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August 21st, 2006

08:17 am - Just like watching Brasil Day
So there we were sitting in Pizza Express having a philosophical debate about euthanasia. This was the obvious succession to Gran’s priceless announcement that she’s extremely glad that Brazilian men dancing still turns her on. No doubt our fellow diners in the restaurant were extremely glad of that image in their heads whilst masticating mozzarella. Well there ain’t no party like a Granny Cool party! I’m not sure which is harder to cope with- the grandmother who expects your opinion on euthanasia and the sex drives of OAPs or the grandmother who expects you opinion on Westlife and Bruce Forsyth. I guess engaging with both gives a good balance to life!

I find it rather bizarre when people think I’m visiting Gran (and other ageing relatives) just to be kind or as some kind of duty. Do you seriously think I’m that benevolent?! My brother, for example, said I was doing my good deed for the weekend. I laughed and mumbled an agreement whilst thinking, “no, I’m here because we have fun and I love being with her and she’s not going to be around forever”. It was lovely for my brother to phone me, though and I think he liked his birthday present. Huzzah!

It was Gran’s birthday on Saturday so I headed down to Kent on Friday night to stay for the weekend. The garage have loaned us an “Astra, Jim, but not as we know it” until the Swedish Milkfloat is returned. This Astra is not one of the old-school, supremely stealable, Sherman tank models, it’s a new hot hatch winning prizes for Ultimate Salesman Transporter- it’s happy at high speeds, it’s smooth, it has plastic fantastic tacky controls, it’s reasonably economic, it looks sporty without being too daring and it has a specialist stash compartment for your Oakleys. Who could ask for more? Pa forced me to admit that in a way it is more my cuppa than the Volvo, but what’s a girl to do?

Saturday was a bit of a whirl. A potential buyer came to view Gran’s house at 9:30, at which point we were still shovelling cereal into our mouths and sitting amidst a sea of wrapping paper and birthday goodies. He seemed upbeat and the estate agent impressed me so fingers crossed on that front. Then, off we went to London to see the matinee showing of Brasil Brasileiro at Sadler’s Wells.

The show was an extravaganza of music and dance leading you like a carnival procession through the history of samba- from tribal gatherings to blues to modern hip-hop with the unique mingling of African beats and European harmonies; so, so smooth. The cast were all from Brazil and my goodness, they were absolutely exceptional at dancing. The whole show was really inventive with group dances, rather raunchy dances for couples and an amazing trick with spotlights against a white backdrop to give dancing shadows. A group of men did the most breathtaking tumbling I have ever seen. It barely seemed real! There was also almost a low-key atmosphere to the whole show; it was as if you were a fly on the wall at a community celebration in the back streets of Rio. And yes, neither Gran nor I was too upset by the men dancing in little more than Speedos for a substantial proportion of the show!

It was quite a shock to step out of the theatre and find ourselves back in rainy Islington- rather a Narnia wardrobe moment- but we had fun riding the bus back to Cambridge Circus and strolling back to our favourite pizza restaurant. We passed a shop that only sold umbrellas (and tropical sunshades as the signage delineated)! I continued the spicy theme of the afternoon with a chicken and sweet chilli pepper pizza taste sensation and (having had salad for lunch), I was persuaded to have a PUDDING. This is a rare event, being not a lover of the cake or cream constituents of many puddings and not possessing the greatest appetite. However, there was lemon sorbet on the menu and I could dream about lemon sorbet. If you ever want to bribe me, lemon sorbet works well especially, as I discovered on Saturday, if it is accompanied by chocolate straws. Mmm…

The train announcer at Charing Cross made the usual herald that our train would be ‘FAST to Orpington’, which had Gran and I whooping in mock excitement and stretching our cheeks as if we were in a wind tunnel.
“Hold onto your seats at London Bridge!”
“Look out for the extreme G force!”
By the time we pulled out of London Bridge, Gran had whacked me for chiming in with the announcer every time he listed all the gazillion stations between London and Hastings. I love it though; it’s almost as soothing as the Shipping Forecast. “Channel Light Vessel Automatic, Southwest 3 or 4, squally showers, moderate, occasionally good…”

