Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ginger Teeth

I met Sadie for coffee and pancakes today. It was at a cafe at the end of my old street.

'Maude and I had our first flat just round the corner you know. Before the kids and all that. This was a real ale off licence then.'

I looked around. Art Nouveau styling, people reading books. It all looked quite metropolitan...for Newcastle.

We talked about children. Her two, my two. I knew that she wanted to discuss difficulties at work.

She knew that I was perhaps the only person who knew the true nature of her present/my former manager. There was a pregnant pause. I broke the silence.

'We can only talk about her if we agree not to mention her name - a bit like actors and 'The Scottish Play'. I don't allow it to be spoken in my house and I'll not have it polluting my rare social engagements.'

Sadie nodded. 'But how should I refer to her?'

'Well some of Maude's less able kids have great imagination when it comes to assigning epithets to their classmates and teachers. They have a maths teacher, for instance, who talks out of one side of his mouth. They christened him 'Luke Sidetalker'. I suggested an exam pass at least for whoever thought of that. One boy calls a sandy haired classmate 'Ginger Teeth'. I particularly like that one.'

'I like 'Ginger Teeth'', said Sadie.'It's quite apt and stops me demeaning myself by swearing in a public place. 'Ginger Teeth' it is.'

Sadie detailed some of Ginger Teeth's recent antics: shady dealings with funders, applying for a job that Sadie had expressed an interest in, not telling Sadie, getting said job and adding it to her portfolio of roles, the promise of a new contract for 6 months, non-manifestation of said contract in paper form etc...

I was unsurprised by any of what I was told. Sadie explained that she put up with the maltreatment for economic reasons. She seemed to be asking me if she should launch herself into another 6 months of self-esteem battering.

'You really shouldn't take on the new contract - even if it does find its way on to paper.'

'But how will I pay the bills?'

I thought for a moment.

'In short you need a way of raising money which is less demeaning?'

'Yes'. Sadie looked optimistic.

'Given the choice, myself,  I'd rather play the spoons at the Monument.'

Friday, March 16, 2012

'Vast Difference'

I hadn’t really read the letter properly.

A part of me didn’t really want to read the letter properly.

It was Monday morning and I was pleased that I had found a free parking space just beyond the hospital’s charging zone.

This joy was fleeting. I looked at the ‘how to find us’ map on the back of the letter and realised that the procedure that dare not speak its name was actually at a health centre on the other side of the borough.

I rang them and apologised. They agreed to see me if I got there within a half hour.

I could be forgiven for the lapse. My doctor has a disconcerting approach to consultations. She dictates referral letters into a machine, pausing the recording to restart the conversation, then pausing the conversation to complete the letter.

‘Dear Dr Yadda Yadda [minor surgery, can’t spell his name, please check] comma,

Hits 'pause'.

'Lovely man. He's done thousands of these. Literally thousands'

Hits 'record'.

'My patient, comma, after long deliberation with his partner, comma…’

Hits 'pause'.

‘Much prefer the comma to the dash don’t you? