Thursday, February 25, 2010

rhythm of life

I spent a considerable part of the day throwing things out: books I will give to a charity shop, paper to the recycling. However much I throw away, there always seems to be more - stuff that I don't need or use, no-one else would want it, but it seems wasteful to just throw out. I am trying to simplify in every way possible, and bring some kind of stability to my days, an underlying rhythm that will support what I need to do. Difficult with M.E., which behaves predictably only in the sense that it will almost certainly scupper long-term plans.
When I was growing up I envied children who had predictable lives. When I was thirteen I came home from boarding school and went to a crammer in Hammersmith. Things were chaotic at home, I never had breakfast, ate sweets and chocolate bars in the few minutes between lessons, scuttling from one room to the next, then nothing very much until supper.

In the underground, I would try to choose the same carriage every day, judging the distance along the platform from the tunnel. This was so that I would see two girls that always got on a couple of stations after mine. They were dressed in school uniform and went to St. Paul's School for Girls. Their conversation was trivial (by whose standards I was judging this I can't think): to do with last night's homework, what they ate for supper or breakfast and how the new stocking tights already had a small ladder at the side. I found it mesmerising, though, and listened as if caught in a trance, knowing that on a Tuesday they had French, so there would be talk about that and possibly a recitation of some irregular verb. On Wednesday there was Latin and on Friday there was chemistry. On Friday there was the additional spice of some possible revelation about what they were doing at the weekend. There would be nothing more interesting than a teatime visit to or from an aunt, a trip to the shoe shop with mother to buy some new school shoes and, of course, more homework. The more ordinary and mundane the detail the greater my satisfaction in hearing about it.

I pictured the bedroom of the larger girl, who always sat down with a comfortable plump before arranging and patting her skirt. I imagined that she would have a soft, fluffy candlewick bedspread, cream or pastel pink, that matched her slippers and dressing gown; one of those ceramic hedgehog night lights, perhaps, left over from childhood; everything very neat. As the train came out into the open and drew near to our destination she always, at exactly the same point, drew a dark beret from her school bag and began the business of arranging it on her head. It had to lie flat at the back and be slightly raised at the front, never just pulled on. She would be patting and adjusting for a good five minutes before it was just as it should be. Her friend always came with beret already in place. The patting and adjusting was more, I sensed, that just putting the beret on for the purposes of adhering to school regulations (what troubles lay in store for those caught beret or tie-less), but was a way of becoming the person she needed to be in order to go through the day as she needed to. It was like putting on armour before the battle, checking the point of the sword, buckling up.I did not want her life, that was for sure. But sometimes I wanted to feel what I though it must be like to be her - to have no thought for the next day other than the completely predictable - just to know what that might be like.

The rockanroll life goes on.


Cusp said...

Well this is a radical new look and in sync with your quest to clear out, cut back etc. You may do well to have a shufti at Michael Nobbs' blog cos he is always trying to do same and is v. good at coming up with simple ways to minimalise and strip back the clutter.

Love your description of the girls on the train. I love people watching --- one of the things I miss being at home all day and often alone. When I was small ( about 8) I always ensured I was in one of the three seats that faced each other on the double decker because I knew that every day on the second stop a true Mod devotee 'bird' would get on and sit opposite me where I could take in every little detail of hair, clothes, make-up and imagine the cool, cool fab-gear life she must lead in London (she got off at the station) whilst I had to go on to the next stop and get off at school for more lessons and school dinner.

Anna MR said...

Christ, Signs, you've redone the wallpapers again. Stop it already. My eyes are swimming.

But, you know, don't, if it feels like a fun thing to do. My eyes can swim all they like (and really, what sort of an idiom is "my eyes are swimming"? What are they doing, the breastroke? The butterfly stroke? The doggy paddle? It's a crap idiom, that's what it is, Signs my dear, because I can just see those little eyes (mine, in fact), all leaping into the deep pools of, I don't know, eye-water, with their little eye-arms poised for an elegant leap and then gliding through the waters effortlessly. Or perhaps, after all, they are doing the doggy paddle. I am really quite good at swimming, Signs, but I've a feeling my eyes - my super myopic eyes - alas, are not. Will I ever shut up? Doubtful). Yes, as I was saying, you're clearly having fun with the refurbishing and the wall-papering and picking new knobs for your drawers and things, and I don't want you to think I'm saying "stop" seriously, because I'm not. So that's sorted then. Phew.

I've a feeling this comment is trying to break the 4,096 mark, too, envious of the performance of its predecessor. But I will get a word in while the comment itself is not looking, strutting and preening as it is in front of the mirror, about your lovely post here. You paint word-pictures very well and enjoyably, Signs, and I can see those girls and the train and her bedroom and everything. I would like to see the girl eavesdropping and earwigging furiously in the corner of the underground train, I would like to see her more clearly but currently I only sort of feel her presence or see her reflected in the window. Of the train, yes.

