Life Sweet Life

I wake this morning to the sound of my iPhone.  The alarm is going off, as it does every weekday at 7am.  I press snooze, my head hits the pillow and I get another nine minutes of lovely sleep, before it goes off again, and I tap my phone to silence it.  After the fourth time of snoozing, I decide it’s time to open my eyes properly and attempt to prepare myself for the task of getting up.

As I reach to unplug my phone, flat on the sheet beside my pillow, Bish stirs next to me, and I stroke his head gently.  Morning B, I say, as I hold my thumb on my phone’s thumbprint identification system, and it unlocks without me having to enter any security password.  I check my emails first, scrolling through the fifteen or so that have arrived since I closed my eyes to sleep.  I read only the four job emails, of which there is nothing of interest, and I delete them straight away.  I close down my emails and go straight to the next app of my morning routine, Facebook.  As I look at my news feed, Facebook informs me that I have MEMORIES TO LOOK BACK ON TODAY, and the first memory I see is from 14 June 2014.  It contains a photo of actress Sarah Connelly in the film, Labyrinth, and was a Facebook post in which I shared what turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts: Homeless Sweet Homeless.

I click on the link and read the post nostalgically and with pride, as I do when I read any of my blog posts.  I am reminded that this post was written two years ago, when I had moved out of a flat in Ealing, but hadn’t yet found a suitable place for me and Bish to move to.  I am reminded that during this time I had stayed with friends and in a B&B.  I am reminded that Bish at the time was in a cattery in Edgeware, and my stuff was in storage in Hangar Lane.  I am reminded that I had dejunked 12 bin bags full of crap to the charity shops, and sold almost all of my furniture to people via Gumtree.  I am reminded of the difficulty I was having in finding something within budget and pet-allowing.  I am reminded that I was encouraged, but resisted, to re-home Bish.  I am reminded that I was able to write a blog that included one of my favourite childhood films.  I am reminded that I have not written a blog in many many months.

I have thought about it, occasionally.  There is certainly a lot to update you on.  But the self-doubt part of me has heard my blog voice in my head, and cringed, and any thoughts I have had of writing it again have dissipated.

Having thought about it all day, I just re-read all my blog posts from 2016, and I am surprised to find there are actually five published this year.  It is so long since I blogged that I have forgotten that I published any at all since the new year started.  I am pleased to see that one of the five is a short story, a piece of fiction I wrote on my commute one day.  This reminds me that I am capable of writing fiction, not just blog posts, and that on rare occasions I have even managed to put it out there for people to read, not just to resign it to a notepad or in the notes pages of my phone.  I am encouraged by what I have read, and it sparks something in me, in my desire to write, to put words on paper, even a virtual page.  Two years after a blog about being homeless, and I am determined to make today the day I start blogging again.

So here it is, a post, as yet, untitled.  So what have I been doing when I’ve been not writing?  Well a lot has changed.  Back in September 2015, I made the decision to move back up north.  You’ll know if you have read previous posts that it was something that had been suggested to me by a friend during my time in London, but for reasons that seem beyond me now, I could not face.  I had clung onto the idea that my future was in London for a long time, but I had to face up to the reality that I was treading water in an expensive, lonely city, and not progressing in any way, shape or form.  I spent five months applying for jobs in the north, but not even being shortlisted for anything dampened my spirits.  I had given myself six months to find something and set myself a deadline of the end of March to leave.  As the middle of February approached and I was faced with two lengthy trips back home at the end of February and the middle of March for family birthdays, and two sets of travel and cattery costs, and I decided enough was enough, and after a few day’s thought, handed my resignation in at work and gave notice on my flat.  My dad had kindly offered me my old room back, and it meant that Bish and I could move back to Lincoln while I saved enough money to move onto Sheffield.

After saying goodbye to the few good friends I had made in London, on 13th March, Bish and I moved back to my childhood home in Lincoln.  The relief of being away from the capital was increased at the sight of fields from my bedroom window, and while I knew Lincoln was only a temporary residence, I knew the move back north was the right thing for me and Bish.

