Tuesday, July 17, 2007


“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Usually it’s the words of pop songs that come to mock me in the middle of some personal crisis. “Stand By Your Man”, as an example, played repeatedly – in my head, I mean – when I was breaking up from my first husband and clearly not doing what Tammy Wynette’s chorus kept urging me to. It was “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores when embroiled in a disastrous relationship with an angel-headed, drug-abusing psycho and Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness” when committing to a terminally boring secretarial job in a windowless office so I could get a mortgage. The serious poetry comes when the vacuum cleaner breaks down or the sink gets blocked. Now it’s Yeats’s “Second Coming”. What is wrong with my head?

It can’t be denied, though, that things are falling apart in the world of Signs in a relentless, albeit mundane, fashion. Everyone knows that machines, appliances etc. talk to one another and the minute one of them breaks down you can be sure a couple of others will do likewise in sympathy, or perhaps it’s just spite. So anyway, the car’s engine is malfunctioning, the washing machine is dripping, there’s something wrong with the fridge/freezer and the vacuum cleaner. And in other areas domestic: I can no longer ignore the damp patch that is spreading its evil fingers from the corner of the bedroom ceiling; and my beloved cat has been unwell, necessitating frequent trips to the vet in my now unreliable and possibly unsafe car.

As anyone even moderately encumbered with M.E. symptoms knows, it is enough to be doing the essential stuff of life – and when one is artistically inclined and wishing to work on one’s novel, sequence of poems, pastel drawing, piece of competitive crochet, or whatever it happens to be, the essential stuff is more, much more than enough. It has gone mid-day and I am still in my “wake me coffee time” nightshirt. I want to bathe and wash my hair before dressing, will need to rest after, so it must wait while I bash out blog post about the falling-apart centre of my domestic life and then – yes – add another few hundred words to the magnum opus. I also want to see the new Harry Potter film with a friend and it’s important, yes, because I like stuff like this and Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Northern Lights (can’t wait, really), magical, fantasy, get-you-out-of-this-world stories, and I have to wait until Christmas for The Doctor to come back.

Working on the premise that doing as much of what one likes is a good thing, and vital for the chronically ill/disabled, then seeing Harry Potter, (all two and a half hours of it) is obviously appropriate. But there are things to see to, food to be bought, supper to be cooked, food and supper being high on the list of priorities because I want to do my bit for Him Outdoors who has been - outdoors, or elsewhere since early in the day, dealing with office politics, the M25 and long hours grafting (and has the exquisite grace, in relation to yours truly, to call himself Patron of the Arts). Preparing nice food is something I am usually good at, though this too is going through a rocky phase, not sure why but things I have cooked for years and ought to be able to do in my sleep are turning out wrong and I end up with a pig’s ear of a dish – as I was moaning to NMJ last night after making kedgeree.

“Surely some revelation is at hand”: I think (and hope) not. It’s just that things fall apart sometimes. The centre holds, as it must.


cusp said...

Oh isn't it ghastly when the golden pie crust of life gets burnt round the edges.

Just remember that in the grand scheme of things it can all be sorted: the burnt edges cut off and thrown to the dog and the centre is still sweet. (dear me, what am I on today ???)

As always, it's horrible and difficult to keep the domestic/creative/health/balance right. Soldier on dear. We'll all support you.

I know what you mean about songs ringing incessantly in your head vis a vis some unfortunate situation. I had 'We gotta get out of this place' in my head for 5 years on and off when we had to stay living in a ghastly town in Bedfordshire (no, I won't share n case I offend anyone)

Anna MR said...

Given the troubles and travails dear NMJ has been facing recently, Signs my love, I would reckon that this is a contagious blogosphere jinx, originating in Albania, called, in the original language, ixmzdhzt.

I wish you strength and endurance, my friend, in the face of your trials, whilst simultaneously trying to counter-jinx myself with all my might. I really, really don't need any more practical shite...not that you or NMJ do either, I hasten to add.

I am rambling. Must be off. Thinking about you, Signs.


cusp said...

Oh dear Anna Mr.

Do you think I've contaminated myself too by coming over here ?

Have to go.......hanging garlic up at the window and an evil eye over the door

Reading the Signs said...

Hello Cusp and Anna - it's just the stuff of ordinary life is it not? But I don't want that stuff (well who does?) because I only just keep ticking over when everything runs smoothly. My strategy: ignore, until things become properly dire. It really works - until it doesn't and shit hits the fan.

Anna, you got that from word ver didn't you, I googled and it doesn't exist - Albania, my left foot! (I was going to mention another part of the anatomy but didn't want to offend any Albanians who may be looking in). Oh, and that word you called me the other day - I couldn't find that either. I trust it was something splendid.

Cusp, at least the song in your head was appropriate. Mine just mock me.

NMJ said...

Oh, Signs, you have linked to me, and all you will get tonight is bad Finnish swear words (taught to me by the divine Anna MR)- yes, the everyday things breaking down crap that robs healthy people of sanity/time (and that must be very galling too) robs us of precious energy. I am supposed to be tweaking my book for final submission (although it has been tweaked to death already) and find instead I am wasting fucking energy on British Gas/John Lewis/Zanussi.

Anyway, glad your kedgeree worked out in the end.

Anna MR, you made me laugh about everything originating in Albania.

And I need to laugh. Badly. Sanity at stake here, people.

I send kisses to revive you all (including myself in those who need to be revived).


Reading the Signs said...

