It Doesn’t Feel Like Thursday

It doesn’t feel like Thursday,

It doesn’t have that air.

Most Thursdays have a lightness,

A sense of fading care.

For Thursday’s also Friday Eve,

And Friday signals pleasure:

The gateway to the weekend,

Two days of rest and leisure.

Apart from all the washing,

And any DIY,

The cleaning and the shopping,

That make the days fly by.

But still, we get to lie in bed

Until we gently wake,

Unless the kids and pets compete

At how much noise to make.

It doesn’t feel like Thursday,

As far as I can tell.

Perhaps because it’s Tuesday,

Which may be just as well.

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To-do List

I meant to wash the dishes,
I meant to clean the floor,
I had a list of jobs to do,
I wrote it out before.
But then I was distracted,
The list remains as long.
The laundry’s in the basket
And my schedule has gone wrong.
I should have done the shopping;
The cupboard’s almost bare.
I need to write a poem,
I should also wash my hair!
There’s still no dinner on the stove,
My coat remains unmended.
I’ve yet to wash the bathroom sink,
My plans have been upended.
I thought I was so organised,
I can’t help feeling bitter,
Imagining how things would be
If I hadn’t opened Twitter.

Cat

“Look!  Quick!  Look now!  It’s doing it now!”

She turned to see what her husband was shouting about, drying her hands on a tea-towel.

“What?” she looked at the mess in the living room.  “What’s doing what?”

“That bloody cat!  It’s watching me again.  It wants to do something to me!”

“She’s just looking at you.  She probably wants some food.”

“Well it’s going to be disappointed then, isn’t it!”  He picked up a newspaper and brandished it in the direction of the motionless cat, laughing as it jumped from the arm of the chair and scrambled to hide under it instead.

He shot his wife a challenging look, daring her to criticise or to comfort the scared animal.  She turned back to the sink, shaking her head as she heard him stomp up the stairs.  It wouldn’t have killed him to take the some of the pile of ironing upstairs to put away; even if he just left it on the bed.

As she reached up to put the dishes away in the cupboard, she could see the cat, now curled up in a lazy ball on the back of the couch, her tail draped across her nose like a separate entity.  Walking into the room, she sighed and began to clear away the papers and empty cans that charted the progress of her husband’s day.  Wiping up the numerous spills that adorned the floor and surfaces, she could hear the noise of the Xbox upstairs.

Eventually, she was happy with the state of the room and shouted up the stairs “Tea?”

“Yeah.  And biscuits!” came the reply, followed by a burst of gunfire and curses as he dropped a life in his game.

“I’ll look.” She muttered.

While the kettle boiled, she searched through the cupboard but drew a blank; as she closed the door, the cat appeared on the worktop and she stroked its ear, enjoying the sensation of a loving being nudging against her hand for greater contact.

“You’re lovely aren’t you?” she murmured as the cat purred more and more loudly.  “Let’s find you something nice.”

She rummaged through the fridge and found a slice of ham to toss into the cat’s bowl, then watched as it finished it off in seconds.

“Where’s that tea?”

She jumped.  She had been so engrossed by the cat’s company that she hadn’t heard him come down.

“You feed that fat moggy more than you feed me.  Where are the biscuits?”

“You’ve eaten them all.”

“Just bring me some toast then!” he said as he headed back upstairs.  “With jam.”

As she watched the television alone, later, she stroked the head of the cat as it snuggled on her lap.  The film was an old one she could remember watching with her sisters and parents many years earlier, when she had still been happy.  There were some jumpy moments, but she felt safe as she exchanged warmth with the ball of fur on her knee.  “You wouldn’t treat me like dirt, would you?  No, you wouldn’t!” she crooned, as the rhythmic stroking stripped the layers of tension from her day.

During the night, she felt the bed bounce as her husband came back from the bathroom, yet he seemed to be asleep in seconds, while she lay awake for hours, listening to him snore, with the stink of his sweat pervading the room.  It was almost morning before she managed to doze off, so when the alarm rang, she felt as though she hadn’t slept, and her first thought was “I hate my life.”

