…Abandoned for a life of crime


Dear Boyfriend

I’m writing this because it has been days since we spoke. When I try to talk to you now, your eyes are hollow, they’re hollow and they’re tired; your fingers twitch constantly, you sit forward, suspended on the edge, a world of crises and escapes that wholly swallow you and then you throw yourself back – why can’t you just relax?

Maybe it was me. Maybe I should have paid more attention to your uncertainty. That first evening, how it started with you stealing a car to drop it back to a dealership – you were elated that you had succeeded, that the mission was achieved.  Then I remember the next evening, that moment you crept into the kitchen when I was cooking dinner and you told me about the violence, that gratuitousness, you called it. I wasn’t strong enough. Perhaps I told you too much how my brother had enjoyed it, maybe you thought it would get easier, that you would start thinking for yourself and stop having to follow orders and plans. You talked about the randomness of the violence, its uncontrolled nature and the way it had to be. I carried on cooking, I just carried on cooking and when I looked up again, you were gone. 

I watched you one evening – I don’t know if you saw me. You were stalking around a neighbourhood and you stole a bike. You climbed onto it, cycled it up a wall and fell off. Soon after that, you decided to start walking again. As I saw it, I knew it would never be the life you’d choose – what with you being a criminal who can’t even steal a bike. 

So when was it that it truly took you? Was it being enticed by the first dancing girl you’ve seen in too many years, was it the way that the victims bounced when you threw them out of their cars? Was it the way that your crimes became cleverer – that you finally got a phone? Was it one of those amusing radio stations as it played out your crimes – it must have been because you turned to me and said ‘that was me.’ 

I returned home from work and you looked at me – I thought you had come back. But you spoke only to tell me how good it is – that if only I could get into it, I’d understand. And then you disappeared again. I know your plans for tonight: you’re going to sedate me with a takeaway, distract me with a KFC Mighty Bucket for One and as I chew on my chicken you’ll go further away; you probably won’t even eat your mini fillets. 

This isn’t you – alone in a too big world full of hills and a sphere of weapons, driven only by the desire to have nice things that you can only get from this miserable, empty life.  

Boyfriend I miss you. 

Please, go back to playing FIFA. 





…On the cover of TIME Magazine

30th January 2011

Kitten has now been resident for three weeks.

As I continue to mull over the pressing issue of this week, you will realise why it is that I write the following confession with a degree of apprehension: if I had been in a position to make an informed choice about my ideal pet, I would have chosen a dog instead of a cat. The reasons are simple, and universal:

🐶 Dogs are loyal
🐶 Dogs are faithful
🐶 Dogs seek to protect their owners
🐶 Dogs bring you their toys to play with them
🐶 Dogs jump all over you and make you feel better after an unfulfilling day at work
🐶 Dogs can be taken for walks, and attract the admiration and affection of people who would otherwise be strangers.

Cats, by contrast are solitary animals, best at stalking the shadows, scratching owners to death, hissing at something that has ruffled their presence, destroying items of property that the owner has had for years, and being generally self absorbed. They are the My Super Sweet Sixteen brats to the canine’s busy and personable Sherlock Holmes.

Or at least that was what I thought before Kitten setlled at home. There have been many acts since her arrival that have made me realise, in bursts of sudden pride, that she is not just any old kitten. She happens to be the cleverest kitten that the world will ever see. Evidence for this follows:

How Kitten Came to Her New Home

As readers of this blog will know, Kitten was discovered on a cold, dark rainy night in January by a kind runner who thought she was a pebble with eyes, before stopping (despite the pressing need to cover 3 miles) and realising that she was a very small, wet cat. The kindly runner (your narrator), believed at the time that Kitten was lost, terrified and at the end of her tether about what to do next. As a post-avid fan of Eastenders, I have learned that such attitudes of end of tetherness generally lead to acts of desperation, a la Billy Mitchell at Christmas one year who caused a storm when he broke into the charity box and took the winnings for himself. Kitten would never do something so obvious.

The more I have contemplated Kitten’s actions and behaviour that evening, I have realised that she was not a helpless, ‘Oh no, I’ve gone the wrong way, I’ve got no owner, I haven’t eaten in days’ typical RSPCA ad lost animal. Kitten was waiting to be rescued, watching the traffic, the people and the world go by as she bode her time in the wet night, unconcerned about wandering back to wherever it was she had started from.

