Make Poverty Hysterical
(or mildly less agonizing….)
Poverty is the zeitgeist, it is just so. fucking. now.
So, ever the prophet of what is ‘in’ I have of course, been poor for years.
Fortunately I’ve had just enough sporadic bouts of wealth to make sure I don’t end up sleeping in a doorway on Mare Street; but who knows what the future holds.
Much like segways, being poor can have an eccentric mystique, but it can also be quite hard to handle.
Here are some truths on the realities of poverty, and how to do it well.
There is nothing romantic about being poor …
Candles are surprisingly expensive.
You are a fountain of wealth …
Now, I’ll be perfectly honest here, no one wants to hear about how miserable your life is for longer than 10 minutes (max). End your tale of woe with a punch line and save your tears for a vial, when full, sell them on eBay as Jeremy Paxman’s.
Where there’s a Will there’s a way …
Get in with the rich and the old, and advise against a flu jab.
Like a leper …
Ok, your face isn’t falling off, but you will feel on the fringe of society when you are lacking funds. Money is a strange thing and without it you find yourself watching everyone else with different eyes, in it’s absence you see it’s overwhelming presence in our distorted version of this world. It’s become so habitual it’s almost innate. Retain this knowledge when your pot is full, you’ll be the wiser for it.
Tattered rags to rugs ….
A delightful shag-pile rug can be fashioned from your last shreds of dignity.
Seek refuge with the religious (and the homeless) …
As impious as you may be, churches are a sanctuary of silence and among the most reassuring places you can go when you are poor. Light a candle for whatever you want (I suggest hope) and relax. No ones trying to sell you anything you ‘aint buying here.
The world isn’t against you …
It just doesn’t really care.
Inanimate objects however, are against you and are prejudice against the poor …
The coffee you spilled, the table that you stubbed your toe on, the bike peddle that hit your shin, again, the cup you smashed; they’re all out to get you. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re overreacting when these things bring tears of fury to your eyes. They’ve probably got money, and didn’t see the way that coffee looked at you.
Do whatever it takes to pay your rent …
With a roof over your head, you’re less likely to lose it.
Save the pennies ….
You never know when you’ll need a pound for the electric.
Soup kitchen …
A bag of lentils, some garlic, onion, stock, carrot and potato could feed the 5,000 and cost less than £5. Invite round Dirty Mike and the boys and you’ve got a dinner party, you trendy prole. Just make sure they know it’s BYO.
You will inevitably draw the short straw at one point in time …
And the likelihood will be it’s the final one. Take whatever it is as personal attack form the heavens above. This moment in time will only be amusing in hindsight, when you’re rich. Promptly buy yourself a packet of high tar cigarettes and smoke as many as you can. Why prolong your stay at Bleak House?
Every morning dress in mourning ….
Show life the grim respect it’s due and dress in black, it’s the best friend of the beggared. Better to look somber than cheap.
This isn’t a myth ….
There really are people all over the world dying and starving. Unless you’re doing both take your situation with a pinch of salt, then add it to your plain rice supper.
Losing weight? Become a well rounded person …
If you’re doing poor well, you’re spending your last 99p on refined literature not refined sugar and are therefore approaching ultimate wisdom (and emaciation.) Without a job you find a lot of time on your hands, don’t let them become idle. Take this opportunity to add to your attributes. Learn to play the piano, bake bread, write a short story (not a novel – you’re not planning on being poor that long) watch all of The Empire 500, read the poor greats (there are many of them). Do whatever you feel improves yourself. The work will come and who knows, it might come from one of these.
If all else fails just lie on the floor and wait for something to happen …
Invariably it does, just do it at home so it doesn’t involve a rapist.
Make light of your situation…
Nothing brightens up a little squat hole like a few fairy lights. Shove them on your dead tree that you couldn’t afford (be bothered) to water and bask in its warm glow, saves on heating too.
Waste not want not …
If you’re on the breadline, why on earth aren’t you eating it?