One's own life can feel like so much crap from time to time (and one's own self, too, come to think of it), but other people and their lives are just claustrophobic (I may have said this somewhere before?). There are, of course, some notable exceptions, including present company. You and yours don't make for claustrophobic imaginy material.

Guess what? The word vers say expers. It's an Olde Latin incantation, calling for the expelling of compulsively loquacious blog guests and the subsequent purging of the house. Verily.

Mwah Signsy, hope your Thursday is just grand.


(Oh man, while I've been verbose down here, Cuspchen has beaten me to the first comment. Damn. I knew I should have shut up earlier. Hello all the same, Cusp - see, I'm not competitive, and hence not sour.)

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, I loved my visit to Michael Nobbs' place - have added him to my 'places' and can't think why I haven't looked in there before. So ta.

I sometimes did a version of people-watching with my daughter, when she was little, in London. We crouched by the bay window and I made up the internal monologues of people who passed by, which she loved - it made her laugh. But I realised that in a sense this was something I'd always been drawn to doing, coming very close to people through watching and imagining, and feeling what it must be like to be them.

Anna dearest, will you stop criticising your idiom already? Actually, though, it's a nice bit of free-associating bollocks, so on second thoughts, you can keep going if you like.

If I could refurbish and plan kitchen/bathroom as easily as I can change my template here, I would be soooo happy. For it is the very pits, my dear - just picture me and the redoubtable Mr. S in IKEA last night (and the meatballs were horrible, I'm becoming a veggie, seriously, but more of this anon) with bathroom sinks that looked like basins for the cleaning of surgical instruments, and our builder at the end of the line saying he no gonna wait for ever while we pootle around - and then my legs almost giving way, oh the fatiiiiigue. I had to eat a whole bar of IKEA chocolate, a packet of salt liquorice fish and other stuff, it was that or score some hard drugs. If I could just change the wallpaper and adjust a thing or two like I can here. I think we may have to just come and live in Blogger, do a kind of Avatar thing.

Anyway, yes, the watching girl on the train probably had a copy of The Monkees quarterly in her hands, but more than that I can't say (especially at this hour). She pretty though, and slim (too slim) what with only eating once a day, apart from the sweets. But nice, and funny. Only not many peeps knew that.

She was mesmerised by the illusion of predictability (safety, comfort) - but wouldn't have liked to be that girl, no. She dreamed of being an air stewardess (free travel) and leaving home a.s.a.p.

Congrats for - well, you know. Respeck, Seestah! Mwah!

Mim said...

Signs: I too pack up things to donate, to Goodwill or Sobe Thrifty. The almost destroyed I sometimes save for rags. Some things I throw on the compost; those must be cotton or wool.

It's fascinating how the memory of those two girls has stayed with you. They come alive in your clear writing.

Cusp said...

Hiya dear sistermister. Naa naa ne naa naa...can't catch me !!! ;O)

Dear Signsie I'm in sympathy re redecoration etc : we're about to have an extension built after months and months of poring/pawing(???) over drawings and plans. I'm trying to stay positive and I know it's for the long term greater good of us all at Villa Cusp but I alos know it'll be horrid: especially when they start to demolish the existing utility room and downstairs loo and the lobby in a week or two ;O(((

Oh well we can lean on each other perhaps: set up a kind of redecorationees support group where we can drink tea and dunk biscuits and hold cushions in front of us and 'share'.

I hope you can get back to writing soon. If not maybe you can use your visits to IKEA to do more people watching and invent some more lifestories: people's taste in decor ect. is very indicative of their lifestyles I ...same way that I invent stories in my head based on the contents of other people's baskets in supermarket queues.

Why do old people always buy loads of bicuits and ham ?

Cusp said...

Glad you like Michael and his links. He IS right up your alley at the moment isn't he

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks Mim, sometimes I feel as though I have total recall - I don't, but the memories that are there remain sharp.

Cuspchen - "naa naa"? ok, well, agreed I probably can't catch you. But could you catch me?

We are having a nightmare day trying to order loo and bathroom sink online - everything complicated by the fact that we thought it would be ok (and save money) to leave the old ones in, but it wasn't ok, and now there are no end of probs.

Plumber calling on mob - aargh

Cusp said...

My naa naas were for Anna MR dear since she was miffed that I 'got in' before her ;O)

Check your email cos I've found something for you that you might like (when you have time)

Bloody plumbers !

Zhoen said...

Lovely grey, many thanks.

One part of doing the military thing was that routine attention to details. To this day, when I put on my scrubs at work, it's as I did with my uniform. ID at my neckline, pouch around my waist at the back, pen in pocket, hat on, hair all in, shirt and ties all tucked in. Ritual for putting my mind on work, reassuring.

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, all is now clear - with the naa naas at any rate, the shower screen thing is kaput. Many thanks for the other.

Zhoen, I'm glad you like the grey - I had a notion it might be restful on the eyes.

A spell in the military might have been useful in certain respects - not that they would have had me!