Friday, 8 June 2012

A life of genteel poverty and other observations

I am SPOILING you this week.  Here I am again.  (I never did know when to stop.  I'm exactly the same when the Quality Street tin comes out at Christmas).  

Thanks for the sweet comments.  I think my hair in those previous pics (post heated-rollers) looks a bit bonkers.  I resemble (to quote that great line from Annie Hall) 'the wife of an astronaut'.  Either that or Nancy Reagan at a Republican convention, circa 1964.  

My last post was a little hurried.  I was up against a wickedly tight deadline:  there was a Channel 4 documentary about formica starting at 9, you see (I am deeply serious, it was great).  Consequently, there were a few things I failed to say. 

Firstly, I neglected to mention some of Rochester's other films. He posted me a film following his triumphant 'sweeping the board' at the annual Peg* Oscars.  This is a bedroom film.  Of sorts.  Rochester is seen languishing on his hotel bed (the Peg Oscars only take place in most salubrious of locations.  This year's was in Wolverhampton, I believe, so an overnight stay was required).  Scowling vampirically into the camera, twirling his metaphorical moustache of hubris and brandishing his peg statuette Rochester shrugs, 

'This is it petal.  I've nothing left to achieve.  I have NOTHING left to achieve.' 

A bold and audacious statement to make, certainly, and one that was only slightly negated by the tacky Premier Inn setting.  Still, he was cock-a-hoop at his peg success.  He even confessed to 'dancing' at the peg ball.  'Aye flower.  I was free-styling to ABC.'  'Fucking hell', I thought (I don't approve of men dancing) 'I bet he was more Poison Jarrow than Poison Arrow'.

I did forget to tell you of Rochester's most infamous film.  This was indeed a bedroom film (do you see, an italicised bedroom film).  It was made for an ex girlfriend, let us call her, Mildred.  This is a great cautionary tale about why such films are ALWAYS A BAD IDEA.  Several months after this film was taken, Rochester was attending a friend's wedding.  He took his camera and managed to capture many touching scenes of the happy couple.  Later, over lunch, he passed the camera to the elderly mother-of-the-groom, so that she too could delight in the tender images.  Tragically,  the old dear scrolled back a little too far and discovered the fanny rat's archive of abject filth. God bless her. (I swear on my collection of Hetty Wainthrop DVDs,  this is a true story.)

The Society for Distressed Gentlewomen 

I have spent many happy hours recently exploring the utterly charming world of Barbara Pym. I am enchanted by her books.  And do think I would fit in very well as a Barbara Pym heroine.  Her bread and butter characters are wan, bookish, cardigan-wearing spinsters. They have the most endearing names, such as Dulcie Mainwearing or Cassandra Marsh-Gibbon.  These lowly be-brogued creatures spend much of their time brewing tea and pining for wildly dissolute suitors (also thrillingly named: Dr Alwyn Forbes, Everard Bone, Archdeacon Hochleve).  Pym's fey paramours tend to lack a bit of masculine GRRRRRR (she could have done with an oafish, Geordie double-glazing salesman, to be honest).  Her chaps are typically limp, dithering curates or stuttering academics who undoubtedly smell of damp corduroys and gentlemen's relish.  I coined a phrase for such 'sorts' whilst at Durham University (studying for my PGCE):  they are Tweedy Fuckwits.  (Durham University is a seething hot-bed of Tweedy Fuckwit action. Well, maybe 'seething hot-bed' is overstating it somewhat.  It is certainly a tepid tedium of T.F. action though.)

I'm down to my last Pym novel now (Crompton Hodnet). I am loathe to start it, as then I'll have no more Pym novels to savour. They are so witty and spry, but all have a satisfying hue of melancholy humming beneath the surface, the way a glorious, burnished September day can be suffused with the scent of forthcoming winter. They are gorgeous.

“In the weeks that had passed since she had met Rupert Stonebird at the vicarage her interest in him had deepened, mainly because she had not seen him again and had therefore been able to build up a more satisfactory picture of him than if she had been able to check with reality.” 

One of Pym's female characters describes living a life of 'genteel poverty'.  I love that phrase. Many of the female characters speak of parcelling up old clothes and sending them off to the 'distressed gentlewomen's society'.  How I wish there was still a distressed gentlewomen's society that dished out threadbare cashmere cardigans and tweed jackets.  I am utterly, utterly broke at the moment.  Which brings me on to my next topic . . . 

I have applied for a new job!

Heaven forbid that I should sound like Liz Jones, but things are rather bleak at Chez Underscore.  Six years ago I gave up a well paid job because I passionately wanted to teach.  Consequently, I ran up obscene debts whilst I took my PGCE.  Even when I started work at the School of Hard Knocks, I was earning 70% of my previous salary.  I've never really recovered, financially speaking.  As I type this, there are 12 days until pay day, and I have £30 in the bank.   I've spent much of the previous year selling my belongings on EBAY.  

Before breaking up for half-term, I spotted a teaching job at a local school.  It's a similar level of responsibility to my current job, but with a higher TLR (management allowance) attached. It equates to an extra £2000 per year.  Not a tremendous  amount more, but Christ, I need it.

