Posts Tagged ‘friend’

An odd thing that happened

My friend, Vaughn, sent me a bracelet about five years ago. It’s just a thin scrap of a thing. A peice of black cotton and a peice of white cotton spun around one another. I was surprised it had been allowed to be sent out to me. He said most other people he’d tried to send them to hadn’t received them.

I tied it onto my wrist and it has never moved. It doesn’t come off for anything. For some reason, leading up to the day of Vaughn’s death, I felt like it would probably break after he died. I’m not really sure why. I don’t go in for a lot of spirituality and fate and bigger meaning etc etc etc. But I just kept thinking it in the back of my mind.

I wrote to him once, shortly before visiting him, and told him I still wear the bracelet he made me and he said I was the only one. The people who did receive them had either lost or broken theirs.

Then when I visited him, at one point, lost for words and overwhelmed by it all, I touched my hand to my wrist to show him my bracelet and he did the same on his wrist, as he was also wearing one.

The day after he died, July 19th, I was in work. I work with food. I had some of those thin blue disposable gloves on. As I took the left one off, the bracelet came off with it. It had literally never moved from my wrist in the five years I had been wearing it. I put it back on quickly but pulled it thinner a bit as I forced it over my hand. When I got home, I noticed the bracelet was now bigger so I tied another knot in it, to make it smaller.

Ever since tying this extra knot, I’ve felt like it was going to break. I’m not sure why, as it looked pretty secure. I just had this unexplainable expectation that it would break.

Then last Thursday, four weeks exactly since Vaughn’s death, the bracelet broke. It caught on the arm of a chair I was sitting on and snapped, flying off. I wasn’t surprised at all.

I have tied it around my finger, unwilling to throw it away, but I know it hasn’t much time there. It will probably fall off soon.

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She’s leaving home

Except she’s going with her Dad, not a man from the motor trade. And she’s not really leaving home, she’s going home. But she’s leaving me. It feels like the end of an era. In dedication to my friend‘s time in the spare bedroom, I have put together a compilation of the best moments of her stay.

1. Wednesday evenings in front of the TV watching The Apprentice and marveling at the stupidity.

2. Tuesday evenings at the pub quiz, which we got steadily worse at the more we went.

3. Baking biscuits with Smarties in for the schoolchildren Naomi taught.

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4. The time we watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars and persuaded Danda to watch the Lip Sync For Your Lives bit at the end and, despite himself, he got into it a bit.

5. The time we went out dancing to a swanky club in London town and they put on Breathe by Sean Paul and Blu Cantrell and we went crazy for it. It was less good when I asked the DJ for a bit of Beyonce and he put on some unknown song off an album or something when he totally should have played Irreplaceable or Single Ladies.

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6. Getting home from work and Naomi telling me she’d woken up about two hours ago.

7. Watching First Dates and loving it. O the awkwardness, o the embarrassingly awful attempts at conversation with a complete stranger, o the hilarity.

8. Reminiscing about our travels in Asia.

9. Making marshmallows and banana cake to celebrate my new job and then eating loads of the un-set marshmallow mixture and feeling too full by the time the marshmallows where actually ready to eat.

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10. Planning how we will make our millions. Because we will make them. We just have to figure out how. At one point, we decided we would write a childrens’ book and get rich and famous like JK Rowling. We still need to finish that story.

Looking through old photo albums

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This one is of my brother and I, when I was about two, I think. I had both my legs in plaster when I was little and had very recently had it off when this photo was taken.

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This is me in earlier mentioned plaster, hence I’m in a wheelchair. I look very uncertain about something….

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I think my brother’s sweatband really brings this photo alive.

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Christmas lunch. That’s me in the orange hat. Everyone else was too cool to wear theirs.

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My friend Naomi and I in our best sporting gear (we didn’t play any sport) and centre partings in our hair.

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I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on in this photo. The curtains hairdo, the Hello Kitty t-shirt, the gold chain thing, the non-smile on my face.

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On the left, in the white jumper, that’s me. Yep, I sported the fringe and bob look then. It wasn’t my best look.

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This is me age 19 on a zipwire thing over the Yellow River in China. Boy, do I look excited!

Thoughts

I’m having one of those I-can’t-think-what-to-write-about days. Well, actually, I should qualify that statement. I’m having a bit of a lazy morning where I’ve spent an hour or two reading other blogs and listening to an audiobook so now my brain is in too many different places to think of something to write about. So I shall just list the thoughts that are in my mind right now.

– Will I ever become a world famous piano player? Or will I forever be stuck on the line, “And you come to me on a summer breeze” from How Deep Is Your Love? And are ten fingers enough to play this piece of music? At the moment, I need about twelve to be able to play it properly.