Next time a builder asks you this, stop and explain all of the reasons why you’re not. He wont cost a penny and is therefore much cheaper than a therapist. So, offload on him, he’s used to a weight on his shoulders.
You are not a failure …
And if someone calls you one, take it personally but do not get offended. Poor and angry is common (trust me.) Hope they didn’t mean it and have enough faith in yourself to know that you’re not.
You’re making headlines …
You’re one of a record breaking 3 million unemployed! Congratulations! Bet your friends with jobs aren’t on the news.
“Take a load on me” ….
Learn from my mistakes. As hard as your situation may be, as many bad things that hit you one after another, if you are incredibly lucky, and have someone who loves you enough to share some of your burden (make you feel safe, feed you, keep you warm, make you smile at your most morose…) stop wallowing and thank your lucky stars you have them. In reality that is a lot more than most people. But because humans are stupid and self-engrossed, we tend only to realize this when they’re gone.
Move to Zimbabwe …
You’ll be a billionaire.
Once you’ve exhausted this list, it might be time to swallow the pride, the ego, whatever it is and just get any job. There is always one going somewhere and it will invariably be more interesting, in whatever variation, than the dole.
Motherisms, Feat. Daughter …
Twenty-five years ago today I arrived on this planet with no idea what it had in store for me, or what the hundreds of other little people on it had in store for me. With no notion of what an idea even was, the sole thing I knew was my mother. So, fresh out of a week in the womb, what better day for some Motherisms ….
We’ve had a birthday bottle of wine, I am rather pissed in the shop …
Me: I need dried fruit, then I wont bemoan the lack of chocolate.
Mum: You can have chocolate.
Me: Not today! As of today I am an icon of health, albeit a completely trollied one.
I stride off towards the figs.
Mum: Darling, do try not to look like a mad person.
My mother is talking about what I should do with her flat when she dies ..
Me: Must we always talk about your demise?
Mum: We’re not talking about my demise, we’re planning ahead.
Bob Dylan is on, we’ve had an arduous day ….
Bob Dylan: The answers my friend …
Mum: Are blowing in the wind? Yeah, sorry Bob. Not good enough anymore.
Kingsford The Great hits the nail on the head as usual …
“It does not matter what you do, as long as you behave honourably to those who love you.”
Mother is talking about me possibly being a boy …
Mum: I thought you were a boy for a while, then you weren’t. Still a tenacious little thing. Survived that car crash. I think it’s why you’ve got anxiety problems.
Me: Because of the crash or because I survived?
We are at lunch, it is time for dessert and my mother is eyeing the trifle suspiciously, the waitress comes over …
Mum: Does the trifle have sherry?
Waitress: Let me check ……… Yes it does.
Mum: I’ll take it.
I had been upset to the point of anger earlier in the day …
Mum: How’s the rage darling?
Me: I’ve moved on to apathetic dessolation.
Mum: Impotent despair.
Me: It’s the same thing.
Mum: Sounds better.
In regards to me wanting to be a writer, it is later in the day of rage, I have gone full circle and am back at rage ...
Mum: “What do you want to say?”
Me: ” A lot. Mostly I want the people who have fucked me over to be aware that, though I may not have said anything, I know what they’ve done. And make them laugh while I’m telling them.”
Mum: “Riiiiiiight …. You need to make a list of these people.”
Me: “How’s that going to help what I write?”
Mum: “It wont. It’ll help me track them down.”
Mum about our old house ….
“Now the garden looks like a horrible little park in Woking. The weeping willow has gone, just nasty little conifers in situ.”
It’s pissing with rain, we are zipping across the hills, my mother shouts over Bob Marley ..
“Go crap car! Go!!”
About a friend of mothers who watches an enormous amount of Inspector Morse while they work …
Mum: I love her but I do wish she wouldn’t, she’s distracted enough already.
Me: Maybe it distracts her from her distractions.
Debating whether we should do the Euromillions in the hope of aiding our imminent financial crisis …
Mum: Euro millions, we should do it, I’ve won it before.