As her husband slept on, she washed, dressed and headed for the bus-stop, carrying her uniform in a bag.  At the hospital, she slipped into the changing room and dragged on her work clothes, before heading for the kitchen, where she spent the day preparing food, washing dishes, cleaning the surfaces.  It was almost like being at home, except here she wasn’t expected to fetch and carry for him as well.  Her feet throbbed by lunchtime, but she barely had time to sit and wolf down her lunch before she was back on them again.

On the bus home, she rested her head against the window and the drone of the engine filtered through her skull, soothing her until she drifted into a deep sleep.  She woke with a jolt, hearing the hiss of brakes.  In a panic, she looked out of the window and, realising she had missed her stop by quite a distance, she leapt from the seat and hurried to the front of the bus to the exit.  It was raining.

“Oh God, Oh God, he’ll go mad!”

She hurried as fast as she could through the wet streets, but it seemed as though every road had gained extra traffic, specifically to stop her from reaching the house, so when she finally did … she was really late, soaked through and panting.

“What the hell are you playing at?” he roared as she pushed open the door?

“I’ve been sitting here starving and you’ve been gallivanting about for hours!  Where were you?”

“I missed my stop …” she began, but he cut her off with a slap.

“You missed nothing, you lying bitch!  It’s a bus.  It’s not rocket science!”

With stinging eyes and a sore throat, she stayed in the kitchen until his food was ready, leaving briefly just to carry in his tea.  She looked down as the cat rubbed against the side of her leg and looked up with bright, sympathetic eyes.  She knew.  She always knew.

Throughout the next hours, she didn’t once look at him, afraid that he might find some reason to start on her again and thankful that he seemed distracted by the football and his evening beers.  Eventually, without saying a word, he went upstairs to spend the last couple of hours playing his game from the comfort of their bed.  She waited until she could hear his sleeping rasps before heading after him.  As she left the living room, she stooped to where the black cat lay on her blanket and whispered “It’s time!’

In the morning, she stepped nimbly over her husband’s crumpled body at the foot of the stairs.  She picked up the phone, dialled 999 and said “Ambulance.  My husband’s had an accident.  I think he must have tripped on the stairs.  I think he’s dead.”  At her feet, the cat leant against her, flicking her tail and purring.

My name is Oonagh and I am …

I have a confession. For a while now, I’ve been working for an online company that supplies copywriting jobs. That’s not the confession; I have no need to be ashamed of this fact, having registered for tax and everything, although that’s more in hope than in expectation. I’m on target to have earned enough to pay for one school uniform by the end of the tax year – not necessarily THIS tax year, but certainly A tax year. I won’t name the company who provide me with these jobs, since I have no proof that they aren’t secretly MI5, testing my capacity to keep my mouth shut and form grammatically correct sentences, ready for the day they need somebody to infiltrate Rupert Murdoch’s empire. On second thoughts, the grammar thing wouldn’t be an issue, so that’s probably not the job they have in mind.

It’s not like a ‘PROPER JOB’. There is no guarantee of work, I’m definitely earning less than the minimum wage and I don’t see a friendly face for days on end. Actually, it’s quite like some ‘PROPER JOBS’ I’ve had in the past.

It works like this –

  • I log on to a website (MI5 – Shhh!)
  • I check my messages – invariably, there are none!
  • I open a separate browser and post a comment on Twitter
  • An hour later, I remember I was supposed to be working, but I’ve had three retweets and five favourites; it’s a personal best.
  • I look in the different categories – these change frequently but there are some regulars, e.g. animals, science, product descriptions – I look at them all. (Once, in ‘Science’ I found a job writing about the symbolism of Chinese food items. Richard Dawkins would have been livid!)
  • I try to find something I can write, either because I have some specialist knowledge (Pies, Columbo and the film career of Cary Grant) or because I can research it (Anything that is not pies, Columbo or the film career of Cary Grant)
  • I select a job and work on it
  • I submit the job and – BANG – three days later, they probably accept it, although I have had to rewrite things before now. For example, in an article in which I had specifically mentioned Goth fashions, they returned it to me because they wanted me to mention Goth fashions. On another occasion, I linked to the BBC and they asked me to link to a reputable website, ‘like Wikipedia’. The client is always right. The client is always right. The client is always right.

