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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The Second Prophecy

Shall I have many adventures?

Answer : –

 “Enough to make you regret it”

For the past eight months every Tuesday through Friday has been the same. At 9:45am I say goodbye to Den – who is inevitably pottering about, carrying a paintbrush and muttering to himself. I walk through town to the restaurant. I unlock the gate, then the door – the alarm starts to sound, I run up the stairs and type in the code. I switch on the lights, turn on the heating and so the day begins. With the downtown radio turned on, I take the money from the office, replacing it in the till. I empty the bathroom bins. I hoover the restaurant floor. By 10:30am I have hoovered and mopped the floors, it’s coffee time. The ritual of making coffee, especially the first of the day, is a sacred one. I grind the beans which I compact into the press. Heating milk is an art form; the jug must be balanced – sturdy and small. The secret to good froth is all in the noise, it should sound soft and hollow, a whisper – the nozzle of the steamer starts at the bottom of the jug, moving to the top as the milk heats, rising in volume as the froth builds. As the milk settles, I turn the hot water on, letting it filter through the ground beans; dark liquid with a crème fills the bottom of the cup. Adding the milk completes the process. I make six coffees for the chefs; the seventh is a latte for me. I don’t believe in semi-skimmed milk, coffee is a luxury – indulge with full fat. Then I cut the butters, fill ramekins, polish glasses and set tables depending on the bookings – it’s almost noon. I change the menu board outside, switch the radio on to the 7 year old playlist. I hate that playlist. I change the sign and we are open. Most lunches are quiet, sometimes Mr D comes in – he’s older than God and brings in his wife. She’s in a nursing home just up the road. They come in at 12:20; they have pan fried lemon sole – his with mash, hers with Sautee. Green beans in olive oil, lemon zest, shallots, thyme. One glass of Sauvignon blanc, one of Rioja. He’ll have an americano-no-milk while she has an apple crumble with vanilla-pod ice-cream.

I’ve had this niggling the past few weeks – uncomfortable half-thoughts ricocheting through my mind of travel, places, adventure. The oracle says I will have enough adventures to regret them, if that’s a warning I can quite safely say that regret is always preferable to repetitive mundaneness. The real danger of boredom is that it gives way to self-indulgent specualtions, and I have found myself in overdrive – obsessing whether I know myself at all. Which is as melodramatic as it is annoying. The real problem is that my life is fractured at the best of times, part of me left in Africa, the other part uneasy with what identity I’ve created. London made things worse. I went there and somehow got mixed up the fringes of the arrogant, opulent and slowly decaying society that my frayed colonial ties afforded. There is something about the clawing upper middle class in England, it was as appealing as it was tragic. I liked the cosmopolitanism, the sohpistication, the clothes… so far away from Zimbabwe.

 I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city – Evelyn Waugh

Today I don’t miss London, today I really miss being ten; playing by the naarjie trees in a sliver batwing dress from the Narnia cupboard with no concern beyond … what did we worry about then?

My worry today is living with the regret of having too few adventures. Which makes me realise that starting my masters in law in September is a colossal mistake. I’m going travelling.


The First Prophecy

What will be the result of my enterprise?

Answer :

 “All your foresight will be of no avail”

It was quiet last night in the Restaurant, so I talked to Michal while I ate chilli prawn risotto (at this rate I will look like Shelob and never be able to run the marathon). He told me that fifteen years ago when he was starting out as a commis (not communist) chef in Warsaw, a group of forty people turned up and demanded the restaurant was emptied of its guests. The group, it turned out, where members of the Russian Mafia and their prostitute friends. Michal said they were all slightly nervous; they were told there would be consequences if the food wasn’t up to scratch – but in the end it didn’t really matter because Russian Mafia members only like to eat potatoes, albeit with caviar as a garnish. I asked him if he had been worried they would kill him, “No” and my question annoyed him – he wasn’t frightened, why would he be? If you are honest and passionate about what you do there will be no cause for complaint. I quite like the fable of the Russian Mafia – so long as you are honest and passionate no one should want to knee-cap you. Just know how to cook potatoes.

The revelation that agonising about the future is futile is hardly ground-breaking, nevertheless it’s still true and worth remembering. There was no need for Michal to fear being stabbed by some enraged Mafioso whose sautéed potatoes weren’t quite garlicky enough – he knew they would be perfect. And perhaps that’s my problem, I lack conviction. I attribute most of my flakey and unappealing characteristics to the fact that a large proportion of my life has been conducted in my head. The fact that I’ve done so many remarkable things in my fictional life means the real one is often left short. I have this constant fear that by persuing one interest I am closing the door to all the others.  This is something I will endeavour to rectify.  Losing the safety-net of education is a terrifying thing.

Worrying, as the Oracle so wisely states, is of no avail and so taking this on board I realise I am exempt from a day of internship applications (jobs are totally future-orientated); instead I will spend the day watching the Leveson enquiry and googling celebrity workouts.

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