Kitten Come Home

Kitten slept for two days upon her arrival at home. It was unclear whether or not she would be a permanent resident, bearing in mind the oft discussed notion of a Disney penned tearful three year old who may have mislaid her.

It was also unclear whether she would stay based on Boyfriend’s mistrust of kittens, owing to the domestic abuse he had suffered on regular occasions by the last time he had allowed one into his life. Boyfriend dressed up his mistrust as pig in blanket devil’s advocacy, ‘We can’t afford her, she can’t be left alone all day, she will destroy our lives, Earth will never be the same again’; it was useless to concern ourselves at the time with the feasibility of Kitten understanding the implications of Boyfriend’s discourse.

At least, it was difficult to comprehend until Kitten had marked her favourite member of the household: although I had of course rescued her from the rain (if ‘rescue’ is the right word, bearing in mind my growing thoughts on the issue), Kitten seemed to love nothing more than climbing onto Boyfriend’s lap, or underneath his arm – just next to him on the sofa was enough for her. When he arrived home from work (without the duty of feeding her or changing her litter, because I would have exercised such duties upon my earlier return form work), Kitten would appear from nowhere and begin the motor in her belly just because he was in the room.

I can’t say such favouritisim was easy to take. In conversation with Florence from work I updated her on the love affair that was happening under my nose. Florence spoke words that spelt for me a spinning so dramatic it can only be compared to that experienced by James Stewart in Vertigo:
“She’s a clever cat – she knows you’re a soft touch but she’s got to work on him to stay’.
Her insight blew my mind. But it opened me up to recognising how much more than just cheap animal psychology Kitten had to offer us.

Kitten: The Good Will Hunting Weeks

It is true that Kitten spends a great deal of time on her own.

My personal drawbacks about leaving Kitten alone and unsupervised for long periods of time were based mainly on the scene in Meet the Parents in which the cat destroys the room it has been locked in. This was a ridculous oversight on my part of exactly what sort of kitten we had living in our midst.

On the first lunchtime in which I visited Kitten at lunchtime, she greeted me hungrily. Once I had fed her, and sat down with my sandwich, I realised that something was out of place. It was in fact an unread copy of War and Peace that I had purchased at an ambitious point some months before. The book was lying on the carpet, open to the halfway point. There was a small empty coffee cup beside it.

Kitten has an affinity for computers. I first thought it was because they are bearers of light and warmth. And then, one evening as I returned from the kitchen to the computer and woke it back up again, the search page had lists of returned results relating to Algebraic methods.

Kitten is clearly an academic all rounder.

Kitten as an Encourager to Do More

If you leave a dog on its own, it is likely the dog will be found later desperate for company, and bored with the lack of individual tasks that it can achieve on its own.

I left Boyfriend alone one evening this week, only Kitten for company. Whilst Boyfriend has agreed to allow Kitten to stay in our lives, his atttiude as I left them together that evening was summed up in my final glance of the living room scene: Xbox controller gripped tightly in his hand, a surreptitous look at Kitten as she prowled around his shoulders along the back of the sofa.

When I returned home that evening, Boyfriend was locked unhappily in a blanket on the sofa, the Xbox controller nowhere to be seen. There had been a sequence of events since my departure.

It appeared that Boyfriend had been playing football on the Xbox. Kitten had been attending to the controller, probably, as my growing observations suggest, attempting to help him play better, though Boyfriend had misunderstood her motives and ended up with scratches on his hand as a result.

Boyfriend does deserve time in the evenings relaxing, absorbing the day that has passed and generally having some time to himself to do the things that he enjoys doing. Alas, in the immaturity of one who is so productive, Kitten has not yet realised that people relax in different ways. It is likely that Kitten saw that the carpet could have been hoovered, that the dishes in the sink could have been washed, and felt that these were things that Boyfriend could attend to. It is difficult to gauge. Boyfriend’s game to a prompt end when Kitten, who had been prevented from assisting him in the play, walked purposefully towards the console and switched it off mid-game.

