Freelance: like the cat

"Thank you my Finance darlings for the beautiful orchid. Pride of place on my windowsill. She's beautiful and I'm calling her Account dot dta in your honour. @[1442721296:2048:Laura Troiano] @[100006881567982:2048:Dorka Dee] @[574746038:2048:Remi Fiddes] say thanks to the other guys for me too. I love it. X"

The fog of other people’s voices and personalities blurs you out. You’ve developed this persona, based on clichés and what other people seem to like best about you. Developing who you are based on actions that reap the most positive rewards. You learn to play nicely with the other kids and modify yourself to suit their preferences. Likability takes on new meaning now because of Facebook but in my mind, it’s always been there.

They say at 29 years old, you’re at your most popular. But walking around the place grinning and high-fiving people isn’t really living. Or so I’ve come to believe. Those people crowding around you and laughing at your jokes aren’t your friends. They’ll go as quickly as they came and you’ll realise (almost 10 years on) it really doesn’t matter nearly as much as you thought it would.

A year since flying the office nest and I’m now full-time freelance – just like my Grandma’s old cat who was bizarrely called that. To my absorbent child mind, maybe Freelance (and her son Freeway) were the seeds that bloomed into the colourful flowers I now see. And sometimes I wonder whether life isn’t just like a novel; cleverly concealed clues enclosed in my chapters. 

So I’m freelance, not just in job title but in personality too. I’ve forgiven myself mostly for my misgivings, stopped giving such a fuck what people think and started following my happiness. If I’m not as popular today as I was when I was 29 then fuck it, at least I don’t have as many Christmas cards to write and at least I can lavish my love on the long-suffering lot that deserve it the most.  

Hearing from those still on the inside, and not much changes in office life. The bitches are still bitches and the arse-licks are still licking arse. Besides a few pregnancies, it doesn’t sound as though I’ve missed much. And what I’ve gained is so valuable: the resurrection of myself before the rigmarole turned me into a reactionary puppet, torn between the principles of my personality or the pay-packet that would help me progress.

The best part is that now I spend most of my afternoons writing guilt free, without worrying Pawel from IT will grass me up for packing my PC full of fat files bursting with words that I can’t seem to stop myself putting together. I no longer need to get my kicks leaving abusive remarks in white font at the bottom of emails, telling management what I really think of them. Or fraternising with frustrating fraudsters who like to send me riddles, just to feel connected in a deeper way with daily tasks. I don’t have to hate the one I called ‘Getting ahead in advertising’ for being a cunt to women who outrank him in almost every human way. And best of all, I no longer have to suffer the insipid chatter of women who’s only source of confidence is slating everyone else. For this I am constantly and unfalteringly grateful. 

So I high-tailed it out of there, moving literally up and I realised this: 

  • moving sideways can sometimes be more rewarding than moving up
  • wearing smart shoes instead of trainers is a form of torture
  • having a woman boss isn’t always an improvement on a man
  • I’m really not at all good at keeping my mouth shut no matter how much I tell myself that I am

The fickle footholds of the financial ladder flip you back down onto your arse just as quickly as they cured your ailing accounts and before you know it, you’re back to square one. Scary though it is, both the universe and the girl with the universal soul knew kicking me out of Kingmaker House once and for all would finally force me to do the thing I have always wanted to do. Finding a soulmate who favours meaning over money, she shared her certainty in spaces reserved for doubt and sent me a ‘the sky’s the limit’ card that to this day still makes me roar with laughter.

The only things to be missed are the fuck-load of free tea, the brilliance of the bantz back at the beginning, pensions and paid leave, surprising snow days and the few genuine friendships formed through the shared drudgery of working for the man.

Eager to start work each day,  I enjoy the variety that making money remotely offers me. I love that I can work from my very own little office for a company that just wants to make kids and customers happy. I love the contacts that I have made and the lovely people who have enjoyed my writing and helped pay my bills. I love the piles of prose sent for me to whip into something suitably salesy. Essays to be edited. Words in bunches wadding out websites like keys that open a company’s door to the surge of search engine shopping frenzies. All of it, even the really shit stuff, I totally and utterly love it all.  

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t lick da mutt’s nuts

I once had a hand me down t-shirt that had a picture of a British bulldog sitting with his legs apart, showing off a massive pair of bollocks. The slogan read ‘you can’t lick da mutt’s nuts’. At the time, I was pretty convinced it had something to do with being British and being untouchable; an immovable force, someone to be reckoned with. A position of great advantage, like the family pet who can do the one thing his owner can’t; tongue his own testicles.