After leaving my job in London, I had intended to find temp work here, but because I was only planning on being here 1-3 months before moving on again, I was told there was very little in the way of short-term temporary work.  However, the agency offered me the opportunity to go back to my old department in the NHS, at a much lower rate of pay.  Reluctantly, in order to save money to move, I took the job.  While I was gutted at having to take a drop in pay yet again, the work was easy, and more importantly, I was surrounded by friends, people I had known and worked with for many years.  I relished my new commute, one that took 25-30 minutes door to door, half of which I was able to walk or ride a bus alongside beautiful fields, instead of my former 60-90 minute London commute where I’d be in busy train carriages or running across the footbridge at Britain’s busiest train station, Clapham Junction.

Bish has settled into life in the north although it hasn’t been easy for him.  Not long after we moved, he spent a day sleeping under the conifers in my dad’s garden, and a few days later, I returned from a weekend away to find him covered in ticks.  While dad and I removed the ones we could see over the next few days, it soon became clear that it would take a specialist.  We took him to a local vets and it turned out he was riddled with them.  After undergoing a multiple trips to the vets, with two lots of sedation and a hell of a lot of tricky tick removal, he is now clear of the little bastards, but it was a very stressful few weeks for all of us.

I’ve been in Lincoln for just over three months now, and in less than three weeks Bish and I will be moving on again.  In order to tell you about our next move, I need to tell you about the biggest change in my life, which happened at the beginning of this year.  Yes, after all those years of searching, I finally met a kind, caring, supportive and absolutely wonderful man who fills my heart with joy.  Online dating finally paid off, and it was worth putting my hand in my pocket, as I met my guy on e-Harmony.  After endless messages, it soon became clear that we were very well matched, and our mutual love of charity shops, board games, books and 80s films, created a foundation for our two creative souls to build a relationship.  Six months later and I am happier than I have ever been, and I know that he was worth waiting for.  So, mine and Bish’s next move is to Derby, where my boyfriend lives, and I can’t wait.  It’s been great staying with my dad, but I’m looking forward to having my independence back, to live with my boyfriend, in a decent size house, not a room, a place where Bish can enjoy the run of, and where he has his own cat flap, out into the garden where he can relax on a summer’s day (and not a conifer in sight!).

Finding love hasn’t made all my problems go away, but having someone by my side who understands depression, and is supportive and there for me at the times when I do fall apart, has made the transitional period so much easier.

So in just over two weeks I’ll make another move, to another new place in which for me to re-invent myself.  I think back to two years ago, when I had no fixed abode, and no idea what the future held.  I still don’t know what the future holds, but I know it contains a loving relationship with someone who thinks the world of me and Bish, and for whom the feeling is mutual (from me and my cat).  And if being homeless taught me nothing else, it showed me that I can cope with what life throws at me, and I can live to tell the tale.

I think it’s true to say you don’t know what is round the corner, and you never know when your life will change.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always for a reason.  And even the bad things can give you inspiration, when you look back upon them and can say: I survived that.

 

Delayed…Due to a Delay

Do you ever feel delayed in life? Like you’re not really going anywhere but you’re not really sure why? 

This morning, on Clapham Junction’s 6th Platform, I arrived to find the train delayed on the departure board.  Shortly after, a posh lady came on the tanoy, to tell me that, “The 9:08 Southwest Trains service to Windsor and Eton Riverside is being delayed, due to a delay”. Er, no shit Sherlock! 

There was no broken down train, no signalling problem, no passenger taken ill at <enter station here>.  To make things worse, not only was the train delayed, it was cancelled altogether.  

When you suffer with depression, life can be very much like that.  Outside influences can have a big effect on a depressive’s mood, but so can no reason whatsoever.  Sometimes, life is the outside influence, and there’s really nothing you can do to stop life.  Well, there is, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  

Sometimes you just have to wait out the delay, the cancellation, and take the next service.  It might take you longer to get to your destination, and you will probably end up being late, but always better late than not at all. 