Sunday dawned with the luxuries of not having to move for hours and having a double bed to spread-eagle in. Having being all pudding-ed out the previous night, we had saved the pink jelly for breakfast! I suspect jelly for breakfast could become a birthday institution, because it was so much fun and felt stupidly naughty. My family rather inconsiderately have the majority of their birthdays in August (ok so mine is the day after August too!) so off we went to Bexhill for more partying- this time in honour of Jane’s 50th and Hugh’s birthday and Pete’s birthday (although he was in France). Gran and I had lunch with Mickie, who does extraordinarily well for an 86 year old but is really not so happy with life anymore. She seemed really fidgety, but we had a good laugh being overfaced by cake and competing to see who could make their age sound the most depressing- it was a tie between me being halfway to fifty and Mickie being ninety minus four! When we went to Jane’s barbecue, Mickie kept introducing me to Jane’s friends and Hugh’s family as “Lily who’s halfway to fifty”. She’s an absolute scream! I was really not in the mood for more eating, but it was great to see my rellies and just feel so bless that we are free to have gatherings like that in these troubled times. I was reluctant to tear myself away and make the 20mph trek back around the M25, but all in all, it was a glorious weekend. I’m glad I got back on the roads again, too, after the incident last week and it feels ok driving.

I had a parcel from my publisher awaiting my return. It’s a poem I’m slightly embarrassed by now- in terms of sentiment and over-sentiment- it’s off the scale in daggyness! By the way, daggy is a fantastic word that I use with great intent because it means daggy and it IS daggy. They’ve published this little sonnet of mine in a book of lurve poetry, which is quite a shock to the system for Lily Feet of Shrek, Least Romantic Lady on the Planet. It’s still fun to see it in print, though! I might show Ging when I see him; I did warn him that it was going into print and the references to him are really not very cryptic so it should raise a smile at my expense and that’s a fair deal. Tea With Elsie should be out at the end of next month and hopefully Sandie will be pleased to have that as a small keepsake.

Oh and just for Gran, “this is the Hastings train calling at
Waterloo East
London Bridge
FAST to Orpington
Change here for services to Paddock Wood, Maidstone and Dover Priory
High Brooms
Tunbridge Wells
St Leonards West
St Leonards Warrior Square
Change here for services to Bexhill
AND Hastings where this service will terminate”
Current Mood: lovedblessed

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August 18th, 2006

08:18 am
I pictured a rainbow
You held it in your hands
I had flashes
But you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

You were there in the turnstiles
With the wind at your heels
You stretched for the stars
And you know how it feels
To reach too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered I guessed and I tried
You just knew
I sighed ...but you swooned
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

With a torch in your pocket
And the wind at your heels
You climbed on the ladder
And you know how it feels
To get too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon!

Unicorns and cannonballs
Palaces and piers
Trumpets towers and tenements
Wide oceans full of tears
Flags rags ferryboats
Scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision
Underneath the stars

You climbed on the ladder
With the wind in your sails
You came like a comet
Blazing your trail
Too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
Current Mood: surprisedsurreal but super

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08:16 am - I saw flashes, you saw the plan... day
Well it's all been happening, my possums and blossoms… especially on Wednesday. What I had planned to be a quiet, catching up day at work turned into a frenzy with 2 conference calls and 2 5-min jobs that were still incomplete after spending 2 hours on each. I met Sandie and Ma for a delicious Italian lunch (surprise, surprise Lily had Pizza Capricciosa). Sandie is my fake aunt and one of my favourite people; she’s brilliant.