– Chocolate and cherry mousse cake is fabulous. And making a genoise sponge for the first time went ok. As did making custard from scratch…

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– Beouf bourginon is not actually that difficult to make. It is also extremely tasty, despite its easiness…

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– Planning an African adventure is muchos fun, even if it isn’t going to happen for over a year…

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– I can’t cope with X Factor winner James Arthur’s ‘my-parents-divorced-when-I-was-a-kid-and-now-I’m-traumatised-for-life’ routine. I just want to shake him and say, “Get over yourself! Grow up! I know your parents are divorced but SO ARE EVERYONE ELSE’S!” He writes songs about it which are really ‘deep’ apparently. So his Mum says. “Yeah,” she goes, serious face on and eyes looking down to the ground. “It’s really… It’s really… (she searches for the appropriate word, having used deep about four times already)… It’s really… deep.” Thanks for that, o mother of great eloquence and feeling. It’s good to know that, as a man in his 20s, the single most important that has happened in his life is still the separation of his parents when he was in primary school. Sometimes, Mr Arthur, people are better apart. Get over it.

– My rooibos tea has gone cold.

– There is a cat digging in the garden. I didn’t know cats dug.

– I am really intrigued about what happened with Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend. I genuinely really like him. I just finished reading his autobiography, Blade Runner, a few weeks ago and it was really good. He seems like a down-to-earth, decent type. And a brilliant athlete. His arrest for murder seems totally at odds with the man I imagined him to be. Of course, a book written by him will obviously give the impression that he portrays, not necessarily who he actually is. And by the same token, a charge for murder is not a conclusion of guilt. There’s this space in between the law and the media and the person’s own voice, where they reside, and I don’t suppose I can know who he is or what has happened. I guess we will see what the outcome is.

– Today I am going for lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in way too long. I am excited.

My favourite Namibia memories

Making pizzas on Friday nights with one of our student’s mums.

Stuffing our faces at the Nest Hotel because we were pretty poor and ate mostly rice at home.

The time Fiona and I took a road trip round the whole country and had no radio so had to sing to each other all day.

Our comedy dog, Diaz, barking at the kids at school or following us around or weeing on the floor.

The time we were stranded in the desert with no water, no money or bank card, no ID, no suncream and no keys to get back into our car.

The time Lucy and I were painting murals on the wall in the creche where we taught and the kids started singing Atomic Kitten to us.

When I used to jump in the freezing cold swimming pool every morning at the guest house where I lived and worked in Namibia.

The time we walked out to Diaz Point, which took hours and hours, and we had three apples between us.

The time I lost control of the car and went on a little spin off the road with Fiona yelling “Steer into the spin!” and clinging onto the dashboard.

Singing the Amarula song with the kitchen staff at Grootberg Lodge.

One of my students, Zara, saying “Thank you for teaching us,” after a class.

Bungee jumping, like a loony, over the Zambezi River during a stay in Livingston.

Sleeping through the most important day in the Namibian calendar, their independence day, then making a story up for the newspaper afterwards (we ran the local town newspaper and we had to make up the main story of the whole year. Shoddy).

Climbing into the big wardrobe in Lucy’s room with our friend, Andre, to look for Narnia. We were sober, by the way.

Packing a tent, some sleeping bags, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a knife and walking to the campsite just out of town, Shark Island, and camping for the weekend to get away from it all.

Flinging ourselves in the pool to cool down after a hot sweaty bus journey back from Victoria Falls to Windhoek.

Taking a load of disadvantaged kids away for an activity week in the desert and, among other things, teaching them how to swim.

Drinking cups of rooibos tea and watching the sun set over the Atlantic ocean and the clouds and sky turning pink and purple and orange.

Fiona and I going to the coolest bar in town, Rumours, and graffitiing our names behind the bar.

Cutting my own hair because I had no money for hairdressers.

Going out to an old abandoned town in the desert with our friend, George, and him giving us Namibian names. Mine was Naufiku, which means ‘born in the evening.’

Fiona chucking a glass of triple shot Jaegermeister and coke on a car.

Going to badminton club on Tuesdays and being rubbish at it.

The worst landlord ever

When I was in my second year at uni, my friend and I decided to move off campus into our own place. We looked at a few places but settled on a flat on a council estate, mainly because it was over the road from university.

When we looked at it, however, it was a little rough around the edges, to say the least. There were chips in the paintwork in most of the bedrooms. There was a huge hole with piping exposed in the bathroom wall. There were odds and ends of crockery in the cupboards. Nothing had been cleaned. There were no curtains or even a curtain pole in my room.

The estate agent confidently assured us that everything would be sorted by the time we moved in. There would be professional cleaners and builders etc who would get the place ready before we arrived.

We found two flatmates to fill the other rooms and, a week later, my friend picked up the keys and headed there with all her belongings, ready for the exciting new adventure. I was working until early afternoon so it would be a few hours before I got there.

