by Wendy Pike
a giant cup of tea
“Shouldn’t you be getting up and getting on with it?” my husband shouts up the stairs. Blatantly sarcastic his parting shot before heading off for an early start at work: “Thought you had lots of work on today!” Irritatingly, he is right. I down the cold remainder of tea that he delivered with a kiss twenty minutes earlier and head downstairs to get on with it.
Still in pyjamas, toast in hand and with my breakfast coffee on the go, I turn on my computer at the other end of the kitchen table. There is so much to do and I’m itching to crack on with a project that’s been hijacking my head far too long.
A blank document stares back at me. That fresh, clean, white, unsullied space, so exciting today. Yet at other times, in wobbly, confidence-waning moments, such a scary prospect.
Whilst ideas may be buzzing around my noggin like a hive of worker bees on steroids, putting them into honeyed words is always more of a challenge. Tentatively I form a few lines for the intro. Read them back. Delete. Re-write. Delete. Re-write. Is it going to be one of those days? I know what I want to say. It’s the how I do that that’s proving so tricky today. The hard taskmaster that is my inner voice cruelly snipes, ‘Get the start right or the whole piece will be a disaster.’ I’m cleaning it up a bit because that bossy boots inside my head tends to swear a lot when I’m working and things aren’t going so peachy.
“I can do this,” I say aloud. Sticking with it, teasing out the words, the ones I’ve been trying to winkle out for the last hour or so, I eventually crack it. The start anyway. I treat myself to a sneaky break. How do I celebrate my victory over the first para? By unloading and re-loading the dishwasher, putting the laundry on and, before properly getting on with it, taking a peek at the mega time waster that is Twitter.
I realise I ought to get back to it but a cup of tea would certainly help. Powered by tea, it’s all going so much better now. A few more sentences become paragraphs and satisfyingly join the first one, filling the page. The phone goes. It’s a friend, also a writer. I say, “Can I call you back, only I’m up to my eyeballs today?”
“I understand,” she says “but it’s just a quick call.”
So, fifteen minutes later when we’ve barely limbered up in the nattering Olympics, the doorbell goes. “Reeeeally got to go now, someone’s at the door.”
The post lady’s face says it all as she looks me up and down in my jim jams, pink fleecy dressing gown and fur-lined slipper boots combo. It’s no shock. She saw me in the same outfit yesterday morning. It’s incredulity with possibly a dash of disgust and lashings of disapproval. “Parcel for you,” she says while her eyes ask ‘What time of day do you call this you lazy slob?’
Affronted and switching allegiance in a nano-second, my inner voice leaps to my defence, ‘But I’ve been up ages and I have been WORKING.’ “Thanks,” I say scribbling on the hand-held gizmo, my signature, like a four year old’s made with a fat crayon. My inner voice does a U-turn and reproachfully asks ‘What actual time of day is this, you slob?’ It’s 11.45am.
Shamed into getting dressed, I throw on some old, slouchy clothes, jettisoned from yesterday, found folded in a (neat) heap on the bedroom floor. I realise I truly am turning into a slovenly individual as I haven’t yet had a wash either. Ablutions completed, laundry pegged on the whirly washing line, I’m all set for work again.
Reading through, tweaking occasionally, I’m about ready to launch into a new paragraph when the doorbell ding-dongs again.
It’s the parcel courier man, looking a bit frazzled due to the volume of Christmas deliveries he’s been tasked with. Would I mind taking in parcels for my neighbour? Sure. Moments later but long enough for me to settle at my screen, the parcel man is back at my door. Another neighbour is out, would I mind …? Noting that the lounge is now temporarily transformed into Santa’s warehouse I hope my neighbours haven’t disappeared on holiday for a fortnight so that we’ll be stuck with their internet shopping clogging up our home for the festive season.
I carry on reading and tweaking but cannot concentrate properly because my growling stomach decrees it is officially lunchtime.
A quick rummage around the fridge confirms choices are limited to a cheese sandwich again. So, surrounded by an ocean of beige cardboard boxes, I climb onto sofa island and snuggle among the cushions to watch as much of the BBC lunchtime news as I can justify whilst munching lunch.
