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So for anyone out there who wonders what the heck I’m on about – I have news. The Man-Hog has only gone and got himself cancer. Seriously?? In the life-long series of attention-seeking acts this pesky porcine has pulled, this has to be the cream of the crop. The prize willy-shaped marrow. The unfortunate boob-shaped cherry on the bakewell.
He was diagnosed last Tuesday week with classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a literal pain in the neck as it turns out. He starts chemo – ABVD it’s called for anyone who wants to Google it – on Monday.
So…..OK, alright – I guess he’s kind of got my attention.
So how has this news affected the jolly Pigletinapoke household? Are we all deflated, depressed and down in the mouth? Moping about and bemoaning our fate?
Nah. Not on your nelly. We are – as is our norm – ignoring the possibility “that word” even exists, having a good sarcastic poke at his impending baldness (Oh please…oh please…oh please let him decide to don a wig like the blonde dude in Wayne’s World *every finger crossed*) and trying on woolly hats because being bald is OK but he has a Mini Pig who plays football in the winter – chapped, frosty and bald is perhaps not so cool. We are embracing fleece as a fashion choice. And thinking of creative sexual acts we can perform on each other with ear thermometers. Don’t judge. That sort of thing is actually not that unusual.
And never forget this is the Piglet household, after all, it’s not about how you feel – it’s about how you look, dahhhhling!!
The Mini Pigs are handling it remarkably well so far. They are stoical porkers and are really just slightly pissed off that there will be even more stricter cleaning, hand washing and lick-ably hygienic bedroom regimes to adhere to and to try to avoid good old Dad contracting amoebic dysentery from their discarded, mould-growing yoghurt pots on top of what he already has!
The best part, actually, the humbling part….the part that makes me the most proud….is how the Man-Hog himself is dealing with things. Understandably there is a bit of jelly-belly apprehension about what the treatment will be like on Monday and beyond, and what the next few months will bring. Yet mainly, he and the rest of us Pigs are absolutely 100% convinced – perhaps naively so – that he will be fine and that this is just a bump in the road. Keep calm and take the micky. It’s what gets us through.
Frankly, as you regular readers will know, I’m not one to mince my words much. I’ve told him – get your arse in gear, get better…..or I WILL KILL YOU! You will beat this thing. Failure is not an option. Man up and all that! He’s on board with the message. It’s not everyone’s way, but it is ours – crafted over many years together. This isn’t going to be a triumph for chemical advances or medical brilliance – the cure effected in this case will be as a result of positive mental attitude and relentless bursts of dark humour. Well, that, and the odd slap. 🙂
It’s been a while, my friends. Somehow I’ve just not been in the zone enough, not felt funny enough or interesting enough to write anything down. I claim fay knights and ‘av ‘ad no time, guv, honest. Oh, I’ve sputtered and started in a kangaroo-petrol kind of way but not actually seen a blog post through to the end for many months.
Which is a shame really as I do enjoy my writing. And I am in particular need of therapeutic relief right now….
Our story begins aeons back when men were hairy – but not in a coiffed and trimmed metrosexual way – and women were hairier and did not yet wax. Yes, a loooong time ago.
I switched jobs – leaving a long term boss after many years and taking a job which did not, in the end, work out. I luckily got another job – my current job – and that’s really when the writing dried up. Lack of time. Lack of oomph. Lack. Basically.
A recent near death experience has started the writing juices flowing again. You know how I love to share.
So……the moment of screaming fear went like this:
I’m driving to the station and the rain is like stair rods. I’m pushing it a little because I’m late for work – so what’s new?? I am just coming up to my turn off and I hit a massive puddle literally the width of the dual carriageway. Alan – The Super Mini – goes into a total spaz tailspin and I’m suddenly careering across the road sideways heading for the side of a road bridge. Oh shit, oh shit, ooohhhhhh shiiiiiiiiit is coming out of my mouth. Luckily, the old training kicked in and I managed to steer Alan out of the spaz skid, spin it in a curving S shape around two cars who must have thought their numbers were up – sorry! – and ended up heading the right way towards the roundabout. In the meantime, my fudged up iPhone containing synchronised random music from GOD KNOWS WHO has switched into 100 Greatest Christmas Songs mode and I’m fighting for my life to the sounds of Perry Como imitating a mule accompanied by jingly bells music! It was squeaky bum time, I can tell you, but the worst of it was that in my mind I saw my dead squished body in that car and all I could think of was the shame of the emergency services prizing off the roof only to be greeted by my corpsed face stuck in a frozen grin to the plinketty-plunketty tune of “Dominic the Donkey” blaring out at 90 decibels!
