Friday, November 19, 2010

Greyness and Blandness

This morning's traffic jam (an hour to drive five miles) was surprisingly fruitful in terms of ideas.
I was stationary for long enough to sing into my phone on a couple of occasions, and I must remember to put a notebook in the car again: I took it out because I didn't want the mechanics to laugh at my scribblings as well as laughing at me for being a mug and believing them when they told me the list of things that they said needed to be fixed (some of them have miraculously cleared up since then: how can that be?).
There is something beautiful about the ugliness of the North Circular, particularly in the fog. 
The flyovers loom ahead, piercing the gloom with concrete certainty as they curve through the obliterating whiteness; an X-Factor competition has run for years, ensuring that only the ugliest and most functional of buildings and warehouses are allowed to abut the carriageway; signs and logos must be (i) gigantic and (ii) yellow and blue (goes with grey). 
Helplessly, motorists in knackered cars and vans (no jaguars allowed) follow each other like strings of hopeless sausages, forgetting their destinations due to the length and tedium of their journeys.
It's an enormous surprise to arrive because the North-Circularness is so absolute and enveloping.
I emerged from my car blinking and shocked this morning, feeling that I had already done a day's work just by travelling there.
In contrast to yesterday's struggles, the student feedback sheets for Songwriting and Production all said 'satisfied' and 'very satisfied' today.
One of them said it was his favourite Module and he looked forward to it each week. I needed to hear this as lecturing can often feel like pushing a massively heavy boulder up a very steep hill.
I bought books, but I've left them wrapped up in my office because there's no chance I'll be reading them for months. I've got to check about 50 essays this weekend (mercifully, short ones), as there are new staff members with different standards from their previous Universities, both tougher and more lenient, and I have to make sure the students get a fair deal.
But tonight is mine!! 
The mini poppadums are rustling in the kitchen, excited about being scoffed by such an enthusiast. I have sucked up the rugs with the vacuum cleaner (serves them right, the buggers!), sorted the recycling, and will embark on a spell of balloon-popping when Offsprog Two goes out (sorry, but they take up vital space in this tiny house).
I have been daydreaming about allotments: mud and onions, nasturtiums, cold red winter fingers and plumes of breath in the frosty air. Too late now for Barnet, but perhaps one day when I relocate somewhere friendlier and greener I shall have a garden.
I think it says something about the suburbs, that I have lived in Barnet for nearly fourteen years and I don't have a single friend here. 
Behind so many of the smiles there is judgement, frightening racism, a sense of competition ('what school did you say your daughters went to?'), and a desire to criticise the habits of others. 
My pals are a set of misfits and oddballs like me, and sometimes they turn up in squads: fluorescent, leopardskin, laughing, singing and fascinated by the conformity in the streets and the rich pickings in the charity shops jettisoned by their previous owners in their search for anonymity and blandness.

5 comments:

Wilky of St Albans said...

As someone who was born within sight of Oakwood tube station, and spent the first 22 years of his life there, I agree with everything you say about the area.

Anyone who didn't wash their net curtains on a weekly basis was, well, "not quite our class dear".

The schools were basically training grounds for bank clerks.

The only place I ever recall having a Jazz night (the Salisbury on the High Street) got pulled down

Happy Days!

Sarah said...

Great descriptions Helen-of everything. You made me smile. I know just what you mean about how people are-though I think we are lucky to have had at least immediate neighbours that are friendly, but others, that we see all the time just look at us with disdain! How dare they!
Hope you have a lovely weekend! x

frayedattheedge said...

When we lived in Hampshire, I was invited to 'morning coffee' by a woman I had met when walking my dogs. I turned up in casual clothes .... the others were in 'morning dresses' and pearls, talking about their children sitting 'common entrance' exams (I didn't know what those were, Stuart went to the local school!) I definitely didn't fit in (my house would have fitted in a corner of hers, and they had a swimming pool!!)

Helen McCookerybook said...

What a relief to read these comments! I was worried that I had turned into some kind of terrible inverted snob, just as bad as my neighbours!

Anonymous said...

You're on form tonight Helen!

Rich C