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Monday, 11 March 2013

Sunday's Child

Tiny flakes of snow swirl outside the office window as if someone is shredding paper just out of sight, throwing handfuls of spreadsheet-printed confetti into the whirling, freezing air.

I sign up for a restaurant discount voucher – tomorrow I am going out with a friend who always includes the phrase “somewhere cheap to eat” in our planning conversations. I put my date of birth in and realise that I am a Sunday’s Child. Somehow it fits.

I don’t understand where the snow goes; it doesn’t settle and I can’t see melted drops anywhere.

Naturally he is a Wednesday Child, my polar opposite. It’s odd that we match so well, even in our mismatch.

The fan heater in my office battles against the chill coming from the window. I know I am getting old because I have an office cardigan; it waits for me, draped over the back of my chair, for days like this.

We spent Sunday afternoon battling, even when we tried not to. It was just one of those days when we’re both trying to achieve the same thing but it feels like we’re opposites; Sunday vs Wednesday.

I’m glad we had our fire alarm test last week, when it seemed that spring was round the corner. That day we stood in the sunshine, joking about fetching coats and saving people from the invisible fire. The reflective jackets of the fire wardens were unwelcome then but today they’d be a dash of brightness in a day that is grey-white.

Today we both battle against Monday. It’s a common enemy which makes us band together; a necessary alliance. Sometimes we forget that we signed the treaty, nine years ago now, and we need these fights to make us realise that we’re on the same side.

I hope the crocuses are not shocked by the weather. I like their pale purple silk, stretching up to the feeble sun. For now the snow has stopped. I wonder if it’s snowing outside his office window.

Monday's Child is fair of face
Tuesday's Child is full of grace
Wednesday's Child is full of woe
Thursday's Child has far to go
Friday's Child is loving and giving
Saturday's Child works hard for a living
And the Child that is born on the Sabbath day
is bonny and blithe and good and happy.

Monday, 11 February 2013


It’s been snowing all day, cold wet flakes that float to the ground then disappear as if they never existed.

Whenever I have nothing to write the first thing that comes to my mind is the weather. I don’t know if it’s laziness or Britishness. My computer tells me it is brutishness. Maybe it’s right.

I pour a glass of red wine, even though I can still taste the minty chewing gum in my mouth. I only had the gum to displace the sugar on my teeth from the fruit pastilles. When I ate the fruit pastilles I split open the pack so I could see the colours and eat them in order of ascending preference. Even with the pick and choose of orange vs red they didn’t last long.

I don’t really take a lunch break; instead I eat while reading emails and then make up for it with brief forays into the internet and twitter at occasional moments. Every time I use the printer I stretch while looking out the window. The printer is less than a yard from my desk.

I yawn loudly knowing no-one can hear me. In my office no one can hear you scream. Not that I've tried.

Today I combed my hair down instead of pushing it up and forward into my normal quiff. It feels more feminine. I run my fingers through my fringe and pretend that I look like Audrey Tautou.

We’ve run out of peas so I put broad beans in a pan to go with the fish and chips; crinkle cut chips because they taste better.

I like to wash up without drying. The pans rest on the draining board at odd angles. Mr Manbag calls this “draining board Jenga”.

The door slams and I hear his footfalls on the stairs.

In the lounge I can hear three different clocks ticking out the seconds, like a trio of metronomes.

My knee hurts. It always hurts. A movement in the wrong direction, pressure on my patella or the cold weather make it ache and when I turn over in bed I use my left leg to push my right around. But when I saw the doctor I said that I am usually in good health. Perhaps being an optimist isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s stopped snowing and the road seems to have dried without me noticing. I should pay more attention to the weather.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

100 words: Him

He’s not here.

The car pulls up and that’s the first thing I notice; the absence of him. No lights, no sign of life.

Inside it’s as expected; the kettle isn’t boiled and there is no friendly hug to greet me to and no him to tell me of today’s ailments. I miss his complaints and worries. I miss his amazing smile, full of light and joy.

The evening has been spent with colleagues, talking work and life and other things and I relish the chance to talk about him, about us.

I wonder how many people feel the same.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Marjorie has always been thin. This is important to her. She likes to be in control and her weight is one of those everyday things that she had dominion over.

Being boyish and birdlike means she can look down on all the fat people. Sometimes she makes a sympathetic face while they moan about not being able to lose any weight. You have to play along with these fat fools, make them feel like you understand, even though you can’t. Why don’t they just eat less? So greedy. Not like her.

Eating in a restaurant is always a sadistic sort of fun for Marjorie. She always refuses a starter (“I’ll have no room for my main!”), indulges in a proper main course and then insists the restaurant prepare a fruit salad for her dessert (“any good restaurant should be able to rustle up a fruit salad”), then looks down her bony nose at her companion’s food. “Haven’t you done well!” she likes to exclaim, “eating all that!”

At home she always eats dessert, every night. A single square of chocolate, savoured to get absolutely every molecule of flavour out of it. She never wants any more than a single square.