People without depression will never understand why sometimes you can’t put your finger on why you feel mad, sad, bad and very occasionally glad.  But if they ask you can always give them the old train excuse: you were delayed, due to a delay. 

Dazed, Fazed, Hazed

So yesterday was apparently the Most Depressing Day of the Year (yay! They finally named a day after me!).  That day that is far enough into January for Christmas to be forgotten about; but not far enough into the new year for summer holidays to be a reality. Nobody has any money and payday is still the best part of two weeks away (if you’re like me).  

Anyway, I’m not joking when I say they named a day after me.  Sometimes I really do feel like the Most Depressed Person in the World. 

But not yesterday.   Yesterday I felt…good.  I felt positive.  I wasn’t fazed by the whole “Most Depressing Day of the Year” thing.  In fact, it was more like the most depressing day of the year.  I knew it was there, but it wasn’t screaming at me the way it is usually would have done.  And I wasn’t indulging in it the way I would normally have taken great delight to.

But that feeling did not last.  It got me through to about 5pm, which was a most valiant effort on my insides to keep this horror at bay.  But then the MDDY penetrated my armour, and I started to feel its attack.

One of my bosses called me out on something I may or may not have done wrong at work.  Despite investigations, I haven’t found out whether it’s my fault or not yet, but it’s looking likely. So I took the blame.  That made me feel pants, and those old feelings of how shit I am at my job reared their ugly heads.

As I headed home, I started looking for jobs, not feeling inspired by anything I saw, and in the back of my mind all I could hear was you haven’t been shortlisted for anything in three months, so what’s the point.  There was no question mark, it was a statement of fact, like that current ad on the tube which should really have a question mark at the end, but they obviously feel so confident in themselves they don’t need question marks.  If only I was like that.

So then I got home, saw I only had 23p of electricity on the meter, and nipped to the Co-op, or the Co-oper-ative as my beloved Nana used to call it. But as I stood in the queue with a marked-down Piri-Piri pizza, I realised I had left my purse at home.  Uuuugggggghhhhhh.  

So back home, grabbed my purse and back to the Co-op.  On the plus side I did get a “fresh” chicken roast – two chicken fillets, cocktail sausages, some stuffing and gravy – for 99p.

So home I went, putting the chicken meal in the freezer and the pizza in the fridge for the following night, when I will get home late from book club. 

I cooked spaghetti bolognese, making the sauce from scratch out of my Usborne First Cookbook, the one I’ve had since I was little.  The one with illustrations of little people showing you how to make the recipe (which never has more than about four ingredients), just in case you’re too little to read the instructions.  

The spag bol was a success in my opinion, though that may have been more to do with the Malbec I added, not as per Usborne, but as per the Beeb website that I’d checked while in Sainsbury’s buying my ingredients. The Zinfandel I was drinking might have helped too. 

By the time I’d cooked, eaten and washed up, it was gone half nine and the last thing I wanted to do was apply for jobs I didn’t have a hope in hell getting.  So I read for a while, in a bid to get my mind to stop whirring, and cease the downward spiral I felt myself on.  

Then I read about the passing of one of my favourite musicians, Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of the Eagles.  And the tears came.  

I did not cry for Rickman – I was too busy laughing at all the wonderful one-liners he gave us in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (“I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon, Locksley!” being my personal favourite). Nor did I cry for Bowie, and all I can hear him say is “Well, laugh” before he continues laughing along with the goblins.  But for Glenn, a man I had seen perform three times with the Eagles, I cried. And could not stop. 

At almost 1am, I went to sleep, waking this morning, still feeling unsettled.  It is no longer the Most Depressing Day of the Year, but I still feel the after-effects.  Maybe I am just particularly hormone right now. If so, that will pass.  As all things come to pass.

