Posted by: tabliope | December 4, 2015

Live

Yesterday when the late afternoon becomes the early evening I drew the curtains and sat in my beautiful sitting room and flicked through Facebook. Our house is on a relatively busy road and i’ve got used to zoning the traffic noises out but then there was a different noise: it was a like a short crump and then a longer, drawn-out shake. It’s a lorry with a loose load I told myself. But I knew it wasn’t. It was a motorbike and a car. Outside two men directed traffic around the smaller side streets while young army cadets started to make sense of the scene. I gave someone a coat – he was trembling but he wouldn’t come into the house with me. I saw the bike in pieces against a wall and the look of despair on my neighbour’s face. 

Later I’m in the supermarket; people are buying wine and mince pies, stocking up on chocolates and tins of biscuits, just in case. Jona Lewie is playing Stop the Cavalry and once again, like every year, I remind myself that it’s not BA Robertson. I tell Mr T that it’s the first time this year that I’ve heard this and so Christmas has started. Most people I know hate the song or, at best, have no view. I like it although it makes me sad. I thought about the person with the motorbike and how one moment he had been on his way home, or off to meet friends, had just finished work or maybe about to start a shift of work. Did he have a partner, children, what about his family? One minute people are getting ready for Christmas and then it’s over.

Live your life now.

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Posted by: tabliope | January 6, 2015

I forgot to mention the most exciting thing that happened in October; we sold our house. If you want to revise what stress is then try completing on a property on the 23rd December when you’re managing emptying the house remotely because you’ve promised to do things for your family. Anyway, my experience would suggest that the easiest way to sell your house is to remove yourself from the equation and trust in the experts.

We’re now house-hunting and I can tell you based on my extensive experience (viewed 8 houses) that most sellers have no idea what buyers are looking for. And what’s fascinating and important to you isn’t the same for others. Mr T is a good and patient man but even he has a limit for being told about exactly how the home-made shed was put together. Plus I don’t care that you sanded the kitchen doors five times using the correct grades of sandpaper each time. Doing a mime of sanding the doors doesn’t make me want to buy your house either. And the reason your wife stayed in the hall while you demonstrated this is because she’s had it up to here too. I bet that every single time you go through that door you say five times and then stroke the door.

Three of the houses we’ve viewed had no books that I could see which I found slightly odd. None of the bedside, none in the sitting room, no cookery books piled in the kitchen. One of my friends suggested that they’d tidied them away or that they had kindles. If I tidied all my books away that are on bookshelves (which surely is tidying away?) then I’d need to have an underground bunker. And kindles are fine they’re not but surely you would keep some well-loved books? Our books are part of our furniture and although I’ll admit to putting some of the better titles in our sitting room (or reception room as estate agents would insist on calling it) I don’t hide any away.

And breakfast rooms would appear to be a thing now. Three of the houses had breakfast rooms and I’m unsure what would happen if we tried to eat a meal other than breakfast in there. Would the residents’ association send the neighbourhood watch co-ordinator round to admonish us?  (2 of the breakfast rooms were merely aspirational breakfast rooms consisting of tables at the end of the kitchen but one of them had a genuine, real-life breakfast room). Anyway, must go now because it’s almost time for the laundry room to turn into the kitchen and I need to get the blogging room back to being a dining room.

Posted by: tabliope | January 5, 2015

Look! A bandwagon! I’m on it.

I saw two blogs come back to life and thought, I could do that. Obviously not the one where Ms Mac promises to take a picture every day for a year, I’m not that mad, but I can do gentle easing. I can tell you what I did in 2014 and then probably disappear again for 8 months, but, in the parlance of the youth, whatevs.

What I did in 2014 by Tabliope aged, a lot.

January.

I didn’t have to get on a plane after my Christmas holiday which was great although I did have to sit through rain and floods which was less great. I bought a bike and started cycling but because of said floods, a lot of the gentler routes weren’t available. I updated my CV and started visiting employment agencies. I got a My Waitrose card and got my free newspaper and sat in a lovely coffee shop in town pondering the visits to employment agencies. I also joined the library and joined an embroidery class.

February.