Thinking back, I’m aware I had a sort of thickness when it came to phrases. A constant source of embarrassment and misunderstanding while I grappled with the language that eventually I grew to love.

  • You can’t have your cake and eat it – A diet mantra for the overweight?
  • Life’s a bitch and then you die – Male dogs are immortal?
  • It’ll cost you an arm and a leg – body parts are legal and acceptable tender in some shops.
  • Beat around the bush – shrubbery designed to conceal parents smacking their children.
  • Cut the mustard – trimming your facial hair (I was raised by Greeks and my English wasn’t so great back then).
  • Wouldn’t be caught dead – A ‘to-do’ list for the afterlife.

I don’t know how it came across, a baby bubble like me, wearing a t-shirt of a union jacked dog. A plump little kebab of a child, unruly hair poking out the sides of my pitta. But I wore it regardless, even though I wasn’t sure what I was telling people. And if truth be told, I’m still not sure what the fuck it means. I can tell you this though: the first answer in a google search, who’s redacted text seems to be answering the question, will actually take you to a website called Instabang which throws live porn videos of ‘horny girls near you’ or even more worryingly ‘naked pics of someone you know’ in your face. Unwanted flick-book images of overly tanned munters eating their own nips dominates my screen, till my frantic clicking of the ‘back’ arrow finally sails me safely to the search listings.

Even without all that pop-up-punani, the listings still don’t give a definitive answer. As a politer way of saying ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’, The Mutt’s Nuts could mean anything from an old printing term describing a full colon followed by a dash introducing a list :-, to a Meccano factory faux pas for the best kind of packaging: The Box Deluxe.

I resolve that I don’t actually need a half-baked bit of cyber cod’s wallop posing as fact to understand the phrase, instead I’ll come up with my own conclusion because today I feel a bit like that cute-stupid little shit who barely knows her arse from her armpit but grins affectionately regardless.

  • Why does a dog lick its own bollocks? Because it can.
  • The truth is like a dog’s bollock: easy to find, if you dare to take a look.
  • You can’t lick the mutt’s nuts – in a hierarchy, the dog’s bollox is top.

Though you may be slightly lower down the pecking order than you’d like, restrained on a too-tight leash, dump and dinner times dictated to you by the arsehole Alpha’s of the group: there are still sweeter things easily and exclusively within your reach, pleasures they will never know unless they are you.

 

 

The first stone

 

“Oh heaven, oh heaven, I wake with good intentions. But the day is always just too long”  Emeli Sande

If it weren’t for the fact that I am guilty of almost everything, I would be the most judgemental person on this earth. In this way I can be thankful (almost) for my mischievous nature. Because it gives, at least, some understanding and acceptance of the misdemeanours of others. If I wasn’t such a bitch, this quality would most likely make me a better friend to have.

And just like the song says, with each new dawn I’m at it again, new fuckeries to add to the long list of charges. There’s no solace in the knowledge that at least my sins are not crimes. No. This noteworthy distinction isn’t enough for me to let myself off the hook, and it isn’t for you either. Because I know I’m not alone in this denigration of self. This perpetual dispute over actions and covert intentions resulting in all manner of conclusions but leading invariably to one thing: guilt. When I really think about it, it’s no wonder I am so afraid of nuns.

A new year carries with it more weight than a new day and as such, we find ourselves seeking ways to clean the slate. Sprucing up the self is always the best place to start. I thought about it for too little time whilst in the bath and resolved that I would seek out this self-assurance that at the time seemed such an attractive quality to me. In the time it took to dry my toes, I had changed my mind. Seeing it as an annoying form of arrogance: too restrictive a territory for this turbulent traveller. And the research that it involves would certainly dilute my well-intentioned enthusiasm before I knew it.

Sniffing around the scene idly, surely there was something important I was getting at. A grotty skirting board somewhere that needed a clean. Self-assuredness is great en’all but when we really want to do something, we’ll always find a justification to make it possible…or else spend our days what-iffing. Bringing us back nicely to guilt and regret: the two most popular postcodes for people to reside.

