September 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Tonight my counsellor asked me what the ‘rubbish’ in my head looks like – what kind of bin? – and I pictured it as piles of dusty old files that look like they’ve spent 40 years in the back of a dentist’s office. Fairly mundane and irrelevant trivia that should be digitised and uploaded to the cloud where necessary; safe but not taking up space.
I swear that man’s a genius.
August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
People in my Twitter feed are sharing their first seven jobs. I’m not sure of the significance of the number – maybe it’s because you’re bound to have had quite a few shitty jobs before you get to the good stuff?
But it struck me because it’s exactly seven jobs that have got me here. I’m on my seventh leap, in-house promotions aside, and you could see them as seven phases of my life. They span my transition from 15-year-old to 27-year-old. I started my working life on £20 a day if I was lucky. Now, that would get you 15 minutes of my time.
The Seven Phases
1. Prising wax off a local salon floor at 15. It was a blazing hot summer and the girls that worked there spent most of the quiet, dreamy days sitting around reading magazines – which I wasn’t allowed to do. Some days I wasn’t paid. Monster by The Automatic came out that summer and it played constantly. I remember it playing on the day my first proper ex-boyfriend called to say he knew what I’d done. Hard to concentrate on which bin belongs to the salon when you’re reeling from the realisation that you’ve caused heartbreak. It wasn’t me, though. She said I’d been chucking stuff in the wrong bin but I knew I hadn’t and stood up for myself. Not long after, my services were no longer needed.
2. Telling fat women they looked nice and hiding in the stockroom at Next. I think I was technically too young for them to employ but my mam managed to get a sneaky guilt-trip in when one of the managers called and I was out. I did several years there and had nice little friendships with my colleagues. My sister worked there for a while too, and I got a boyfriend in on the game just before I left. I still dream about it sometimes; that I’ve missed a shift or I’m lost in the echoing corridors behind the shopfront. I kept the job when I moved to Reading for uni, travelling the 40 minutes to Guildford.
3. After I quit Next, I was SNAPPED UP by Paperchase. The girl interviewing me couldn’t quite believe what she was being offered (four years in retail next to the dull-eyed schoolgirls she usually saw) and I was falling over myself for the discount. Sadly, neither she nor I were to know what a spiralling mess I’d be within six months. Somehow, I kept going there; sometimes not in uniform, sometimes on an hour’s sleep. I spent a lot of time staring at the wrapping paper patterns. Towards the end, after I’d dropped out, I was often commuting 40 miles to do a three-hour evening shift after a straight 36 hours awake.
4. Temp work at AQA, the exam board. We were all kids, all summer-high. And they knew it. You had to sign in by 8.30 am or you’d lose an hour’s wages, even if you were a minute late. But it was the first real structure I’d ever had: a full working day with a real weekend. By some luck, I was assigned to a tiny team whose job it was to file stuff. We drew pictures and laughed a lot while the other hundred temps sat in a huge hall, speed-marking papers in near-silence. One day I was put in there and I got on the leader board. The next, I was told I wasn’t needed anymore. That’s a temp contract for you: bye.
5. After a week spent panicking about being unemployed and fruitlessly visiting the Job Centre in my smartest clothes (to be stared at by the regulars), I got myself a job at the Wetherspoon’s in Haslemere. I knew nothing about bartending beyond being a drunk, and it was a scary proposition. Just not as scary as being an unemployed university drop-out. I worked hard. I burned my fingers on huge oval plates that bent my wrists back. I lifted things too heavy for me, I broke up fights and I went home soaked with beer every night – sometimes blood. Phil used to come and meet me when I finished closing down at 3am, so I didn’t have to walk through the dark, frosty park alone – a route that took you through ‘Rape Alley’ as my friends had called it when we were silly teenagers. He’d help me get all the glasses in, bless him. I had a weird year there, loving my regulars and getting a promotion and doing OK. I thought that could even be it for me: the Wetherspoon’s career girl. Thankfully, it was not.