I look at mother in bemusement.
Me: You’ve won it before? The Euromillions?
Mum: Yes, £2.75.
We’re listening to the radio, the sugarbabes come on …
Me: What does that even mean?
Me: “We’ll rastafi gonna be down low.”
Mum: Only God knows darling, and even he’s not sure.
A pissed old man reverses his old 4×4 for us with verve ….
Mum: That’s what I love about Devon, it’s wild. It’s where the fairies and the gypsies live ………..
We keep driving for a few seconds then mum points ….
Mum: … and there’s where Rupert Harvey pissed in the tank of the kamikaze car, got us all the way to Iddesleigh somehow.
Me: Okkkk …. What’s the kamikaze car?
Mum: Long story, his father was an authority on dromedaries.
A woman of around 90 walks across the road …
Me: Watch out! Old woman wandering.
Mum: She’s the same age as me!
Me: She’s got a good 20 years on you mum.
Mum: Is that what I’m going to look like? I want to die.
The adverts come on ...
TV: Tampax with pearl extract. Pearl, by Tampax.
Mum: Oh wow man. That’s going to make me buy it.
Me: Mmm … complete with sea creatures.
About the self- sustainability of the house we lost …
I was prepared for the apocalypse but it came from another direction.
We stride in to the cinema full of gusto, ready to watch Jane Eyre …
Mum: I will have one human and one over sixty.
Ticket man: It’s not on ’til tomorrow.
Mum: Righty ho … See you tomorrow ..
Mother bemoaning the pit falls of writing, again …
Mum: But you wont earn enough money doing it. See, in my day, if you were in a relationship, you were a unit and usually got a house.
Me: Times are not so simple now mother, you can’t just expect a house. We asked for equality, we got something in-between. We’re stuck in a horrible sort of limbo.
Mum has stopped listening …
Mum: AA Gil’s very good in The Sunday Times …
About her friend taking her in his Porsche Boxster …
“Incredible thing. Like a giants ejaculation.”
Need I say more ….
15 Ways To Leave Your Lover ….
If you have been embroiled in a love malais this may help you. Once an admirer of la doleur esquise, I am now jaded by it. As a sage fishwife once said to me “all this romantic melancholy is well and good, but it doesn’t butter the parsnips.”
This how to leave, taking pain in your stride and butter those parsnips …
Marilyn monroe once said “A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”
Man or woman, if you failed on the first two counts make sure you don’t on the last. Even the smart can be fooled a couple of times, but only the stupid wouldn’t notice the pattern. The leopard doesn’t change its spots.
When faced with someone who only wants you to have done wrong, you can do nothing right ...
Let them satisfy their martyr complex with false injustice. No point crying over milk you never spilt.
Don’t make a scene …
If ‘The Pocket Oracle and Art Of Prudence’ has tought me anything. You gain nothing from retaliation. The dessimation of a love should not be witnessed by the rabble. When guoded, hold your tongue, for it can be ferocious. Keep it clean to lick your wounds later.
Wear a hamzat suit …
To protect yourself from the fallout.
Treat them mean, keep them keen …
… Works a a couple of times times. Beware the game of cat and mouse. Triumph is not synonymous with power.
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
If it’s never been you, at least this time it is.
Midnight break up and a dawn raid …
If for whatever reason you’ve had to leave someone you still loved, do it late and have something to distract you, the loneliness of walking the dark streets home is sweetly complimented by a battering ram through the door at 5am. 15 armed police officers should distract you from the pain, momentarily.
Dutch courage …
… Is sometimes necessary. Have a pancake, sorry whiskey, calm your nerves and say what you have to say. Don’t have too many or you will say too much.
If struggling to do what you know is best for you and what everyone else seems to know is best for you (run for the hills and never turn back) …
Think again of all they have done, and then of all they are not telling you.
Mirror, signal, maneuver …
Mirror …. Do exactly the opposite of those who’ve had their heart broken.