It rained. I sat in the coffee shop and pondered the employment agencies and the children staffing them. Anyone who told me that all my voluntary work and varied experiences would really help me find an interesting job got pretty short shrift.

March.

I went to Devon where it didn’t rain and walked up hills. I sent a friend in Greece a postcard from Golden Cap telling her that I was in England in March wearing a t-shirt. She received this postcard in December. Clearly the Greek postal service is as reliable as it ever was. Of course, now that we have an all-singing, all-dancing privatised effort of a postal service in the UK, it could just as easily have sat in the pocket of a disgruntled British postman for 9 months. Anyone who told me that all my voluntary work and varied experiences would help in my search for an interesting job received an icy glare

April

Apart from visiting the employment agencies to remind them how fabulous I was, I probably spent the rest of the month playing candy crush. I did drink coffee as well so I didn’t waste my time. Anyone who told me that all my voluntary work and varied experiences would help in my search for an interesting job got told to fuck off.

May

I can’t remember if it was in May that I read Goldfinch; I enjoyed it and it helped take my mind off the employment agencies. People stopped telling me that all my varied experiences and voluntary work would help in my search for an interesting job. Apart from one person, who I’m told will probably recover in time. I visited Northumberland and it became my new favourite place.

June

A 12-year-old staffing the reception of an employment agency raised her eyebrows at me and told me we’ve already told you that we’ll be in touch if there’s anything. I reflected on how useful it was that there are laws prohibiting me carrying a small loaded gun in my handbag. Instead I took a mature position and sat on a park bench and cried.

July

I got a job. It would seem that all those years of volunteering and my varied skills were extremely useful in helping me to find a job, which I’m pretty sure is what I’ve been telling people for years.  I bought some grown-up clothes.

August

Went to work. Got Paid.

September

Went to work. Also visited St David’s in Wales. We had perfect weather and saw seals. We walked a huge section of the coastline and I felt really pleased with myself.

October

Went to work. Joined a writing course and met some lovely talented people.

November

Went to work. Continued meeting with people from writing course.

December

Went to work. Met a lot of teachers and pupils from various private schools who confirmed every prejudice I hold about money and privilege.

Posted by: tabliope | September 5, 2014

Not a day goes by in my new job that I don’t think: made for blogging. But then the common sense fairy touches my shoulder and I step away from the keyboard. This is anonymous enough I think. Recently I had to speak to someone who had been disappointed by a communication from me. I tried to assuage his disappointment with further communications but he went for a prolonged sulk. Finally he had to leave the sulky room and telephone me and during the conversation we had to talk about money. I gave him some figures and explained that £460 was what he was starting with and if he wanted some other things including he would have a further £150 to pay, making £610 in total.

No, it’s £510 he tells me.

£610 I confirm (frantically checking that I have added correctly)

My dear girl he continued, I think you’ll find that it’s £510. His sneer was audible down the phone line. I imagined him sitting in his velour armchair with the antimacassar placed exactly central on the chair back. He might possibly be wearing a grey cardigan.

Somehow I managed not to call him my dear man or even fuckwit and I gave him a relatively gentle lesson in maths. 

After the call was finished my colleague said I was rather hoping you’d tell him to get stuffed but I suppose it’s not the done thing. My colleague is not meant to think things like that, far less articulate them.

Posted by: tabliope | August 9, 2014

views from my bike

Into my heart an air that kills

from yon far country blows:

What are those blue-remembered hills,

what spires, what farms are those?

This is the land of lost content

I see it shining plain

the happy highways where I went 

and cannot come again.

It was when I was in primary school that I learnt this poem; until this morning I had forgotten that I knew it and that rhythm that makes it easy for children to learn in the first place tum-te-tummed through my head as I cycled in the countryside with a view of Houseman’s blue-remembered hills. The combination of mist, cloud and sun gave a lavender haze to the hills over towards Bridgnorth and Wenlock Edge. The moment I saw them the poem flashed into my mind and the beat seemed to match the turn of the wheels as I cycled towards the next village.