So…You Own an Unspeakably Clever Pet

The first rule is don’t tell anyone. If anyone was to find out that I have a kitten who reads Tolstoy, a kitten that is likely capable of projecting the country’s annual budget for the next year, a kitten that detects a lack of productivity and positively acts upon it – a kitten that can make coffee, there would be no end to the trashy articles that would be written on the issue.

Her uncertain background would be brought painfully to the public forum, and it is likely that as soon as the world knows she was found by a stranger, I would be locked in a legal battle with the tearful three year old who lost her, grew up and became obsessed with the loss as the turning point in her life, allowing it to define her identity, and her very existence, not sleeping until the day that Kitten returns to her. It would seek only to prevent Kitten from growing into the even cleverer Cat that she will one day be.

The second rule is to be careful what you write. As I mentioned earlier, I have admitted here that had the pet obtainment been a matter of choice, I would be writing about a dog chasing its tail for four hours each evening. I am sure though, that Kitten will understand.

It may be that at some point I make my pride public, allowing the world a small look at the feline prodigy that I have been upstaged by. And when that day comes, I have no doubt that it will not be a small feat – Kitten will be so famous that she will out grow my limited conceptions of what she can do.

In a small way she would thank me, allowing me as her owner and carer, some part of her busy new life. Perhaps she will let me do the talking interviews for her (unless she improves the range of miaowings she currently possesses, further defining tones to articulate her meanings). Because of Kitten, becase of the happy accident of finding her that evening, I will be on the cover of Time magazine – perhaps not as the Person of the Year, perhaps they will create a new award just for me and Kitten – Pet Owner of the Year, Genius Discoverer of the Year.

Maybe just ‘Kitten of the Year.’


…A marathon runner

23rd January 2011

A Brief History: Smoking and Running

Last year I made the brilliant decision to enter the London Marathon.

In November 2009, I finally stopped smoking after six hazy aired years. I soon found that not smoking was harder to do without any motivation, and after a single run with Sister’s Friend, I decided that running would be my new thing.

I quickly found that I was not alone in enjoying running: underneath every stone a runner emerged, spinning epic tales of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and of course, the icing on the cake, an actual Marathon; how was I supposed to stay committed to running without a real goal in mind?

With such a problem to reconcile, I began to plan runs into my weekly routine – ideally three times a week, for twenty minutes. In reality it was once a week with Someone From Work for about an hour, at the end of which I constantly vowed to discipline myself to run at the self appointed times. And then, to give myself a real goal, I decided, along with half the population, to run the Race for Life in Blackheath in July that year.

And the goal helped! I ran more throughout the week, I could run futher distances and I felt healthy.

But then, in May, I got bored and started smoking – just every now and then, and every time I lit one of those things up, and guiltily puff away at it at the kitchen window, I would remember how much better it felt to run. I smoked until a week before the 5K run around the Heath, and then, smoking the last in the pack, and gazing intently at my suspiciously clean running shoes through the smoggy air of the living room (because as I get more into smoking, I just do it everywhere), I refocused on my goal: 3.1 miles on a Sunday morning six days from then. I would just have to do it.

And do it I did – finishing in 33 and a half minutes, having run with my handbag as I had failed to find anyone to meet me that morning (a whole other blog will be written about my great powers of disorganisation, so it is better at this point to accept that someone can be so disorganised as to run with a handbag) – but the important thing about that first 5K was … I wanted to run more.

At the end of that Sunday, I had decided to run one 5K a month, eventually working my way up to a 10K, then a half marathon, and somewhere, a shadow in my mind, the prestige of the London Marathon flickered as an eventual half hope.

The great plan began its execution over the next few weeks. I ran as planned, and entered the Adidas Women’s Challenge in Hyde park the following September. And then of course, I came down with a virus in August, got bored at home on my own, and begged a Sibling to fetch me cigarettes from a shop and smuggle them back to me, if only to give me something to do in those virus ridden times. So there was a repeat of the 5K in July, the same panic, guilt and evetual reprieve, again a week before the run. I finished the second one in 34 minutes, having struggled around buggies and walkers, having decided to race from the point that I would finish in over 40 minutes, obviously having no faith in my lung capacity based on the bin full of Marlborough Light boxes at home.