Wednesday evening, I took Paul, Gail and Wendy (and Ma and Pa brought their friends Mary and John in Westy) on a random night I just entitled Bats and Cocoa. It wasn’t much less mysterious for me- I’d just seen the advert and thought it would be fun and educational. Anna had gone to the cinema with her new church group instead, not being of a convincedness about the joys of spotting bats. Anyway, us budding bat buffs congregated in the water meadows just outside a town further along the Thames and awaited enlightenment from the bat boffs. I can honestly say it was absolutely fantastic. Everyone with me seemed to really enjoy it too, which was rather a relief! The bat boff gave us a talk first about the species we would hopefully see and the ecology of the meadows, then it was off into the unknown with torches and bat radios. Basically, if you tune in to 40-50kHz you can hear the little critters chatting on Pipestrelle, Daubentons and Long-Eared FM and at 20kHZ it’s Notule FM. Depending on their size and how fast they fly (except Horseshoe bats who echo locate in a different way), the bats make different sounds in order to echo locate. The blindness of bats is actually a misconception, though. Often, you could hear the bats flying towards you and then shine your torch to spot them. We saw and heard all four of the expected species around the poplars and willows, roosting in the old bridge and swooping over the river. There was also a WW2 pillbox that they had converted into a hibernaculum, which is a place they can roost in winter. They go into torpor like hedgehogs and other small mammals. My favourite bats were the Daubentons, also known as fishing bats, which scoop insects of the top of the water. The whole experience was just incredible. What a privilege to have someone help you appreciate how much wildlife there is in England, even in towns.

After reluctantly returning the bat radio, it was back to the Batvan for some much-welcomed cocoa and cakes. I picked up a voice message from Steve to say he’d received my letter and thought it was fantastic and a text from Ging saying ‘long time no hear, are you ok?’ (it’s been about 6 weeks since I spoke to him), but I decided it was rude to reply to them whilst I was out with my other friends. At 10:30, Paul asked to be taken home because he has to be up for work at 5 so we left the oldies with the van and set off back to my house (about 12 miles away).

The road was one of those single carriageway, fast but bendy A roads that always make me wonder why people think motorways are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. For the first half of the journey, we drove across a prairie of rolling fields and then the road ducked into dense woodland for the next few miles. There was nothing ahead or behind me and we were feeling really chilled out after the bat experience so I was doing 60-70mph; I don’t do crazy speeds in my old age, especially not with passengers. I didn’t feel tired, but the girls did and we were all quiet-content. Out of nowhere, there was suddenly a car overtaking coming the other way and heading straight for us very rapidly. I was too puzzled to panic (sometimes its handy being a bit slow in the head!), but everything seemed to suddenly be going in slow motion. There seemed to be a long moment of suspense as the extremely surreal thought went through my head “all 4 of us are about to die and I’m the only one who can do something about that”. It was horrible; had we been a few miles back, I probably just would have chanced driving into the fields, but here in the woods we weren't going to come away much better if I went off the road into the trees and metal signposts at that speed than if I hit the other car. Paul spotted what was happening just as I did, but was obviously powerless to help and too shocked to say anything anyway. There was nowhere to go, the car just kept on coming and the guy being overtaken kept on coming just as fast; looking back now we think they must have been racing or something. Somehow, I swerved around the idiot and just missed him, but I had to pull back quickly to stay on the road and our car started spinning out of control. I could feel that if I hit the brakes as hard as I was wanting to it was going to flip. It felt like an eternity of flashes between bright lights, trees, eerie pictures of my friends when they were kids (at least 15 years before I knew them) and highly randomly a picture of Jeremy Clarkson test driving. Every so often, I’d think “I’m still steering, I’m sick of steering now, when is this going to end?” and there was total silence. It’s as if your brain puts so much effort into concentrating, only the really necessary senses function- in this case being able to see and feel- and everything else shuts down. I was trying to pull out of the spin, but we veered across the road at least once and were suddenly on the wrong side heading for the trees that side, still at considerable speed. I whacked the kerb with a loud bang, but the jolt probably helped me pull the car back, staying on the road and eventually we stopped right in the middle across both lanes. It was incredible- the engine was still running and most miraculous of all, suddenly there was no traffic anywhere. Had there been anyone behind the two cars coming towards us, we would have gone straight into them. Anyone driving behind us would also have had a hard time taking avoiding action. Paul hit the hazard light switch and I pulled over to the left and switched the engine off. The cause of the incident was long gone into the night and there was no point in calling in the police; other than four wheels and headlights on main beam, I couldn’t tell you anything about either of the other cars! We had come within inches of death and there was not a scratch on us and only a scuffed hubcap on the car. I was in total shock, gasping for breath and my whole body ached, but the gang were amazingly calm and Paul drove the last few miles home.

