Tales of catastophe, sex and squalor from the Alpine Underbelly...

Belle de Neige

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Life in the tube queue

In the last 3rd of my 30th year, I have finally paid off my student loan, I own a pair of shoes that cost more than £100 and have no ski-related purpose, I use face cream, brush my hair regularly and cut off split ends. I hold down full time employment, I don't drink during the week and last Monday I booked myself on a yoga retreat ...for new year.

I know.... it's like I swallowed a copy of Lady Magazine. I'm like, shitting Tiffany cufflinks.


...I regularly cycle to work, and I've finally made peace with the idea that if I'm ever going to shed the spare tyre I've carried since the age of 10, I need to eat fewer cakes and move around more. Oh yes, and I've written a book.

Yes, it all looks very impressive doesn't it?

Of, course, we are neatly glossing over a few minor details here. I still, for example, cannot afford a house. There are various banal reasons for this, including the fact that my entire generation is fucked.

I work in London, and they keep building posh, expensive boxes for Chinese people to buy with money they made from the bleeding fingers of toddlers in sweatshops making iPhones, which means the cost of living in a pencil case with no windows is roughly equivalent to everything I've earned in my life.... ever. (Which isn't that much thanks to the fact I spent four years tossing around a ski resort, crippling my once impressive earning potential. I'm currently on the same pay I was in 2009.)

Oh yeah...then there's the latent terror that makes me scuttle to the back of my mental cave any time anyone mentions anything vaguely resembling responsibility.

The key thing to confess is that, at 30, Scruffy but Handsome and I are still living at home, with his Mum.

This set up, while not great for personal morale, has a charm of its own. I don't for example, have to pay rent. And every so often my laundry gets done for me. However, I also don't have a cupboard. All my belongings are hanging on a rail in a moth-infested study. Or stuffed into boxes in dusty corners, where they wait patiently for the day I acquire a mantelpiece, kitchen or bathroom to put them in. The house is large, sprawling and kinda bohemian. It's full of stuff. Sometimes if you listen at night you can hear the joists straining under the load of years and years of accumulated accoutrements and chattels.


SbH's Mum is a lover of objects, to which she's capable of ascribing all sorts of abstract values and meanings. In other words she is a bit of a hoarder. There are (at the last count) 17 tables, about fifty chairs, four million boxes of mysterious papers, 25 years' worth of abandoned sports equipment, flotsam and jetsam from various fads, school text books and art projects. Ancient videos, abandoned computer screens, broken lamps, knickknacks, trinkets, baffling historical artefacts she found whilst wandering the sands at Greenwich, drawers crammed with broken jewellery and crockery, paper clips, scraps of jottings, postcards...worn out shoes...And then there's the pottery.

SbH's Mum likes to make pots.


Lots and lots of pots.


And heads.


In fact, just this morning, while making my pint of tea I totted up 42 items of home-made earthenware in the kitchen alone.

And the numbers are growing.



The house is also full of something else. People. Eccentric individuals SbH's Mum has curated into a collection in much the same way as the chairs and tables.

...An obese, out of work, kaftan-wearing thespian, whom SbH has eloquently nicknamed 'The Fat Man.' A man so devoutly committed to the religion of consumption that he is unable to do anything whatsoever in moderation. From running a bath (fill bath to brim with boiling water, wait for it to cool), to brewing coffee (brew an entire pot full, strong enough to rouse Tutankhamun from the dank, shadowy depths of his tomb, drink one cupful, discard pot by sink to get cold). Want a bowl of pasta? Why have a bowl when you could make an entire kitchen sink's worth?

...A teenaged, bone-white, carrot-red, six foot, Northern Irish, straight, male ballerina, with a name I won't attempt to pronounce that contains seven consonants and no vowels and doesn't know how to feed himself properly. He lives off chicken nuggets, and likes to stretch, extravagantly, in front of the telly in the evenings while moaning about how tired he is, how amazingly good at ballet he is (DON'T make the mistake of asking him how is day was. You'll be treated to a live enacting of the latest Pas de Deux he's learning, complete with singing)  and whine on about his romantic entangling with an insane, anorexic, egotistical trainwreck named Anna, who's a complete bitch to both him and herself.

...A builder with congenital verbal diarrhoea and FOMO named Gareth, who spends his time repeatedly impregnating every woman he fucks, and then running for the hills (on this occasion, our house).

So really, whilst it might appear on the outside that I am living the smooth, glossy life of a success, the real truth is that I am still living in much the same circumstances as I was in the ski resort. That is, crammed into an over-stuffed space with a bunch of crack pots. Except there's no snow.



As I stand in the exit line from Brixton railway station on one of many hundred occasions this year, shuffling forwards through the narrow doorway that creates a frustrating bottle neck every single day, I'm often reminded of the queue for a chair lift. I feel a pang for ski resort life.  Then my thoughts settled on the shower surround in the chalet. An expanse of gloss black mosaic and glass, uplit by bulbs, embedded into the tiles in all four corners which showed up every last smear and blemish rendering it necessary to polish the walls, the ceiling, and the glass panels, every single day.

In total I polished that shower surround approximately three hundred times over the course of the season. And every time, I died a little bit inside. Just as I’m dying a little bit standing in this queue.

It strikes me then that no matter what you do you cannot escape the inevitable repetitiveness of some aspect of life. You get up, you clean your teeth, you have a shit.

Life goes on.


So, if you're doing the sensible thing, and heading out on another ski season this year, at least have the decency to send me a postcard.

AFTERGLOW - Lightsuit Segment from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.