I do love the SOHK though.  I have agonised about whether I should leave.  Generally, change makes me twitchy and uncomfortable and I am so socially inept and gauche that it takes me YEARS to settle anywhere and 'make friends'.  I do have some truly lovely friends at SOHK.  Plus, in a new job,  I'd have to be all 'efficient' and 'impressive' and shit.  Prove myself. That will be exhausting.  And will probably involve more than simply perching my tortoiseshell reading glasses at the bottom of my nose and carrying a clipboard everywhere I go.  I was also conflicted because I do believe (profoundly) in loyalty.  There is a modern view in education that to progress one's career, one has to move schools every 4/5 years.   I am more of the 'Miss Read' faction .  I always pictured myself dedicating my career to one school, and really making a difference there. To me, there is great comfort and honour in staying-put. 

However, it all comes down to finance.  I posted my application today.  Which leads on to my final topic . . . 

I am considering interweb dating (again)

I can't actually afford the membership of though, so I've not signed up just yet.  I did 'browse' the site the other day.  It's been several years since I was on there and I am frankly appalled at the slim pickings in my age-category.  The coves all look so OLD.  I must briskly face the austere fact:  I am now shopping in the erectile dysfunction - death demographic. It is highly dispiriting. 

I am also struggling with drafting my profile.  This is what I have so far.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments:

'Improverished, bi-polar flibbertigibbet with severe agoraphobia WLTM rugged, serious, misanthropic Tony Benn/ Paul Newman 'sort' for candlelit discussions about socialism, salad dressing and lurcher-husbandry. Fuckwits who use the term soul-mate need not apply.'

What do you think? (Also, would it be terribly improper of me to specify that the chap has his own hedge-trimmer?  I severed the cord on mine yesterday.)  

* For the longest time, Rochester, who admitted to being a salesman, refused to admit what he sold.  I used to tease him that it must be pegs, door to door, like some kerchief-sporting David Essex sort. The scene where he 'came out' of the peg closet is a favourite of mine, and is here.

** By the way, if anyone wants to read the whole Rochester story, from the beginning click here for my thrilling (it's not) screenplay.  Start at scene one.   


  1. So glad you're back! Good luck with your job application/dating endeavors. Let us know what happens, with all the gory details :-)

  2. You are *so* adorable. Welcome back.

  3. Actually we are the ones who cannot get enough of your written candy! If you send out an SOS for a hedge-trimmer, you wouldn't even need to sign up at any kind of mismatch, you would instantly get a selection of the readily erectile species of mankind at your doorstep?

    - or apply for a lurcher-husband with owner in tow:-)

    GOOD LUCK with your application! I recognise only too well your fears, but you of all will excel!

  4. Re: the new job and friends: you won't lose the friends you made by going to a new job. You'll simply be expanding your circle. If feels new and hard, but it's worth it!

  5. Joy unbounded! I go to Norfolk for a week and when I return to a place of reliable wi-fi, you have also returned. So glad you're back, I have missed your writing.

  6. I love Barbara Pym! I think I would be very happy as a dotty spinster with an unrequited crush on the vicar. I think my favorite Pym novel is Jane and Prudence, but I'm also partial to Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle and No Fond Return of Love.

  7. How I've missed your posts.......welcome back :0)

  8. I have read them all ... several times ... with my favourite being Less Than Angels. The heroine Catherine Oliphant is an independent woman. I can see it from here, do excuse me while I start reading it again.

    Anne in Cambridge

  9. Lovely stories about the cad, expecially the "discovered" pictures.

    Hope the job application goes well. We teachers never seem to get enough money for the hours and the responsibility.

    Regarding the Tweedy Fuckwits; what's wrong with Tweed? It's either a robust and warm woolen cloth from Scotland or ot's the perfume of choice of my Mum's generation. We used to get similar (i think) types in the Army. We called the either the Hooray Henrys, Chinless Wonders, or Cecils.

    If I were you I wouldn't mention the hedge trimmer when setting up a dating profile.
    Either you'll get a cad who just wants his privet border trimmed for free,
    you might get a perve who "wants to trim your hedge"

    So nice to see you back.

  10. I think your proposed profile for mismatch is spot on. It will be interesting to see the responses. I too am on there with free membership, and frankly, from the contacts I've had, I wouldn't consider upping to paid membership. Since when does an upper age limit of 50 (I'm 42) mean 'please contact me if you old and decrepit'.

    Gotta laugh though

  11. You have fallen silent again ... oh dear ...

    Dunno that you need an on-line dating site to meet a man ... I moved from Canada to England to marry a man I met on-line ... on irc ... in a chat channel. Now that was a long time ago (1996) but it is an easier way to talk. We typed live to one another for 5 months then he came to Canada for a fortnight & a fortnight later I moved here.

  12. I get back from holiday and I am delighted to see another instalment of Miss Underscore's trials and tribulations.

    I don't share your disapproval of men dancing but for Rochester I think we have to make an exception. I simply can't imagine he's got the vaguest sense of what rhythm even is.

    I tried I've never seen so many uninformative profiles and text speak, and women ending their nicknames with "4u"--surely the most economical way to come across as an illiterate tart.

  13. Just spat my lunch all over my computer laughing at 'I am now shopping in the erectile dysfunction - death demographic.' Welcome back. I'm so pleased to read you again.....