It was bats and a miracle all in one night. Who could ask for more? ; ) I don’t remember consciously praying while the incident was happening, just thinking ‘Steve will not forgive me if I die and I have to stay alive to bring him to Jesus’. I was so incredibly angry that it had happened with the gang in the car too. It wouldn’t have been half so scary had I been alone. There's no need to be morbid and melodramatic, but it is an exceptionally weird feeling to have come within inches of killing probably all of them and me. I’ve been in situations on my own that I thought I wouldn’t survive- it’s curious how the same sensation of slow motion and total silence reoccurs in completely different scenarios- but I don’t remember it crossing my mind as a serious possibility that I might have to react to a such a grave (pun intended!) situation on behalf of my friends as well as myself, particularly when doing something so ordinary as driving us home. I’m not ashamed to admit that in the moment before I swerved I thought ‘I don’t want to be responsible for what happens to my friends, this isn’t fair’. Once it all started happening and we were heading into the trees on the left at 60mph, I did think ‘no, if we have to crash at least let the impact be on my corner of the car’ but from then on when I was in the endless tunnel of steering I was just focused on getting to the end of the event, just getting through. And yes, there did begin to be a temptation to stop caring how it ended if it would just end more quickly. There was also a scoop of Magic August Doom in the cocktail of emotions and thoughts. Amongst other things, it’s two years today since my beloved bro Bob died and it' was five years last week since Kyla died. Magic August. When I was thinking ‘I can’t die now’, the paranoia did hit me quite hard that it's August and bad things happen in August and if I was going to die on Steve, two days before the anniversary of Bob’s death was pretty rubbish timing! Praise God, we are all ok. As Ging pointed out yesterday, I’m still “a bit lucky” and the Jammy Dodger and her mates lived to fight another day.

I didn’t really sleep at all on Wednesday night. Ma and Pa were ok when I told them what had happened. I got Dad to book the car into the garage, because although it looks fine it’s more than likely that the front wheels need rebalancing/replacing and the tracking is probably mashed. I texted Ging to say I was fine, but I’d explain more in an email! I just lay in bed, listened to Aled Jones until I felt vaguely calm and thought about the people in my life and nature and fate and the way God’s holding it all together. We are all in the palm of his hand and when life gets tough, He curls up his hand and holds us tight so we cannot fall. I’m not invincible- nobody is- but these things are good at reminding me to try harder to keep God in the centre of my life. When God saves your life more times than you can remember or count on your fingers, you know that there is the awesome likelihood that he has a plan and a use for you, maybe something big, later in life…
Current Mood: gratefulextremely grateful

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August 14th, 2006

08:14 am - Sweetness Follows Day
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

That was the incredible Johnny Cash. I don’t feel like that at the moment, but I heard it playing at the weekend and felt rather haunted by it. I was saying to Anna yesterday that I seem to go through phases of wanting to cry but being too choked up and angry or numb or something to be able and the phases of breaking down at the slightest thing.

Laura conceded that I could do what I like if it made me happy. I feel like it’s more of a journey though than a decision about happy or not happy; people’s paths interconnect and sometimes you walk with them if it feels like you’re sharing the same road. I don’t know where I’m headed with some situations but you just trust God and try to keep moving forwards. I feel that I have accept a degree of patience and curiosity in exploring how situations can develop beyond gut instinct. No disrespect, but I’m not interested in some hedonistic sentiment of do whatever gives you short-term entertainment; I’m more of a long-term investment person.

