Tuesday, 8 February 2011

100 Hours of Solitude

It's been a very quiet week. Nothing has happened, twice (as the saying goes). This weekend, for example, I haven't seen a soul, or 'sole' (in the parlance of my illiterate interweb wooers). I am torn between quite enjoying days cocooned, like a dormouse, in my nest of Cath Kidston and dust, and feeling that really, I must make more of an effort. I've not actually spoken to anyone since Friday afternoon. It can't be healthy. I was always rather solitary and introspective, even as a child. My heaven on earth was a sunlit, summer's day and a big tree to sit under and dream of romantic, faraway worlds. People are hard work, I think. Even after spending time with people I adore, I just long to come home and close the door on the world. I have always, pretty much, lived on my own. I expect I always will. I think a bit of space and mystery in a relationship is not a bad thing. I have no desire to spend weekends washing a fanny rat's pants.

Mind you, I did feel a little sorrowful and lonely yesterday, but at least I had The Killing to look forward to. I may not have had a salient conversation with an adult for 48 hours, but who cares? Lund's sleuthing jumper was just the tonic I needed. (It is the knitwear equivalent of Miss Marple's brogues). Then, ABOMINATION, the phone rang. I despise the telephone, almost to the point of phobia. I love emails and texts but a CONVERSATION. Dear God NO! I answered because I thought (hoped) it was Rochester. It wasn't. It was my nutjob Aunty Joan, who was quite obviously high on a cocktail of blood pressure medicine, Night Nurse and cooking sherry. She had called to hector me about:

1. The general illiteracy, aggression and ill manners of young people today. (I am a teacher, therefore it is my fault).
2. The fact that I have not visited her since last year.
3. My inability to find a husband. She attributes this to my affection for jeans, my filthy, slattern-like approach to housekeeping and the fact that I buy, rather than make, Yorkshire puddings.
4. The woman next door, who she believes is a prostitute.

Miss Underscore: Why do you think she is a prostitute?

Aunty Joan: She's got SORTS going in and out at all hours of the day. Oh, and the noises through the anaglypta, they're enough to make Blackie's hair stand on end. (Blackie is her decrepit, one-eyed cat). AND, she leaves her wheelie bin out all week.

Miss Underscore: How does that make her a prostitute?

Aunty Joan: Too busy on her back to bring it in! She's lazy. Her SORT wouldn't help a lame dog over a stile. And, (triumphantly) when I look in her recycling box, all the bottles are BROWN!

Miss Underscore: (innocently) Marmite?

Aunty Joan: BEER!!! For her fancy men, no doubt. Some of them are even (pauses for dramatic effect) BLACK!

Miss Underscore: The bottles?

Aunty Joan: NO! THE MEN! The men are BLACK!

Thank you Aunty Joan. One conversation with you was enough to reaffirm my belief that a weekend of quiet solitude is not actually a bad thing.

Oh, I must tell you my FAVOURITE ever Aunty Joan quote. Some years ago she was droning on about 'young people' again, and how they all need a good thrashing.

Aunty Joan: I was on the bus and there were some girls sitting at the back. Skirts like belts, roots black as their souls. I asked them to be quiet. I was quite polite too. I said 'Dear me, you should be acting like young ladies, not wanton hussies. Could you mind your language please?'

Miss Underscore: What happened?

Aunty Joan: Well, they said something to me. I don't quite know what it means, but I think it might have been rather rude.

Miss Underscore: What did they say?

Aunty Joan: They said 'Oh shut up you dripping cunt.' What does it mean Elizabeth? Was it terrible?

Miss Underscore: No, not at all, Aunty Joan. You could even start to use it yourself, to the ladies at your poetry club. (Aunty Joan goes to a poetry night class, where she writes truly terrible Pam Ayres style rhyming couplet poems about cardigans and battenburg). I am sure you could even write a poem about it.

Aunty Joan: There's a thought, I could! There are lots of rhymes for 'cunt', after all: hunt, punt, stunt . . .

School of Hard Knocks Update

I've got post-OFSTED syndrome. I just can't be fucked. I drove to work on Monday with a vague notion of doing digital time in Maths and ghost stories in literacy. I had no plans written. My afternoon lessons would be decided at lunchtime. We're all feeling very demoralised. Most (not all) of us work incredibly hard and yet, according to OFSTED, we're not good enough.

The report is out. I haven't seen it yet, apparently it is worse than anticipated. I think Pompous shot us in the foot. In his first telephone call with the lead inspector he (apparently) droned on about how we work with the most challenging kids in the city, how our estate is the most deprived in the North East, how our first job, before we even can start to teach, is to deal with horrendous behaviour issues. Those, Pompous blustered, were the reasons our results were so poor. There is an element of truth in that, but, to an OFSTED inspector I am sure it sounds like a trite excuse. Then, of course, when the inspection team were in, the kids were all perfectly behaved and well-mannered. They saw no evidence of challenging behaviour at all.

