Sunday, November 19, 2006

Washing up - short story

We have a rota in our house, it sits on the fridge door, held in place by multicoloured alphabet magnets. Dad had it laminated, he says it will make it last longer. How long does it have to last though? The thought of living by a rota until I leave home is pretty miserable. I have the job of washing up on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays: my little brother Ned only has to do 3 days on account of his age and dad wanting to limit the crockery bill.

We never used to have a rota, we never used to have to wash up. We used to come home from school, throw our bags in the corner of the kitchen by the dog’s basket and sit at the table telling mum about our day at school. Always our tales would be accompanied by banana milkshake and homemade flapjack. Mostly mum would sit with us drinking a mug of coffee, but even if she was busy in the kitchen she would still listen to us. We knew she was because we could see her shoulders shaking, trying not to laugh as we told her about various pranks at school. Dad, on the other hand did not hear us. He’d listen, or at least pretend to as we leapt on him as he came though the door. But somehow his pile of unopened post always seemed more interesting. Sometimes we’d test him and make up pretend stories to see if he heard, mostly he didn’t. We stopped testing him, it seemed pointless, we had mum.

But one day everything changed. Mum died. As sudden as that. She’d driven us to school in the morning. I’d forgotten my gym kit and shouted at mum because she hadn’t put it ready in my bag for me. I feel bad about our last conversation. I had been in double maths when I was caled out by the school secretary, apparently the headmistress wanted to see me. I knew it wasn’t because I’d forgotten my gym kit. I knew something was wrong, the fact that the normally fierce secretary was smiling kindly, with red rimmed eyes was a huge give away. By the time we reached the door of the office I had imagined all kinds of things. Mum and Dad were getting divorced, our dog had been run over, Nan was dead. Somehow it never crossed my mind that something had happened to mum. It had been a car accident. When I reached the office dad was sat there, I now know what deathly pale looks like. “It was quick” was all I heard him say.

We existed over the next couple of weeks, did little more than that. It was as if time stood still for us. The three of us, Dad, Ned and I all reacted differently. Dad became super efficient, organising the funeral, the flowers, the caterers, everything. Sometimes as I watched him I wondered if maybe he hadn’t ever loved mum at all, perhaps he was glad she was dead. They had shouted at each other a lot over the past year. Mum always seemed angry that he came home late from the office. Dad always seemed angry that she was angry and didn’t appreciate him. Always the same. But then I’d come downstairs after my bath to say goodnight and find them curled up on the sofa together.

Ned didn’t say much to anyone, he wouldn’t talk to me, he wouldn’t talk to dad. But I used to hear him talking to his toy dinosaurs, telling them how much he missed mum. It took time, but slowly he began to talk about her. It has been nearly 2 years now and we talk about mum all the time, imagining her reactions to things we do. We still have homemade flapjack, I make it every Sunday.

Losing mum changed me a lot, I grew up really quickly. For a time I was angry that she had left me, left us. You see I needed her, I still do. I get angry less now, but I do wish I had my friends carefree lives. They spend their time fighting with their little brothers, not making sure they brush their teeth and remember their gym kit. I forget occasionally, but Ned doesn’t shout at me, he remembers that day. I have less friends now, lots didn’t know what to say to me, so they said nothing. I miss them too.

Soon after the funeral, Ned and I were sent back to school. Well meaning adults, dad included decided it would be for the best. “Children need routine” I heard them say. “No” I wanted to cry, “Children need their mum”.

Everything changed for us. Dad now works from home. We turned the garage into an office so he is never late home. If it’s after 6pm and he’s lost track of time all we have to do is knock on the door. It’s been strange getting to know dad. Of course we knew him before, but it was always mum we went to if we needed something. Dad’s great, he’s actually pretty funny when he forgets about work. I make Ned and my milkshake now, but dad does the cooking. We eat spaghetti bolognaise a lot, it’s the only recipe dad’s really mastered, aside from salad. Actually we are eating a lot of salads at the moment, dad said he was letting himself go and looking like an old man. But I think the real reason is a woman called Sally. We met her last weekend, she came with us to the summer fayre.

Awaiting the locusts

It is no longer enough to go to work ready to minister to patients needs, brow mopping and whatever other stereotypes the media would have us do. No, work has now seemingly taken on an added dimension if the last two weeks are anything to go by.

As if one flood wasn’t enough we had a carbon copy flood a week later. Interspersed by a few power failures. Resulting in the temporary installation of a generator. What is it coming to? Not enough electricity, too much water.

So as the weekend draws to a close I have the beginnings of that Monday morning feeling, but to the power of 10. The bets are on as to whether it will be swarms of locusts, hurricanes or snow storms that hit us this week.

Siege mentality is wearing thin, replaced instead by weary resignation. Still I am going prepared, with an extra pair of socks and a torch.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Singing is banned!

I was sat at work today when someone dropped into the conversation that our employers have banned singing! Yes, you heard me right…. Banned singing? What is that all about?

Now to me it sounds farcical, in fact I did laugh when I was told. A tinkling laugh that I hope sounds like singing to their oh so sensitive ears.