The pay varies from ‘terrible’ to ‘okay’, but I have a limited skill set. I’m not Liam Neeson, so my skill set won’t ever help me if members of my family are captured by sinister men, but if they want me to write them an advert for stolen arms or microfilms as some kind of ransom fee, I can do that. I do this work because I’m fairly good at it and it allows me to carry on with my real job as a taxi-driver to my children.

But this is the thing: I write fashion blogs. There! I’ve done it. I’ve confessed!

If you’re wondering why I feel the need to get this off my chest, you have obviously never met me or seen a full length photo of me, apart from the tiny one on my WordPress profile, in which you may not have realised I’m wearing a Nylon jacket, fleece tracksuit bottoms, battered boots and a liberal coating of mud. The idea of me writing a fashion blog, or even being allowed to discuss fashion in company, is frankly absurd! To illustrate the point, I’ll have to let you know that I am currently wearing a Betty Boop nightie, grey pyjama pants, a pink fluffy dressing gown and socks adorned with pictures of foxes.

However, my daytime clothes are picked using the same basic criteria as my night-time clothes. I want to be comfortable, warm/cool depending on the weather and I like my clothes to be reasonably priced.  I firmly believe in the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – so I get most of my clothes from charity shops. I’m not fashionable. I have never been fashionable. If I ever become fashionable, you can rest assured that it will have been by accident and won’t last more than a season, since fashions change a lot more quickly than my wardrobe. I still have clothes I wore when I was expecting my first son and he just turned 24.

In short, if my employers, clients or anybody who has read my fashion blogs saw me, it would be akin to discovering that Giles Coren sits at home eating Pot Noodle with a wooden fork from the chippy as he writes about the merits of the organic rack of lamb at the Hix Oyster and Chop House. They would have no confidence in my assurances of the likely prevalence of faux punk this winter or my conviction that oversized, colourful coats are going to be EVERYWHERE by the end of the year.

The sad thing is, if anybody saw me in my raggedy black cotton trousers, black, hopelessly stretched jumpers and endless parade of novelty socks, they might just think that you can’t believe what you read on the internet. And I wouldn’t want them to think that!

Where to start?

You know that thing where you have absolutely loads of things to do but you don’t do anything because you just don’t know where to start.  Well, that’s what’s going on with me.  There are house-y things to do: school uniforms to wash, as well as dinner dishes, and the living-room needs sorting before somebody is killed by an avalanche of shoes, schoolbags and empty water bottles.

It could happen; I remember a similar catastrophe a few years back.  I think it happened in my bedroom and involved the 17 pairs of slippers (which I seem to have inexplicably accrued whilst only having 3 pairs of outdoor shoes, and to be honest, one of those is really a pair I ‘borrowed’ from my daughter and ‘forgot’ to give back), a stack of Killer Sudoku magazines and Terry Pratchett’s entire back catalogue.  Although, I might have dreamt it.

I’ve been promising myself I’d sort out my wardrobe for a while now: about 14 years!  I suspect that if I got Time Team in to do the job for me they’d be fascinated by the suppositions they could make as each new stratum is revealed.  It might go like this:

Tony: As you can see, Phil is very carefully dusting away the topsoil so as to preserve the integrity of the finds and …oooh!  I think he’s got something interesting.  He’s looking very excited.

Phil: Come and have a look at this.  Don’t come across many of these …

Tony: What is it?

Phil: It’s a jacket …with shoulder pads.  Made from sponge.  You can tell it’s an early example, because the sponge isn’t even covered by any kind of fabric.  And the jacket has the sleeves rolled up.

Tony: Is that significant?

Phil: Very!  It pre-dates the age of good taste.

Tony: Has anything else turned up?

Phil: Nothing as interesting, but we’ve observed a curious thing.  The garments get smaller and smaller, the further down we go.  LOOK AT THIS. (Holds up red label Levi 501s.)  Can’t be more than a 28”.  Fascinating when you compare it to these nylon tracksuit pants we found near the top layer.

Tony: Yes, the Levis would fit down one leg.