RIP Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Tequila Sunrise – The Eagles (1973)

A Name On A Coffee Cup

She spies the cup on the table. Lid off. Its sleeve has fallen to the table, no longer needed by its owner to prevent burnt fingers that are already suffering from frostbite.
The cup, which is about a quarter empty, or is it a quarter full, she wonders, of brown liquid, has been abandoned by its owner.  
Mark.
That is the name emblazoned on the side of the cup, next to the familiar green logo. Surely it cannot be spelt right? It is probably Marek, or Marco. Or just perhaps they got it right for once. 
She thinks about Mark. Wonder what kind of job takes him from the Broadway into town. If he buys Starbucks every day he must be well paid, she thinks, before it occurs to her that she buys Caffé Nero soya lattes, one shot please, every day. It’s like a ritual, or is she obsessed.  
She skips her coffee today, in favour of catching the 9:08 Windsor & Eton Riverside. She has been late to work too many times recently. Already, stood on platform 6, she feels she is missing her fix. Maybe she shall take a leaf out of Mark’s book, and go to the Starbucks kiosk at Gunnersbury. Leaf. Tea leaf? No, Mark is definitely a coffee drinker. 
Could he already be drinking a second? No. His cup was still on the table outside the cafe, not joined by cups from Helen or Sanjay. He hasn’t been gone long. Long enough to hop on the Northern Line, north, not South. Not to Mordor. He’s probably passed Clapham by now, about to get off the tube at Stockwell and walk across the corridor to join the Victoria Line, also going North. Not packed today though. He takes a seat next to a man in his 50s reading about the death of David Bowie, and a woman in her 20s who opens her mouth as she applies her mascara. He opens his book. Hemingway.  
He’s a reader, as well as a coffee drinker. Yes, he read as he supped his morning coffee, and smoked his cigarette. Tried to quit last year, but the evil weed keeps him hooked. He can’t quit now, anyway, not with Amanda being the way she is. He is not ready to get married. She has been ready since she was 13. He always checks the condom after sex, and her pills in the evening, to make sure she’s still taking them. Sometimes she ‘forgets’. He remembers the last near miss.  
He is content in his life, but he knows that is because he glosses over the issues. Paints over the cracks. Layer, after layer, after layer. Layer Cake. I might watch that later on Netflix, he thinks.  
Later he arrives at work, for some reason craving another caffeine hit. Normally his morning Starbucks keeps him going until after 10am. But this morning he left some of it after receiving a call about an urgent matter requiring his attention in the office. He makes himself a coffee, his assistant Lula looking at him in surprise as he normally barks beverage orders at her.  Lula wonders if there are problems with Amanda again, not that Mark has told her this, only what she has gathered from carefully reading between the lines. As she watches him carry the cup out of the kitchen and stops to chat to one of the other partners, she wonders, and a smile plays on her lips as the fantasy plays in her head, the one where Mark proclaims his love for her and then makes love to her right there and then on the desk. Yes, Lula wonders.
She is so busy daydreaming that she does not hear her phone ring, the trill tone of an internal incoming call. 
Mark glares through the glass partitions of his office at Lula. Stupid cow, he thinks, slamming the phone down. Daydreaming again. Shakes his head. He is very fond of the girl, but sometimes her head is just not in the game. And in this business you need people who are totally committed to the game.
He thinks about Amanda again, and how he is not totally committed to that game. Far from it. He looks again over at Lula, and remembers how her hair fell over her face while she was dancing to The Final Countdown at the Christmas party. He thinks about Lula, and he wonders. 
As she gets on the Overground at Richmond, she wonders. And she thinks you can learn a lot about a person from their coffee cup. 

Get Back On It

Monday morning.  The least fun of them all (if you don’t count Tuesdays).  I made the early bus today, unable to continue with my new year’s resolution of doing the twelve-minute fast walk to the train station, the one I used to do until I favoured the bus in the later months of last year.  No I couldn’t face the walk today, and you know why?  I have a bad back.  