Revived, I am going for it now. No distractions. No excuses. Head down, typing for Queen and country. It’s going marvellously well. I’m surely half way there? I should have made time for a loo break ages ago but I am so into it, I just keep going. ‘I really love my job - when it’s going well,’ boasts my inner voice.
Then the phone goes. It’s Dad. “I know you’re busy. I won’t hold you up. Are you in this afternoon?” With an imminent visit on the horizon, my concentration goes. I’m struggling now. My brain feels like it’s having to squeeze the story out. The flurry of words that poured so splendidly onto the page not five minutes ago, evaporates. I really must go to the loo.
Ding-dong. “I won’t stop long,” announces Dad, striding in, past me, towards the kitchen, carrying a bulging, jumbo carrier bag. From within the Tardis-like receptacle he proudly produces and places on the worktop, a catering sized pack of bacon, decanted into a multitude of small zip-lock packages, along with a gammon joint and several packs of sausages. It seems he has taken Interflora’s long-standing Say it With Flowers advertising campaign to heart. Dad has adopted the sentiment but adapted the execution, putting his own quirky slant on it. Alternatively, he prefers to Say it With Pig Products.
“Fancy a tea Dad?”
“No thanks, can’t stop. I’ll be off now.” And with a quick hug and a peck on the cheek he disappears as quickly as genie in a pantomine - but without the special effects.
So, after a long-overdue loo break, then ramming majority of the kind tokens of my father’s affection into the freezer, having solved the puzzle of how to fit best part of a pig into an already rather full ice box, I settle down to get on with it. Again.
Frustratingly, I hit a wall. I’m only just over halfway. Time is short. Am I panicking? Possibly. ‘Yoga breathing?’ helpfully suggests my inner voice.
I put the kettle on whilst yoga breathing then multitask some more by eating a banana and drinking more tea before getting back to it. To my relief, I find a steady writing rhythm. But with time so short, I’m not content to just plod along. I feel the need for speed. My mind obliges by flitting, fast forward, to the ending which cannot be contained in my brain any longer. Words, the right ones, in the right order, some even making sense, swiftly deposit themselves onto the page. Hurrah! Three quarters complete.
Smugly, I read through the ending I’ve just written. I like it. Just as I start to type, the cat decides now is the time to make her regular afternoon VIP appearance. Usually it’s three o’clock on the nail, although today she’s quite late.
Jumping onto my lap in the impossibly small gap under the table she purrs loudly as she treadles my meaty thighs in a trance-like frenzy of ecstasy. Doing a poor Tom Jones impersonation I sing to her, What’s New Pussycat? My inner voice scolds, ‘Stop singing. Get on with it. Ignore the cat.’ Whilst the frenzied kneading of her claws is distracting and a tad painful, I am helpless against her feline charms and utter cuteness. She insists on stealing my full attention by sneaking onto the table, standing on the keyboard and obliterating my view of the screen.
I hear the front door opening. My husband is home from a hard day’s toil. “Hi Ya. What have you been up to? I suppose you’ve been busy stroking that cat all day long.”
My inner voice responds with two heartfelt words (one rhyming with a common aquatic bird and the other, off). I manage a forced laugh. “Shall I put the kettle on?”
I park my umpteenth mug of tea beside the computer. As I re-read the whole piece, I wonder whatever was I thinking? I hate the beginning. It’s got to go. I decide the ending I’ve just written would make a far better intro. It means considerable re-structuring, re-writing plus I’m an ending short.
Luckily, I’m totally in the zone. The words are speeding onto the page, virtually writing themselves. No stopping me. My fingers are rapidly caressing the keyboard like a concert pianist playing Accelerando. I’ll make the deadline. Almost there. Then a concerned head pops round the door. It’s the other half. Urgently he utters three little words. Not ‘I love you’ but “When is dinner?”
My heart sinks. I’ll have to press the pause button on my creative endeavours and pray that once I’ve prepared dinner I can still remember what I want to write - all the stuff that is bursting from within, so effortlessly right now. Because after we’ve eaten and I’ve retrieved the frozen laundry from the whirly, I’ll be back to getting on with it, until it’s done. Those pesky deadlines simply demand it.
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