And this time, I vowed: Running over Smoking, Running over Smoking. So convinced was I of my will power, that I followed up the advice from Someone at Work and applied for a charity place in the London Marathon. October seemed to delay the dream, when I was informed that it was unlikely that I would have a place, and so I permitted myself once more, aided by the dark nights and cold weather, to lead a life of slobbery, only to find, in the first week of December, that hooray – I would be running the Marathon in April.


I like running. I like completing new distances, I love it when I find that I have run an already covered distance faster than I have done it before. I love the second wind that carries me through the second half of the run, I love planning the routes, I love eating food that I have read will build me up, and I love indulging in chocolate, knowing that I will burn it off. I even like the schedule that I copied from a book onto a calendar at the beginning of the year. It took me a week to find the calendar at the end of December: I wanted something on which I could organise my chores, training, social activities and things to remember. It would be impossible to train for the Marathon without a calendar – any fool should know that.

It was also impossible to begin training for the Marathon while I had a cold at the end of December (I started smoking again – what was the point in not – I couldn’t go running anyway), and then there was snow that tured into ice – which I definitely couldn’t run on for fear of a sad injury that might prevent me altogether from running the Marathon. And then, finally, in the first week of January, there was no ice. And I had stopped coughing.

It was time to start training.

I am now into the fourth week.

Hazards and Highlights

Throughout my first week, (four runs between 3 and 4 miles each), I found my mind wandering a great deal while out on the roads. It ploughed through the details of the day (more about my job another time), it completed the route before I had ran it, it screamed at my diminished lung capacity, and it constantly played on the idea of how awful it would be were a car to hit me and ruin my chances of running. Fortunately, things improved a little.

Ten minutes into my fifth run (3 miles in the rain, which sounds unpleasant but started off quite nicely), I found a kitten on the street. As any responsible, animal appreciating runner would, I checked with a pedestrian as to whether she definitely seemed to small to be out in the rain, tried to find out if it belonged to any of the houses I had found her in front of and when no one answered, I gave up on the run and brought her home. She eventually dried off, slept for two days and has not left since. (I did report her to vets, the Cats Protection League and the RSPCA – as far as I know, there’s no sobbing child out there who misses her).

I completed my first four miles about a week ago. As discussed above, my furthest run has been a 5K rewarded by a shiny medal (well, not really shiny, but metal at least). My body is not used to further distances than a Sunday morning fun run, and has adapted to the extra pressure by finding ways to cause me pain. The most noticeable is in my knee, which I have consistently complained about to anyone who has listened. Mum eventually gave me a knee support, possibly to shut me up.

Boyfriend (who is a smoker by the way) has also injured himself. He has been sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress. I hear updates on the pain on an hourly basis. I have tried to match his pain, by listing my ailments, but I suppose it’s different. He has been attacked by an uncomfortable mattress. I keep stamping on pavements and pounding my arms against the air: my pain is a voluntary pain.

And another problem that I struggle with out on the roads is the other runners, who actually look like runners. It could be a PE lesson thing (I accomplised no more than a school report C on a yearly basis, probably because the department would not give me lower to avoid looking as though they had an unfit pupil in their midst), but I feel an absolute fraud running around. Once the runenrs, who generally look like gazelles, all balanced arms and 10 metre strides have passed me by, I roll my eyes and pull faces. I have no idea why. My running style is the swimming equivalent of a doggy paddle – maybe one day I will become a gazelle?

And so I draw to a close. The scariest thing in my head at the moment is the prospect of the Mararthon. I am scared of failing to train as much as I am supposed to, scared that if I miss breakfast I will ruin a planned run for the evening, scared that I will never learn that smoking really is not good for me – especially when trying to run long distances. And of course, I am scared of failing to raise the money for the charity and therefore have my name blackened in the third sector world (more about that another time).

But why should I be so scared? Peope do the Marathon for the first time every April. This year, I won’t be watching it on the television, hungover on the sofa – I’ll be out there, with the gazelles.

And I will be…a Marathon runner!

…Requesting a typewriter in the next stationery order

29th April 2011

It has been a frustrating few weeks at work.

Although the frustraton has something to do with my job, it is difficult to wholly rule out other factors while assessing what it is that has exacerbated my usually good humour.

