I started to go through the papers and books and folders and bags of stuff kept in corners and in piles and on chairs and behind the doors. I want to move house so I’m cleaning house. I found things out about my past. I found how much I was paid in my first career-type job, which was surprising because in my memory I’d been paid more than that. I found what I was paid for the next three jobs. The evidence was the faded printed payslips. My pay was reducing with each job. Which was weird.
I remembered something about how I was just going for jobs that sounded interesting, and were trying to do good things for people, and that I wanted to do, even if they would eventually end (at least one) in a tearful meeting with my boss, saying I can’t afford to do this, I need to pay rent and eat and pay for transport to get here. And another one ended with fewer tears at leaving, but more with rage at local authority corruption.
I’ve been lucky because I haven’t had to be homeless (technically) from leaving jobs, I mean, I’ve had periods of not really living anywhere, but I haven’t ever had to sleep on the street. That’s definitely more lucky than a lot of people. And I’ve been able to choose my jobs, sort of. I mean, I’ve been knocked back a lot, but I was raised with my mam always telling me this story, that I hated, about some sparrow who managed to survive winter because it didn’t feel sorry for itself. I was raised within racist communities. I went to a secondary school where everyone was richer than me but only some of them cleverer than me. I had a father who’s now estranged.
Credit: Wellcome Collection, Free to use with attribution
I’ve been an outsider most of the time, so it doesn’t hurt me that much to get rejected for jobs. I didn’t ever think that much of people who knocked me back for that kind of thing. I hate to get rejected for my writing as that comes from something more soft-bellied than my working class instinct for work, and my Hull-upbringing instinct for dour expectation of class, gender and race based discrimination in the workplace.
On the other hand, some of that belligerence still comes through when my writing’s rejected: something about the potential of hob-nobbing in the literature world were I to become some kind of published person makes me nauseous. I don’t really want to mix in with the circles that I’m told form the literati. I tell myself that I just want to write small things that I like.
nothing changes on its own.
I see that in my work-self’s context. The poor old archives world, with so many good intentions pinned to its lapel but at heart lethargic towards change, is being slowly brought to the point where its local shop for local people will be filled with strangers touching their precious things. So I mustn’t let a squeamishness seeping of the last parts of my kidhood shyness stop me getting in to the literati glitterati by the window, back door, cat flap, mousehole, or mud-clung to the sole of a shoe.
One day you’ll come down to your stone flagged kitchen to have a blue china cup of tea at the kitchen island, your toes warmed in fleece lined slippers, and you’ll have my book tucked under your arm.
I might have a chip on my shoulder but I am from Hull, so the chip’s dusted with American chip spice. On the other shoulder there’s a pattie buttie. And as I’m from Nigeria too why not add an akara necklace, and moin moin for boots? I’ll stop now. Hungry.
I saw a friend post some kind of twitter meme where you noted five books that weren’t necessarily your favourites, but on seeing the list a stranger would know who you were (or something like that). Here are mine, at this moment in January 2018.
Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion
Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I didn’t know someone else could write about my childhood, I mean, the facts were all different).
Number 9 Dream, David Mitchell
The World of Yesterday, Stefan Zweig
Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
I didn’t really make new year’s resolutions, but I did download a checklist app so that I can see whether what I think I will be up to this year (and what I think would be a good idea for me to get up to) actually happens. My to-do lists at work got very complex by the last month of the year. For such a simple sounding job – more focussed in principle than other jobs I’ve had – it’s turned out to need the most brain wattage of my work life. I’m kind of into that though. It’s interesting trying to get untangley. I think by the end of December I had two notebook to do lists, a post it note sub-list, an excel spreadsheet, email flagging system and a kanban board all on the go. I was full of winter lurgy, [pre]menstrual hormones and painkiller though, so I might have hallucinated some of that.
In January you shouldn’t talk about the dead year at all. So sorry, I don’t mean to. The three theatre things that changed my life and perspective in 2017 were The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth), Salt (Selina Thompson), Barbershop Chronicles (Inua Ellams).
Hey ho, let’s go.
Credit: Wellcome Collection