6. My first adult job. My sister was working at Yell, writing websites for small businesses, and she recommended me for interview. Man, it was a youth club factory floor. No one over 25, mostly recent graduates. All more concerned with flirting and Fridays. But I was a drop-out, remember? I lived an hour and a half away, I was living with my boyfriend and I was scrambling to make up for the shitstorm I’d flung myself out into. So, I put that Wetherspoon’s ethic to work. I grafted, I cried, I worried and I overworked. I got promoted. I got promoted again. Then, I got the promotion that made my life now possible. Global Creative Copywriter, my boss and I decided. The real deal.
7. Now. This time. People started getting made redundant at Yell and I didn’t fancy the lovely little Marketing Studio‘s chances. I had two glasses of wine and applied for a job. This job. Now, I’m Head of Copy if that means anything in a small-ish business, and doing very well. I made up for what I did and I write for a living. Can’t ask for more than that.
What’s changed in me? I cry less. I break no hearts. I don’t worry about the future like I used to. I agonised over it, truly believing everything was ruined. Even after I got my job at Yell, I worried and worried about building the life I thought I was supposed to have.
Things are so much more settled when you do something you know you’re good at, that earns you enough money that you don’t have to see it all as temporary.
Whatever kind of day I have, I am always glad I’m not desperately trying to mop hair off a slick salon floor.
August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
Though the NHS has really done a very nice job of keeping me alive and relatively sane, it couldn’t give me any kind of counselling beyond internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. As I’ve said before, I find CBT very easy to game – a nasty drive of mine – and therefore nearly useless.
Tonight, I begin with the Christians. My session is at a 1917 tuberculosis sanatorium set up by The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liège, for God’s sake. Oh, I’ll have to try to curb that. In my assessment hour, I crossed myself for effect (a prop I often pull out of the box) and was asked not one minute later if I belonged to a local church.
Not going to let that put me off though. A shrink is a shrink is a shrink. I don’t think they’re allowed to let their personal leanings influence their dealings with me.
But I’m afraid. I was so affected by just my assessment that I backed my car into a brick wall. Gently, mind, but I was dead shaken. I don’t have the same guy this time, which I’m glad about because, although he was perfectly nice, I found him unsettling. He did that silent staring thing. I didn’t find it easy to be honest with him.
I’m worried about that bit. There’s literally no human on this planet apart from your therapist that you’re expected to tell the absolute minutest detail of your ugly, twisted life. He’s supposed to not care if what you share is criminal, selfish, jealous, hateful, shaming or frightening. I can only liken it to when you have to wee outside and your body’s like, “Um, no? This is not what we do. I ain’t weeing here, love.” How does one go about letting go?
Phil reckons this analysis I’ve been doing is exactly what’s wrong with me. But that’s another part of my worry: what if there’s not enough wrong with me?
I don’t know how they’re supposed to fix me when I’m fine. I am fine. I’m medicated, aren’t I? Sure, I have nervous habits but generally, I’m happy. So – what are they going to fix?
August 4, 2016 § Leave a comment
Human-manipulated stones have always held a huge fascination for me.
The Moai placed on Easter Island by the Rapa Nui. The immense pyramids constructed by ancient engineers. The mysteriously out-of-place bluestones of Stonehenge.
I finally got a look at Stonehenge yesterday. It’s a site I’ve been hungrily learning about for most of my life, seizing on every new theory and watching new digs for truth.
I don’t know what I expected. To be moved? Hard to feel moved when people are waving selfie sticks and catching Pokemon. We didn’t pay the £18.50 to get on a shuttle bus and be driven up to the stones, where you walk in a circle around a little fence and take photos or play on your phone.
We walked a couple of miles across the fields, through the wide, flat land where the National Trust is trying to return agricultural earth to its grassland origins. Stonehenge comes into focus slowly that way. You can barely see the humans crawling over it.
If you don’t pay, you stay back behind the fence – a better view. On the inside, you can’t touch the stones – though I wouldn’t – anyway and your view is obscured by the other people, your thoughts shattered by the other people.
