Monday, 21 March 2011


"When I get home" I say to myself on the crowded 92 tram, which has decided to jerk erratically along the line, stopping for extravagantly long periods at each stop. "I am going to sit out in the sun for quarter of an hour and relax" (I say it in my head, I try and keep the talking to myself out loud confined to the house). "I will take these spiteful, evil shoes off, and sit down in the back yard with a cup of coffee. It'll be great". We are all crammed in and testy as battery hens, because the previous tram broke down, slowing our progress and making my frustrating morning even more unproductive. The jerky progress means I repeatedly stagger and bump against the widely splayed leg of one of the many teenagers (none of whom are wearing pinching high heeled shoes and all of whom have managed to get seats, bastards). My ankles hurt. I keep trying to put my headphones in, but I have to hang onto a pole for balance, and it takes more co-ordination than I can muster. I look out of the window instead. Brussels is a lighter shade of grey in the sun, and the tiny, idiosyncratic architectural details that characterise Brussels buildings are easier to spot. A teenager treads on my toe.

"Coffee" I say to myself again "Sunshine". Of such tiny promises to oneself is the resolve not to burst into tears, or kick someone in the shin, made. I can almost feel the sun on my back, though possibly that is Galliano vest man. His jeans are so tight they create their own forcefield.

So I get off the tram, finally, and hobble past 15 new holes in the road, then sprint unsuccessfully after the postman who is just leaving one of those "You were out, sucker", slips. I go in, put the coffee on, open the back door.

12:00 The coffee machine fails to pierce three successive Nespresso capsules. That's, what, like €3 to the evil empire with nothing to show for it for me. Serves me right for joining their stupid, George Clooney worshipping cult. The machine is obviously buggered, which figures, since it is about 2 months past the expiry of its guarantee.

12:06 I go and sit outside with a cup of tea instead. On the floor, I have no garden furniture. The dog skitters around me, whining, bringing me a selection of heavily foxed soft toys, balls, a squeaky chicken. "Bugger off, Oscar". I shake my head crossly, close my eyes and try to relax. The sun is shining and birds are singing, the dog's whining has slowed to a sort of breathy note of inquiry. Even so, I cannot relax. My eyes snap open, unbidden. I can see from here that the kitchen floor is very dirty, and so are the windows, even though I actually cleaned them last week. I start listing things I need to do: wash the floor, pay some bills, find a representative of a non-European diaspora (don't ask), hoover? Do I need to hoover again? God, I did it last month. The shutter. The chip in the bath. Dust the piano. Emails from last week, last month. Driving licence. Composition de menage. Bigger, scarier things I try not to think about at all. There are infinite tasks and I am incapable of keeping up with more than 5% of them, it seems. My jaw hurts from grinding my teeth. And why do all my shoes pinch at the moment? Am I getting fat feet? How is that even possible?

12:11. I hear my phone chirruping inside, and go and fetch it. I deal with a text message even though it's not remotely urgent, then look at the garden again. Most of my bulbs have not come up. They have been eaten by the evil thorned triffid that takes over every inch of the garden if not kept in check. The Christmas tree catches my eye. Bugger. I really have to deal with that bastard. I force myself to close my eyes again. I try and breathe deeply, through the knot of chaos in my chest. The sun is deliciously warm. Soon the lilacs will be out, I think. I try and imagine I am on my Mediterranean goat farm (a recurrent fantasy of recent months, even though I hate the country. That's how strong my desire to run away is, right now).

12:13 The dog is whining louder again. When I look over at him, he is standing strangely, uncomfortably, his back legs saggy. I ignore him, shut my eyes again. Goat farm. Warm winds. The smell of wild thyme. The sun on the waves. Gentle bleating. Suddenly I am aware of his presence far closer to me. He yelps in my face. Looking more closely, I can see that he has a large turd trailing from his back end that he seems unable to get rid of, hence his expression of unease. By the time I realise this, he is skittering dangerously close to the house, the poo bobbing along, still attached, behind him. "NO", I shout and rush off, shutting the door behind me, for kitchen roll. I come back out, shutting the door carefully behind me. I grab the dog by its collar, and wipe his arse. It is properly revolting.

