Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Feeling bad about the garden and other angsty thoughts

I spent the bank holiday with mum trying to tame the wilderness that is my back garden.
When I first started looking for a flat I was adamant that I wanted something with some outdoor space. A mixture of serendipity, patience and sheer bloody mindedness meant I actually got what I was looking for: a spacious ground floor flat in a Victorian town house with 2 massive fireplaces, a courtyard garden and a proper pantry. All within my budget.

I was a good girl to start with; planting bulbs, climbers and veg with care and watering every evening during the dry days of summer. However, recently I have been a bit distracted and everything, flat interior included, has gone a bit Miss Havisham.

The lettuce (left) and broad beans (has beans)
I have included a picture of the lettuce that shot. When I pulled it out it was over 4 foot. I have decided that I am no good at growing edible things. Nothing makes be feel guiltier than throwing food away except perhaps throwing food away that I have grown myself and then left to rot in the ground. I am a terrible excuse for a human being. I also felt bad about the 30 or so empty wine bottles I took the the recycling yesterday. We couldn't park the car outside the flat so I had to do the clinking walk of shame over the road to the T K Maxx car park.

It looks like my hours at work are likely to be cut. I have spent a fraught week doing sums in my head, desperately trying to work out if I can afford to stay here or whether I will have to move somewhere smaller. I've just bought 2 pints of milk on my credit card so the answer doesn't look promising. Remember last week when I thought something good was around the corner? Well, feel free to give me an e-slap the next time I start prodding fate with a pointy stick.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

In which the artist finds herself locked in a public loo, reading about Katie Price's split from Alex Reid.

Yesterday I found myself accidentally locked in the toilet in the adult learning centre on East Street in Banbury. I had gone there with my colleague Karen to look at some possible new software. It was the disabled loo so, in fairness, it was quite spacious. It was also painted in a pale institutional green which, as unlikely as it sounds, is actually quite flattering to the complexion. I was in there for over an hour whilst a contractor made his leisurely way over to Banbury to break me out. The other staff in the building managed to break the vent off the door to hand me refreshments, some old trashy magazines and a copy of Fern: My Story. It was all they could find. As I sat there, still hungover from the weekend's disappointment and contemplating my navel, I read about Cheryl Cole's new hair do and TOWIE and thought: "Rachel, this is a new low" as well as "this week has been a bit shit really".

A change of relationship status for one of my cousins has also led me to contemplate Internet dating as well as my belly button. It makes total sense. When you are looking for a job you scour the newspapers and Internet, fill out applications, update your CV, go for interviews, decide on something suitable and give it a go. You don't mope around waiting for the perfect job to land in your lap, you don't identify what your perfect job would be and then obsess over it for months on end hoping the universe will listen to your prayers and provide you with your heart's desire.

This is all very rational and sensible. However.

The people who argue the pros of online dating are probably the same ones who would tell me that love, desire and attraction are merely biological reactions; the merciless combined swarm of oxytocin, adrenalin and serotonin. But what is chemical to them is alchemy to me. Love is random magic and cannot be regulated and squashed onto a CV, crammed into tick boxes or rationalised. So, no to online dating then. For the time being at least. And this is what I decided locked in my mint green prison yesterday afternoon.

Monday, 15 August 2011

How (not) to be single and fabulous in a market town in North Oxfordshire.