Tragic. Shameful. Please care.
So the new job is based in Swiss Cottage. A strange microcosm of a place. I know Jonathan Woss waves about it but I think he’s thinking of the other Swiss Cottage? Maybe IN Switzerland? Potentially, my one has mob-up potential galore…for example, I’ve honestly never seen quite such a collection of horror wigs walking the streets. Wigs pulled firmly down the forehead to meet bushy beetling eyebrows and rendering their owners’ crinkled eyelids shut, causing visual disturbances and uncertain food purchase choices in the local Waitrose. Wigs usually resplendent in shades of “Screeching Slasher Red” or “Sad Owl in Moult”. Terrifying.
Nor quite so many hoodies worn in all seriousness by respectable women over 50. Gives a whole new meaning to the term sister-hood. Or woman-hood for that matter. None of which apply since they are mostly just scary-ass-gangster-hood with fags dangling from their lips, sitting outside the corner cafe with empty pushchairs trying to work out how to pick up their mugs of caffeine despite claw-like false nails so long they must surely prevent any decent standard of personal hygiene? Yes, I said it.
There is then the daily trauma of walking in – shock horror – a skirt and heels to the office through the Sista-hood’s manor and clocking the looks of genuine and utter confusion on their faces (“What exactly IS that?” they muse “Is it…could it be…a woman? Dressed like that? Doesn’t she get cold around her ears with no hood”.) you get the gist. I do not belong here.
Anyway….That particular morning mountain climbed and survived without too much spit down the coat or lip-curling and I arrive at the office only to find one of the land team in tears because a pigeon has flown in the open window and crapped down the front of his designer trousers. A swift leg-it to the dry-cleaner next door is the only thing that might save him from the nightmare of a client presentation held while everyone studiously tries to ignore chalky residue stains around his crutch area? Ew. Never a good look. I try not to imagine him cringing in a corner in his boxers behind Mrs Jenkinson’s plastic-wrapped Jacques Verte crepe de chine while he waits.
The day starting off this way engenders a certain sense of paranoia. Foreboding even. This morning – hideous almost-car crashes and a pigeon. This afternoon ….what? A rhino with the trots broken loose from Regents Park – a mere stone’s throw away and within summer wafting distance – and leaking all over the contract weave chosen specifically to blend with Kelly Hoppen’s complexion? (that’s trade-marked by the way – and will be available in a beautiful Matt housepaint in Autumn 2015)
I go to the window to take a calming breath. Only to be greeted by the site of the dog shrine that has appeared overnight in tribute to the next door neighbours’ dearly departed rover. The shrine has a suspicious pet-shaped hump in the middle so I fear the grave itself may not have been dug quite deep enough. Perhaps the waft is not the zoo after all??!! Yikes! On closer viewing, the planted basket-weave dog marking the grave is listing at a somewhat jaunty angle as whatever is underneath swells and emerges balloon-like from the mud. Slam window shut. Turn on computer. Do. Not. Think. About. It.
Suddenly one of the assistants bursts in through one of the closed doors. “Sarah!” She gasps. “The dishwasher is broken and there’s like….soooo much washing up!!! What should I dooo?” The panic in her eyes is reminiscent of the hostages at Entebbe Airport. Then the other door is almost ripped off its hinges as the company’s driver strides in brandishing what on first sight looks like a disturbing tickling stick with which he is going to teach that damn assistant a lesson, but turns out to be a pressure washer extension wand. “Sarah!” He cries. “This stick…me, I broke it. It piddles, not pump. I need a new one and I need it NOW!” There are tears in his eyes. Or he has hayfever. Who can tell? Real problems, people, that somehow land on MY desk before I’ve even had my first cuppa. Did I mention I do not belong here?