It was a tale of two churches yesterday and conclusive evidence, if needed, for the reason why different denominations must exist; irrespective of doctrinal differences, it’s so important to cater for variations in people’s preferred worship space. In the morning, I went to the town Baptist Church for the second time. I wasn’t just welcomed, I was mobbed! The vicar had emailed the congregation during the week to say to look out for me and evidently included a bit about who I am as well. I also had a lady come up and say that I had a beautiful voice and she had really enjoyed harmonising with me during the service. It was incredible; definitely one of the best welcomes I’ve ever had from a church. The teaching was sound, too and the worship was accessible. The church is at the Anglican end of the Baptist spectrum, which suits me fine and when there are pauses to stop and think, there isn’t any pressurising expectation to report back a revolutionising revelation or have some sudden spiritual high. The whole church (its people and the service) had an impressive radiance of God’s love.

In the evening, I put on my most open-minded hat and agreed to go to the church that Anna had been investigating. It was a member of one of those modern, evangelical chains (no offence intended, the right word eludes me) that are obviously meeting a lot of young people and disillusioned, middle-aged ex-Baptists where it’s at. I mean that sincerely, they are evidently getting into the urban neutral territory meeting places and bringing a lot of people to God. I was tempted to say that they “refresh God’s message for a modern society”, but I think that patronises God and one of the most astonishing things about the Bible is how contemporary and timeless its message continues to be. OK, so Biblical guys sacrifice lambs and barter with shekels, but the social atmosphere and problems- like gambling, immorality, corrupt leadership, desires for revenge- are the devil we all know and see going on now! So yes, Sunday evening I went, I saw… and I felt very cold and confused. I don’t like “rock concert” churches where the music group sings at you and the songs are so un-congregational nobody can join in. There’s something eerie about a silent congregation (unless it’s a Quaker church ; ) ) and I was fighting feelings of “ok, well I’m glad the guitarists are in some happy, fuzzy place”. I didn’t agree with the message of the sermon either, which in itself is not a problem and must be expected sometimes but the tone in which it was put across was not conducive to feeling loved and welcomed by either God or the church. I had to walk out before the sermon finished (and the awkwardness of “ministry” began). I feel bad that I spoiled the evening for Anna and I honestly did try to turn up with no agenda, but that was not a church with which I want to be associated.

Maybe subconsciously there are too many connotations with the youth and university movement that, if it didn’t fail me, certainly let me slip through the net. Maybe I’d agreed too much with the Baptist vicar that these chain churches live for a spiritual moment and carry people into a commitment with God too quickly without the space to explore it deep inside their hearts. Maybe it just isn’t my scene; this is Lily who God broke down through me having to sing Fauré’s requiem in a school concert. Where the youth services had stressed and intimidated me, the classical, Latin versed requiem took me to a place of deep repentance and awe and desire for God. I am always refreshed by the beauty and simplicity of matins and evensong and always come away from those services with a new desire and understanding. Maybe there is a laziness in not always giving myself the quiet space with God outside of church, for which I know we should all find time rather than, or as well as, expecting it from the church. This for me is one way to meet the needs of modern society, though; how many people do make meaningful space to listen to God during the week? I also just find society and life so in my face 24-7, it’s not really appreciated when church adopts the same aggression! I’m not saying don’t challenge me, just take me by the hand.
Current Mood: lovedtough but loved

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August 11th, 2006

03:43 pm - Moonshadow Night
I'm still mortified.It's hard to recover one's solemnity when paragraphs accompanying the aforementioned diagram have such choice (in the circumstances) subtitles as Lubrication Schedule, Testing Equipment, Critical Spares and, thankfully, Health & Safety. Success of the day has to be apologising to Laura. No, I have no idea why it was me who needed to apologise but if it gets the ball rolling for them to do likewise and restores a good friendship, it's more than worth doing. We had a bit of a chat and she said she would meet for lunch one day next week. Huzzah! I think it will be educational for her to learn about different types of people and loves and hurts, cos like duh, I am the expert (there may be an element of tongue in cheekness in this sentence) and it's just immense fun to be patronising.