The good news though, is that Pompous Pilate, the beetrooty buffoon, took last week off. The atmosphere around school was much more relaxed. Even the kids seemed to be a bit more mellow and content (and for once, this was not due to their Ritalin).

He is back tomorrow. I expect we'll be shown the OFSTED report at Monday's torturous after-school meeting. I shall let you know how we fared.

Interweb Dating Update

I am sorry to say my interweb dating experiences are not improving. Let me tell you about two of yesterday's emails. This one was surprising for several reasons,

i saw your profile and thought you sounded really nice, sort of in vogue with a hint of elegance, also confident with an unpretentious perspicacious side, i also thought we may have a bit in common, hence my decision to ask you how your weekend is going so far?...

Here is a cove who can't be bothered to use an apostrophe, or capitalize his 'I's (if he truly is that tardy then what chance of him putting the wheelie bin out, or indulging in foreplay?). BUT he used the words 'hence' and 'perspicacious' in his email. Very unorthadox. I must confess, dear reader(s), I didn't have a clue what 'perspicacious' meant. My first instinct was to assume it was related to perspiration, and that I was being insulted. I had to look it up in the dictionary.

Next I got an email from an awfully handsome Italian chap. He is something of a swarthy rogue, I can tell. He had posted about 80 pictures of himself on his profile, he is obviously terribly vain. It was an endearing email though,

Hi !!! I was reading your profile...you are very charming with a sweet smile! Also if we are a little too far, i'd love to meet you!!! I 'm italian single man with some hobbies(theatre,atletics and cooking). Meanwhile i send you my greetings from Rome!! P.S: sorry x my English because isn't very good also i've been in England last year!

I did like his 'greetings from Rome!' he sounded like a presenter on the Eurovision Song Contest. I generally, as a rule, only accept one exclamation mark in a dating email. As you know, my preference is for dour and sardonic men. I don't want to end up with Keith Chegwin (shudder). There were other reasons to discount Claudio though. Firstly, he is too far away. Secondly, he specified he wants a girlfriend who weighs between 8 and 9 stone (the only time my bathroom scales read a single-digit number is when I am weighing Cecil, the Maine Coon, for his worming tablet). Thirdly, the cove enjoys 'singles parties'. I am not sure I know what a 'singles party' is, but I have visions of the tawdry horror of Eyes Wide Shut. 'Singles parties' will undoubtedly involve nudity, Venetian masks and Ferraro Rocher. The very thought has me reaching for the Rescue Remedy.

I was tempted to reply to Claudio though. I noted, with interest, his comment about visiting England last year. I started typing a response,

Did you make it as far North as Newcastle? We have a greater number of Greggs per capita than any other city in the world. Pretty impressive eh? Put that in your Spanish Steps and smoke it!

I didn't send it, of course. My so called humour is frequently lost on English men. Italian rogues, with pidgin English and an love of gratuitous exclamation marks, stand no chance of 'getting it'.

Rochester Update

I still have neither heard from Rochester, nor rang him. I think about ringing him every night. Sometimes I pour myself a large single malt and sit with the phone in my hand for hours. It is a agony. But, my phone phobia is too severe. I just can't do it.

I was reading I Capture the Castle yesterday (possibly my favourite book of all time). I found this line of Cassandra's very moving.

Everything in the least connected with him has value for me; if someone even mentions his name it is like a little present to me.

I started the blog, exactly 2 years ago, because although Rochester and I had split, I still felt brimming with love, warmth and affection for him. It was an affection that I needed to talk about. I couldn't talk about it (I am too reserved) but I could write about it. That is the heritage of Parma Violet Tea. When I read the Rochester posts on here, especially the accounts of our time together, it strikes me that they're my best pieces of writing. I think I capture him very well; his sardonic and ramshackle charm. They're written with love. That's the reason. It is both ironic and tragic that, two years down the road, I am in exactly the same position I was when I started this blog.


  1. Oh, your post has made me feel sad for you and in urgent need to rush to Sunderland with a bottle of vodka and an overdraft's-worth of Hotel Chocolat's finest... I can identify with your weekends of seclusion - I too have more of those than I'd wish. And on a Friday night you think 'hurrah! None of that awful car-washing-child-ferrying-supermarket-dashing family-based rubbish for ME!'. Then by Sunday morning you're working out which of your friends is most likely to answer a text because, as you so rightly say, you can't even begin to imagine picking up a phone. Well, we virtual peeps are always here, should you need virtual company. The worst thing about it - you spend all week in a job you loathe looking forward to the weekend, then spend all weekend masochisticly (is that a word?) looking forward to Monday because at least you won't be on your own any more.

  2. This is a beautiful, beautiful post. So easy and enjoyable to read. It's just a shame that you have had to feel lonely and rubbish to write about it. I particularly enjoyed the Eyes Wide Shut singles party line. Really funny.

    I also really relate to what you said about the people being hard work (coupled with telephone phobia). I'm not even particularly good at texting/emailing/tweeting either. But I am trying to get better.

