Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Sixth Prophecy

How many husbands shall I have?

Answer :-

“Several in jest and one who will cause you to weep

It may come as a surprise to discover that once upon a time I was engaged to be married. Even more surprising is the fact that technically I think I still may be. So far the oracle has been completely right, and if the following account (coupled with the sixth prophecy) is anything to go by – my future looks far bleaker than even I could anticipate. Unemployment I can deal with, marriage I cannot.

About two years ago I found myself at the mecca of Southern-Hemiphere scummery. The Church is a nomadic nightclub in London which I first encountered when it was located in Kentish Town, allegedly it has now moved to Clapham, but I can’t be sure or bothered to google it. My advice is simple, never ever go there. My fellow Afro-Irish friend Tasha (a platinum blonde bombshell with a collection of tattoos and miniscule skirts) had come to visit one weekend, and as homage to our childhood we made our way to the Church. The Church opens at midday on Sundays and closes at 4pm, the floor is covered in sawdust and you can only buy (with tokens) your drinks in three’s – these come in a plastic bag which most attach to their belts. With pre-historic strippers for entertainment and all the worst 90’s classics to dance to – this is a cultural experience of the highest order.

Initially we promised not to drink (we were there to observe and Tasha was worried dodgy saffas would replace the alcohol with chemicals that would make her blind), yet it soon became clear that the sole way to endure this hideousness (despite potential loss of eyesight) was to purchase our own plastic bags of Fosters (our dignity may fast have been approaching negative points – but please note that not once did we resort to fastening our beverages to any part of our clothing which I hope did us credit). Those who arrive in costume are waived an entry fee and I can assure you that the Southern hemisphere-ites choice of fancy dress make even Prince Harry’s party attire seem positively tasteful. Think boot polish. We thus avoided making eye contact with anyone dressed up, thereby considerably reducing the number of people we could talk to. Tasha was instantly cornered by every beefy buffoon in a ten metre radius and I (with my darker hue of blonde hair) was left talking to some seriously wigga kiwis. Before I embark on my explanation of how it was I became engaged, I should really give a bit of background information regarding previous suitors as means of an explanation as to how it was my betrothal came about.

I’ve always assumed my aversion to marriage came as a result of previous and unfortunate specimens of romantic interest. If this was ye olde times then one would be forgiven for presuming I had met the majority of my suitors at the travelling circus when viewing them in the cages they were so rightly kept. The modern day freaks i’m attracted to can be divided into three main categories:

Specimen One: The Southern African Abroad

Appealing qualities are mainly aesthetic, a lifetime of sport and sunshine means that those from this category are well built and tanned. Good sporting knowledge. If made temporarily homeless this homo sapiens would be capable of slaughtering something for dinner (just don’t expect him to cook it).

Unappealing qualities: somewhat lacking in the intelligence department (one too many rugby balls to the head). Unlikely to believe in evolution or equal rights or conservation. Prone to shooting things. Unlikely to be able to read or speak in words of more than one syllable.

 

Specimen Two: The Rah Boy

Appealing qualities – generally excellently groomed with a good head of hair. Well travelled. Nice taste in shoes. Knows about cricket and rugby. Good command of a knife and fork, well mannered around strangers.

Unappealing qualities – cries easily (result of boarding school abandonment issues), weak chin. Finds un-funny things hilarious especially when it comes to the mocking of poor people; homosexuals, those with disabilities and foreigners. Presumed secret empathy for the BNP. Zero knowledge of politics but supports the Tories regardless (on the grounds of lenient inheritance tax.)

 

Type number three: The Irish Militant

Appealing qualities – nice eyes. Good sense of humour. Down to earth and friendly (providing you’re from the right side of the divide… or left – religion depending). Somewhat skewed, but nevertheless, real passion for history. Would be able to protect you, regardless of dubious methods used in doing so.

Unappealing qualities – often short in stature, and therefore frequently in possession of Short Man Syndrome (unrelated, but have there ever been any tall dictators?) alcoholic, pyromaniac, not overly tolerant.

Overall none were really keepers.