I'm going home relatively early tonight. Have a crippling rucksack full of melodramatic, cheesy pop ballads ready to enjoy 24 hours without either of the parentals and I'm taking Anna out for a gourmet van dinner tonight in the beech woods. Is this a balanced meal or just tasty? I have pasta with bacon bits and pesto, a mixed salad and then, just like the good ole Camber Sands days, tinned chocolate sponge pudding. Who could ask for more? There's even Scrabble on board and a walk to the giant fallen oak tree. It's also a full moon if we stay out that late- howoooooooooooooooooooooool!
Current Mood: calmoh so composed

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02:52 pm - Page 3 Day ooh er...
I'm young, I'm overtired, I'm still trying to get to grips with writing this confounded borehole manual, it’s Friday afternoon... and I have just exploded with laughter in the middle of the office. It was all going so well. I'd just carried off an inspired and jovial revenge prank on Mr Angry- he keeps accusing me of losing his pen/stapler/papers so whilst he popped out I took my stack of sizeable, fluorescent, arrow-shaped post-its and wrote some helpful labels such as PEN and stuck them on his desk pointing to said pen etc. There I was unassumedly scrolling through an existing site manual when he returned and made an animated semi-pretence at not being amused. Absolute brilliance. Then I returned to unassumedly scrolling through an existing site manual, I get to page 3 and suddenly a diagram appears with GREASE NIPPLES in big letters. I just exploded! Oh the merry world of industrial innuendo. Get a grip, Lil, it's really not this funny... ok thankfully the blokes in my pod are laughing just as much...
Current Mood: gigglyhelpless

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August 10th, 2006

08:50 am - Vegetating Vendetta Day
Followed up a bicycle SOS from my friend Anna last night. It turned out to be two flat tyres and a loose front brake so I didn’t even have to be at my most butch to fix that! Anna’s feeling of joyous liberation, having not cycled for quite a while, was so infectious as we cycled upstream along the river to the downtown bridge and then back along the other bank and over a (to me seemingly endless) weir where a heron was fishing from a perfect poise on a dangling loop of rope. Like Friday, the day of the Railway Children picnic, it was a lovely end to a rather fraught and frustrating day. I got asked to write a manual for site operations at a new borehole my company is planning to construct. My aim at work is always to have a can-do nature- I have a tendency to say “oh yes, no problem” before I worry about whether I really do have that information or can get such and such working. I felt more than a little overfaced, though, when I was asked to do this manual. I have never seen a borehole, most definitely never operated one and seldom wondered how one would. It was (and will most likely to continue to be today) difficult to suppress feelings of “hey! Why not just ask me to advise on building and operating a successor to Mir whilst you’re at it!” Did you know that boreholes are named after the chasm of boredom which swallows anyone who ventures near to one? Well now I do!

I did warn Anna and should probably warn you, if you hadn’t noticed, that I seem to be having an unprecedented supermard this week. Everything feels so personal. Some veg I took out of the fridge last night was mouldy and it felt like a vendetta! I don’t know about you, but I find myself making stern soliloquies about it being a damned courgette and not the end of the world. Every time I get off the phone to someone or walk away from a convo I get this feeling in my stomach like when you go over a hump-back bridge and alarm bells of “oh my goodness, I really have just had a me, me, me whinge about the whole world for the last 10 minutes… AGAIN!”. Without being funny, I’m convinced I’m not normally anywhere near this bad. What’s going on? * Humungous eyeroll*

And why am I so lethargic? It felt great- really energising- cycling last night but I just don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings this week, which really is out of character. I’m just not prepared to make the defeatist excuse about it being August and August being cruel to me. Come on Lil, get out in the sun and smile!
Current Mood: sleepyneither use nor ornament

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