A room of my own at last


Thank you, by the way, Ms Woolf, for the image. At last I have a space to work in – as opposed to the corner of a desk in a lumber room.  The trouble is, its principal function seems to be a  place to worry in. The piano left the building yesterday morning. Three removal men (is there a description for removal men that doesn’t include the word  ‘burly’? – probably not I fear, it sort of goes with the territory); so three men of assorted sizes but all very strong, turned up at the crack of 10.00am and made lightish work of maneuvering a full sized music school upright piano out of the flat and down three flights of stairs. Three men, all Brummies: two of them tea with two sugars and the other coffee, also with two sugars. Three men, only one of whom qualified for the triple whammy as burly, cheerful and Brummie, and the other two with diminishing amounts of the first two qualities. I think it was one of those bizarre encounters fuelled by the British class system that ensured that everyone was looking down on everyone else.  Final score, real world – three points; bookish and weird – two points. We all parted amicably; me with a room of my own and them with a substantial amount of cash, as they were doing a foreigner. (You can Google the term – it’s Midlands slang). Madame and me were talking about it afterwards and we agreed that we’d achieved the supreme paradox of both marrying beneath ourselves.

Needless to say, the unofficial and unelected chairperson of the Tenants Association – which hasn’t met since we moved here – found time to harangue them about possible damage to the walls, (which there wasn’t). Meanwhile the cleaner was lamenting the fact that she was being told either to work at night (less chance of meeting anyone) or lose her contract, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And so the rest of the day was spent in rearranging the furniture, shredding old documents and throwing others away, and afterwards curating the books in my unique version of the Dewey system.  Books I’m actually using at eye level alongside me, arranged by subject and all the rest somewhere else – but no more crawling under tables.

Meanwhile the bad news was leaking in like a faulty drain. One son’s job has gone up in smoke leaving him with no money because he’s neither sick, nor redundant nor unemployed but surplus to a business with no customers and big borrowings. We watched the news conference given by the Spaffer in Chief waiting to see if anyone in government was concerned about anything except businesses but they didn’t say a word about the people who work (or no longer work) in pubs and restaurants. There are probably tens of thousands of workers in this situation but hey! So a family with three children, one needing constant care because of a genetic disorder is thrown into potential disaster

Our youngest is still clinging to his job in the same business, but he’s between flats and he’s discovered his (ex) flatmate has has been stealing the rent and council tax money and hiding the resulting letters from banks and bailiffs. So he’s sofa surfing now. Our only properly solvent son was promoted two days before the Spaffalogue announced the school closures and so he’s become second in command of a large academy just as the shitstorm breaks.  He said that members of the management team were in tears yesterday when the enormities of trying to feed and protect their most vulnerable children had to be confronted.  We allowed ourselves half an hour outside the flat to collect our artworks from the exhibition which has closed prematurely

We are stretched.  Madame went to the supermarket at 8.00am in the hope of finding something on the shelves but the locusts had swept through during the unobserved pensioners hour.  If anyone dares to mention the spirit of the blitz to me I’ll scream. It’s everyone for themselves and let the weak go to the wall. Strangely, the worry feels completely different from anything we’ve ever experienced before.  We’re floating in a surreal state almost like we’ve been sedated, leaving us conscious and cooperative – but with every piece of bad news flattened out. The anger won’t seem to come – perhaps my ever vigilant superego has declared a state of emergency somewhere inside.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” they say. Oh not Spaffer ……. please – not Spaffer!


Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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