So there I was, having just ended a long-term relationship with a member of the Southern African Abroad group, I was feeling disillusioned and alone. When my new kiwi friend announced in desolated tones that he was due to be deported, a flash went off in my head. As a plumber on the underground he was in possession of good vocational skills, he owned a car, seemed neither aggressive nor overly stupid and most importantly he did not fall into any of the categories I usually found myself landed with. What more could you want in a husband? And so it was that I proposed to him, with heartfelt offerings of my British Nationality. He said ok, and offered me a holiday in New Zealand in return. I love the Lord of The Rings. We were clearly soul mates.

Tasha, meanwhile, had managed to offend one Flinstone-of-an-Australian and in retreat had beckoned me to replenish our supply of Fosters. With the decision to follow her, I turned my back on my impening marriage. I never saw my fiancé again. I did look for him, but to no avail. I never even knew his name. In retrospect I suppose this was not necessarily a bad thing, if I am (as prophesised) to have several marriages in jest then one less can only be good economics.

The Ladies Oracle is preoccupied with questions of the heart… I have so far avoided asking any of these. Traumatised by failed engagements, racist boyfriends and the occasional propensity to stalk interesting people simply because they use coloured writing pens and break things when intoxicated, I have sworn myself off men for the past few months. I resent the number of questions dedicated to the male sex because it highlights the worst of stereotypical female characteristics. What I do know to be true is that there are far too many people in relationships simply to avoid their own company, and whilst ideally you should be happy with yourself I do believe far better to have a marriage (or several) in jest, than one to in order to escape yourself… So in light of the fact that I refuse to believe happiness lies purely in a relationship (and *vom* actually lies in the one with youself), if any more husband related questions arise from the oracle I will simply have to use my long-lost fiancé as reference, (as painful as may be) he was once almost my husband and for now that will have to suffice. Besides I have several more coming my way, so what’s to worry about?

Image

(Fiance is the one in the hat, and I make no apologies for my t-shirt)

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p.s thank you for all the concern regarding my near destitution, I actually do have a paid job and an internship, so offers to send me food are not really necessary. I’m occasionally prone to slight exaggeration, and my last posts were more to highlight the lack of interesting jobs and my inability to secure any of the rare ones going! Appreciate the thoughts all the same though.

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The Fifth Prophecy

Will my position soon be changed?

Answer : –

“It will change if you change it, not else”

They did warn us post-graduation that finding a job would not be an easy task, that we would be poorer than our parents were. Our generation would pay for the materialistic consumer driven mistakes of those who had brought us here –  this carbon gassed, war ridden, and immoral world. I paid little attention to the doom and gloom of my elders. They were old after all, and I was young – and everyone knows that to be young is the key to success. Besides I had gone to a prestigious red-brick university in London and the world was my oyster. Very soon I would be living in Cheslea, dancing in red soled shoes on the Kings Road and drinking over priced cocktails – happiness epitomised for any half-wit, twenty-something girl.

Deciding on the glamorous world of publishing, I applied for a graduate training scheme with Harper Collins. I spent more time researching what publishers wore than what they actually did (appearance is everything), and so on the day of my first interview I looked the part, whatever that part was meant to be. I spoke enthusiastically about a Turkish writer I had seen on a TED talk, and a few weeks later I was invited to a final interview. Finding a job was clearly not as difficult as they had all predicted. And I believed that, until it all started to go wrong – firstly because of Rupert Murdoch, and then because of a three year old –but really because of me.

I woke up very early on the morning of my final interview. Feverish and aching all over, I initially attributed these symptoms to nerves –however when a cystic acne face stared back at me in the bathroom mirror, my worst nightmares were quickly confirmed. I had chicken pox… for the second time. Too tired to wash my hair, and too itchy to attempt any proper concealment of my blemished face, I went to my interview in spite of my better judgement (and I’ll admit, a complete lack of concern for the pensioners I was unwittingly murdering on the tube – that thought has plagued me since if it is any consolation).

One of my interviewers made a joke and laughed – I glared at her, didn’t smile and continued to scratch my incredibly itchy elbow and look out the window. When asked which literary character I most identified with, my response was Elizabeth from The Naughtiest Girl in the School books (Enid Blyton is an excellent shout for those wishing to demonstrate sophisticated literary tastes…) improving my performance, I changed my mind and said actually no I was too square to be like Elizabeth and I didn’t know who I was like… next question?  By the time it got to the presentation part of the assessment (and my acne had now turned into a delightful collage of aggressive boils) I had difficulty remembering where exactly I was. I do know that the entire Harper Collins board of directors were watching me, and a few were sniggering (I don’t blame them), the CEO definitely passed a note to another executive– more laughter, but by now most of my attention was on how much my back itched, and how it would be very hard to imagine a worse day, and the total humiliation sort of passed me by. Maybe I have more of a moral conscience than I realised, and my bout of chicken pox was a physical reaction to the notion of working for Rupert Murdoch… a deeper part of me thinks it was fate’s cruel lesson on the evils of complacency.

I left Harper Collins HQ looking like a Clearasil experiment that had gone very wrong, delirious and completely demoralised.  A bag of haribo, and the realisation that publishing is actually just about sales (and largely sales of really bad celebrity autobiographies) made me feel a little better. I tried to be optimistic, and rather than focusing on the fact that I studied an arguably arbitrary subject for three years (I am yet to discover how any knowledge of Trobriand Islanders social rituals could ever be useful) or that after 19 years of education there are no desirable jobs, and little prospect of any in the near future, I have maybe learnt something. Namely:

• That despite Harper’s Human Resources director not believing me, you can get chicken pox twice. I am living proof, and he is a stupid-head.

• If you apply to work for a News Corp company, my experience tells me there is an extremely high chance that you may develop a serious childhood illness for an unlikely second time.

• In a face-to-face interview: not answering questions, looking out the window and never smiling will not win you a job. Take it from me.

• Equally unappealing is greasy hair and continuous scratching of your body, this will give the impression of poor personal hygiene and should be avoided if at all possible.

• No one likes a show off, however having Enid Blyton as your favourite author (aged 23) is not overly impressive. It would be nice to suggest some sort of progression in reading tastes.

My series of unsuccessful applications since has shown me that a sense of entitlement is one of the greatest disadvantages my generation has to deal with today. I left London the day of the riots, with a real sense of sadness. A lot of school and not many prospects, I felt angry with the world too. I felt angry that I had wasted time and money; that I had voted for a party that did the opposite of what it promised. I feel angry now, I’m angry that I’m working in a restaurant that I worked in before University, regression? Perhaps, more so for my single hard working mother who had mistakenly thought she had seen the back of all her children, it isn’t just my generation that’s suffering. I have also discovered that the things I so badly wanted when I was a student no longer appeal to me. Having spent time with my family, had time to really question what it is I want to do with my life I know the oracle to be right. Five out of five. I suppose all we can do is hope, try and expect a little less and do a little more – “It will change if you change it, not else”

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The Fourth Prophecy

Johnny the Jig is Holywood’s most famous child. He sits on the high street and plays his accordion. A child from another era, he looks bedraggled and content. The sculpture is my favourite thing in Holywood and while I was photographing it the other day I found myself thinking a lot about my own childhood. The oracle offers only one question on the subject:

“Am I still thought a child?”

the answer I was given –

“They know there are no children in this age”

I suppose accessing childhood memories becomes harder for everyone as they get older, but for me so many of my memories are half formed from stories and photographs – the other half a vague recollection of what my infant-self witnessed. Leaving Zimbabwe was difficult, and I think for many years I found it easier to simply not think about it. But now that I’m older (and extremely wise) I’ve discovered that thinking about my childhood has been vitally important, not just in understanding my own identity but in appreciating just how lucky we were.

I remember granadilla’s growing at the bottom of the garden, the horse eating the paw-paws, my father’s weird sculptures located in even weirder places, and dress up – I lived for dress up. I remember a new word ‘war veterans’ being introduced into our vocabulary, my mother telling me stories, I remember being feverish with malaria, and I can still smell the sweet flowers of the Jacaranda trees and the feel warm gravel burning under my feet.

I can remember Veronica shelling peas outside in the sun – I put a plastic bag over my head and she told me that I had to take it off because if I died Jesus would come from the sky and shout at her. That was the first I’d ever heard of Jesus.