Did you hear me? I HAVE A BAD BACK!!! SYMPATHY PLEASE!!!

Since I was a child, I have been a bit of a hypochondriac.  And it is easier to get sympathy for physical ailments than it is for hidden diseases such as depression.  Even a papercut will draw more sympathy than being perceived as a miserable bitch. 

But mental illness effects you in a way most physical ailments do not.  Today I walked along platform 6 at Clapham Junction and I’m sure everyone thought I had either shat myself or was the great-great granddaughter of the hunchback of Notre Dame.  Thank God I wasn’t wearing my beret today.  If I am feeling particularly depressed, they will think how miserable she looks, or poor cow, her mascara is running and it’s not even 9am yet.  But not only that, I  will think what a miserable cow I am, how worthless I am, how I can’t even carry my coffee without spelling it.  What a stupid bitch. 

There is much more acceptance of depression nowadays, thanks to people speaking out.  Not just celebrities but ordinary people who suffer.  While I don’t know if there will ever be a cure for depression, at least I don’t live in a world where it must be kept hidden at all costs. 

This blog is dedicated to David Bowie, who sadly died earlier today after a secret 18-month battle with cancer.  David suffered with anxiety and depression, and proved it is possible to fight back in a truly spectacular way.  RIP David (1947 – 2016)

Heroes – David Bowie (1977)

Picking Up The Pieces

As this new year starts, I am very conscious of the person I want to become.  Having explored this arena for the last ten years, I feel I am finally getting closer, day by day.  

Having read an online excerpt of Matt Haig’s new book, Reasons To Stay Alive, I headed down to Waterstones one lunch break to buy it.  I have it in my bag this morning, but haven’t started reading yet.  I’m still floored by having finished Disclaimer, by Renée Knight, a recent debut chart topper.  With reviews comparing it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynnn, another book that had a profound effect on me, I know I can write something like it, something clever.  My mind fails me with logic sometimes (I am, however, plentiful in Jodie Logic) but I can knit together the perfect tale in my mind.  

As I wait for the train to leave Gunnersbury, I think back to the reason for writing this post.   I think back to being in the car during the Christmas break, and hearing Jess Glynne’s Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself on the radio, and vowing that I would not be so hard on myself this year.  I am my own worst critic; I don’t publish blogs because I don’t believe they are good enough to read.  I start but quickly abandon any form of fictional writing because I just don’t believe I can get it out of my head and onto paper without it sounding stupid.  The minuscule amounts of creativity that bubble to my surface are quashed because I  just don’t believe in myself.  So when I say I can write like some of the current bestselling authors, I do believe I can; but there is that other part of me, the one that says no you can’t, don’t be so stupid!

Buying my soya latte this morning (a recent experiment to see if I was lactose intolerant which has really become a morning ritual), I decided to buy a gingerbread man (I do realise the epic faildom of screwing up my gluten-avoidance with this action by the way).  Anyway, the first gingerbread man I picked up and put down again, because I could see that his leg was broken off.  As I put the packet back and selected the perfect one behind it which was intact, I had second thoughts, and instead picked up the broken man I’d originally had in my hand.  

Don’t be so hard on yourself, I thought.  And don’t be so hard on broken gingerbread men.  They’ve done nothing wrong.  

  
Happy New Year everyone. 

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself – Jess Glynne (2015)