First let me explain. It is not as if we break into falsetto voices at every given opportunity, communicating only by song. We talk, we communicate, we work damn hard. Yes, we do sing and yes I have to admit at times it can be fairly rousing. (particularly when we launch into a Carpenters medley). But, I’d like to think that we are intelligent enough to judge the situation and act accordingly. For example, it is not as if we are stood serenading poorly patients as they manically gesture for a vomit bowl. It is simply a harmless case of “whistle while you work”. Apparently good enough for the seven dwarfs, but not us.

So, it would seem that our esteemed employers deem us to lack the necessary intellectual capacity to exercise our judgment. Individuality it would appear is frowned upon.

…..As if this wasn’t bad enough (and I haven’t even got onto the rules about physical contact) it would seem that such banality also exists outside the workplace. Tonight, four of us went out for a pizza. Fairly straightforward you’d imagine. It was, until a fifth person joined us and asked for a drink. Apparently that is against the rules. No food, no drink. OK, perhaps I can understand this rule if it was a table of people just ordering drinks, but one out of five, give me a break. Well, yes, infact they eventually did and used their discretion. But the fact is they had to raise it as an issue in the first place and made us feel such a request was unreasonable.

The question seems to be at what level are these non sensical rules created? At the coalface or by some mystical manager? Are employees so intimidated that they daren’t deviated from the rehearsed dialogue drummed into them in training sessions. Do they swap their initiative for a shiny name badge? If they fail to ask us if we would like help packing our carton of milk and 2 cans of baked beans will they spontaneously combust, I very much doubt it.

All I ask for is the simple acknowledgement that we are individuals and act accordingly. Do not just get the rulebook out and recite it word for word.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Flood alert!

I occasionally rant about my job, there are moments I love it and moments I am truly exasperated by it. Spurred on by the writing of Stephen King, who says write about your job I have come to the realisation that some of these tales are actually quite amusing.... and in some cases so farcical you just couldn't make them up.

I do sometimes wish I worked in an office,this morning was a prime example. Walking through the front door into the clinic at 6:45am to be met by 3 inches of water lapping at my feet I felt very passionately that my destiny was to work in an office.

I can pretty much guarantee that you do not splash as you walk into the office. If you're wondering, I work as a nurse and 3 inches of water is not the norm!!

At 8:45am I stood and surveyed the distaster zone. An amusing mix of clinical efficiency and aesthetic chaos. The floor a mosaic of squashed cardboard boxes and nigh on 100 blankets. Incidently, water sodden blankets weigh a lot, as my aching back will testify.

Nursing is a funny thing, by lunchtime my back had progressed to screaming, my trousers were rolled up to my knees and my feet squelched with every step. I had additionally taken on an alluring musty smell that would stay with me for the rest of the day.

Of course if I had an office job I would undoubtably not have to endure this bizarre multi tasking that comes with every shift, regardless of h20 intervention, but nursing is like that. It drains you to your very marrow, but at the same time is curiously addictive.

Incidently the source of the flood remains a mystery.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A short story

Remember me? It’s a silly question I know, after all I see you every day.

It’s funny how you can spend so much time with someone and yet worry they have forgotten the essence of who you are. Are you remembering me when I see you hour upon hour, lying there statue like, your eyes staring blankly ahead into a void of darkness? I like to think in these moments you are trying to reach out to me, responding to my presence. I long to hear your laugh. It’s still there in my mind, but I am so scared one day it won’t be there for me. Memories are precious, they are all I have.

You’ve changed of course, it’s inevitable. You’re a lot quieter now. Of course I know the truth, they tell me often enough. Apparently it’s how it’s meant to feel. To be expected they say. I think these words are meant to be a balm for the soul.

I haven’t changed. I am still me. I still have all those annoying little habits that you patiently endured out of love. Now I am aware of them, these annoying habits have become my link to you. Can you hear me sniffing? I’ve lost my handkerchief, again.

I remember that day everything changed and you left me. I expect you remember it too. The driver wasn’t really to blame, I know they said in the inquest he was going too fast, possibly he was. I’ve talked to him you know, he’s a nice man who misses his wife as I miss you. He says he didn’t see the dog until the last moment and swerved from its path instinctively. Sadly it was our path he swerved into.

Who knows the hand fate deals? I tried to come back to you. I fought so hard, but they wouldn’t let me. I was with you through all your stay in hospital, I was there waiting for you when they discharged you. Remember how you noticed the kettle seemed warm, that was me. I am with you always, maybe not in body, but the most precious part of me, my love and essence will remain by your side always. Apparently it was just my time.

Update on chaos

My blog seems to be a chaotic melting pot of ideas at the moment. Though of course wholly refective of my life. I am as we speak mixing up beauty treatments, whilst simultaneously writing witty memoirs of the road trip so that I can post them some time soon. Not satisfied with the number of semi completed pieces of work I thought I would add another element into the equation.....a short story. Admittedly very short, but the key thing is it's completed. (unlike the road trip blogs and the updates on the beauty treatments!).