experience. Ive stayed in three different hostels this week and I’ve been quite lucky in that my fellow sharers have been fairly considerate. Although last night they left the light on all night, and being on the top bunk it was quite close to me and very bright, which led for a shit night’s sleep, hence the 6am blog.

I’m looking forward to getting away from the bunk beds, which were perfect when I was a child, but definitely something I have outgrown. I need my own bed, double-sized so that I can starfish or have my choice of sides. And somewhere I definitely won’t mind being on top.

YMCA – The Village People (1978)

Labels on a Train

Forget me knot.

On a survey of four consecutive people getting on the train this morning, these were the words on their clothing or accessories.

Isn’t it interesting what our items say about us?

Beautiful was by no means the prettiest woman in the world, but she had her own sense of style.

Money looked like it was an aspiration, but not a current state.

Forget me knot was a fairly normal girl, but probably not one that you would forget in a hurry.

Prada looked like a fashionista to me.

Maybe we are defined by what we choose to wear or carry.

In my hand right now is my Travelcard in its case, a freebie I got from an author event given by the flowery-accessories lady, the lovely Cath Kidston. To mark the 20th anniversary of being in business, having opened her first store at the age of 34, the age I was at the event, she had written a book about the experience. At the time, I couldn’t afford a copy for myself but bought two personal signed copies for friends who both love her stuff and want to go into business for themselves. The name of the book is Coming Up Roses.

So back to your items defining you. I don’t feel like it’s long now, people, until this homelessness will be behind me and I’ll be coming up roses.

Friday Night Bites

Times like this I wonder how long I can carry on in this situation. It’s Friday night, and I am sobbing into toilet roll in my B&B. There were times when I used to live for the weekend; now I am beginning to dread them. It’s not particularly because of my current homelessness, just a side effect of living in a large city where you don’t know many people.

I think it’s the thought of knowing that I can say goodbye to work colleagues on a Friday night and know that I won’t talk to anyone, except on the phone, until Monday when I arrive back at work.

There is something about having that physical contact, and I’m not talking about touching, just being in the presence of another person who isn’t just serving you coffee or driving your bus.

Long-term readers will know that I have been desperate over the last four and a half years since my marriage split to find a new relationship. My heart aches for someone to spend time with, even if it’s just watching telly together on a Friday night, or going to the supermarket. Someone to help share the burden of life.

Except life’s not supposed to be a burden is it? Life is supposed to be fun, enjoyable. Fulfilling. Life itself is supposed to be a Purpose for Existing.

On Wednesday I started to consider that maybe a move up North might be an option after all. There are rumours of changes at work, and with my second six-month contract due to end in September, I have no idea how these changes may affect the possibility of my contract being extended further. The prospect of having no job, no home and barely any friends here seems to make it pointless struggling on in this city. I have really three friends I socialise with on a regular basis; one, my ex-housemate, the other two guys, the first of which is moving up North himself in a few months and the other who seems to have fallen out with me. I have friends at work, but nobody I socialise with outside of the office, except at work social events. The few people I might socialise with live too far out of London to meet up with.

It’s not like I don’t have friends. I have friends all over the world. I just don’t have the vast social network here in London. When I think about my friends, most of those are ones I met through previous jobs or university. If I can’t make friends to socialise with through work here in London, then how else do I form a circle of friends here?

I feel like I am waffling my way through this blog post. You’ll have to forgive me for that. At least I am no longer crying. I knew that I had to channel the hurt and the tears into somewhere, because falling apart is not going to help. This blog has done that. My mum also rang while I was writing this, so I credit speaking to her a help too.

I hope that soon a path may come clear. It is feeling unsettled that gets me the most. As much as I like to be spontaneous, I hate not knowing what is going to happen, and right now I feel like my whole life is being thrown up in the air on a daily basis.

But most of all, I really hate being alone. Today at work, one of the (gay) guys in my office started singing All By Myself by Eric Carmen, a song mostly associated these days with the film Bridget Jones’ Diary. I’m not going to torture you, or me, with that one, but instead will leave you with a bit of INXS.