I remember nights in the dormitory when we whispered about boys from under our counterpane’s and snuck out into the courtyard to gaze at the stars. I remember avoiding hippos as we canoed down the Zambezi and agonising what single sweet to choose on a trip to town. Mostly I remember a time that was largely spent in our imaginations, oblivious to the crumbling walls of the world around us. There would be other nights when our whispers turned to worry – fears of the future. The rumours and tension had slowly eased their way into our world unnoticed – and with their arrival they took the last moments of our childhood. The first white farmer to be killed was from our town, the bitter irony is that there are so many others to have suffered that we will never know about, skin colour still determining political relevance.

When I think back to those days I realise that we were the first generation where the racial divide was starting to matter less and less, schools were integrated and the colour of your skin rarely mattered. The generation of Zimbabwean children who left, like myself, undoubtedly suffered – having everything you know taken from you is traumatic – but we also had something that most will never know, we knew what it was to be children. I was a lucky one, I think of my school friends, both black and white, who were left behind and I know it was worse for them. Looking at Johnny the Jig, and thinking of my own upbringing I realise that the oracle is right, with half the children in the world living in abject poverty and the other half raised with only materialism as guidance, there are no children in this age. I think that’s worth thinking about.

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The Third Prophecy

I doubted the Oracle, and I have learnt a bitter lesson. A few weeks ago I applied for a job in London, and on discovering I had been selected for an interview I consulted the oracle.

“What will happen if I go to the appointed meeting?”

the answer –

“First pleasure, then grief”

Ignoring this damning prediction I blithely flew to London and interviewed for the very serious role of Parliamentary Affairs Assistant. My interviewer was an attractive, lobbyist who (like me) enjoys politics, running and training for marathons. My friend had lent me a lucky hippo which no doubt aided the flowing conversation of the interview – my interview wardrobe had been picked up on sale at a fraction of the cost it was worth and as I skipped up Pall Mall in the sunshine everything looked rosy. We live in such an amazing world. I even experienced a warm glow of compassion for the flock of slow walking tourists following an umbrella, a sensation not yet encountered. It was a good day, one might even describe it as pleasurable.

On the tube I gave my seat up to a man who was at least three hundred years old, and even his lecherous looks and mutterings of ‘you can sit on my lap’ could not dampen my mood. Soon I would be living in London – the most exciting city in the world, I would be working with a political visionary and be influential in changing the world. So very West Wing. Back at my friend’s apartment, I relaxed onto the sofa and crossed my legs – ready relay the details of my brilliant day – she gasped in horror. My heavily discounted trousers were ripped from seam-to-seam “I can see your va-jay-jay” she announced. It dawned on me why they had been so cheap. I had definitely crossed and un-crossed my legs during the interview, had the attractive lobbyist seen my yoohoo?

(Conundrum: As my mother very kindly pointed out if I didn’t get called back for a second interview it was because the interviewer thought I was a hoe-bag, and if I did get asked back it would be with the expressed intention to employ me as an office sex slave.)

I got a phone call at the end of the week, I had a second interview. All my mother said was ‘hmm hmm’ knowingly. I was pleased, but the pleasure had undercurrents of despair.

The night before the second interview could not have gone any worse. I arrived the afternoon before and was staying with the same friend. She’s engulfed in exam revision and between testing her on her gobbets, and her testing me on the 25 strangest interview questions ever asked (how do you get an elephant into a refrigerator?) we finally went to sleep at midnight. At 2am she woke me up to tell me there were mice in the room. At 4am she woke me up because there was an intruder in the house. We called the police, the police arrived, there was no intruder, they thought we were mad, they were right. At 5am I woke up because I knew I only had another hour in bed. At 6am I woke up because I had to. Needless to say the interview was indeed a grievous one. I distinctly remember talking about climate change and garden gnomes, all I can hope is that those subjects were not in conjunction.My addled brain remembers very little else.

So the Oracle was right, the meeting did bring me pleasure  – followed by grief.

I didn’t get the job, and for the past few days have tried to commit suicide by way of carbs – bagels, pasta, crisps, everything the devil planted on this earth to give us poor self-esteem and cellulite have formed my staple diet. But slowly I’ve realised that I did gain a lot from the experience, and I can only benefit from this. Perseverance is necessary, not just in times of fiscal austerity where no interesting jobs exist – but at any time. If I don’t keep trying how will I know what it is that i’m suited to. And so I will persevere… but this time keeping the Oracle’s advice in mind. The third prophecy has taught me well.

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