Signal …. People playing games always have a tell, observe the signs, they aren’t indicating anywhere pretty.
Maneuver … Now turn around and put your foot down.
Get an addiction …
The easy way out. Drink’s a good one, it’s the most social but heroin is probably the most effective. You don’t even have to leave to not really be there.
If it’s as simple as you just want out …
Don’t make it someone else’s fault if it’s not. Don’t pick holes in someone and chip away at them to dig your own way out.
Do to others as you would have done to yourself …
Force yourself to be empathetic at your most enraged. Put yourself in their shoes; if you could not forgive yourself and still think they have truly sinned, let all hell brake lose.
Hold on tightly to hope …
… There is a lot you will have to let go.
Don’t spend your life sewing a shadow on Peter Pan …
…He never grew up, and she died alone.
Close the door, raise your head and feel the breeze. It might hurt, but it’s still beating.
I’m starting to worry about myself, more than normal; because normally it’s ..
“Why is the light so bright? Maybe I have meningitis ..”
“Why am I so hungry? Maybe I have tape worm.”
“Why is this eczema so bad? Maybe I have necrotizing faciitis.”
I’m worried because it appears (though I am sweetness and light most of the time,) I am angry at the world. If I was 16, this would make me cool, a rebel, a lone wolf if you will. I’m 24 going on 68, so it makes me bitter and slightly immature.
Things I really struggle with are death, misogyny and well; that’s about it. I can appreciate a smart joke about them, but the jokes are rarely smart so more often than not I fail to have a sense of humor about them. Whatsoever. And as the world is filled with death and misogyny it is proving to make me a pretty grumpy person. It’s not a glamorous grumpy either – it’s not a Poe-like melancholy, it is, what I think it’s called “ansty” in some circles.
A recent example of this is when my partner in crime said he was going to become more and more misogynistic the older he got. He was joking, but being a couple of glasses of wine in and having had a whole life of it, I failed to see the hilarious side and instead went on a mission to prove a point. We went to the local corner shop so he could collect some mead and pipe tobacco. I walked in and proceeded to objectify the male clerks. To be fair it was quite a brutal objectification and as my partner pointed out afterwards, they were quite probably Muslims.
Guilt was quick off the mark, but pride was faster as I hastened to add …
“When has misogyny ever taken in to account your race, your religion or your creed? It doesn’t.”
Point proven, with unintentional irony, I decided it was time to stop wasting time going around proving points because there’s always going to be something, and start taking steps to enjoying what’s good.
Having previously written a step by step guide to coming to terms with your mortality – what better time to write a step by step guide to start enjoying your mortality?
There isn’t one. It is now, bitch.
Know when to leave …
Whether it be a party, a job or a relationship. If you feel it’s time to leave, it probably is. Get out while you still can.
It is all significant, until you say it’s not ….
Shakespear, the old sexbot, wrote a wonderful quote …
“Good Lord how bright and goodly shines the moon. I say it is the moon.”
“I know it is the moon.”
“Why then you lie, it is the blessed sun.”
“Then, God be bless’d, it is the blessed sun: But sun it is not, when you say it is not: And the moon changes even as your mind. What you will have it nam’d, even that it is.”
It is believed in certain circles (cool existentialist ones) that the meaning of life, is the meaning that you give your life. Your existence holds significance, the people around you’s influence is significant, the songs you love are significant, the things that move you are significant, everything influences everything else and it is all significant, until you say it is not. Because it is all up to you, there is no right or wrong answer collectively, only individually. How you perceive it. So, pick whatever helps you sleep at night and don’t fucking go on about it. If you chose to decide we are all insignificant, understand that is only in your eyes; and visa versa.
Never trust the masses ….
Because the majority of people are idiots. And idiots don’t make for a happy life.
Don’t be a Martyr …
If you’re still here, you aren’t one. The funny thing I’ve noticed is the people who have been through the most are the least likely to have a martyr complex. Funny that.