INXS – By My Side (1991)

Fifty Shades of Grey Hairs

This morning I pulled a long grey hair out of my hairbrush. I discovered my first one last year, and I know there’s a few, but this is the first time one has actually left my head. I think this might be like when I was growing up, and my mum wouldn’t let me shave my legs for the first time because they would grow back thicker. She was right about that.

So I’m expecting to be completely grey within days. Shame, I always thought brunettes had more fun.

The Why Am I Here Cafè…

The other day a friend lent me a copy of his book, The Why Are You Here Cafè, by John Strelecky. On the front cover, under the title, reads, “A new way of finding meaning in your life and your work.”

Generally I only buy self-help books. I don’t actually read them. But this one wasn’t so big, and with nothing else to do but search for places to live, I made a start. All in all the book took me about an hour or so to read, over two days.

Not wanting to make any spoilers for anyone who’s not read it, or plans on seeking it out (which I would encourage), it involves a guy at a crossroads in his life who ends up getting advice on life from the staff at The Why Are You Here Cafè. He learns all about the PFE (Purpose for Existing) and leaves some eight hours later with some very different thoughts on life. At times the book is a little surreal, and reminds me of Twin Peaks. It would not have surprised me one bit had Agent Dale Cooper walked in and asked for a damn fine cup of coffee.

The book has given me much to think about the last day or so since I finished reading it. While it’s nothing I haven’t been thinking about the last eight years, it makes me realise that I need to start working on my PFE. I discovered it in 2011, while studying in the States. I found out that I could write, and once I knew that, I knew it was all I ever wanted to do. Since January 2012, this blog has enabled me to write, although little has been done in the way of fiction writing.

The friend who gave me the book also challenged me to write the other day. Right there, on the spot, in a pub in Twickenham. He gave me two sheets of till-roll and a pen, and challenged me to write something. I knew it would start once upon a time, but other than that I really had no idea what else to write. I looked at him, and he said, “Just start with ‘Once upon a time’.” I started writing and didn’t stop until I reached the back page of the second sheet.

While I’m sure it won’t go down in history as one of my greatest works, it was a good experiment in teaching myself that I can write when I need to. Usually my blogs are written when I feel I have the need to say something, to get something off my chest, or when something random in life has given me the idea for a blog. I know that if I want to make that my “job” (I use the inverted commas because I hear that if you love something so much, it won’t be a job), then I have to be able to write on demand. I know that the last few years I have been scared to write anything other than blog posts, and when I have started something, I end up feeling stupid and abandoning it after maybe a page.

Here in my Bed & Breakfast in Chiswick, I know that I must start engaging with my Purpose for Existing, and soon. A recent comment on my Homeless Sweet Homeless blog picked up on what I had said about wishing that I was 40 on my next birthday, not 36, because then this whole thirty-something crisis might be over. He advised that if I think it won’t end before I’m 40, then it probably won’t. He’s right.

My blogging hero, Opinionated Man, whose well-followed blog, over at Harsh Reality, reblogged Homeless Sweet Homeless last night. Since then, my stats have spiked and I’ve had more likes and comments than I could have believed. I am so grateful for what he has done in getting my blog read by more people than it currently reaches. He writes a lot about other bloggers who complain that they don’t have the followers, and that they should work harder to get their writing seen.

While I don’t complain about my lack of followers, I know what it takes to get my blog read. From experience, regular blog posts and social media promotion are what take my writing across the world. So why don’t I?

My Purpose for Existing has been uncovered, and I know what I have to do to get myself out of this homeless, unhappy life I currently live. Much has been said about JK Rowling writing Harry Potter in Starbucks, while having little money to live on. My life provides much of what I write about in these blogs, aided by the most fantastic back catalogue of 80s pop culture references. My life, no matter how bad, is what will get me out of this life and into the one I really want.

This song has been stuck in my head ever since I read The Why Are You Here Cafè, and it seems like an appropriate end to this post. Not goodbye, just until the next one.