Before bed each night she pats her flat stomach over her brushed-cotton nightie. If she feels her clothes are getting a bit tight she simply eats a little less for a few days. It’s easy. She simply can’t see why fatties let themselves get like that, all flabby and wobbly. They should be ashamed.

Marjorie has always been thin.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

100 Words: Socks

There are two pairs of special socks now.

His were first. Handmade in thick, grey wool. They came with cable turns down the ankle and made me envious.

The day I got my own he also got his out for the first time this winter and found them shrunken. They had turned to unforgiving felt from the heat of an inconsistent washing machine, even though we’re always so careful with the temperature dial. We found that they fitted my feet, not his.

Now my new lilac socks, with the perfect ribbed ankle and the supersoft yarn, are missing their mate.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


The wind here is inescapable. My hotel (with the tag “seaside” when “former docks” is closer to the truth) sits on the water’s edge, looking across at cranes and boats and Victorian warehouses.

Wherever I go I am met by an icy wind which whips round corners and across the wide streets like an angry mistress pursuing an errant lover. I wrap up tightly, flattening my hair with a woolly hat. An insufficient woolly hat, at that.

The concrete steps beside the hotel look forbidding, especially as I only get to see them in the dark; my daylight hours are stolen by work. Up the steps is the little Japanese restaurant where I order badly but eat reasonably well. I even drink sake, something I would never normally do.

Walking back the streets are almost empty. It’s not that cold yet, for Helsinki, but it seems that people are already building their winter cocoons. This I can understand. The authentic Finnish restaurant I try to eat at the second night is packed, people warming up with “ground elk meat patties” and potatoes.

Back in the hotel restaurant there is much less charm. The man at the adjacent table watches a movie on his laptop then argues about the bill with the pretty waitress. In the corner a group of Americans wish each other Happy Thanksgiving and the only Brit among them asks for egg nog – the only things she knows about the holiday.

I order a burger and write notes in my illegible hand while I wait. Tonight the icy cold makes me want simple food. And red wine. I settle back in against the superfluous cushions, a spectator.

Monday, 19 November 2012

100 words: Three

Has it really been three weeks?

That’s the problem with the Blogger sidebar; there’s no escape from the ticking time.

And time ticks onwards now. A bevy of clocks hung on walls and standing on sideboards steadily tap out a rhythm reminding me that I’m away tomorrow. Northwards again.

The suitcase in the hall stands to attention, packed firm with work outfits and what will surely be a surfeit of socks. It’s only three nights. Three nights in a hotel that sees fit to declare that breakfast and your morning sauna is included in the price. Three nights too long.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Fall back

The leaves have turned and fallen. They make crisp, shuffling noises beneath my feet.

I spent what felt like a long time teaching the sweet, Spanish girl in my office the word “deciduous”, saying it over and over again until she got it. Her mouth is not quite the right shape for the vowel sounds but she gets close enough to understand.

The sky this afternoon was blue with grey and white fluffy clouds but the sun couldn’t quite be bothered to shine. It, too, is nestling in ready for the winter.

I picked an enormous leaf out from under my car wipers on the way into work. I discarded it in the traffic, the rolling cloud of steam from my exhaust catching my eye in the wing mirror. I wish I’d kept it now, stuck it in my office window or on my whiteboard.

He sent me his writing again. It’s beautiful but it makes me sad; he talks about how I used to love his warmth and his hot hands.

I haven’t quite had to put the extra thick lining inside my coat. It’s a fleece so soft it reminds me of baby animals. I’m not normally one for practical clothes but this is definitely sensible. Although I got my new scarf stuck in the zip, the super soft fabric too tempting for the teeth. I felt less sensible then, getting help to take my coat off over my head, tangled in my torn scarf.

It’s dark already. Before long I will be opening the blinds before I leave for work and closing them as soon as I get home.

The blanket on the sofa is new but old. It’s made from recycled wool and has a beautiful red check. I like to nestle under it, even when it’s not cold. Maybe it’s because I come from a town that used to be famous for its blankets. The mill has long since closed and been turned into flats but I still remember the smell of the wool and the noise of the looms.

I’m looking forward to the cold really closing in; to bright blue mornings, sugared car windows, frozen puddles and spiced wine. And hot hands.

Friday, 26 October 2012

100 words: Heidi

She’s older than me but in many ways she’s younger, more carefree. Every now and then my Skype window will ping up on my screen at work, winking brightly.

“Jermaine Stewart on 80s channel” the message will say or “Rick Astley medley on Radio 2 now” and I will undoubtedly be unable to tune in, stuck in a meeting or trapped in the office with my assistant.

Best of all, though, is when she pings me with “troubles distant”; shorthand for a single piece of shared history that few people would understand. I may not listen but I will smile.

Friday, 19 October 2012

100 Words: Wings

Three swans fly over as I make my way out. It’s a unique noise, a screaming whoosh with each beat. I stare as they cut their path across the blue.

In the office car park a pair of starlings are bathing in the puddle created by a blocked drain, splashing and shimmying in the water. They don’t move as I pass; they’re too occupied with their ablutions.

I don’t know what bird it is but I call it a kite because of the way it hovers on an air current, wings outstretched.

Inside the office our wings have been clipped.