Good luck with the tweaking, NMJ. Do not go to see Harry Potter - hardly any laughs in this one, very dark, which sometimes does the trick for me too.

Thanks for xxxs - will try them out on the car tomorrow as well.

NMJ said...

dearest signs, i am not a harry fan, haven't read one book or seen one film . . . but perhaps you know that our handsome periodic pony man has a thing for young daniel radcliffe x

Reading the Signs said...

I did not know this, NMJ. He is a dark horse.

Anna MR said...

Lovely Cusp - I think we are all doomed. But no matter, at least we (as bloggers - still going on a bit on the teenager-saddo-pervert-weirdo-thread here) can have a healthy rant about it here in space. Granted, we would maybe not catch the blogosphere jinxes if we weren't here, but that's definitely going into things with too analytical a mind. Intuition is what is needed. Yes.

NMJ dearest - I am glad to hear you laughed, and almost as glad to hear you swear in Finnish. Finnish swear words simply have more cursing power than any other swear words, it's inherent in the language and the national character. Laugh more, and what's more - swear more, too. Preferably at the BG/John Lewis/Zanussi people. That'll teach them to mess with you.

Signs my love, good afternoon on this very windy yet sunny Wednesday. I called you a signreader in Finnish (literally, a "mark-explainer"), which I think is only right. You will be pleased to know the Albanian jinxters are not letting me off easy today either, as I am going to have to sign off with more Albanian - zxinuvtf - "may you be inflicted with the keyboard bollocks for eternity" - a very bad curse.

xxxxs all round, me lovelies.

(and now, oh no, the word ver leprechauns have turned my beloved Welsh against me too (must be what I said about Lowri Turner) - fnwnhj - "your typing will only deteriorate the more you write". I am definitely doomed, there can be no doubt about it)

Anonymous said...

I was going to say something silly like "I want to send you a blue sky full of white puffy clouds and a vibrant sun" but I won't say that. Nope.

I wish you a late afternoon rain instead. One of those rains where it starts softly and then picks up momentum and then falls in a steady stream, straight downward. That soaks through your clothes, that is impossible to avoid or shy away from. That ends up filling your pores, your every inch of skin.

"Why does it always rain on me?"

Reading the Signs said...

A bit of doom is good, Anna, it's like strong black coffee, I like it hot with something sweet on the side. Go and see the latest Harry Potter, very doom-laden.

I am very pleased with my latest name. Have been busy making marks all over the kitchen floor today - crushed meringues and cat food (don't ask).

Goodthomas, guess what? It has been a day of blue skies and white puffy clouds here, the sun quite hot. I could almost have wished for the kind of rain you describe. It would in any case have been irresistible.

Answer: because it seeks its own, not because you lied.
(I did always love that song).

cxwmqoz, Anna. Welsh/Mexican or more Albanian?

Anna MR said...

Dear lovely Signs, that really is a difficult one. Welsh/Mexican, or more Albanian? I have been puzzling over that for several minutes now, and really am rather undecided still. Most untypical of me.

But what a motto for life you have here given me - "A bit of doom is good." Do you know, that is probably amongst the top three most useful things anyone has ever said to me (the other two being "think before you act" (still a bit of a learner with that one) and "don't touch metal things with your tongue in sub-zero conditions" (tried it once, all kids here do - but once is usually enough for everyone) ). You will hear me mutter it under my breath from now on, as I nervously look around me, this way and that, uncertain whether to worry about the next bit of doom to befall me - or the lack of a befalling bit of doom (as that would mean the lack of something good, yes?).

You may notice I have come bearing nothing but keyboard bollocks this time. It is that Albanian jinx I was hit with earlier, dammit (yes, I've decided, it is Welsh/Mexican).

I'm going to go and make some coffee.


onrplqn - a very topical word ver (hurrah, the jinx is dead) - it means
onerously playing quidditch now

xpixj - the word ver leprechauns kissing me in a friendly fashion x and pretending to be pixies with first names that begin with a J, instead of word ver leprechauns

Reading the Signs said...

I'm now trying to think what the three most useful things anyone has said to me are. Don't think I can come up with anything at all, state of my head I think. Never mind. I'm simply going rely on the word ver oracles to tell me everything I need to know.


Reading the Signs said...

Sometimes the oracles are inscrutable, bless 'em.

I don't want to think about touching metal things with my tongue in sub-zero conditions - I have a very vivid imagination.

Coffee and chocolate, though, the bitter and the sweet - stuff of life altogether.

Anonymous said...

Signs, I believe in the 'pleasure principle' approach to living with chronic illness, that it is paramout to take part in activities that are enjoyable. With me it is listening to music and watching films on DVD.

I totally relate to getting the balance right, with personal care, a few lightweight chores around the house, plus a bit of learning and some more work on the long overdue website. I kid on that it's a job (oh, please laugh along at that one). There is never enough time/energy to do it all, so everything takes ages and projects lie fallow.

I have a song for every passing mood. Sometimes I just pick a song to match a feeling and it's like a kind of therapy. I don't mean weepy, soppy songs either. One time it was Ace Of Spades by Motorhead. I think I was feeling defiant about the whole ME thing. I liked the gambling metaphor.

Reading the Signs said...

Good to see you, Digi - and I certainly don't laugh at the idea that what you have is a "job".
I had a couple of part-time teaching posts until last year, and it took up every bit of strength to do that well.

My head songs just come to me, it's weird. I'm going to look up Ace of Spades on Youtube.