12:14 I give up on relaxation for the day.

16:15 I find this brilliant poem, via this blog, and it cheers me up no end (and mentions uncomfortable shoes too).


Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read

to the end just to find out who killed the cook.

Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,

in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.

Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,

the one you beat to the punchline, the door,
or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones

that crimped your toes, don't regret those.

Not the nights you called god names and cursed

your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,

chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.

You were meant to inhale those smoky nights

over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings

across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed

coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.

You've walked those streets a thousand times and still

you end up here. Regret none of it, not one

of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,

when the lights from the carnival rides

were the only stars you believed in, loving them

for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.

You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,

ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house

after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs

window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied

of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering

any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign

on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

(Antilamentation, by Dorianne Laux)


irretrievablybroken said...

Thank you.

Julia Ball said...

I can't believe that you are starting to want to do housework ! :-)

Deena said...

That is my favorite poem. When feeling particularly distraught, I read it out loud to myself. Glad you found it and felt better.

Jane said...

Thank you for sharing that poem. I feel better for reading it too.

Wish I could get even 5% of 'stuff' done!

Clare said...

That poem was on The Writer's Almanac a week or two ago! I read it half a dozen times that day. Thanks for sharing again.

Johnners said...

Thank you. x

Em said...

Thank you for sharing the poem. I've read and re-read it.
And, oh, to wipe the Weepette's backside does not make for a relaxing time!

Rhia said...

Oh you have ALL my sympathy with the dogs hanging down poo. Dear Lord. You are one brave woman.
My mum used to have a Shitsu and it had a similar "accident" and well, twenty minutes of retching over the bathtub, my twin brother and I washed it all off. I like to think my bro and I bonded over the sheer horrible, rankness of the whole stinky and gag-worthy affair.
Im sorry you didnt get your relaxtion today, but that means you deserve 30mins tomorrow, n'est-ce pas?

Waffle said...

Rhia, I find myself awed by your mum's ninja parenting skills in getting the pair of you to do it!

indigo16 said...

I feel your pain, were I to join you in a coffee, I would sit amongst charity sacks filled with the piss riddled newspapers left by my dog, some of the papers have escaped and now blow aimlessly around the yard wrapping themselves around Leyla's old bike rusting quietly opposite where I sit. Plant pots are heaving with frost killed bedding plants from last year. To the left is a rusting clothes drier stuck fast in a builders sack full of soil he promised to redistribute in the garden two years ago and in my peripheral vision lurks a disused washing machine that I just can't lift to the front for the scrap man.
I failed to wash my windows last year and it will join the litany of jobs to do this Easter again.
Oh yes, I feel your pain.

Alison Cross said...

I love that poem, thank you for that. I have never come across it before, but shall print it out and keep it in one of my many empty journals.

As far as the housework goes, I get this. I understand this - it's the need for busyness because...because what? Because you can't bear to be still with your thoughts? I dunno - but you DO know.

Bugger the housework. I can happily send you my OCD other half who was HOOVERING at 9am because the kitchen floor was putting him off making his breakfast.

He may be stabbed to death before the day is out.

I hope the dog's bum problem doesn't get worse. I had a pup that developed parvo virus - nothing, but NOTHING is worse than clearing that up.

Go get yourself a cup of tea and lie on the couch with the dog (((hug)))

Ali x

Rhia said...

Waffle - Hehe! Unfortunately (although perhaps fortunately for her!) my mum was on her yearly week-long holiday with my grandparents so it was wash the dog outselves or clean up the poo ad nauseum (literally) that the dog was arse wiping around the house. Ick. I am kinda retching now with just the memory. In short, I feel your pain.

loops said...

Not many things really make me laugh out loud but your description of weepet was hilarious

steph said...

Please just tell the snotty teens to get up and give you their seat. The mere fact that you ask will shock them into action.

Nimble said...

The poem makes me feel sad but I like that it is the opposite of this email signature line that got up my nose recently: "Regardless of how distant your dreams may seem, every second counts." I'm still thinking of all the ways that sentiment bugs me.

Things usually fall apart but sometimes they surprise you by falling together.