I got a phonecall shortly after she had walked through the door, which I thought would be full of excitement and anticipation. Instead it went something like this:

“It looks exactly the same as when we viewed it the other week. There’s still a big hole in the wall and it’s a mess.”

She called the landlord and said there was still a hole in the bathroom wall and that it wasn’t safe. His response?

“What’s the problem? Are you going to climb into the hole?!” followed by a little chuckle at his own wittiness.

When I got there after work, we donned house clothes and yellow gloves and got to cleaning. We packed up all the bits in the kitchen which had been left and put our own stuff in the cupboards.

When the landlord eventually came round to sort out the hole in the bathroom wall, he brought a man with him who, I got the distinct impression, it seemed he’d picked up randomly on the street while driving to the flat.

At one point, the man was cleaning the oven which, we had insisted, needed a proper industrial clean out as it was so dirty. The man, who spoke no English, just kind of muddled through and my friend had decided to keep an eye on him. This was how she saved our cutlery from destruction as he reached for a knife to start scraping the dirt off the inside of the oven.

“No!” she said, speaking slowly and clearly, as though talking to a child. “We use these to eat with. You need a sponge or a scourer.”

He also tried using the oven cleaner he’d found, on the inside of the bath, which he’d been asked to clean. Again, Sophie stepped in, speaking slowly and clearly and handing him some bathroom detergent spray.

That was just a hint of things to come. He owned the flat upstairs too and the girls living there had some hilariously bad set up where he would pitch up every month and collect the rent in cash, all £1400 of it. We gave him cheques for a while before insisting he give us his bank details so we could pay him properly, by bank transfer. That honestly took about six months from first asking him before he gave us them.

When there was a water leak upstairs because someone left the tap on and water was flooding out through our light switches and down the walls, he said there was no need to get anyone out to look at the damage or fix anything because it would be fine.

He’d show up at odd moments and start talking nonsense. Like the time he turned up at my birthday party and started rambling on about this idea he had to store memories on a computer chip so as not to forget them.

He was from Sri Lanka and would just disappear off there without any forewarning, leaving no-one in charge of his business dealings. So, for no discernible reason, we wouldn’t be able to contact him for a month. He didn’t see what the problem was.

He once threatened to turn up, pack my bags and put them outside. When I pointed out that he needed to go through a court and have a properly authorised eviction notice to do anything at all, he flipped out, said he didn’t care about my ‘rights’, and said we owed him money. It’s all hilarious now, but honestly, it was quite ridiculous.

The more I think about it, the sillier it seems. After we moved out, he insisted two people’s rent hadn’t been paid and so kept the whole deposit (four people’s rent). When I called to ask for the other two people’s rent back, he said he’d ‘told the police on me’. I said the police don’t get involved with rental disputes as it’s not violent crime. He stopped picking the phone up when I called.

And that was my experience with the worst landlord I have ever had. It was like living in a comedy.

My Crocs and I

At first, when my manager at work said she was going to get us all Crocs to wear, I groaned in horror. Crocs! How ugly! I’d never be able to walk out from behind the counter for fear people would see them and judge me.

As if it weren’t bad enough that we were being given Crocs to wear, by the time it got around to ordering mine, there were only yellow and purple left to choose from! To save getting confused, we were each to pick a different colour, so we’d be able to tell which pair were ours. The more ordinary colours had been picked already, the brown, blue, black and grey, which, unless you looked closely, could kind of look like an ordinary pair of shoes. So I had a dull purple or a bright yellow as my options. I picked the purple, it was quite dark and not that noticeable. We ordered them online and then when they arrived, they were obviously an eye-catching bright purple. Obviously. The type of colour which immediately draws your eye.

I was extremely self conscious about wearing them at first. I’d point them out, jokingly, as though I was desperate for people to know that I was aware how idiotic they looked, but they were just my work shoes! Honest! I didn’t buy them out of choice! They’re just my work shoes! Don’t judge me!

Occasionally, I’d put a purple t-shirt on, absent-mindedly and then get to work, change into my Crocs and realise that it looked like I’d organised my outfit that way, to match my Crocs.

Then I started getting casual about them, wearing them home after work, or to the shops. Sometimes I’d go and see a friend straight from work and I’d still have the Crocs on. By the time I realised, I’d just shrug and keep going, hoping that the friendship was strong enough to withstand the extreme ugliness and the general impression they gave, that my feet were ginormous flippers.

Before I knew it, they’d sneaked a place in my line up of shoes and demanded to be considered as the shoe I might choose when I got ready in the morning. Even on days I wasn’t working. There they were, the hugest purplest ugliest things I’d ever come across, with big holes in them, which made rain a nightmare, and with a considerable layer of dirt around the toe area that I was too lazy to clean.

And yet.

And yet they are MY Crocs. They are my big ugly purple Crocs.

And I love them.

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