During the summer I’ve been cycling with a group one evening each week. It’s a good group; someone leads a ride each week and there’s always someone at the back to do the ‘sweeping-up’ of the slower riders. I’m swept up each week and I feel secure knowing that there’s someone behind me. Usually it’s Peter and Gary and I hear their conversation which seems to consist of place names and road numbers and then they’re silent for a little while before one of them predicts the next lane we’ll turn into. Then they settle back into the pattern of place names and road numbers for a few moments. They’re good friends; it shows in their silences and the way in which they take turns to speak.

I like cycling in this group because I learn the roads and the lanes, I find out the places where I can cycle later when I’m on my own. Despite enjoying being in the group I don’t really want to talk while I’m cycling but I enjoy hearing the conversations around me. I hold my place at the back but from time to time different people slow down their pace and ride along next to me for a short way. I point out the chestnuts showing their spiky pom-poms early this year.

This morning I was tired and thought that I’d only cycle to the first village and then turn around for coffee and the paper but by then I’d found my legs so I aimed for the next village and by then I might as well do the whole of my favourite circuit.

I never regret going for a bike ride.

Posted by: tabliope | August 4, 2014

mysterious or baffling

Today was my first day in my new job. An actual job that pays money nonetheless. I never really thought that it was going to take eleven years for me to be able to say that and, in the last couple of months, I wondered if I would ever be able to say it. Coming out of a career break in one’s late middle age, with an assortment of skills that are interesting but don’t tick the boxes of our corporate world has been interesting and depressing. Mostly depressing, if I’m honest.
Now I’m holding myself back from running around the agencies whose staff shrugged their shoulders whilst holding themselves back from rolling their eyes at someone who had the temerity to appear in person. Didn’t everyone know that ‘it’s all email these days’. Im holding myself back from running in and shouting, ‘I got a job and it’s a good job so stuff that in your email box.’
If you’d told me eleven years ago where I would end up working I would have smiled politely. It would appear that God moves in mysterious ways, although I think that my religious friends may be thinking that even by God’s standards this is mysterious indeed.
The only downside to my new job is that it is so blogworthy but I can’t.

Posted by: tabliope | June 13, 2014

An example of possibly needing to get out more

One of the wonderful things about being back in the UK is that I can understand most of what’s going on around me. To clarify, I understand the words that are being used around me and I’m not constantly referring to the list of vocabulary in my handbag or the instant translator on my phone. The downside is that although I understand the words I spend a good part of the day  perhaps a couple of minutes a day wondering what’s happening to the English language. Yes, I know about evolution of language but if you hang on while I pull my crinoline out from the wheel of my penny-farthing then I’ll give you Brand Ambassador. This surely shouldn’t exist outside of a marketing meeting, should it?

The context for this is that there is a shop in town looking for a Brand Ambassador. On questioning it would seem that they are looking for someone to serve customers in the shop.

Posted by: tabliope | June 12, 2014

The homecoming

What’s it like now you’re back?, people ask me. I bet everything’s changed they tell me. I do my best to come up with something that might have changed, some incisive comment on British society that will dazzle the questioners. But all seems to be the same albeit everyone’s using a mobile phone to do things. It’s the text society with no one seeming to want to talk.

If I wanted to attempt to bore my questioner to death then I could tell them that the thing that’s really changed is ME. But they don’t want to hear about me, they want my views on my new town and what it’s like. Once they’ve established that Greece isn’t that hot in February they’ve moved on. 

I’d forgotten the beauty of an English spring and the ease into summer. This year I managed to experience three springs by spending time in Devon early in the year, then being here on the edge of Wales and finally going north to Northumberland. I have traded pomegranates for primroses and orange blossom for primroses; it’s not a bad exchange although if i’m honest the one thing I do miss from Athens is the orange blossom. I managed to find a fancy shop that sells scented candles that don’t smell like toilet cleaner and bought one that smells of orange blossom. I also managed to ponce it up in the shop and say that I was buying it because I missed the smell of the orange blossom. There’s a shop that I can never go back into without the staff pointing and laughing. 