I make them both a soothing gin and apply Bachs Herbal Remedies to their temples as I turn them into the recovery position on the hitherto-unstained-by-escaped-rhino-or-pigeon-shit carpet. I go in search of a pair of rubber gloves. This level of crisis requires a real woman to sort it out. One in heels. With all her own hair. Who will clearly get on with her own actual job somewhat later.
So as you can see – time for writing has been short but don’t hold it against me. In the words of Arnie S, that rhino-like acting legend, I’ll be back.
DISCLAIMER: This entire blog is all made up or exaggerated by me or usually both. Please don’t take any of it seriously…I don’t!
Does anyone else suffer from “Spring-itis”? You know….that funny little disease that hits around the time of the emergence of the smell of wild garlic in the hedgerows? The cheeky little virus that pops up when the tulips slump their faded petalled faces into the mud. Well I do. And this year – I’ve got it baaaaad, baby.
I’ve never really been one to sit still and just….be. Don’t get me wrong – I am generally happy and positive and have counted my blessings until I’m cross-eyed with the sheer numbers of them on more than one occasion. I live a charmed life, I know. But still…there’s always a bit more isn’t there? More to see. More to do. More people to meet. More places to tick off. More, more, more. Sometime around the rising of the spring sap, an insidious germ sneaks into my breakfast cereal and starts to make me restless with my lot. It’s happened every year at this time for as long as I can remember and has nothing to do with being happy, contented, fulfilled or otherwise. Those are pretty constant drivers, but this frenzied wistfulness is an annual side effect, where everything I’m doing currently or have done in the past seems to be a bit too…safe.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t yearn for a new man(Hog). I do sometimes yearn for a new sty to keep him in…but he’ll only mess it up with his untidy ways so that soon passes. I’m not trapped by difficult circumstances – in fact I have more freedom than most, I suspect. I’ve just been sailing around Scotland for the past weekend, for example. The thought of picking up my current house and dumping it down in a new town/village always seems to appeal…logistically difficult, however, and tends to play havoc with the sewers and the wiring. I’m not looking for work (although am always open to offers!) particularly and my kids are on the rails so far, not off them.
This year, then, the itchy unexplainable plague seems particularly virulent. I’ve retired (finally) from competitive netball – I am nearly a hundred years old after all. I’ve been forced to fork out for my first pair of proper spectacles (as opposed to my usual rock chick Raybans). The Teen Pig is leaving college and starting out in the world of work – how did that creep up on me? My Scottish niece has just finished an amazing gap year in Africa and is just starting out in nursing. My nephew is applying for engineering courses at Uni, and one of our other nephews has just had a baby, for goodness sake! Something about all these eras ending and new ones beginning has perhaps set me off and now I feel like a slightly rubbish, four-eyed, under-achieving stick-in-the-mud because I haven’t produced a baby, finished a Masters degree or started my own business. Ridiculous – but there it is.
Maybe it is just hormones….perhaps it’s me glands, as the Man-Hog likes to say when questioned about medical issues. Could the warm air rising and the sun finally shining trigger a release of “oomph” hormone somewhere in the body, causing us who suffer from Springitis to morph into a state of needy perpetual forward motion? Perhaps the winter months of lethargy and sloth are a “dormancy” of sorts, a state of catatonic mental stillness which is then released with the first Spring daff. Oh Christ- I am a dormouse! Great.
I don’t really know. All I know is I need to do something or else tie my hands and feet together with string so I stop being so annoyingly fidgety. Is it normal to want to do something positive, something that yields a gain, either tangible or intangible, but only really once a year – in Spring? Odd, non?
Well hopefully there are others of you out there who are feeling me, Felix, if you see what I mean. Some of you also suffering from excess sap? Let’s start a club then. We’ll call it the “Fidgetty Digit Club”. Quite catchy, don’t you think? Now all we have to decide is what to do. Any suggestions? Before I start hammering things together for the heck of it? Answers below. Thank you!
Before I start I will have to write a disclaimer. Dogs mentioned in this blog bear no resemblance whatsoever to the gorgeous twin set and pearls that are Pugsy and Ted Godwin-Crowhurst. If I don’t put this in, my friend Lorna will hunt me down and probably hurt me. With sharp things. So there you have it, Lorna, put your pitchfork back in the shed until the next time I commit an inadvertent canine faux pas!