The other factors may include:
a collegial sense that if one is not in by 9am, one should be hung, drawn and quartered; or
an organisational belief that individual employees must care about their employment duties; or
a national, nay, universal structure that insists upon an individual attending a place of employment to fund their lives.
Setting aside these possibly related factors, I have had little trouble concentraing on the main points that have ignited my fury in a way that has not happened since BBC 2 popstponed episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to air the snooker, or tennis, or something ball based.

Monday Morning

I wanted to start this entry by stating ‘I clattered into the Portakabin’, but that would be a lie. ‘Clattered’ would imply that I were wearing heels of some kind – spikey stilettoes, or patent kitten heels, or something that makes a pencil skirt look better and a Monday morning less difficult to get up to. Sadly, once the team that I administratively support and I were banished to a Portakabin, my heels have been long resigned to the back of the wardrobe. A few weeks ago, I found a dog tooth check heel in the back of the car and reacted to it as a momument from a lost, albeit forgotten, civilisation. In these post heel times, I stumble around in worn down flat ankle boots and rubber bottomed brogues, attempting to purvey myself as part of an uprooted peasant camp, but somehow skip the style required for boho fashion and just look like a girl in flat shoes.

I softly scraped (it just doesn’t work) into the Portakabin one Monday a few weeks ago. I had been away from work for a few days the week before, just enough time to forget the black lino floor and the pressing claustrophobia that working in a Portakabin creates. The memories came flooding back with enough brain force to create a nose bleed within a few seconds of arrival. I softly scraped towards my desk and switched on the computer. The screen remained black for a few seconds before informing me in the detached, ungiving way that computers have, that something had crashed and now it wouldn’t start and that I should have given it a cuddle before I abandoned it a few days ago. I left a cry for help message on the IT voicemail.

Monday Afternoon

It was difficult to carry out my daily admin tasks without the computer, but instead of slumping at my desk and sobbing over the lack of access to email and Facebook, I had proactively pulled the filing cabinets apart with the intention of tidying them up for sensible use by those that I work with. This did not come without problems – stacks of paper covering most of my desk, plus the haemorrhaging in-trays (I have six) that I was unable to attend to owing to the lack of a PC. Sweetly, the majority of those that I work with could see the bigger picture, and worked around my tumultuous desk; the exception being Almira Gulch who commented nasally that the desk was a mess.

Almira Gulch still wears heels in the Portakabin, despite the hollow floor and downstairs neighbours. Almira Gulch has a too-tidy desk and her desk drawer is a shrine to the goddess of organisation.

My desk drawer holds a gigantic bar of chocolate and some pens that don’t work.

Monday – home time

A man from IT appeared in the Portakabin. I grumpily told him I had been unable to work all day. He told me that I could have worked from one of the other computers in the room. I flipped my hair over my shoulder and softly scraped through the door, coolly informing him that I would try that tomorrow.

Tuesday Morning

I switched on the PC, and was disappointed to find that it still would not work. I left a self-righteous message on the IT voicemail and distracted myself by clearing out the boxes underneath my desk, re-discovering a pair of red heels in the process. It was an emotional morning.

Around midday I began the miserable picking through the first of six in-trays, stacking papers according to what I could do without a computer and what I could not do. Almira Gulch turned in her seat to tell me that the paper shuffling was hampering her ability to make a telephone call. I sulked in front of the stacks of paper until she had put down the phone.

I made another call to IT, and luckily the IT manager answered.
Me: Oh hello, my computer’s still not working.
Him: Yes, we’re well aware of that.
Me: Oh, are you likely to fix it?
Him: Yes, I was just about to come down.
Me: Thanks – I haven’t been able to do anything since last week.
Him: You know you can use one of the other computer’s in the room don’t you?

Twenty three minutes laer, IT Manager entered the Portakabin. I had attempted to set myself up on one of the other computer’s in that titme, but it would not take my username or password, so I had returned to the in-tray assault, which had not done much more than create more mess on my desk.

IT Manager sat down at my desk.
Him: What I’ll do is put this in here [he placed a CD into the CD ROM]. Let me know when it finishes.
Me [Buried under the weight of the in-tray contents that I could not do without a computer]. Thanks!
Me: Yes, it wouldn’t start –
Him: You kow you can use one of the other computers in the room –
Me: [Snottily smug] Actually I tried that and it didn’t work.
Him: Really? It must be COMPUTER JARGON COMPUTER JARGON. [He taps away at a computer and tells me to enter my password, looking away in fear of violating the Data Protecion Act as I do so. The treachorous laptop logs me on.]
Me: Thanks- the only thing is that my phone constantly rings and I’ll spend the day running up and down the office if I stay here.
Him: Just let me know when the CD’s finished and I’ll come and set it up.