Phil: Exactly!

Tony: I think I’m recognising some mediaeval items there.  There are at least three garments that Baldrick would have worn.

Phil: No, Tony.  That’s her newest stuff!

(Cut to both men, shaking their heads in disbelief.)

So that’s why I haven’t got Time Team to do it, despite them being the experts on excavation.  Also, I’m worried they might find some decaying king or other under my Cream vests and the T-shirt with Garfield on it.

There are other things I should be doing.  I should be mending the fence that had the middle blown out of it last week.  Strong winds, not explosives.  Actually, that would be a really good place to start because next door’s children keep wandering around my ‘garden’ (Inverted commas used because that’s another job on the list) and inviting their friends. I assume they’re playing explorers.  I also assume they’ve left the garden, but I can’t be 100% certain of that because they’re shorter than the grass.

There are other jobs I won’t bore you with.  Did you say ‘Too late?’  Well, anyway, I have a long list.  Or I would have a long list if I had written a list, but I haven’t got around to it.  Maybe THAT’s where I should start.  Better go; I’ve got a list to put off writing!

‘Will write for food’

So, this is the thing.  I’m 47 and I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up.  When I was very little I wanted to be a number of things that begin with the letter ‘a’: architect, artist, archaeologist, apoet.  Oh alright, the list wasn’t as exclusive as I’d have you believe, but I really did want to be those things.  Apart from a brief period when I was about seven and I wanted to be a nun; the outfit seemed pretty cool, my teacher was a nun and she was lovely and I’d just made my First Holy Communion and the ‘holy’ hadn’t worn off.  Oh, and there was that time I wanted to be a Gorgon and tried to magic myself into one using the contents of every bottle from the bathroom cupboard but merely succeeded into turning my mother into a banshee.  But I didn’t end up being any of those things; not even the Gorgon.

This is my work-life in a list, with some of these things having happened simultaneously and some being ‘on the side’ so to speak:

Trainee mechanic (work scheme*)

V.A.T. clerk (temporary*)

Recording studio lackey

Jewellery maker (painting wooden miniatures which someone else made into necklaces etc.)

Pencil for hire (portraits mostly)

Pen for hire (poems, wedding invitations, seating plans, sundries)

Librarian (temporary*)

Finance clerk (several different places)

Health Education Officer

Freelance writer (Published: 1 short story, 3 articles: No, you shut up!)

Mother (It’s work!!)

Supply teacher

Supply TA

Supply teacher again

 

And that brings us to here.  A few things that were unpaid, I have omitted.  And today, I sent my resignation letter to my supply agency so I suppose I am now back to just ‘mother’ (still work!).  I have assessed my bankable workplace skills, which are few:

Good grammer and speling (just kidding)

I.T. skills (Office packages, mostly.)

Good in a team

Capable of working independently

Hard worker

Can feign people-skills if forced (I might stop writing this on job applications)

You see? Not a lot to work with. 

 

On the other hand, I also have these skills:

Can write poems in many styles, on many topics, to order

Can write lyrics but play guitar really badly

Can write in an academic style so it seems as though I know what I’m talking about

Can draw pictures in pencil, fabric pens or ink

Can paint, but not amazingly

Can decorate cakes as long as I can sit down to do it (I don’t copy – I like to innovate)

Can paint pictures on icing, using food colouring (Not a massive call for paintings that melt in a warm room, to be honest)

Can turn things into a pun to the point where you might want to punch me in the face (Also not a big call for this skill apart from on Twitter)

Can make toy cats out of old socks (Alright, technically that should be ‘Have made a toy cat out of old socks’ – He’s all black and his name is Sockrates)

Can be very creative (Currently working on a special creative project involving old eggshells – I will blog this when it’s done. You’re excited now aren’t you!) in fact, CAN’T STOP being creative!

Can usually save you the bother of going for a dictionary because I am a proper cleverclogs with words

So, what do you make of this?  Is there a paying job in this mess?

I’m trawling through the job websites looking for something clerical but I haven’t any recent experience and I’d love to go back to library work but sometimes I wouldn’t be able to access low shelves unless I simply fell on the floor and I’d probably just drop all the books and get shushed by the other librarians.  I’ve written a book for young children and I’m just starting work on the illustrations but from what I read it’s THE most difficult genre to get published.