The festive season is fast approaching and, as usual, I’m seeing far too much of the inside of various capital city hostelries. Against my will, obviously, dragged there kicking and struggling (to get out of my coat) while silently mouthing “Mine’s a gin, Jock!” as I am manhandled to the bar. Sit down before you fall down. Good advice, never forgotten.
Anyway the point is I would like to pay homage to the humble London pub. I have lately spent time in The Burlington Arms (does a nice scotch egg, bar staff slower than sloth on Mogadon), The Harp (handy for the station when Network Rail decide to play 7-card rummy all evening instead of running a train service), The Windmill (dark, seedy, strangely exciting) and a particular favourite lunchtime haunt of mine – The Market Tavern. This last is pretentiously posh and not really a pub at all but a holding pen for beautiful, delicious smelling people who have got fed up waiting in the queue for Burger & Lobster and are getting royally tanked up instead. “Bugger the lobster!” they scream into their Tanqueray martinis. Cruel – but then if you don’t want to eat it I can see how you might consider that as an alternative, given the price you pay for them. Lobster love not to be undertaken lightly however – there are still the nippers to consider. And I’m not talking about the side dish of little prawns.
The thing is….the thing IS….these pubs each have a charm of their own and remain true to the spirit of “public house”. Not everyone’s home is the same and it is this individuality and stubborn disregard for the majority taste that makes these places so great. Where would we be without a collection of photos of Princess Margaret and some faux cacti on the windowsill? Who doesn’t want harlequin patterned curtains because the fabric can be bought in bulk and the design doesn’t show the phlegm? The Tavern even has velveteen sofas. Pretty convinced they wouldn’t mind if you slipped on your comfy trousers and watched an episode of Corrie from them. So long as you smell delicious.
Whereas….the local joints in the village and surroundings where I live are…well, as I said to a mate, they are dire. One which shall remain nameless – a particular favourite of several friends of mine – smells constantly of nursing home wee. Another has been painted in a shocking shade of clotted cream, rendering it so dazzlingly uninviting and operating-theatre-bright that I wouldn’t go in there even if I had just had Botox pumped by concrete mixer into every inch of my face. Not to mention the locals sitting there harrumphing into their mulled Guinness with faces on like pugs with piles. I’ve heard of overbite but surely your lower teeth should not gurn their way up to your eyebrows?
Something is lacking in Sussex when it comes to atmosphere and ambience. We’ve tried lots of places and – sadly – it is a county-wide issue.
So, if you’re looking for me, I will be mostly drinking in the smoke this festive season. Places where you can meet a giant bloke called Tim – a good sort with half an arm, an army career under his belt and a great line in Irish jokes. Or Sheila – 94 if she is a day – who has been drinking in the same pub for about 40 years and can tell you how every bit of sticky floor came to be there. Amazing people.
Sussex – you need to man up and get your act together. Having the nation’s monopoly on old black-beamed boozers is not enough. Come to London and have a look – it’s all going on up there, you know. Cheers!!
Airports are strange places. Dislocated islands populated by all the nations of the world brought together for a short time in a false sense of camaraderie. An ever changing montage of sizes, shapes, colours, accents and behaviours.
Take the lady of African descent seated two rows in front. She chews gum for three beats then scratches her nose for one. She’s been doing it for an hour. Is she allergic to the very gum she masticates with such enthusiasm? Every now and then her head drops to reveal an unexpected bald patch on the top of her head. She traces her hand across it periodically leaving me to wonder: which came first? The bald patch followed by a concerned-to-be-balding hand? Or an involuntary head stroke tic leading to a gradual wearing away of her hair?
To my right is the shifty dark-haired gentleman who has just been turned back at the Air France gate. I overheard the word “standby” followed by a derisory laugh from the airline attendant. Clearly he stands nowhere, let alone “by”. He is left tapping his knees with a nervous set of fingers while he awaits a similar rejection from the British Airways staff who are already wise to him. How did he get through security without a boarding pass? He is the man from nowhere going nowhere. I fear he may be here some time.