However hard done by you are, you should never be the judge of your own hardship. You will more often than not, get it wrong. We’ve all had bad things happen to us, they vary in their degrees but you should never feel worse off than any one else. Because thanks to life’s abrupt ends, everyone will experience an enormous amount of pain in their lives, it is inevitable, it just depends on when. So, whatever you’ve been through, remain safe in the knowledge that hardship does not make you great, how you deal with it does.
When you feel that all is lost, put ‘Metronomy – The Look’ on …
You will feel inexplicably happy, whatever’s happening. Put it on a loop if times are really bad.
Appreciate your friends …
And appreciate those people who are more than just friends (no, not like that) I mean those people whose true love for you makes your heart ache. Those people who forgive you for behaving like an unstable tornado, for saying things you shouldn’t have said, for treating you with nothing but kindness when you are at your lowest ebb, who feed you when you cannot afford to eat, who support you in whatever you do – however irrational, who are there when you call, who appreciate you. Because they are few and far between and you will miss them when they’re gone because you feel exactly the same way about them. So make sure they’re always close by and keep them close; restraining orders are nothing but paper.
Keep your wits about you …
If you don’t have sense of humor about all of this, you’re fucked. To put it lightly.
You are an animal ….
As cerebral as you are it’s important to remember this, wild thing. The best way to get down with your inner beast is through physicality, to be disconnected to your mind. I experience a great amount of pleasure going running and pushing my body, because it feels like something your body should be doing, you should be pushing your sallow limbs to move. We went around hunting and running and climbing once upon a time and that is still a part of you, your body is still designed to do that and what an incredible thing it is. What a waste for all it to do but plod from seat to seat. Also allow it to feel some pain once in a while. In small doses it’s a comforting reminder you’re still alive. I can highly recommend a 60% slap round the face after some home made ravioli. Delicious.
No one you loved ever wasted your time …
Bob Dylan has a brilliant line “You just kind of wasted my precious time, don’t think twice it’s alright.”
Bob, the legend, might have got it wrong on this occasion. Our time on this earth is fleeting and precious but no one you loved will ever have wasted it. No matter how bitterly it ended. Yeah it would have been great to have spent that time with someone with who it would have lasted, you’d have saved some heartache but you’d have missed out on quite a lot. These loves may not have been the right loves and they may have had their pitfalls but it was the nuances of them as a person that you adored and these nuances will have influenced you in some capacity whether you like it or not. You might have been introduced to incredible music, bizarre and hilarious experiences, new ways of thinking, you might have been told wonderful things, stories, met amazing people and you will have vicariously experienced different ways of living. And whatever happened at the end, you came out the other side. Though you may have experienced a sense of loss, trust me, you came out richer.
If you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance …
Being the icons of responsibility and good time-keeping most of the time, we all have days when we need to go out, get a little wild, a little out of control. And if you’re going to do wrong you might as well do it right. Go all out, forget about everything and enjoy every minute of it. Just keep enough decorum not to vomit and reserved for blue moons.
Hope for a lot, but expect very little …
It’s nicer to be surprised in a good way.
See the wood for the trees …
Learn to see and appreciate what’s right infront of you. It’s incredibly important to have ambitions and goals, that’s part of what drives you, what makes you you. But don’t let this blinker you. Take a step back from time to time and take heed of what’s happening on the way, or you’ll miss it.
Dance, dance, dance …
You can dance. All you’re doing is moving your body. Fuck everyone elses ‘on-the-beat-slow-grinds’. You’re supposed to be having a good time, so have one. Just shake that little thing like there’s no one around and no tomorrow. I was told by my 6ft2 Nigerian ex-boyfriend I couldn’t dance, but I still like to think I gave him a run for his money at the running man.
Bond with your blood ….
Your family are variations of you. You are bonded by something very precious.. Get to know, they can tell you a lot about you.
Learn to relish nostalgia like a good Turkish Delight ….