But all things have their place and guilt surely helps us stick to the right track doesn’t it? Or is guilt a smothering straight jacket supressing the life and lust deep within? Either way, you’ll feel it regardless, even when you try not to. And I really envy those self-serving pieces of shit that don’t feel it at all. The ones who will always do what suits them best. They’ve got the right idea. Because as my new favourite Nan told me, “life is such a quick thing. Before you know it there’s no time left at all.This isn’t a revelation of any sort but coming from the nicest and most elderly person I know, it’s a rightful incitement to a little selfishness now and then.

So we move forward, past the wishes and expectations of others and into a new undiscovered realm. Fresh and untarnished by anyone else’s wants, this place is uniquely ours. We are the only dreamers of this particular dream. And it’s everything it should be and more…the sun stings bright happy eyes, playful blinking, lips lifted flirtatiously like the hems of skirts revealing some leg or gums. Frolic and flounce with all the fucking frivolity of a dance thoroughly needed. Exhaling. Muscles slumped, one on top of the other like a bum sits nicely on the heels of your feet. Looking around, like a baby blinking into existence, you see that you’ve achieved more than just the aesthetics of your dreams: in this place of unabashed insistence you realise that you’ve found yourself.

This is where we experience the flipside of guilt. The un-sulky and much more deeply rooted kind. On the verge of liberation from the combined misfortunes and self-inflicted sadness of the past, we notice a fire-exit like a giant green flashing angel. But we realise that by walking through it, we are condoning and accepting the hideous happenings that we have spent our years hating. Because on the verge of acceptance, comes that one last pang. “If I take this final step now, it means I have gained from the severance and loss of a child. It means I have benefitted from the loss of a soul that deserved his life certainly more than I do”. Or at least that’s my deepest fear. And when you see someone, whose womb has seen both life and death, smiling sincerely from the snag of their stubby toes to the flick of their bottom lip, you have to know it doesn’t come without repeated mental punches to the gut.

So we stay on the precipice, looking through the window at a feast we will never enjoy. Hungry, hurting and self-loathing but not entirely unhappy in our darkest of places. Arms folded smugly across my breasts, hair unmanageably long: I watch from the window as children swarm my street on their way to school. Like happy woollen kebabs, padding around blindly with just their noses poking out. Warm necks to the sky as the first of the year’s snow falls. And I can’t help but be softened like butter slip sliding into the pores of my toast.

Letting yourself off the hook isn’t as easy a thing to do as it sounds. But you must because hating hard on the unprejudiced unpredictable strike of lightening that once struck you and invariably despising the crispiness it has left you with is a rash that will prickle over the whole surface of skin. Slowly driving you insane with its itchy creeping demands. Till you’ve scratched and scratched and there’s nothing left but the dabby stickiness of blood and sinew. Boiled blistering skin, parched thin, scarred and weeping, no longer any use to anyone at all.

And maybe that’s what it means to burn in hell.


The self-indulgent stillbirth.

Discussions reveal that not keeping my story to myself is symptomatic of a sociopath. It transpires that sharing my thoughts and feelings on this matter comes across as ‘a bit too self-indulgent’. And that it was ok in the initial stages of my grief because, like a car-crash, my audience slowed at the scene to get a glimpse of the horror: intrigued. So now, this late on, apparently I’m milking it.

If you don’t want to come across as a sociopath who stands to gain more in the sympathy of others than she has lost in the death of her child, then you shouldn’t really share all your womb-woe’s with such a big and impersonal audience. Or so I am told is the general etiquette of ‘acceptable public grieving’.

And all through myself I want to laugh. Because I thought it was implicit all this time, that what I was trying to achieve was a little bit of clarity in the blur of my own feelings, using the only medium that feels right to express it in. In hindsight I now realise I should have baked a private pie and filled it with all my fears and phobias and feelings and eaten it secretly like a bulimic bug in the basement. ‘I shoulda known!’ I cry sarcastically in my own head for NO ONE TO HEAR BUT ME.

There was me thinking I was being brave and helpful and who knows, even hard-core with the momentous miserablising of my own memoir. Oh dear, what an error, what an oversight on my part. I should have kept it covert like the cunt-clippings and the arse-crack grease that everyone is guilty of cutting and smearing behind their own closed doors. God forgive that anyone should share the bizarre initiations of our insecurities in a bid to batter them into bearable submission.

