I love languages, science, mathematics and people with something to say. Life can be wonderful and perplexing, often at the same time, and this is my take on it! I live in Brighton, UK.
Please feel free to add comments below.
A visit to the local post office, where changes are afoot:
Me: Can you stick the address label over the existing address on the parcel please. I’ve just reused old packaging and it will be confusing otherwise.
Post Office worker: Oh we don’t produce address labels, just the postage label.
Me: OK, can I buy some sticky labels then to put over the address?
PO worker: We don’t sell sticky labels.
Me (slightly taken aback): But, but, you’re a post office. Surely you sell them?
PO worker (shrugs): We never have. I can give you a scrap of paper and some tape to stick over it if you like?
Me: Well, yes please – otherwise it will go to the wrong place. Can I buy a biro to write on it?
PO worker (grips own pen a little tighter): We don’t sell them.
Me: I, but, post office, thought, erm, can I borrow yours?
…PO worker hands over pen like it’s gold-encrusted and transaction continues and concludes…
PO Worker: Can I ask who provides your internet service at home?
Me (naively): You can but, why?
PO worker (eyes lighting up): Ah because we now offer a range of internet services, including latest optical fibre cabling at very competitive prices. We even offer insurance, mortgages, credit cards and more. We’re not just “the Post Office” anymore!
Me: Well, if you don’t sell pens or sticky labels or produce address labels don’t you think you should just work on being a better post office for a bit longer?
PO worker (snatches back pen): Have a nice day. NEXT!
A while ago I asked my Facebook friends if they had to recommend one book (an almost impossible task, I know) which it would be. As I am aiming to increase the variety of what I read I summarised the responses and am slowly working through them (not to the exclusion of my usual choices though). What a great list it is turning out to be – which is no surprise given the erudition of my friends who span the globe. I thought others might like to see the list too. I hope I didn’t miss any, apologies if so.
Oh and my desert island book? That would have to be I, Claudius by Robert Graves. Anyway, here is the list (in no particular order):
He shivered at my door
And in his hand he held
Multi-coloured clothes pegs which belied
The black around his tired eyes and
The whiteness of the knuckles that gripped them in desperation.
It was his final sales round he said –
As if we might imagine that door-to-door sales of clothes pegs
Hadn’t ended in 1979 with the garish caravans and bridled ponies that brought them.
He was sorry to knock so late.
He knew folk didn’t care to be disturbed after nine,
But it was our last chance for he was off to sell his wares in Orpington tomorrow.
Or was it Neasden?
He couldn’t remember but was concerned we might miss out
On an offer we couldn’t refuse.
He had lap-top screen cleaners too and,
Naturally, zip-lock bags. Everything you might need
At ten o’clock on a Monday evening.
My heart was full that night and
I had already been counting my blessings and taking the liberty
Of counting those of my friends and my loved-ones and
I had held Graham particularly close when we kissed goodbye that morning.
I said that the marker-pens in his bag looked especially lovely
And a large grin split his thin face as his pigeon-chest puffed out
With pride at the goods he had undoubtedly chanced upon
They were his favourite and he could certainly do us a deal
If I wanted the lot – although it would be hard to part with such items
At such a price. I had a kind face and it was late and his family was waiting.
For the move to London, I presumed.
I gave him a note, too big for the price, and as I passed it to him
Our fingers touched briefly and in that moment I knew
That he knew and he knew that I knew.
And I hope he knew that I wished him luck.
You rushed along,
You were too quick!
Your toe stuck out a little bit.
Your foot missed its mark
And caught the frame.
That bloody floor-polish was to blame.
You see toe strike.
You feel sick.
The clock holds back its final tick.
You stare in horror
As time slows down.
The air grows thick and close around.
You see toe crumple
At a monstrous angle.
Bits of nail appear to dangle.
You grit your teeth.
Blood at temple pounds
Blotting out all other sounds.
You know what’s coming
But all stays still.
Can pain be deferred by pure act of will?
A second’s grace
Seems to stretch for hours
As you invoke your superpowers.
But a clock’s second-hand
Won’t long be stayed
And the next minute thereby is now displayed.
As pain explodes
Your tears are streaming.
You’re surprised to note some distant screaming.
One single thought
Now ousts all others;
A piece of sagely advice of Mother’s.
What did she say
When we were nippers?
Do not run, and wear your slippers!
A eulogy for JOLINIQUE Yogi Bear, 29 November 2001 to 2 March 2017.
He came to us as a tortured soul, but left loved and loving.
The day Cats Protection dropped Yogi Bear and his sister Yasmin off to us at the relatively tender age of 3, Yogi prowled around the room inquisitively sniffing the new surroundings. “That’s unusual,” Beverly the Cats Protection lady said, “he’s been hiding in corners the whole time he was at the foster home. He must be coming out of his shell!”