Then there’s the so obviously British business suits. The ones with ties still tightly fastened for the flight who insist on queuing just in front of the doors a good forty minutes before boarding. They glare directly at the staff and defy anyone to try to board before them – even the unaccompanied minor waiting patiently to the side of them warrants a tut and a curled lip.
Poor love. There she perches atop her purple Trunki, wild-haired and hollow-eyed. Is she the unfortunate commuter ferrying between two estranged parents? Is she visiting grandparents who dislike her father and his presence in her life – the father who I watched drop her off at the airport and leave her in the care of a complete stranger?
Who knows what people’s stories are? We are all baggage in the end, waiting to land and for someone to claim us. Just passing through this airport island on our way to the real world again.
As many of you know, I have taken a new job back in the smoke and – so far, so good. I have already had a great bonding dinner with the other girls in my team – lots of wine and cocktails somewhere in the Kings Road, a missed last train home and some rumours of a 4AM finish for some of them? My lips are sealed……
I am slowly working out the company dynamics and trying to blend in while still being at the “haven’t a clue” stage of company knowledge. I have also broken two secure password thingamajiggas that has confounded the IT chappy, spilt coffee down a colleague’s shirt just before his lunch with a client and tripped over my own heel exclaiming “Sh*t!” in front of the Chief Exec and his guest. So, all good. 😀
The downside to it all is the hours. There are many of them. All spent at my desk in London. All spent away from the family. Many more hours than in my previous job. Such is life – I’m happy to be in work and, to be fair, the hours have all been necessary and not just pfaffing about. I cannot complain.
Last night I managed to give myself a break from late night commuting and booked into the newly refurbished Café Royal Hotel which re-opened its doors in Summer 2012. Just off Regent Street, the hotel couldn’t be more convenient and – all credit to them – they have done a spectacular job of it. The lobbies, staircases and quirky Art Deco lifts take you back to a bygone age in the Café’s heyday. It was like entering an episode of Poirot for the evening, watching the needle pointer curve over the halfway mark as the ancient-looking elevator ascended through the floors. Polite and penguin-like staff are EVERYWHERE. You cannot move without someone wishing you a good evening or safe travels. Eh? I just walked here from down the road. No matter. If they start to gather in the hallways in groups just punch them gently out of the way. It’s the hospitality industry, they’re used to it.
Once inside the rooms, however, all thoughts of penguin-punching vanish. The world and its demands fades away as you take in your sumptuous surroundings. There is apparently a selection of more “blokey” style rooms – Mansard they call them – all wood panelling and musky scented but I didn’t get to see those on my short tour. No matter as I am, in fact, a girl. Yes, its true and not a cross-dressing version of me. So I had booked into a Portland room – beautifully furnished with every modern convenience, according to the brochure and with walls cloaked in smooth stone. Sounds odd but it really works and you feel…..safe, sort of cocooned for some odd reason.
Un-flipping-believably, I was upgraded. No bog-standard Port-a-potty room for me. Oh no. I was to be the jammy-bugger one-night owner of a fabulous junior suite! The place was bigger than my house. Ri-di-cu-lous. With its own sitting room, kitchenette with coffee machine and a bathroom big enough to hold the cast of Les Mis, it wasn’t half bad I can tell you. I could have moved the family and a couple of stray dogs into it, no trouble.
I struggled a bit with all the electronics – I am challenged in the techy department as we know. Having stupidly stripped off my dress first, I tried to shut the drapes by button and instead managed to open the sheer curtains and give the offices opposite a wonderful view of me in my bra and knicks at the naked window. Sorry peeps. Not intentional.
Having ducked down behind a pink leather chair, I fumbled my way to the perfect curtain state and then tackled the lighting. This is all at midnight, dear friends, several rums up and with thumbs that would not respond to direct instruction. The lights, I finally discovered, worked by simply stroking them. *As do I – note to Man-Hog.* How marvellous. But best of all was the B&O TV which, if you get your thumbs to behave on the controls, turns to face you wherever you are in the room and booms its little movie-playing heart out through fab surround-sound speakers.