After a little time has elapsed and I have filtered feelings from fury on the subject, I realise that these sensible stiff-upper-lipped snatch-saviours are just misplacing their guilt over something they have that you don’t. The same as the bulbous-bellied net-mums who cross the road to avoid you when your baggy bump sags down redundant like an old fleshy apron. They don’t know how to hear what you have to say…and who can blame them.

And I know that everyone has suffered and I know that everyone has their hurt. And I am just as bad as the next person when it comes to dealing with other people’s misery. I can forgive them for feeling frustrated and wishing I’d shut the fuck up about my failed-nearly-one-shot at being a mum. I can understand, I really can. But I won’t shut up, not now and not ever. Not because I’m ‘self-indulgent’. Not because I collect sympathy like old shavings in the hope that one day I can fashion a new foetus with it, no. But because I love to write, I love to express and yes I sometimes like to pick the scab: sometimes the sadness and the stories and the saying it over and over, are all I have left of the little soul I wanted so very much to keep.

 

Is your father daft?

Being at Uni felt like a whole world away. A time when I boldly went where no Greek had gone before me: outside of palmers green. Way way beyond the north circ. To a land where there was no Yashir Halim, no deli’s whatsoever in fact. No streetlamps, no 24 hour shops, no nothing. ‘Cept the odd fish and chip shop and a pub.

Rolling hills as far as the eye could see. God’s country.

Fuck knows how I ended up there: with my poor attendance and my 2 lonely a-levels. But I did and at times it felt serendipitous, like all meaningful things.

So the people talked funny around me, stoned I smiled and smiled. So pleased with myself that I was finally there. Calculating my time like orange segments, divided between the places and people that made my heart feel alive. And yeah for a time, he was one of them, that hippy fish can’t be arsed man with the turtle green eyes. And I tried not think of my mum, back home crying over the baked beans and freaking out that she didn’t have a touch tone phone. She had my dad, and I had my freedom and that was all that mattered in the world to me.

Aside from the obvious differences in vowel pronunciation, the language was bejewelled with new and exciting treasures. Phrases and words assigned new meaning and a new context, intonations sweeping high up into the sky and I couldn’t fucking wait to rush back to London and share all I’d learnt. ‘Is ya father daft’, ‘it’s as near as damn it’ and despite how it may sound, ‘are we havin out for us tea’ doesn’t mean ‘are we going out for dinner’, it meant ‘make me some dinner bitch, I’m starving’, or there abouts.

Travelling between South and North England relentlessly on the Dad-express, we learnt every service station between here and there. We talked and my dad measured the road in spliff-miles. On average 8 between here and there. And I tried not to get stoned from the fumes but failed because the draft from the windows reeked havoc with my dads neck.

It was a time of freedom. Both geographical and emotional. Something about there being so much sky to see that’s restful. Something about the stretch of the green hills dominating the view that heals. It’s fair to say that I was an entirely different person then. I was afraid and death plagued me sure, but it was more a premonition of who I was going to be and not the actuality. Did I dream myself up and then become, or did I dream of the woman I knew I would be? It’s hard to say. All I know is the anticipation was far better than the actuality. When I think back, I love the girl I was. Deceitful and duplicitous and daft.

But now not-far-from-forty and how do I like the new view from the mountain? It feels less safe than when I was lower down that’s for sure, less certain. Being both wary of the bottom and the top is a really strange headspace to be in. Perhaps in the panning out of our existence we become invariably less distinct, less definite? Does the sea fear it’s own depth? And the sky it’s height?  Will I ever get used to how big my hair gets in the humidity? Will I ever be able to handle these curls?

Was my father daft as well?

On Being Too Greek

lamb

To simultaneously think too much and too little of yourself. Perhaps. even, to be proud that you’re a fuck up. In some strange way.

If it’s true to say I never much liked the Greeks it’s most likely because I don’t much like myself. I try to pretend I’m nothing like them. As a baby bubble all those years ago, I wished I could be any other race but Greek. And the it’s really upsetting to think I have acquired a racism from people who’s opinions I don’t value: people who bullied me for being Greek. Those nasty little shits that pelted me with berries, trying to get me in the tit. The same little shits that cornered me one day on the stairs ‘what sort of wog are you anyway?’ they asked, the answer to which I had no clue. The very same abortion survivors who lovingly asked an English little boy, Jamie, to step aside so he wouldn’t get hurt while they took aim at me again.