Fifteen minutes later, the CD had finished running. I called IT and reached their voicemail. I told their voicemail the CD had finished. No one from IT returned for the rest of the day.

Wednesday Morning

The PC switched on and I entered a password and everything, but alas, I could not access any of the organisation’s folders, or internal email. I called IT and sobbingly explained that it was now Wednesday and I still had last week’s work to do, as well as preparation for a Big Important Meeting on Thursday.

A few hours later I accessed a voicemail from IT Manager asking me to email him all the current problems I was having with the PC. I arranged for a carrier pigeon to visit him at work with a handwritten list. The rumour was that he fainted upon finding something that had been produced by a human without the medium of wires and screens.

Wednesday Afternoon

Discussed the situation with the other members of the office.
Almira Gulch: It’s really not good enough.
Me: I know – I haven’t been able to do much at all, and there’s all the stuff for the Big Important Meeting tomorrow –
Florence: IT don’t seem to appreciate how much you need a computer –
Me: I know! I think if I was a computer, I’d have more luck with them …

My voice tailed off as a plan foggily formed in the massively unused creative part of my brain.

Thursday Afternoon

I had spent the morning locked in a miserable meeting that I am sure will provide the flesh for another work focused observation another day.

Once the meeting had finished, I had stumbled blindly into the corridor, and once collecting myself for twenty minutes, began the exercise of the plan that everyone had agreed yesterday was a Very Brilliant Idea.

For the plan, I required:
1 broken PC monitor; and
1 saw that could cut through metal.
By half past four I had placed the monitor over my head and was wandering towards the IT office with the plan of confronting the IT Manager with an object he could relate to, when my manager incredulously recognised me in my fancy dress.

I was ushered into a quiet room and asked what the problem was.

Me: I, um, couldn’t access my PC all week.
Manager: Okay. Why are you wearing a screen on your head?
Me: Um. It seemed like a good idea when we discussed it in the office.
Manager: Really?
Me: Um, yes.
Manager: Okay. I understand.

I stormed into the IT Office. It was empty. I sat down at the IT Assistant’s desk and waited. It was hot inside the monitor. And uncomfortable too, plastic prongs and ridges that I had not noticed before. Eventually I heard the monotone of the IT staff along the corridor and stood up in anticipation.

The babble of conversation continued around me. I waved my arms around a few times, but to no avail. After twenty minutes of being ignored, I painfully pulled the broken monitor off.

Manager: Hello – I didn’t see you come in. Has the CD finished yet?
Me: Actually, I’ve been here for twenty minutes, disguised as a computer, but you still didn’t notice me!
Manager: Disguised as a computer, you say?
Me: Yes. And the CD finished running a day ago.
Manager: [Stands up to look at monitor that had been on my head] Did you break this?
Me: Of course not! I found it .. somewhere. It’s not important anyway! It was a prop to try and get someone in this department to listen to me!
Manager: We’re very busy here at the moment. We do understand that your computer hasn’t been working. But other matters take precedence.
Me: Precedence? Precedence! Do you not think that being unable to work when I have made all the effort ot getting out of bed to do so, requires some kind of attention?
Manager: You will be top of the list tomorrow.
Me: [In style of 1950s actor who quits their office job at the beginning of the film] Oh, I don’t think so, Mr. Bigshot IT Man – do you know what – I’m going to go straight down to Finance and request a typewriter in the next staionery order!
Manager: You just do that – one less computer to have to worry about.
Me: Um, If I don’t make that order – and even if I did, it won’t be here by tomorrow, do you think you’ll still try and fix my computer tomorrow?

Friday Morning

An email has been sent from the IT department decrying the use of IT equipment in recreational activities. The list ranges from personal emails to wearing equipment as attire. Immediately afterwards, an email is sent from HR outlining the need not to threaten fellow members of staff. I can’t help but feel that both messages are slightly pointed, and based on complete misunderstandings.

Monday Afternoon

My computer still does not work.