The Mystery of the Christmas Cup

The cup lays there on the tracks, its shape pristine, shining from the rain that pours down this morning at Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest station, or so I’m informed by the signs dotted around.
The cup resembles Caffe Nero’s familiar light blue, but it has lost its brightness, the way litter does when it is left out in the sunshine to disintegrate. The company’s logo, its name emblazoned slap bang in the middle, is cocooned within a red wreath. The kind one might hang on their front door, as long as their door wasn’t red.  
I look at the cup curiously. The faded colour and the Christmas motif allude to the fact that the cup has been there some time, on the track next to platform 6, home to trains heading towards Reading and Waterloo & Eton Riverside. But it is the shape that confuses me. The perfect cup-shaped shape.  
It has rained a lot lately, as it tends to do these days during this month. Paper goes soggy when it gets wet, so why hasn’t this cup crumbled from the rain? 
But it is designed to hold water. Hot water in fact, infused with a little, or a lot, depending how you like it, of caffeinated coffee beans, or perhaps some hot chocolate. So it needs to be strong enough to hold hot liquid. Surely it can withstand a little rain?  
But I do not want to give the tall, sorry, regular, cup any more credit than it deserves. It should hold a cup of coffee, yes. Maybe two. It shouldn’t be able to withstand 8 months of rain.  
Of course it hasn’t rained for eight months solid, though it feels that way sometimes here. But we’ve had a lot of heavy rain this August.  
It is August. Almost the end of, but still the eighth month of the year. That is why the Christmas cup is so out of place. Has it really kept its shape for so long? 
My disbelief remains instilled within me.  
Perhaps they ran out of regular cups? Resorted to using the leftover supply of Christmas cups? No, this seems an unlikely explanation; surely they may run out of Christmas cups but not the other way around.  
Perhaps the cup belonged to a beggar, one who sits on the street with his hand out, waiting for a few coins to buy a sandwich or a bottle of White Lightening. Perhaps he (I am presuming the tramp to be a he), finally got enough to put himself on a train to Windsor, where he can visit the Eton Riverside.  
Unlikely, let’s face it. While they do have pubs in Windsor and even Eton, down by the Riverside, I’m sure, there are plenty of pubs to be found in Clapham Junction, should the tramp have received enough to pay for a pint.  
Maybe someone kept the cup, refilling it every day with coffee from home, being either too tight or too poor to buy a new coffee everyday. Someone with a complicated relationship with money but who likes to keep up appearances. But no. Someone resorting to those kind of tactics would surely not give themselves away by using a Christmas cup all year round.  
Also, I argue to myself, someone who is holding onto the cup for whatever reason, is not going to cast it away across the tracks at Platform 6. No. That is the behaviour of a guy in a suit, a businessman who is predisposed with his latest business deal to care about disposing of his trash in such a manner. Or perhaps a young dude in a hoodie, who also doesn’t care about littering the station.  
If only there was a witness I could ask. The way all the great detectives do. Excuse me madam, have you ever seen this cup here before? 
I think before I answer.  
No, I say. I haven’t ever seen this cup before. I have seen the torrent of water that falls from the roof next to the Pumpkin cafe, the one that is cascading down this rainy day. But I have never seen the cup that lies within reach of the drops that pour and splash over it.  
Am I an unreliable witness? I am here on the platform every day. Every working day at least. Most days I stand right here, where I am now, the best spot to get on if you want to get off closest to the stairs at Richmond. 
Why haven’t I seen the Christmas cup before? On the days I arrive with time to spare, I spend my minutes waiting for the train by looking around. I notice the far away platforms, the workmen’s building opposite, the footbridge. I even remember a beer bottle, Stella perhaps? Surprisingly unbroken despite being tossed away from the platform. But I don’t remember the Christmas cup.
The next day I return to the scene of the crime. A crowd has formed, and I struggle to get a good look at the evidence. Eventually I see it, and I am shocked at how it has disintegrated since yesterday. Of course, this autopsy reveals that the deterioration could not have occurred in such a short space of time. The cup has now been spun around, and I can see the inside of it is not a pristine white as one might have expected upon first viewing yesterday, but instead a dark black from all the dirt contained within. The perfect cup shape was no longer, having turned into more of an oval. The outside, no longer shiny from the rain, was a dull, faded colour. The Christmas motif is still there. We finally have our TOD (Time of Deposit) – which is given as December 2014/January 2015.

The mystery of the Christmas cup solved, I continue on my way to work. I will think of the Christmas cup as the new Christmas cups are unleashed in the coming months, and of course every morning, as I clap eyes on it at Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest.  

Written 24th August 2015

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