Sunday, 1 April 2012

Prosaic thoughts interspersed with Lucy

Must get through these emails. Doing so will make me feel more in control of life, aware of my actions, able to prioritise the important tasks according to time urgency and overall importance. It seems a little bit like procrastinating sometimes but there’s some thing satisfying about responding, filing away, flagging and deleting: efficient, officious inbox reduction exercises. I will appear competent and caring.

Lucy Bowen is dead.

The cat is chasing her tail. She looks like a complete nutter. How they brighten up my life these little creatures, with their puzzled faces and their wide eyes, and their total dependence on you. With their mini personalities and their simple pleasedness. I adore them.

Lucy Bowen is dead.

Why does that bloke in the office talk to people like that? He is a bundle of mocking laughter, aggressive criticism, macho lack of self-awareness. He writes emails that read like a stream of consciousness of a computer salesman throwback from Thatcher’s Eighties. He tries to make me laugh along with him at the inconceivable stupidity of everyone who worked here up til now. I want to punch him in the face.

Lucy Bowen is dead.

Somebody has driven into the back of my car and written it off. The guy said straight away it was his fault, and you could see from one look at my vehicle that it was – the boot was all caved in and wouldn’t shut. Anyway he went into the back of me so it’s always going to be his fault. His insurance are giving me the value of my old car but if I get a new one now I don’t want an older one, so I’m going to be out of pocket even though it wasn’t my fault. I think I may have a bit of whiplash but I don’t believe in a claim-blame culture so I’m not going to try and screw him or anything. It’s just really inconvenient because I’m always so busy. I have to give the courtesy car back on Wednesday.

Lucy Bowen is dead.

I went on a date with a bloke who told me “I fancy you but I don’t think we’ve got any chemistry”. He was right. I always thought they were the same thing but they’re not – there are plenty of people I’ve had amazing chemistry with, but never fancied them (which can get you into trouble if they’re a bloke). It made me realise that when you’re looking for a partner, you need three things – chemistry, attraction and timing (CAT!). How the hell do you find this?!

Lucy Bowen is dead.

I can’t stand food pansies – people who throw stuff out after it’s been out of the fridge for a couple of hours, or stick rigidly and naively to use-by dates. Somehow they’re removed from nature, they have a warped view of it. 

Lucy Bowen is dead.

Someone at work sent me some social media guidelines. One of them made me feel sad about the world: “Chat with 3 people you already know. This will help you maintain relationships and keep you top of mind.” I said @davidblowers thanks for the mention! #thisisallbullshit. I thought it was quite witty. I get Facebook for photos and people far away; I get blogs (obv), but Twitter is too self-absorbed and covered in irritating little symbols that look like maths equations. Not pretty.

Lucy Bowen is dead.

I went on Facebook, as I thought of my friend Lucy Bowen, who I went on my gap year with in Jordan in 1999. I knew she was very ill with lung cancer. We had been in touch again before Christmas when I found this out via Facebook. We’d both written each other long letters updating the other on what had happened in our lives since we’d last been in touch ten years ago. How our paths had differed so much, but because we both remembered what pivotal characters we were for each other when we were 18, in a very foreign country, and desperately homesick. I was shy and I had a fringe. Lucy was unbelievably cool and fabulous, confident, glossy-haired, full of herself and adored universally. I grew from being intimidated by this person with whom I didn’t deserve to be friends, from being a retiring shadow trying to get to grips with doing everything with this out-of-my-league surfer chick who wore Tevas, to being her partner in crime, and me being hers. I saw her flaws and fears and vulnerabilities played out in the stark, carpetless bedroom we shared.

We smoked shisha together on our balcony and watched the sprawling, dry city teem below us, with the call to prayer our soundtrack.
We made up stories about people’s lives based on the washing on their line on the roof.
We mopped the floor to the rhythm of Belle and Sebastian.
We went to English pubs underneath hotels and drank ourselves silly, stayed out all night then went into school next day wearing each other’s clothes so that we didn’t look like dirty stop-outs.
We got drunk on beer from the local shop, only to find it was non-alcoholic.
We got addicted to cheese puffs.
We read a Chekhov play to each other in our room. We dressed up as hippies. Every time I put on eyeliner now, I think of Lucy Bowen.
We saw King Hussein’s coffin processed through the streets. We were shocked by the intrusiveness of the foreign media. We met Queen Noor and the royal princesses to pay our respects, having stood in queue of Jordanian women that turned into a crush to get through a tiny door. Christian women and Muslim women chanted at each other angrily. A Bedouin woman with a tattoo on her face showed us a picture of herself with King Hussein.
The ex-pat rugby players chucked us into the swimming pool at the British Embassy. We hung out with the Red Arrows. We were the toast of the ex-pat clique. We looked like we were from an episode of Friends.
We shared tastes and strengths and weaknesses. I cried in the mornings when she was strong and she cried in the evenings when I was strong. We both said we were turning into each other. I grew my fringe out and became tanned.
I went to university and I was Lucy Bowen. I was confident, occasionally crude, cool, wise, popular, well dressed, attractive. Lucy went to university and made friends with a girl with a fringe. I went to visit and watched her rehearse Waiting for Godot under a tree.

I looked on Facebook to see how Lucy was. I found out she was dead.

My morning alarm goes off. I remember afresh that Lucy Bowen is dead.

I walk into a new room.

I remember afresh that Lucy Bowen is dead.

I can’t get my head round it at all.

The view from my eyes this morning

Through the French window, a white apple blossom is backdropped by vivid blue sky, reminiscent of some Japanese tableau. Signs of burgeoning spring are sprouting in the garden; clematis plants casting languishing shadows over the wall as delicious sunlight peppers the outside with its optimism. My fingers smell like eggy bread and music I love reverberates round my walls and the inside of my head. I sink into a crook I am nurturing in the new sofa and experience the curious effect of the blossom image coming to me through a distorting heat mirage, just as fresh, cold, crisp air cools my extremities and nose. I am a panther, or a sloth, or an animal without obligations, away from the emails planning timings perfectionist hum drum rat race corporate bullshit impression managing diarised responsibility fest.

A half hour to just exist, and not live.