  • Awake on Saturday morning at your parent's house having slept badly.
  • Organise staff bonding session/get together only for it to fracture into splinter groups due to clash with local music festival.
  • Take a gorgeous top back to the shop because you simply can't afford it and you're more sensible than that. It's something you never hear these days but it's worth saying: if you can't afford it, don't buy it.
  • Put on your favourite skinny jeans, a cheap t-shirt and a beaded shrug. Spend an hour reading Dylan Thomas, having been on a spree in the Oxfam bookshop. Feel good in your own skin, like the best and truest version of yourself.
  • Spend the afternoon in a wasp-infested field, drinking warm cider, listening to good music and talking to people that you like.
  • Realise that the crush that has been happily fermenting since Christmas has morphed from weak shandy into moonshine of the deadliest potency.
  • Watch the object of your affection kiss his girlfriend and wonder, not for the first time, if you can die of dejection.
  • Carefully pick your way through the hippies and empty plastic cups smelling pleasantly of weed and cigarette smoke mixed with your Jo Malone perfume. Traipse back to the flat.
  • Realise you are meeting friends in a bar in Banbury in a mere 40 minutes. A prospect that, even under the best of circumstances, usually leaves you feeling violent and unhinged.
  • Arrange face and posture so that gory heartbreak is not obvious to all and sundry.
  • Consume rather too much vodka in a surprisingly nice new bar. Bask in warmth that only good friendship and booze can bring. Decide that your friend Tim is the funniest bloke on the planet even if you now know more than you would like about his dream diary.
  • Eat oven pizza at 2am. 'Fess up to 8 months of pale faced pining to a much loved girlfriend. Listen as she shares some of her own secrets.
  • Talk until 4.30am. Realise you need to trust your friends more.
  • Spend Sunday in bed eating chocoalte, drinking green tea and watching The West Wing.
  • Feel strangely optimistic about everything. There are good things around the corner.
This post was bought to you today by Ray Charles singing this song.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Goodbye paintbrushes?

I always find summer to be quite a strange time. My weekly classes have finished and I'm not teaching regularly again until the end of September- I have a couple of one day workshops but they are few and far between. I'm back to doing the day job but, at The Mill, we don't programme bands or shows throughout August as the theatre is under maintenance. Because of this the normal routine (as much as there is ever a normal routine) goes out of the window and we all sort of drift. And bicker. There is tidying and filing and, this summer, a manic preoccupation with income generation and expenditure reduction (the government doing the best it can to see off the creative arts in this country). In the meantime I have been getting my teeth into some new projects- some ambitious new paintings, repainting the flat and attempting to write that novel.

Yep, you did read that last part right. The novel.

When I was younger all I did was write and paint. It's pretty much all I do now. My 9 year old self used to hide in her bedroom and laboriously copy out page after page of the Wind in the Willows in grey exercise books. When I was 13 my next door neighbour gave me her old word processor. It took up the entire bedroom and looked a little bit like the computer Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. When you sent something to print it sounded like machine gun fire and took about 20 minutes to type out one page.  Somewhere in my parent's house there will be a file with a dozen or so stories about a misunderstood and awkward teenager. The heroines will all have alarmingly precocious names like Araminta or Thea.

Even as an adult I have journalled regularly from the first few dizzy weeks at art college to documenting the glorious, cinematic beginnings of a relationship and it's mundane and all-too-ordinary disintegration. There are stacks of cheap notebooks filled with the kind of obsessive longings normally reserved for teenagers, not apparently sane 32 year old adult education coordinators. But I want to write something a little more structured. Something with plots and characters and themes and a point to make somewhere. And, for all my flippancy about this, it disguises the fact that this is quite important to me and has been a secret wish for a long time. For the first time I have really started to appreciate the situation I find myself in. I am single, I have just enough wit and intelligence behind me to make a reasonable, if not exactly incendiary, stab at this. I have time on my hands and a room (a couple of rooms actually) of my own. I have no idea what's in store for me but this may be the only time in my life where I have access to this period of grace and stillness.

So, I have stock piled the Moleskines, the dark chocolate and a couple of helpful books (Stephen King's On Writing is fab, as is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg) and I have set my self some small and manageable goals. The rest is up to me.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Why I hate dresses

Another family wedding to go to on Friday. Despite being single and, at times, embittered, I love weddings. I love weddings involving my family most of all. It's a guarantee that by the end of the evening someone will end up crying in the loos, someone will have to go home early because they haven't paced themselves, someone will have fallen over and flashed their knickers, every female present will have long ago discarded their crippling shoes somewhere on the dance floor and people will be drinking Courvoisier because there will be nothing else left behind the bar.

The thing is I can never get the outfit right. I always end up feeling uncomfortable, hemmed in, tummy control knickers cutting off my circulation. I bought a great dress two months ago but, because of exercise and dieting, it now resembles a beige sack. I have spent the last two days traipsing around the shops and sobbing in stuffy dressing rooms and have come up empty handed. I have decided to wear the beige sack anyway. At least it won't be too tight for a change and it won't matter once I've downed a few glasses of wine.