Saturday, 2 August 2014

2014 — a half-time report. Part one: the bad times.

Many of my blog entries seem to start with “when I first started this blog...” and then go on to outline how what I wanted and what I actually do are two separate things. This one is no different. Clearly it’s a comfortable gambit. I’m a fool for laying out a stall without quite knowing what I plan to sell, I know, but as I have said before, there are subjects that I try to avoid posting online as much as I would in casual conversation. They are obvious. Politics: mainly because my grasp of it is childlike and overly simplistic — but let’s just say that no-one would be deported, prejudiced, unfairly taxed, unemployed or uneducated on my watch. Religion is also a wobbly one — essentially, all you need to know is this ex-Catholic veers between having a distant respect for it as a cultural inevitability or as a framework of faith that gives meaning, substance and order for many in life — but ultimately I think it’s completely crackers. Even that is possibly vouchsafing too much insight into my worldview. Maybe I should pull my head out of the sand on this one. But that’s a discussion for another time.

I’ve also tried hard not to make this blog too private, too personal, being as it is for the most part a collection of music essays, poetry scraps and pop culture silliness. But earlier this year I wrote something that was about as personal as I get. As such, I didn’t post it up at the time as it was more of an attempt at emotional catharsis and on a basic level, something to do; a time-consuming, energy-dissipating exercise. 

However, six months have passed and I am, as they say, in a better head-space than I was in those (literally and figuratively) dark, dank days. I attribute this improvement of my situation to several good, close friends, my family, and keeping busy with creative pursuits; the latter being something I intend to blog about very soon indeed. This article was also instrumental in the healing process, and in that spirit, I am happy to present it to you now. I cannot guarantee this is the last time I ever offer up something so close to home again, but I can promise that it would take a lot for me to do this any time soon. One hell of a lot. 


Saturday, 1st February 2014, 8AM. 

My first night spent in the new flat. Woke on sofa with a dreadful hangover and still wearing my clothes from the night before (it was bit of a session). Since I was already fully clothed, with no-one around to impress, I decided it would be a good idea to head on out and attempt to finish off all business in the old flat before the afternoon, so by 8.30am I was on a Tube train from Finchley heading to London Bridge. I daresay I must have stank to high heaven of stale booze and sweat, but I didn’t give a damn as I felt absolutely rotten and completely lonely. Once more did I thank goodness for my badge-sized iPod Shuffle and the day’s worth of wonderful hand-picked tunes encoded within.

There was a delightful little boy on the Tube who clearly wasn’t enjoying being restrained in his pram and was trying to catch my attention, as I sat dejected and hungover on the opposite side of the car. I comically exaggerated my existing morning-after frown at him to show some solidarity for his plight. I soon got a smile and a wave. Parents smiled approvingly at me; the funny, grumpy, bearded man. Cheered me up a little too. The rail connections were straightforward and I soon found myself on a train that took me back to Chislehurst barely an hour after I’d started my journey — as swift as it gets really. 

I cried briefly, but intensely at several moments throughout the day, each time over instances when it came crashing in on me — as if I didn’t know already — that despite our differences, Mrs M always was (and remains) a very lovely lady. The first tears were on entering the almost-vacated flat in Chislehurst and seeing a note that Mrs M had left for the landlord. It was sweet and kind, written in her distinctively friendly handwriting. At this point, I had an overwhelming need to hear her. I rang her. She was very patient and sympathetic and I soon resolved myself. I wrote a note for the landlord to accompany Mrs M’s and left it alongside. My handwriting, normally fractured and spidery at best, was more so this time. 

The final stages of moving out involved emptying the fridge of food, hiving off anything worthwhile into a cool bag and binning the rest. This simple task took a while longer than it ought to due to my hungover fatigue leaving me vexed, distracted and lacking in any methodic approach; consequently, I ended up making more trips back and forth to the bins than was necessary, as if subconsciously I knew that the best way to blow away the cobwebs was to keep on the move.  Assembling the last couple of bags full of stuff to take back to the Finchley flat also took its time as my shape-sorting capacity seemed to have diminished overnight along with my linear logic.

The garden behind the flat in Chislehurst had given us great pleasure over the years. How often I’d stand with a cup of coffee in hand, at my window, in the back room and observe the wildlife; local cats, crows, blue tits, squirrels, magpies, robins and occasionally the odd woodpecker all passed through the greenery, occasionally tempted by the crumbs and food we’d leave out for them. It was nearly ten years since we moved in, in May 2004, a couple of weeks shy of our wedding day. Things seemed simpler then — a sense of a benevolently inexorable destiny pulled the pair of us happily along wherever we went. As the marriage deteriorated, so the flat became less of a joyful space to stand in as the boxes of stuff piled up. Home became more of a storage area than any place where the heart could be located. So as I stood in the empty flat for the final time late this particular morning, it was actually with an odd sense of satisfaction at seeing the rooms looking much as they did when we moved in, full of potential and promise — and no stuff. Full circle. I went to take a photograph of the garden from the window, but the light was against me — and besides, I have plenty of photos of the garden taken during every stage of our tenure. 

Finally, not long after 11am, my brother-in-law drove round and took the last of my bulkier possessions away for storage, including my two cacti, House and Wilson, who continue, as I type, to make their presence felt on my hands and fingers as they didn’t pack themselves away without a fight and a suitably barbed parting shot or two. 

Good morning, I’m Paul Murphy — you’re watching Saturday Kitchen, while I am not.

Saturday afternoon. I was up against it returning to Finchley lugging my luggage, as I had arranged for Dick, my new landlord’s handyman, to arrive at 1pm and fix all the light fittings and sundry other niggles in the flat that had not presented themselves initially. I arrived on the dot of 1pm and awaited Dick. That a man could wear the handle ‘Dick’ comfortably in this day and age suggested to me that I was to expect a genial, white, middle-aged man on my doorstep — which was exactly what I got. Famished by this point, I left Dick to get on with it while I dashed across the road to get myself — finally — something from the Italian deli so providentially situated. I broke my fast with a cup of tea and a white anchovy, mayonnaise and lettuce ciabatta. It tasted pretty much like the greatest thing ever after five hours solid on the go. Meanwhile, Dick worked quickly and without fuss and soon the flat had a full complement of lights, rendering everywhere a little too bright, if anything — but I have the option now. 

An afternoon sojourn to Finchley Central provided me with some domestic essentials and most importantly, a duvet — my first double duvet. Back home, as I must now call it, opening the boxes containing tinned food and spice jars — which Mrs M had carefully and thoughtfully packed for me — elicited another brief torrent of tears, but hunger spurred me on to make a Thai-style noodle soup, out of a packet, which tasted surprisingly good. This also cheered me up considerably. As the afternoon wore on, a sense of despair had set in and I experienced brief but major pangs of regret and uncertainty about the future. A sort-out of the laundry served to dispel some of the blues still further and yielded a satisfyingly large quantity of clean clothes I can donate to one of the many charity shops in the area. I think the Cats Protection League will be the first beneficiaries. Having the dishwasher, the washing machine and the kettle on also served to provide some agreeable and familiar ambient noise in other rooms. Even setting the clock on the oven to the correct time added a tiny extra sense of being home. Silly really. I sat in the newly illuminated living room listening first to Radio 4, then over to my other ever-constant companion, Radio 3, for the evening concert programme. Pleased to note that I identified the music as being by Shostakovich before I read the information, solely from recognising the style rather than the specific piece. At least that part of my mind is still in decent order. 

And that was my first whole day in the new flat.


Now listening/now reading/now watching: that's a blog entry all to itself, and one I'm happy to do for you soon. 

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