He wasn’t. We barely saw him for the next 5 years or so. He took up residence behind the sofa in the spare room (with a convenient radiator behind it) and there he stayed. After a year we might see him come down in the evening to eat and drink, or use the litter tray, but this generally happened during the day when we were at work, or during the night. The only evidence that we had a cat, other than his more gregarious sister, during that time was a poo on the wooden floor in the corner of the kitchen. Or occasionally in front of the TV or, just to keep you on your toes, in front of the bathroom door. We started leaving lights on at night to ensure safe passage from bed to loo to avoid treading in any evidence of Yogi’s existence. Luckily he always pooed on a wooden surface which was easy to clean, and never weed anywhere other than in his tray. If he had weed with the gay abandon with which he pooed our relationship such as it was would have come to a very abrupt and early end. His name evolved from Yogi Bear to Pooh Bear to Yogi Poo. He would answer to all three, or not, as was more usually the case.
We saw more of him in years 2 to 5, but the slightest noise from the outside would send him scurrying to hide (he had a particular horror of crying babies, but I think we can all forgive him that). Given that we live on a busy road and our front door opens straight onto the pavement, this happened a lot. If anyone should so much as knock at the front door, much less enter, he would not only hide but not reappear for a good 24 hours. People thought that we had made our other cat up.
He and his sister had never been close. When we first had them they were so scared that they would hide in a corner and literally lie one on top of the other so they could squeeze into as small a space as possible. We had assumed from this that they got on. However, it soon became apparent that they couldn’t stand each other. Other than the nightly spot-the-poo competition, the other main evidence of his existence was clumps of fur sticking out of Yasmin or a new scratch on her nose. He was a bully in almost the full human meaning of the word. Cowardly in his own interactions with the world, he was jealous of his more confident, smaller sister and punished her for the love and attention she received that could have been his for the asking.
After 5 years when he was around 8 years old he started to mellow a little bit. We saw more of him in the evenings and he would sometimes sit in close proximity – never touching us – but near enough to join in with the family vibe. A knock at the door would still send him scurrying to hide but he would reappear within hours rather than days (unless the guest stayed – people outside of the family would still not believe we owned a second cat). He became more affectionate towards us and we discovered that he loved kisses rained down on the top of his head – much as you might imagine an 18th century lothario repeatedly kissing the back of his beloved’s hand. He became very vocal and had the loudest miaow of any cat I have ever owned, particularly if he wanted Dreamie treats which were his favourite.
Although he seemed to enjoy being stroked for a short while, he could never stand being brushed. For a short-hair cat his fur was long, but personal grooming was never top of his priorities and his fur grew matted and clumped. During a check-up with the vet when he was around 12 we asked if the vet could help with this and she suggested shaving him. We agreed, and when she finished the pile of fur removed easily towered higher than the rat-like cat that shivered beside it. We hadn’t timed this well and the weather was cold. Yogi therefore discovered for the first time the benefit of getting beneath a duvet. He couldn’t work out the difference between the edge of the duvet and a wrinkle in the top and would paw randomly at the cover until either he was able to flip it up to get his head under or we held it up for him. Spooning with a purring cat was an unexpected experience but he seemed to enjoy it and his temperament improved further. I hate to think that for all those years at least some of his grumpiness could have been down to matted fur (which can irritate the skin beneath) but we’ll never know.
At the age of 13 his sister died suddenly (probably from cancer but it was so quick there was no investigation). We were told that Yogi might go into decline at the sudden loss of his companion. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Almost overnight he became much calmer, more loving, and much more confident. A knock at the door would send him to the stairs (a pivotal point from which to continue to flee if the visitor turned out to be the cat-attacking sort) but he would soon come down and ask for food or use his tray. Guests were amazed to find out that Yogi Bear really did exist and was not simply a figment of our fevered imagination. Over the next year it got to the point where a knock at the door would do nothing more than make him raise his head to see who might be coming in – after 11 or so years of the scardiest cat I’ve ever known the difference was startling. The death of poor Yasmin really was the start of life for Yogi.
During this time he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. This manifested itself generally in vomiting. Since much of our house is wooden-floored, and we were used to the poo situation, we took this in our stride. Literally. Scoop, spray, wipe was second nature to us by now and since we had a loving, attentive cat to show for the effort we didn’t resent it. However, Yogi’s weight slowly but inexorably went down – much as the weight of the other members of the house went up. Yogi had always been a fussy eater but he started begging for food, eating a tiny amount, and then begging for more a few hours later – constantly and throughout the night. He would walk around licking the floor and the French windows and became bedraggled-looking and rather forlorn. Graham took him to the vet’s and the nurse felt a small lump in his abdomen. He would need to go back the next day for an ultra-sound which the vet would need to perform. Best case scenario was that it was poo (which would have been ironic). Worse case was… well, clearly cancer.
That was today.