It is hard to truly enjoy pleasant memories because of their transience. They were not necessarily generally happy times, but they are times that are lost to the ether. So because few of us are naturally good losers it stings a little. You will never be able to recreate it in it’s indescribable exactness. It’s sad, because it’s gone, but get over it and appreciate the romance of a pain that only life and love can bring about. It’s part of it. Better to appreciate it sooner rather than later. All of it, including the pain will be gone sooner than you know.
Follow your insects, sorry instincts …
Your instincts are usually right and if you don’t do what you think is right, you will never truly be happy. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t always be considerate of other peoples feelings and how your actions affect other people, because they do, but to be happy you ultimately need to be a little selfish. If your mum says you can’t be the next Chuck Norris but you truly believe you can be, then boy, you start getting so tough you make onions cry and tell your mum to bare with you. Because when all is said and done, you’re the only person living your life and it’s ultimately up to you to make it one you want to live.
Don’t be dickhead ..
Unless you actually have a penis on your face, there is no excuse. And even then, no need to be a cock about it.
Women! Stop buying cats …
You gotta get a goldfish. Trust. Cats are selfish, self engrossed, arrogant and couldn’t give a toss about you. Do you really need more of that in your life? Goldfish have no idea who you are but don’t take it personally, they have no idea who they are either. Enjoy their incandescent goldness and take advantage of their short-term memories. They serve as wonderful confidents.
Get out of the city …
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Get in to the rural expanse. Living in the City all you see is other people, they are your only reflection of the world and you start to lose perspective on it. Step outside, there’s a lot more to it. And by gum is that a relaxing feeling.
Don’t take yourself too seriously …
No one else is.
Love Larkin about ….
At the end of Philip Larkin’s ‘Arundel Tomb’ is the line “All that remains of us is love.” It’s pretty self explanatory really. When you’re gone, all you leave behind is love and the products of your love, your children, your friends, your achievements, your keepsakes, your memories shared with other people. Love is a wonderfully complex thing, but ultimately should be pleasurable and held in high regard. It doesn’t come around twice. I’ve tried not to sound too sentimental throughout this, but now I’m going to throw caution to the wind … I genuinely can’t think of a more beautiful way to think about your death than what you leave behind, and when what you leave behind is an incarnation of your love. That’s big.
Smoke while cycling …
…. Seriously. It’s just got to be done. James Dean knows what I mean.
I’m aware I may sound like a smart arse, but I’ve learnt all of this through my own mistakes (there have been many) and through other peoples; which doesn’t for a second make me clever, it just means I’ve learned ….
Last week I got a strange urge: I live alone and although I don’t get lonely (I actively prefer not living with anyone) I felt the need to nurture something that wasn’t a cactus. Barely capable of cleaning out my own litter tray; a kitten was out of the question and anyway, it would only sadly, turn in to a cat. So I chose goldfish. Loyal, trust worthy, low maintenance, will happily forget and forgive all of my wrongs. As some humans find with other humans, a goldfish will accept me for who I am.
I like to treat things like a military operation, or sometimes like a regular operations; whatever gets things done. So, ‘the mission’ started on a Friday at approximately 1400 hours. I met up with a fellow agent, had a delicious lunch, declared our mission statement and set off to find these illusive beasts. The mission commenced in Soho, which I swiftly discovered was not goldfish’s natural habitat. I checked in with DCI Google who instructed me that 400m north of Oxford Street a clandestine pet shop operation existed. I wanted to penetrate this ‘pet cell’ and see what they were hiding. We headed North – orienteering never a strong point we took many wrong turns but finally arrived outside a building that, apart from a small gold buzzer did not betray what lay within. My friend revealed she was of the opinion that goldfish were a poor-man’s animal and said …
“I don’t think they’re going to have goldfish Jade.”
“I think it’s just for posh dogs.”
“I don’t know what gave you that idea.”
I ring the buzzer, a camp American voice answers ….
“Hi, do you sell goldfish?”
“No we do not.”
There’s a click of the receiver as the cell leader hangs up. My agent gives me an ‘I told you so look,’ and we head back to our headquarters disheartened. I send an SOS out to DCI Google who advises me there are plenty more ‘pet cells’ within a 4 mile radius of my current location and in coalition with my agent I discover there is one about 10 minutes from my house. I follow the scent.
