Take my hand, follow my beckoning finger, come with me on a trip inside the haunted mind of an average strung-out citizen of cut-to-shreds, class-obsessed, cold-as-ice Britain. Insert Radiohead song of choice here...
A few things are disturbing my groggy head and keeping my eyes prised open. The trucks that rumble down my Leith street at night. They make the flat shake like old bones. Each time, the glass perfume bottle tinkles on the dresser in tuneful response, sounding the approach of insanity. I lie in bed replaying the “Posts everyone!” scene in Mary Poppins – you know the one, where everyone rushes to catch a vase on their toe or whatever. But not even Julie Andrews can lighten my mood. The fact is, ever since the road was dug up for the trams that never appeared in the kind of maddening exercise you read about in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, this old building in this even more old part of oldest Edinburgh trembles more and more. And with it, my nerves.
Then there’s the dog. For six months we have been engaged in a nightly battle with Daphne to get her to sleep in the kitchen. How she cried. Great, tragic whines in the dark that made it sound as though she were marooned on a rock far out in the North Sea, begging for salvation and a tummy tickle. As opposed to curled up on a pure wool blanket in her cosy bed with a slick of warm milk in her bowl. Anyway, she got the hang of it in the end. Sort of.
Then Tiny-but-Deadly and her boyfriend J came to stay, and things fell apart. Yes, C and I caved and let Daphne sleep in our bed. Six months of blood, sweat and tears down the pan for one night of 15kg of dog lying between us, hogging the duvet.
Daphne now sleeps on yet another bed, on our floor. It’s working out. Sort of. She only hurls herself on to our bed five times a night, a bullet in brindle coming our way. Kind of like the tooth fairy, but with more teeth. Each time she is coaxed back to her bed with sweet voices and strokes. Each time I lie awake afterwards, listening to the rumble of trucks and the tinkle of madness.
Other things begin to bite. The neverending winter. The fact that this time last year Ma R had just had her mastectomy. That I still haven’t cancelled my Lovefilm subscription, despite not having ordered a film in almost a year. The threat of redundancy. The pain in my back, shoulder and arm that won’t go away after more than a decade of constant typing and mouse manipulation. If only I had become a vet, as I planned when I was an idealistic tot.
Then again, I always cry at the vet. It’s all those poorly animals with stoical expressions and cones round their necks. What about that dream job cooking for volunteers on St Kilda for a fortnight over the summer? Or, I know, I could emigrate to Canada.
And so I go on… These are stressful times. I won’t bother you with a list of reasons why. I have neither the word count nor the stomach for it. Sometimes you just have to weather the storm. Change the little things. And so, in the morning, I start by moving the perfume bottle out of the room.