Having tried out all the nice smelly bottles of goodies in the bathroom and resisted raiding the mini-bar, I finally decided to hit the hay. In a bed the size of Africa. It was H-UUUUUUU-GE. I felt like a hobbit in a B&B. Supremely comfortable and with Frette linens – aaaahhhhh. You fellow textile fetishists will understand. It was an absolute pleasure to starfish inelegantly and still have room to roll over three times and not fall off. I’m getting me one of those beds. And a punchable penguin to say good morning to me on demand.
Considering its central location, you honestly couldn’t hear anything from the streets outside or from the hallways. It was actually a shock when the alarm woke me up this morning. After a dip in the marble bath which was more like swimming than washing, I got myself dressed and regretfully left this oasis of calm and opulence. Back to reality tonight alongside the Man-Hog, snorting, wheezing and gurning his way through the night altogether far too close to me and in a bed nothing like the one at the Café. Ah well. Marriage is a blessing.
If you get a chance and you’re up on a theatre/shopping trip sometime, try the hotel. There is a restaurant and bar, and a soon-to-be-ready spa and gym. For one night of crazy, over-the-top pampering and quirkiness, it’s well worth the price tag. Don’t ask the price first, it has no truck with economic decline and will only spoil it for you! Enjoy!
Café Royal Hotel
68 Regent Street
London W1B 5EL
Ph: +44 20 7406 3322
Photo Credits: All my own
Valentine’s Day, as you know from previous postings, is somewhat of a let-down in the House of Pig. The Man-Hog is a conscientious objector to the one day per year he can be openly and mushily romantic. Every year I suffer the hideousness of being Britain’s Most Unbeloved. Well, I’ve had enough. So I thought I would write my own Valentine poem for all those women who, like me, expect and get nowt!
A Pig Scorned…
Roses are red? Sent by lovers in bliss.
“Sod the flowers!” Says the Man-Hog. “I’ll just give her a kiss!“
But roses are pretty! “Nah, expensive and boring.
I’ll make us some chips, that’ll send her heart soaring.“
Roses are romantic. “Pfsh. A total waste of money.
After all of these years, she knows she’s still my honey.“
They tell her I Love You. “Such piffle! No Way!
She gets to live with me – what more can I say?“
So before all those florists start counting their chickens
The Man-Hog’s determined to slim down their pickens
He won’t buy a bloom, nor a choc, nor a ring
You can’t tell him when to buy or say anything!
But the last laugh’s on me – Love’s Most Unfêted –
Off to Valentine’s dinner with one I once dated!
Suck on that, Man-Hog! Eat chips by yourself.
Next year I suggest you buy every bloom on the shelf.
(OK so I am not really going on a date with an ex but – come on! – I have to do something to shock him. It’s either this or a well-placed defibrillator.)
Poem by Pigletinapoke i.e. ME!!
Picture credit: http://www.justourpictures.com
Dear Fragrant (But Not In The Good Way) Office Colleague
I have tried with much heavy hinting to encourage you NOT to invade my personal air space with your undeniably stinky home-made broths of a lunchtime. You have failed to acknowledge any such hints, despite each being as subtle as a blunt trauma injury, and continue to perfume – though this is hardly the word – the general desk space with your evil fish and spiced muskrat potions. Your tenacity in the face of such blatant sarcasm would be admirable, if only you were not such a fan of all things rank-smelling.
Please, for the love of fresh air, stop! My newly washed hair, clean clothing and olfactory organs can no longer take such a sustained daily assault on their persons. The office microwave has developed a permanent aroma of rotting wildebeest. Clients entering the office are struck speechless for several minutes as they try not to gag in the warm chilli fug that summarily greets them before I ever can. Delivery men leave the room retching into their handheld walkie-talkies, unable to re-mount their mopeds effectively until the waves of nausea have passed. Enough is enough.
Worse still are the used plastic containers left unrinsed and pungently reeking in the kitchen sink. At least if you are going to make such god-awful smells, have the decency to keep them temporary during lunch, not continuing throughout the rest of the afternoon too. Entering the kitchen is akin to diving headlong into an overflowing landfill of sardines.
Consideration for your fellow workers costs nothing and will ensure you don’t receive the lemon-and-lime-flavoured condoms in the Secret Santa at Christmas. Maybe an air freshener or ten? I have tried wearing a peg on my nose but my clients think it odd and have been known to withdraw their patronage. Your fetid food odours are therefore bad for my business as well as damaging to my environment.