So let me pitch you some ideas:

  • If anybody wants to pay me to tweet for them I can guarantee** them 300 followers in just 3 years.  It doesn’t sound like many but I have a very strict quality-control policy.  
  •  Do you know anybody who wants a nice drawing of a hedgehog (no idea why I picked ‘hedgehog’ – psychologists, feel free to analyse) or a bag with their favourite cat drawn on it?
  • Should I stand outside Aldi with a sign saying, ‘Will rhyme for money’? 
  • Should I just go back to square one, empty out the bathroom cupboard and turn myself into a Gorgon? 

All suggestions welcome.

 

*This was the 1980s – thank you, Maggie Thatcher!

** can’t guarantee this but it’s where I’m at now

The Gardener

Those hands had turned the soil for years,

Making them strong,

Making them hard.

Making them tanned,

Making them scarred.

But still they wiped away her tears like no other hands could do.

 

That face had borne the brunt of time,

Wrinkled by wind,

Wrinkled by sun,

Wrinkled by grief,

Wrinkled and done!

But still it lit up shining and bright whenever he chanced a smile.

 

That heart had beaten as much as it could,

Beaten for love,

Beaten with cheer,

Beaten by tiredness,

Beaten in fear.

And no other heart could replace that heart the day that beating stopped.

Excuse, excuses!

I’d help you but I’m busy;

I’m washing my hair.

I’m watching my programme,

I’m saving this chair.

I’m doing this crossword,

I’m surfing the net.

I’ll help you in a minute

But I can’t do it yet.

I’m no good at painting

I’d ruin your wall.

I’d put up those curtains

But I’m not very tall.

I’d wash up the dishes

But I’ve just done my nails.

I’m feeling quite fragile

Since I stood on the scales.

I just cannot focus!

You’d be better alone.

I’m thinking of hashtags,

I’m still on the phone.

Of course I can help you.

I’ll be there at 8,

But just start without me

If it turns out I’m late.

‘Cause sometimes the car breaks,

I might lose my way.

If it rains I won’t be there,

And I just have to say

I must avoid sunshine,

And I don’t do ‘cold’,

Because they give you wrinkles

Or so I’ve been told.

It’s probably better

If I just tell you now

I won’t help because

I’m a right selfish cow!

Breaking Family Triptych

I’m always busy,                     He doesn’t listen,                         Nobody loves me.

I’m always tired,                     He doesn’t care.                           I’m going mad.

I’m always working.               I need some more support.          They never notice

I might get fired.                     He’s never there.                         That’s why I’m bad.

I miss my wife.                       I feel so lonely.                             Nobody listens.

We never speak,                    I want to cry.                                They only shout.

I can’t admit my fears.           I thought I loved him;                    I can’t stop thinking.

She’ll think I’m weak.             I don’t know why.                          I just want out.

My brood

Aside

My little boy no longer, but a man,

I wonder at his strength, of many kinds,

Such as the gift of writing that he can

Use subtly to capture people’s minds.

His songs, his tales, his poetry just soars

And frees me from the mundane and the dull,

He turns a laughing eye upon my flaws

And makes my glass perpetually full.

 

So many times I look at him and see

The tiny child that clung onto my hand

Who’s still inside the man in front of me,

To whom I tilt my head up as I stand.

I see his skills and know he will achieve

Those things that form the substance of his dreams,

And all who watch him work also believe

That he will be the master of life’s schemes.

 

She’s full of life and promise, on her way

To a future of her own unbound design.

She says things I would never think to say

I don’t know how I dare to call her mine.

She makes me laugh too often to recall

The words she twists and turns to make her own.

She leaps with style although she  fears the fall.

She’s not a sheep, It’s she who sets her tone.

 

My little one, the baby of my four,

Displays to all the world a certain grace.

A dancer who can halt the room before

Her as she sets a sweet and measured pace.

She’s finding where she fits as time goes by

By trying every chance that wanders in,

By asking what and when and where and why

And when it’s time she lets the song begin.