There was a general lack of respect and gravity. For me, Stonehenge is a kind of church. It’s a centre of one of my biggest interests and it also represents the only type of religion I have: thankfulness for the land, I guess.
Away from the crowd, I could appreciate the stones as an interesting piece of history. But I didn’t get my cathedral feeling. Perhaps if I’d been alone, or if I could have got closer. It’s a sad thing. But hey, other people want to experience it too. I just don’t know how many needed to. Do I mean deserved to?
On a brighter note, the stone circle at Avebury was amazing. It’s huge, entwined with an entire village, and it rises gently up and down terraced banks. Although it has had a lot of reconstruction (like Stonehenge), it escaped total destruction due to some bad human luck and good historical luck.
As is usual, Christianity led people in the vicinity to see the stones as evil because they didn’t conform to anything they understood from the bible. The villagers attempted to remove the stones but in the early 1300s, when they began toppling them and burying them where they fell, a man was crushed (his body staying under the immense stone until its excavation in the 1930s) and then the Black Death arrived, keeping everyone nicely occupied for some time.
Folklore and superstition can be a wonderful thing deep in the country, so the stones were largely allowed to sit quietly until the blessed age of the antiquarian (destructive in his own well-meaning way) came along some 300 years later, and outsiders began to take some interest in the circle.
But Christianity struck again. Puritan nonsense and agricultural land-clearing in the 17th century brought even more defilement to the stones (you can still see the incongruously straight cuts from the method used – heating and rapidly cooling the stone to weaken it before doing some good old smashy smashy). The work of antiquarian William Stukeley and money of politician/archaeologist Sir John Lubbock prevented the final sarsens from disappearing but the site was incredibly damaged. Archaeologists have done their bests though, and as many stones were buried whole where they fell, rather than carted off for building materials, they now stand in the best approximation we have for the site.
Walking among the stones under low, grey clouds was a much more moving experience than seeing Stonehenge. I felt closer to the people who constructed it and I felt closer to the land. I’m sad it was that way around but not surprised. The rain kept most humans away.
July 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
The rain fell in shivering cords
Ropes of sky plummeting straight down
The way only summer rain really does
The air felt close, protective
Like the jungle warmth was on our side
June’s hiddenness draped a damp arm around us and wept
July 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
Voted in a referendum
Co-wrote a film script
Bought a pair of £250 shoes
Went on a gal pal mini break
Ate a meal in a vegetarian restaurant
Went to a protest
Hosted a dinner party – or what began as a dinner party and turned into a Party
Cleared out my house PROPERLY – shoes and all
Enquired about ocicat litters
Read news coverage obsessively
Used a disposable camera (OK, not first but first time in a decade)
Watched the night races at Epsom from the Queen’s Stand
Measured maggots at the Natural History Museum
Had barbecues on our ‘balcony’ (narrow walkway)
Read a book by one of the OTHER Mitford sisters
Played golf in an underground bar
Sent my car for its service, MOT and diagnostics pamper session
Actually enjoyed 30-degree heat (in the shade, with a book)
Bought a Bluetooth radio adapter – finally!
June 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
I know very well that our democracy is flawed. I know it. I know we mainly cling to the illusion of choice and voice. I know.
But still, every time I vote, I feel this charge of electricity, alive. It’s the one time I think we stop to consider the other people in this country; what they believe and hope for.
I walked through the rain this morning with my voting card in my hand, getting slowly soggy, and felt scared but powerful. Tremulously anxious about what will happen but full of the certainty that I was doing what I could.
I’m not informed enough to be able to say I know what I’ve chosen is right. I’m not confident enough that I’ll be celebrating or mourning tomorrow. I don’t think there’s a winner in this game. We’re all losers and we’ve all embarrassed ourselves.
I hope that in this illusion of choice, the outcome is one that says we’re not unwelcoming, not ungrateful, not unintelligent. The EU isn’t perfect but belonging says we are part of something, together. I want the world to see that we choose them, not just us.