Let this be an end to your fart-tastic brews and perhaps, if you feel the need to always spice up your lunches, you could eat outside of the office? I will even pay for that to happen. Anything. Just go already.
Yours sincerely ( and I do mean sincerely)
Someone Who Wishes to Remain Cotton-Fresh
Photo credit: http://mideats.com
A little something I wrote to amuse myself while the stock markets continue to play havoc with my working day!
Todd’s head shook in disbelief as he watched. Had it really taken so little time, so few seconds, for the numbers on-screen to bleed from the healthy blue lake of profit to the sinkhole of dark, red despair that now reflected back at him? He reached a forefinger into his collar; tugging, loosening, desperately trying to dampen down his hysteria and regain rational thought as his mind struggled to accept that his entire portfolio – his whole net worth – had just sunk without trace in front of his eyes. His palms were clammy; beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. His hand fluttered uselessly over the keyboard: uncertain; unguided; unable to do anything to change the horror of what he was seeing. The nightmare, it seemed, had actually happened. The thing he feared most had come to pass. He felt utterly helpless in the face of such brutal loss. His useless hand sank back to the desk and he in turn slumped back in his seat; his other hand covering his eyes, shutting out the blinking red disaster that was his life. His thoughts flashed wildly: what would he tell Ruth – his wife, his love? A forlorn and fleeting hope: was this some sort of computer glitch? Then epic dawning that there was no way out of this. No happy ending, no golden retirement fund, no paid-off mortgage and childrens’ trust funds. No well done back-patting and a sense of smug self-satisfaction. He was forty nine, a father of two, and his financial world had collapsed. No home; no money; no security. Nothing. He’d bet the farm – including the parts he didn’t yet own – and had lost the lot.
He rose shakily from the chair, burdened by a ton of concrete failure strapped to his shoulders. Unnoticed by most, one assistant did pick up on his pallor, his hopeless demeanor and zombie-like stumble away from his desk. She glanced up at him as he passed, wondered vaguely if he was OK but then resumed her personal call, gum rotating slowly in her mouth as she languidly discussed the relative merits of heels over flats for her night out.
Todd’s slow progress sped to a faltering run. Bile rose within him in waves, propelling him forward and away from the cruel sea of red numbers he had just witnessed. He slammed out through the office door and into a hexagonal hallway. Wooden portals to other firms stared in blank indifference to his entrance. He flew through the door directly opposite into an austere white bathroom where he only just made it to the cubicle on time – throwing up and up, his stomach heaving and retching its sorry contents out in sympathy with his wretched situation. Snot and tears flowed in equal measure down his face as he allowed the fear to overwhelm him at last and gave in to the sheer horror of it.
Slumped down beside the toilet, his chin smeared with his own vomit, he tried to stifle the painful sobs wrenched from within him. He knew it was over. He was finished. He was a useless, careless, reckless bugger and he’d got his comeuppance. Serves him right. Arrogant arse, thinking he would be the one to get the golden goose. A weird tingling down his left arm matched a sudden crushing pain deep in his chest; his breathing rapid, shallow. His jaw tightened and clenched. Something worse was happening, infinitely worse. His last thought before his over-stressed heart spasmed its last: It was only money…
I don’t really do femininity. I love being a woman and am comfortable in my own skin but I’ll admit there are certain aspects of being a girl that have completely bypassed me. Pink in any form, for example, is neither pretty nor acceptable within a 50-mile radius of me. Flounces, frills, frippery and finery leave me completely cold. I am partial to a nice shoe or handbag, but that is about as far as it goes. I don’t wear much make-up, I rarely bother with perfume and yes, the stubble left languishing on my barely-can-be-bothered-to-shave legs is occasionally responsible for the scarring on the Man-Hog’s calves and the tears in his manly eyes.
Hence the past few months have been a trial to say the least. The Teen has a prom to go to in July. A rite of passage must in the Teen’s social calendar. It all began back in February when said Teen announced it was going in a long dress and “Oh, by the way…” you’re buying it, Mum. Hours spent searching the internet (instead of revising for one’s GCSEs) resulted finally in a dress that the Teen thought was acceptable and I didn’t think looked like she’d gone on the game. We agreed on it, I ordered it on-line, slapped down my credit card details and that was supposed to be that.