That Sunday I head down, fully equipped with wallet, photo ID and high spirits. I arrive at Goldfish Base Camp, only to find it is closed. I retreat and wait. They can’t stay closed forever.
After protracted talks with Lieutenant Big Sister I decide to continue and execute the mission. I head down again on Monday and successfully penetrate the cell. There they swam, in all their burning, golden glory. Majestic beings of forgiveness and love; just floating around as if they were nothing but fish.
Having carefully referenced data reserves collected from The National Lottery’s probability figures, I allow another member of the cell to select my goldfish – I stand more chance of winning with Lucky Dip. He selects two perfect specimens, one slightly larger than the other. I purchase a huge glass bowl (recent studies have concluded goldfish think plastic ones are naff.) I am advised to buy different chemicals to keep the specimens alive. I buy them reluctantly as I recalled being able to just plonk goldfish straight in to a bowl and Fanny’s your nanny, they’re ready to get to work. But these babies are apparently of a finer constitution, which I can respect. So I leave the cell £40 lighter, balanced with the weight of my new responsibilities.
On my way back to Headquarters their names come to me as if from God. I look at them in their plastic bag and I know exactly who they are: the smaller one is Lester, the larger; a formidable beast is honoured with the name The Cracken.
I take them home, wash out their bowl and with horror stories of Hackney water still ringing in my ears I decide to fill the bowl with Evian. I measure the solutions accurately and pour them in. I allow the solutions time for osmosis (15 minutes) then in their bag, the creatures are placed into their clear, mountain water and allowed to acclimatise. Precision and steady hands are key in these high tensile situations. 30 minutes later I delve my (steady) hands into the cool, sterilised water and rip open the plastic bag allowing them to disperse. Happy as can be I feed them a pinch of fish flakes to celebrate this hallowed occasion. They are happy, I am happy. I cook dinner, I sing Toots and the Maytals ‘Dr Lester’ to them. I go to bed. My dreams are calm.
I awake. It is Tuesday. Tuesday’s child is full of grace and mercy, but mercy is absent this day. The Cracken has fallen. He rests lifeless at the bottom of the glass bowl. I peer in in disbelief. But his forgiving little soul has left the bowl. Lester is traumatised. Forgets he is traumatised, then is reminded again 3 seconds later. I must remove The Cracken in order to save Lester’s sanity, but I am also traumatised. I call an asset and cry down the phone. All my army training goes out the window, trained to operate a machine gun but I am rendered incapable of removing the dead goldfish from his bowl. This asset tells me to get a grip and to put him in the bin…
“But I caaaaannn’t.”
“Then flush him down the toilet.”
“But I caaaaaaannn’t”
“Ok, well take him down to the canal then.”
“Yeah, ok, that’s nice.”
I hang up and muster the courage to remove the corpse from the scene. I place his lifeless body on some carefully folded kitchen towel. I take a photo for later analysis. Then – a sucker for time efficiency – I coincide my run with the burial of the fish. I sprint like a loon through Clapton brandishing my dead goldfish until I reach the canal; arriving at the perfect location to bid adieu to The Cracken. I’m a bit unsure of the proper protocol here; I look at The Cracken and feeling that I can’t just throw him away without saying a few words I look down and say to him …
“You were very pretty, I’m sorry you died.”
Seeing that there were people within hearing and seeing distance I suddenly feel pretty stupid; so launch The Cracken in to the air in embarrassment. He sails nobly through the wind and reaches the canal with a little splash. I watch as his bright golden body sinks to the bottom of the murky waters. I continue my run, comforting myself with words of encouragement from friends that Lester, is definitely made of tougher stuff.
I go home, check on Lester – he’s doing good; forgotten the horror of the morning and continuing with his life. I continue with mine. A few hours pass. I am full of hope for the future that Lester and I will share. I look in to the bowl where my soul mate swims …. flounders almost, on his side, gasping for air.