Some of their dreams came true
Some just passed away
And some of them stayed behind
Inside the Sad Cafe

Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/eagles/the-sad-cafe-lyrics/#dSTsLYI22HtV2l3b.99

Eagles – The Sad Cafè (1979)

Homeless Sweet Homeless

So I have now been homeless for a week. I am by no means on the streets, staying in a combination of with friends and in B&Bs. But I technically do not have a roof over my head, and certainly do not have a room of my own, in the Virginia Woolf sense of the word. While I move from place to place each night, Bish is residing in a cattery in Edgeware, and my stuff resides in storage in Hangar Lane.

This move has underlined the fact that I have far too much baggage – both literal and emotional. Despite dejunking twelve bin bags full of stuff to the charity shop in the course of the move, I have still managed to fill a 20-foot square storage cage with a load of crap. Once I find a place to move to, and take my stuff out of storage, some careful sorting needs to be done to reduce that amount.

I did manage to sell all my furniture with the exception of the pink ottoman I’ve had since I was little. My sofa went to a young couple who were moving to Brighton to start a new life together. My chest of drawers, bought from the IKEA bargain basement at Wembley last October were delivered to a woman in Ealing. My bed and bedside table went to a couple, one half of which was a totally hot kiwi builder who put a smile on my face when he came to collect it with his friend, only for him to tell me that he did in fact want the bedside table I was selling with the bed, the one his girlfriend had declined, and I had to empty all my unmentionables into a plastic bag as he stood there watching me. I’m still not sure if I was happier to have such a hottie in my bedroom (it’s been a while) or if I’m more hugely embarrassed about the contents of my bedside table being on display to aforementioned hottie…

As I continue my search for places to live, I find myself considering places way over budget (and that was my budget before I reduced it), rooms shared with young Australian guys (I think I’m really too old to be sharing a room with anyone other than a lover) and rooms with single beds (I might as well become a nun). London has an abundance of rooms available, but finding something suitable seems on a par with locating the Loch Ness Monster. I’m contacting many people with cats in the hope they’ll allow another, but most of them won’t.

Advice from loved ones has been to consider rehoming Bish. The desperateness of the situations cries for drastic action, and I am the first to admit that my life would be much easier if I didn’t have him. However, part of me is angry that I have to even consider such a thing. Is it really so impossible to find somewhere to live with a cat? An article in the Independent online from October 2012, with a quote from the Cats Protection that “Since the UK recession, we have received many more requests from people to take in their cats, with owners saying they are losing their jobs, their homes, or moving into rented accommodation,” (read the full article here http://www.independent.co.uk/property/house-and-home/pets/news/cruel-for-cats-hard-times-for-humans-lead-to-an-epidemic-of-stray-pets-8209886.html.)

I have had Bish for almost 14 years. He outlasted my ex-husband, who was the one who found him for me back in 2000 when I was looking for some feline company shortly after buying my first home at the age of 21. While I do feel like he could have a better home with someone else, my heart wrenches at the thought that he could go somewhere much worse. He is an old boy now, and I can’t bear the thought of him ending up somewhere he is unloved.

I don’t know what will happen in the future. Right now, to me, it feels hopeless. I will be 36 next month, and while it’s not good to wish your life away, I wish it was 40, because maybe then this whole thirty-something crisis would be over, and I would be settled. When I set up this blog in January 2012, the title of 33andlostinlife just seemed so apt. Two and a half years later, and I feel even more lost. I don’t know which direction my life is going, and it just seems to get worse. I have received other advice: to leave London and move up North. But I don’t think that is the answer. Right now I don’t have any answers though, and I can’t trust myself to make the right choices.

I feel like my inner directional compass is skewed. Like Sarah in the film, Labyrinth, who is offered the choice of two doors, one which leads to the Goblin King’s castle and the other to, dumdumduuuuum Certain Death. She is told by the Four Guards that she must solve a riddle in order to proceed, and that two of the guards always tell the truth, and the other two always lie. As she uses her logic to ask a question which will give her the answer to which door she should take to the Goblin King’s castle, she smugly pushes open the door and announces, “I think I’m getting smarter!”. Promptly she falls down a shaft and into another puzzle, her goal seemingly getting further and further away.

So the moral of this blog: no matter how bad things get, they can always get much worse. But as long as you can quote cheesy 80s movies which involve David Bowie in tight leggings, well life can’t be all that bad, can it?

“Yes, but is it possible to put a cat flap in one of these doors…?”

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