    I laughed at your story about Aunty Joan. My gran (she would kill me if she knew I was using that term as she insists on being called 'Frieda' only) also had an animal called Blackie. Perhaps it is an age thing. Her Blackie was a grouchy poodle with gum disease, rotting teeth and a penchant for biting

    I hope your night tonight is less lonely. Cyril looks good for cuddles?


    P.S. I also didn't (and don't) know what perspicacious means (because I am too lazy to look it up)

  3. Oh lord, I must sound utterly maudlin. I am fine. Yes, Cyril is great for cuddles (although he smells of sardines tonight, it is his weekly Omega 3 fest). And, I am enjoying some Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate, as I type. And am catching up with The Killing, which I love more than life itself. (I adore Pernile's kitchen btw).

    Blogging is strangely helpful though. Did you read Waffle's piece in The Observer today? It was about how it can be easier to write about things than talk about them. And how blogs must sometimes be rather uncomfortable things for friends and family to read. A most PERSPICACIOUS observation.

  4. Oh go on then. You made me look up perspicacious. I actually really like its meaning! Shame I can't pronounce it.

    I did read Waffle's piece and thought it was really good - the whole article was, in fact. I've always written things down as a substitute for talking. But I'm a bit less unsubtle with my family. I used to make my mother read my teenage poems, with titles like "Woe is me" and "I hate my life" (probably). And when that didn't work, I'd insist on making her listen to Hole's Live Through This album.

    Good god what an awful teenage brat I was.

    Anyway, I am glad you are fine. The hot chocolate sounds marvellous. I'm going to catch up on The Killing too. Will have to look out for Pernille's kitchen...I remember liking Troels's house last week

  5. I share that conflict between loving the peace and quiet and indulgence of time alone and thinking that I really should get out more. Usually the duvetophile in me wins. I think your childhood was somewhat classier than mine. Rather than sitting under a tree on a sunlit day I used to sit on the central heating floor vents behind the sofa with my book. It was the seventies so the carpet was nylon with a lovely orange and brown diamond pattern and the sofa was squeaky black fake leather. HENCE my preference for natural fibres these days.

    Good luck with the continuing interweb dating adventures - surely there must be an upgraded Rochester v 2.0 out there?

  6. I like the sound of an upgraded Rochester V 2.0. He would have the Geordie gigalo's brooding, swarthy looks, sardonic sense of humor and appreciation of all things eccentric (me). But, all flakiness and unreliability would have been bred out of him. Christ. Where do I find such a creature?

  7. I think your dogs look lovely and I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog. I'm sorry about Rochester. But there's always a Rochester.

    x Miss W

  8. I hope you're going to reply to the grammatically lazy cove.

  9. Hi! I've come across your blog by chance and as I'm also a teacher, although in Portugal, I share some sympathy with your lines concerning the amount of paperwork our job involves today. Our Ministry of education is only concerned with numbers, percentages of success and rankings and the pressure to achieve these numbers is horrible.Students are regarded as goods in an assembly line of a factory.

  10. Thank you for the comments!

    Sadly, my life seems to be one long line of Rochesters. I just can't help but choose them. My own fault entirely!

    Was not planning on replying to the grammatically-challenged oaf. My Year 5 literacy class can do better than that. I am thinking of giving them some of my dating emails and asking them to spot the errors.

    Sorry to hear that teaching is just as bureaucratic in Portugal as it is in England. It is so sad that a child's entire primary education is measured on their result in one test in their final year. I still think it is the best job in the world though, I love it.

  11. What he lacks in grammar he more than makes up for with his vocabulary. Although, having never replied to any on-line dating fanny rats, I'm probably not the one to be handing out advice. Almost all of the reprobates that send me messages are of the "sole mate" seeking variety and seem to be searching for women between 18 and 5 years younger than themselves. Having read your blog for some time now I thought his message to you was pretty perspicacious itself!

  12. I liked the grammatically challenged cove as well. My husband is grammatically challenged, whilst I am an English graduate. His inability to use an apostrophe correctly still infuriates me, but he is a darling despite it.

  13. Oh yeah. Clear like perspex, I get it.

    I share your aversion to the phone. Bloody thing puts the heart across me when it goes off. Also, to people, a bit. Yes, they're all very fine and dandy but meeting them is always an effort until I get home and think, Well, that was nice, I must do it more often.

    And can I just cheer: Poorly punctuated cove! Poorly punctuated cove!
    Did you give him a little air time?

  14. Awww, you are all making me feel like the Cruella de Ville of match.com for ignoring Prince Perspicacious. Can I say, in my defense, the rascal also had Justin Timberlake hair. Justin Timberlake pre-Cameron Diaz. Justin Timberlake in N Sync. Need I say more?

  15. UnorthOdox. CapitaliSe. Really. See me after class

  16. Ah, 'The Teacher', I see you spotted my deliberate mistakes, included to check you are paying attention. Well done. You may have a sparkly sticker for your diligence.

    (My stock-response to my class whenever they spot an error on the whiteboard).