It’s not only the reason I don’t like the Greeks, but most likely the reason I don’t like anyone: myself included some days.

windex

If you met me, you might think, she doesn’t seem so Greek. And it’s true, I’m no Androulla Papadopoulos, I definitely know people much Greeker in looks and temperament than me. But it’s something inherent within me none the less. Sneaking around somewhere in my innards, popping olives and lemony salads. And yes I do believe it’s in your blood. It doesn’t mean that my front garden has to look like the Parthenon or that I have to bank with the Cyprus Popular Bank or risk being exiled from ‘the village’ or wherever the fuck it is I hail from.

No. But I am the best and worst of both worlds when it comes to being Greek and Cypriot. I can cook up a storm and I will over feed you if you visit my house, I will always bring you something when I visit your house (couldn’t bare the shame on my name of turning up empty handed). But I will also start planning a funeral if someone even has the slightest cold, I do have an unhealthy constant pre-occupation with death and I do have an intrinsic Zorba The Greek yearning to fuck everything off, eat a shitload of food and dance till my fat arse hits the ground with a thud.

It’s beautiful and loathsome all at once to feel relentlessly Greek Cypriot. And all those years ago when I watched The Weeping Meadow and took the piss, I now realise I am that guy who staggers forlorn through the sheets screaming for Eleni and the deep terrifying dread…all the live long day….the dread.

Do I need to quit and embrace my inner Brit? Which compared to most Greeks, I’m actually very good at outwardly doing. Or do I just go with it, keep staying awake at night stressing over everything that exists between heaven and earth. Feeding everyone that comes near me, loving the fleas that spring from their knees wildly into the air, smelling the sky with my bold Greek nose, truly madly Greekly happy to be alive. Do I just accept that I’ll have a beard and hoofs by the time I’m 60? That my voice will go raspy and my eyes will be glorious cola bottles imbedded in their baggy turtle sockets. I’ll laugh like the strum of a Bouzouki, toss my head back like the jump-flick of heals and I’ll have been a character, with plenty of stories to tell. Whatever transcends as the strongest of my essential flavours, there’ll have some family left to mourn the loss and revel in the deep loving amusement that was me.

greek

This universe is mine (and the many faces of tao).

biocentrism

In my desire to eliminate death and bring my little ghost boy a little closer, I stumble upon a question: Is the web possible without the spider? Of course I can’t answer this but the answer that wants to come is ‘no’. I stop in my tracks and a rush of debate floods my mind; ‘you’re an egomaniac’ ‘you’re only seeing from the spider’s perspective’ ‘this wont bring down the metaphorical Berlin wall between your world and your babies’ ‘forget that shit and make a decision about what you want to do for a living’.

But how can I drop this subject? Aren’t mothers always trying to find ways to bring their babies back home? I’m no different because I won’t accept death is an answer for the missing. If time and space are the software that allows me to keep everything organised in my head/universe then can’t I bend them? Rearrange them to suit? I need the baby file in ‘the life’  folder and not in ‘the death’ one. If I’m the ruler of my web, detecting vibrations along my threads that help to keep me fed, then surely I can spideee sense my way through this puzzle and action-hero my baby safe from the burning building fade of memory.

Communication coming to me from my grandmother after her death make me want to believe that important news travels instantaneously. And not unlike the real life news, it can sometimes be just the made up rambling bollox of your brain. But when it’s not, when the news coming from another world relates entirely to a specific situation, turns out to be true or spares us from suffering a hideous misfortune: it almost concludes that there is more in the fabric of the world than just the stitches we know make it us. An infinite ‘more’ that we will never be able to fathom. And what megabrain was it that said ‘the only thing we perceive are our perceptions’?

If time doesn’t exist independently of the life that notices it, then I can surely hang on to the threads of time, govern them, refuse to allow their affect on anything in my universe? And if I could know everything would I come to the realisation that just because I could it doesn’t mean that I should? I wonder also whether I conclusively own or govern all I see if, it wouldn’t exist without me, or whether another weather controls it’s seasons on my behalf. My questions are ubiquitous like grass.

So I’m deciding, as you can tell, to probably buy into this view. This biocentric way of thinking about things. Because it feels like it destroys the bits of death that frighten me and it feels like Dylan is somewhere rather than nowhere. Although I try to deny a flipside, there still is one. It’s obvious to the reader and it saddens me to consider. But if this is really my universe and my perception of it orchestrates the blooms and fades, then why did I choose the reality box where my child is dead and not the one where my child is alive?