Of course not. How silly of me. I should have realized once the email arrived from the very perky and completely unintelligible Nancy Lee “confirming order for dless in plurple size ate”. This was the first clue that all was probably not what it seemed. The second clue was that the same dress appeared on multiple similar websites – something the Teen had failed to mention. My only comfort was that I had paid through PayPal on-line and was therefore hoping that my fears of fashion fraud were unfounded and the site was entirely reputable.
How naïve can one 45-year-old non-girly woman be? Three months on and with no delivery in sight, I sat on-line for over an hour waiting for a live 24-hour chat operator to be with me shortly. As the clock ticked towards the second hour it was clear the operator was not live. In fact, dead was probably nearer the mark or at the very least tied to a chair with a sock in her gob because it was clear that no-one was coming to the party to chat with me. I hung up and then sent a frustrated email to my old friend Nancy Lee, also to the address on the website and to one random email I found on my receipt from PayPal. You guessed it – nil response from all three. The end result was a complaint raised with PayPal and a reimbursement of my money. That was the good part.
The bad part was the Teen frothing at the mouth as July is around the corner and she had no dress. Pressure was mounting from her prom date who had apparently bought a tie in “plurple” to match her Chinese creation that was now never arriving. I had no choice – I had to take it shopping. Next to pink dresses and daily skin care regimes, shopping has to be my least favourite activity. I would rather mud-wrestle multiple Chinese chat room operators in a live on-line paddling pool for days on end than go shopping.
Probably not best to choose the day following the riotous, amusing yet completely pointless Netball Awards night, then. The day when I woke up with a hangover and a mouth like the just-raced crutch of Usain Bolt’s lycra shorts. A day when all sensible people except me were lying horizontal until their heads stopped pounding, their nausea faded and someone had produced a hearty fry-up to aid their recovery. Not me. No. I was on a train to London in 30 degree heat, rattling with paracetamol and sweating hideously. Oozing the smell of last night’s Chinese into the garish seat cushions and cursing all things oriental that had brought me to this point. The Teen was attempting to jolly me along with a proposed route plan for which shops we would visit first. All I wanted to do was lie down quietly in a pool of my own sick. Not only that but I had to suffer the wholly inappropriate chirpiness of the Man-Hog and the Mini-Pig who came with us as far as London en route to visit the Science Museum. My only comfort was that during their trip they might actually find a scientific answer to the god-awful gaseous gut explosions which seem to accompany any hangover I have these days. To anyone who was on that train with us, I can only apologise.
London. Sweltering heat. A tumult of Jubilee fetishists and early Olympic tourists to add to the usual summer contingent of gigantic Middle-Eastern women piling en masse into Selfridges. The Teen forged ahead in search of fashion Nirvana. Me – I weaved tearfully behind her through the make-up counters, trying desperately to escape Sandra from Yves Saint-Laurent who wanted to pounce on my ageing skin and rub me free of blemishes. I told her exactly where to stick her Touche-Eclat and I sincerely hope it hurt when she did.
Three stores, seven dresses and a nervous breakdown later, we had bought a dress. It was not plurple, it was pleacock-blue. Actually very nice if you like all that girly crap. But by then I was slumped into a corner of the changing room, gibbering slightly with eyes rolling like a maddened horse. Not one person offered me a medicinal gin and the Teen showed even less empathy by demanding I sit up straight and take some mobile phone shots of her in the dress. For the love of God, why? Did she not realize I was one vapour attack away from A&E?
But thank the Lord! – the dress is purchased. And it was 20% off day which was a bit of a result. As we were leaving London accompanied once again by the Man-Hog and the Mini-Pig fully scienced up and having displayed what I firmly believe was the patience of a saint, the Teen casually mentioned that her date for the prom is quite challenged in the height department and she didn’t want to tower above him, so could we go again next week and look for some flattish shoes? Grabbing her by her pink and flowery shirt, I pulled her across the train table and hissed “Don’t…even….think about it!” through gritted noodle-stained teeth. I think she’s got the message.