One of the things that I’d never really noticed before leaving the UK was how bad we can be at introducing ourselves. I’ve gone to a few events where there has been a group of people and I’ve marched in and announced myself: Hi I’m Tabliope. And then there’s the look of ‘oh good God, who does she think she is.’  I’ve broken that rule of only finding out peoples’ names by osmosis; if you hang around the group long enough then names will be released gradually. And on the subject of names, I’ve found that people can be strangely reluctant to give their surname (this could just be me and it may be related to buying scented candles). A few times I’ve found myself speaking to someone about insurance/phones/electricity or any of the things that make up the mundane parts of life and when I ask for a name I get, ‘it’s Jane’ and I ask ‘Jane who?’ and they tell me that it’s ‘just Jane’. No, it’s not just Jane not unless you’re in a witness protection programme and it’s imperative that you don’t reveal who you are. And if you are in a witness protection programme then it’s not a very good one because the first thing they should do is change your name.

It is mostly very good to be here.

Posted by: tabliope | November 29, 2013

I’m leaving here in a few hours and tonight we went downtown for drinks and a farewell-to-Athens dinner. This was after my farewell-to-friends coffee meet this morning and after our farewell-to-colleagues souvlaki night last night. Right now I’m stuffed full of food and my blood alcohol measurements aren’t at healthy levels.

The things that will stick with me are the following: (it’s a list – I like lists)

*It’s only when you’re leaving that people tell you how much they like you and how much they’ll miss you. Remember you’re liked, even loved, and that person who never really says much to you will really miss you when you go. Maybe we should be more open and say how much we like each other regardless of how uncool that would make us.

Actually, there is no list. Everything that is of any importance is written above and you may take from it what you wish.

I left England eleven years ago and tomorrow I go to the airport for what may be the hardest move yet; going home. Although it’s home, it’s a home of memory and of the rosy-tinted glasses and maybe it will be the biggest disappointment. Let’s hope not.

IMG_0259

 

 

Posted by: tabliope | November 25, 2013

Cooee Karma – I’m over here!

It’s almost exactly four years since I sat watching the dawn break in Germany while waiting for house to be packed for the move to Greece. Very surprisingly the German packers were hopeless and the move was so stressful made even more so when I discovered that not only were they hopeless packers but they were also thieves . Not only did they steal stuff of great sentimental value they also bundled 20 laundered and ironed shirts into a box because they’d run out of hanging space. Mr T and I were greatly vexed by this because ironing isn’t something that either of us have put on our top ten list of things we love to do. Sometimes I think I hate them more for that.

This is my fourth international move and I am so on the ball you wouldn’t believe it. The coordinator for the move arrived this morning and told me that I’d pretty much done her job for her. She’s pretty on the ball too so I’m far less worried about this move than any of the others. Plus there’s nothing left to pinch because they either got it last time or the expat vulture community here have had it. 

Once people know you’re leaving they start to circle, gently to begin with, they seem almost friendly in their approach. A couple of gentle leading questions about where you might be moving to and what it’s like and before you know it they’ve calculated a list of possessions that they know you’ll have to sell. And they know you have to get rid of them so it’s not a case of advertising it for sale, getting no takers and thinking that you’ll just wait a couple of months and try again. It’s more a case of advertise it once, get no takers and then advertise it again and again and again while reducing the price each time. Your potential buyers are sitting there playing chicken with each round of adverts wondering who’s going to jump in there. Or there was the really crafty one who just got in there at the beginning and staked her claim. She sent me an email after the first round of adverts telling me she couldn’t afford what I was asking for an item of furniture but if I didn’t sell it she would offer me half the requested price. Little Miss Grabby was a shrewd operator and it paid off because she got a beautiful item of furniture for next to nothing. But what else could I do? Set fire to it? However she did write me a very gracious thank you note telling me that I should know that it had gone to a good home, to people who needed it and Karma would repay me. I basked in the knowledge that Karma was sitting in the corner smiling benevolently upon me.

Then I advertised my fridge for sale and no one wanted it at the price I asked for. No surprise there. I stuck it up again at half the price and Little Miss Grabby sent me an email to say that if I didn’t manage to sell it at that price would I just give it to her. For nothing. By this time Karma was standing outside my house chanting ‘LOSER’.

I am going to drink a lot of coffee today.

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