Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Eternal Question

Yesterday Mother Dearest and I went to an Oundle gathering (I’m not going to lie – we’re big on the village scene). It was tremendous. However, early on sneaky old MD palmed me off onto a bloke called something extravagant and absurd like ‘Beverly’.

‘So what are you doing in Oundle then?’
‘I’ve just finished university.’
Pause. Damn. Now, inevitably, here comes The Question. I try to head him off with
‘It’s a lovely...’
(Interrupting) ‘Right. So what are you doing with yourself then?’

Good with non-words

Too late. Agh. Taking Boris Johnson as my model, I mutter non-words and shift from foot to foot, hoping Beverly will interpret this as an answer of sorts and move on. The temptation to shout ‘GCSEs’ and dive for the nearest bush is overwhelming. Those were the days.

‘Ah well I’m sort of – ah – living at home.’

Eyebrows. Silence.

‘Bit of temping, y’know ...' [Not strictly true – two weeks pending at a publisher thanks to the charm of a delightful friend]. 'And, erm, applying for jobs.' [Not true either. One job. Didn’t get it.] (Nervous laughter.) [From me, not him] 'I’m doing bits of writing as well, talking to editors...' (Gabbling now) 'Er, and teaching the violin a bit, and I’ve, I’ve just startedablog.’ [I’m not a wastrel! I’m not!]

I finally stop and gaze into the middle distance. When I was applying for Cambridge (good old days of youth when things were simple) we had the odd practice interview. The advice given me was always the same. Say what you think – as clearly as possible – then stop: ‘Please Kate if you can resist the temptation to talk about nothing for a further five minutes you should be fine.’ The advice comes back to me now, slightly late.

He looks at me. ‘What’s it on?’

I pause, considering. [This is Good Interview Technique, remember, and I’m now applying it to real life. Observe:] ‘Well, it’s about...’

He interrupts. ‘You’ll never get anywhere with a blog you know. Just silly, all that stuff, crazy. Now a friend of mine, he’s...’

And then I realise. While I was writhing about trying to construct a socially acceptable account of how I’m spending my time, my chum Beverly was merely searching for a window of opportunity through which to segue into conversation about himself.

Good hiding place?
But please, Bev (and all you Bev-a-likes), if what you want is to talk about your mate, your mate’s mate, that time you almost met a celebrity, or your pig-rearing hobby – just do it. I’m happy(ish) to listen. Don’t preface it with two minutes of questions / cynical silence that I feel duty-bound to fill. It’s not fun for either of us. And if the next time we meet I flee into the undergrowth, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

PS. Thank you very much to everyone who read the first episode. And especially to my charming and brilliant 'followers'. Comments encouraged. Positive comments.

e.g. Am I too harsh on Beverly? Do you wish you lived in Oundle? Let me know....

Monday, 20 September 2010

Cow Pie Chronicles

During my sojourn as a lady of leisure, my chief role appears to be assistant to my mother. Reworded CV-wise, that’ll be ‘partner in property development projects’ in future years. My tasks have included key sorting (‘Here are three hundred keys in a bag. Find out what they’re for’); making vats of builders’ tea and coffee; flying to Hawaii to find more sugar plantations to supply said tea and coffee; and estate agent liaison.

You see, we’re selling our house. No, ‘house’ is wrong. In fact, my mother is selling … my Childhood Home. The paragraph break below is for you to ponder on my suffering before we move on.


But readying ourselves for the estate agent’s clutches is taking some time. You see, before you can prostitute your shiny picture of my Childhood Home (CH) in your shiny estate agent’s window, you need a brochure with which to pimp out the place.

Ah Mr Estate-Agent, you little knew what you were letting yourself in for when you presented your ineptly phrased blandisms to my English teacher mother. She’s so eagle-eyed she makes eagles feel a bit redundant.

Offers over a Crunchie please
Added to this, the brochure has come to represent quite a lot of what MD feels about our lovely home. We don’t want it going for two quid and a Crunchie thanks. [Father Dearest – relegated to just ‘father’ (F) after a recent turn of events – has scurried off somewhere sunnier, so seems less concerned.] Each intensely argued change of lighting, picture-moving, flower-planting has been conducted to a scheme known only to MD herself. So don’t you dare call our garden ‘fabulous’. We don’t live in Essex.

E-A arrives for some brochure amendment larks. I open the door to a man closely resembling Desperate Dan, who dwarfs all around him. The chair on which he sits struggles to contain even one of his monstrous thighs. Why, mother, why hire a giant to show people round our home? Potential buyers will surely feel they’ve stumbled into an episode of Location Location Location devoted inexplicably to dollshouses. Our ‘spacious and well-appointed rooms’ aren’t going to look so damn spacious now, are they?

Thankfully he turns down tea: our reserves are sadly diminished from builder-need and it’s too late to send to Mordor for steel-reinforced cups. And then MD takes him through spelling and punctuation errors. It is a rout. He can’t be much younger than fifty, but he becomes a nervous fifteen, mangling his words and fiddling with his pencil.

MD: And could we please remove that extra adjective on this page?
E-A: Which one please?
MD: The one I’ve told you about on the last two occasions.
E-A: Er gosh yes, ah well you see, ah well it’s just I’ve told the brochure people, I’ve told them and they just don’t, they just don’t er….
MD (perplexed): Sorry?
E-A (cowering): Yes I’ll do that, yes. Sorry.
E-A doodles illegibly on the print-out’s dark green background.
MD: You’re not going to be able to see that later you know.
E-A: I will! I can: look it says ‘omit…’ er.

Well, quite.

As he lolls back to the office and his cow pie we find the brochure with MD’s notes on left behind on a chair. Detention next I fear.