The ultra-sound showed that it was a tumour situated by the pancreas. The pancreatitis, the weight-loss, the neurotic licking behaviour, everything indicated pancreatic cancer. Only opening him up could confirm this for sure – but we decided that even if it were cancer we wouldn’t go for chemo-therapy. It wouldn’t have been kind at his age. Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and painful and the palliative care itself unpleasant. So we made the hardest decision we’ve had to make, and made the call to have Yogi Bear put to sleep. The decision to end the life of a being that would, at least, have had days, maybe weeks, possibly months of OK life – but also likely have had a time of uncomfortable treatment and unhappiness – tore us apart. Was it for our comfort and convenience or his? We agonized but made that call. And now, several hours and rivers of tears later, it feels right. So right that I can draft this eulogy for the tortured soul that had been Yogi Bear and for the loving, comforting, and joyful companion that Yogi Poo became.
The following was written by iPhone next-word text prediction. Punctuation only has been added by human hand.
You are a lovely day to be happy with –
The best day ever.
So happy for your birthday, love.
It is a good night for me and my family
So I hope you’re ok, thanks.
So happy to see your beautiful baby and
So happy for your birthday, love.
love him and thank him
So happy birthday, love.
Him and I love your music and
So happy for your birthday.
And I love your music and I hope he is your happy; happy for me.
please love him
So happy for your birthday,
So happy for your birthday,
So happy birthday to me.
A great birthday and a good birthday
And thank the love of love your life.
You must be so weary of living.
A life in self-service does not make you whole.
When the price of appearing important
Is your soul.
And that life’s gonna drive you crazy and
That life’s gonna get you sold
Down a river whose rapids are stagnant
Pools of mould.
Think twice before you act unkindly.
Reflect that if you turn into fun
The feelings of another person
Have you won?
And that night’s gonna last forever and
That night’s gonna feel so cold.
‘Cause it’s dark inside when you’re lonely,
Better check your dreams for the future
Will outlive the misdeeds of your past.
For the now is but a fleeting moment
And that dream’s gonna take you over and
That dream’s gonna define you.
Will you shine like a star forever
When it’s through?
So take this jagged piece of mirror.
Hold it up to the tip of your nose.
Do you like what you see or must you flee
What it shows?
And that face is gonna know you a long time and
That face is gonna show what you’ve done.
Start now to rebuild for tomorrow
I didn’t expect that I would die,
I didn’t know I had to dignify
A bid for future, peace, and freedom
With an iron-clad, no-nonsense, water-tight reason
Why I wished to go out that night
And dance away ‘neath cool neon light.
I didn’t know I would become a martyr
Midst clouds of alcohol-scented laughter
That out of a mist of foaming CO2
A cruelly aimed gun would come thrusting through
And excise the heart of the life I had made
A hope for tomorrow gone with each bullet sprayed.
I never had much, just an old battered case
With a misspelled logo set in the wrong type-face.
But I had a picture of those I had left behind
And on the back Te queremos my mother had signed.
In the early days here when things got too tough
I would take it on out and remember the love.
But little by little I made my way,
I got my own place and I earned my own pay.
I made new friends and I learned who I was
Sent half my pay home and was happy because
My future was mine as I saw fit
And I was damn proud of myself, I must admit.
After a while I got a pay raise
5 times what dad earned in my childhood days.
I moved downtown and forgot day-to-day hustles,
Joined a gym, got a plan, and worked hard on my muscles.
Home and away politics were easily dismissed;
Second amendment rights were never high on the list.
So I lived the dream, and dreaming I danced
By freedom, hope, and my boyfriend romanced.
Then at the height of the day and on the cusp of tomorrow
The spirits of night beckoned and summoned I followed.
The choice was not mine; it was the gunman’s blast
That spun me on round as we danced our last dance.
There was a little baby,
His parents called him Graham.
He had a mop of chestnut hair
And dimples that would slay ’em.
His parents taught him right from wrong
And how to say his prayers.
But that didn’t stay his hand that day
When he threw the cat right down the stairs.
He didn’t know that this was cruel
And cried when he realised.
So when the cat made to run away
He wasn’t quite surprised.
A tortoise was the recompense
And Tommy was his name.
And though Tommy didn’t play that much
Graham loved him just the same.
Tommy rather liked to sleep
And would stay snug in his shell.
So when some git stole the little guy
It was rather hard to tell.
When the pain had at long last passed
The family took in a dog.
Candy was a well-named beast
Since on doughnuts she would hog.
Graham tried to help the mite
And swapped the doughnut for jam tart.
But the harm had sadly now been done
And so stopped Candy’s heart.
After this his own was broken
And quite numbed through from grief.
He then swore he’d have pets no more
And pet-shops sighed back in relief.
Yet many years passed, and later
He took in two rescue cats.
They got love and care and dreamie treats
And hessian-tough scratching mats.
He loved those two sweet pussies
Who turned round and loved him back.
He doted on their every need
And put their lives right back on track.
And so the curse was lifted
And love filled a happy house.
The only soul here with something to fear
Was a timid little mouse.