No. Not again. I call the poor asset, again. Already inconsolable.
“The other ones dying!”
“Oh God. I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m a terrible mother!”
“No you’re not – take him to the pet shop.”
I call the pet shop, a woman answers, I am still in tears.
“I bought two goldfish from you yesterday. One’s already died and the other one’s swimming on his side, I think he’s dying.”
“If you’ve got the body of the dead one we can give you one for free.”
“I don’t have the body anymore.”
“Where is it?”
“In the canal.”
“Ok …. well, if the other one dies, bring it in and bring in a sample of the water.”
The oracle on the other end of the line knew what was to come. My efforts to preserve his life are null and void, Lester’s life slips through my fingers, as he does when I scoop the fallen solider from his pooey grave.
My agent comes and escorts me with my water sample and the dead body to the Goldfish Base Camp. We board the transit unit to Hackney Central. As we sit and discuss the short, unfulfilled lives of The Cracken and Lester I divulge that I had been singing to them, my agent suggests maybe this is what killed them. I am worried she may be on to something. I will investigate this later, on other animals.
We arrive at Goldfish Base Camp, fallen soldier in hand. I had lost a lot of good men that day, I was in bad shape. The Cell Leader, an old man with the personality I would liken to that of Ghenghis Khan laughs at me.
“You didn’t cry did you?”
My friend: “She did.”
“Oh dear. Well we’ll give you a couple of free ones.”
“I’m not sure I want any free ones. I want to know what I did wrong.”
“Goldfish die all the time. Have some new ones.”
He walks off laughing. Ready to quash the emotions of his next victim. Bastard.
My training at the school of hard knocks enables me to continue my mission. Having regained my composure I arrive at the desk of the second in command. A hard faced woman who has seen her fair share of combat (and pathetic girls) in the field is unsympathetic. She takes the pH of my water as I carefully select my replacements. The woman shouts over the counter …
“It was your pH.”
Her sidekick then plies me with more expensive potions to put in this foul water. As I am disputing whether all £15 of this is really necessary when the hard faced woman starts absentmindedly cleaning her counter. Spritzing and wiping, with a folded piece of kitchen roll; she talks of how all potions are absolutely necessary. The sidekick and my agent share a horrified glance. The hard faced woman looks to her sidekick, and dread washes over her face. Her hand jumps from the kitchen towel.
“This is the dead goldfish isn’t it …”
The sidekick and my agent laugh in agreement. The soulless woman tosses Lester in the bin. I walk out with my two new imposters, numb.
We reconvene at an undisclosed coffee outlet and discuss the days events – imposters by my side. The warm nectar of cow teat deftly mixed with ground coffee beans soothes me and I feel stronger and ready to face the world again. I receive a message from a secure source in regards to my deceased goldfish: “Poor thing, he was only alive for a day, barely remembered any of it and his name was spelt wrong.”
What?! This source doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Lester’s name wasn’t spelt wrong! I dial up DCI Google – he receives my transmission and confirms that yes, Lester had been spelt correctly. A flash of heat fills my cheeks ….
“Oh shit. Maybe he means The Cracken.”
I dial up DCI Google again, whose patience for these creatures is now waning, and with no emotion quips:
“Did you mean the Kraken you fucking idiot?”
Oh yeah, I did.
Embarrassed I relay this information to my agent. She has an eye for covert intelligence and delves a little deeper. After a few seconds of investigation she bursts out laughing; is in tears before I have even seen what is going on. She manages to get out …
I look and I see:
Urban Dictionary – Cracken: A large, smelly turd.
I’m not sure I will ever recover from the trauma. Emotionally incapable of loving my replacements, too scarred even to name them. They shall never be my confidents. Merely yearlong baubles, swimming in the hope of a confession to absolve that will never arrive. (Suckers.)
Rest In Peace The Cracken and Lester. I apologise. But with endless gratitude accept that you would forget, and forgive me.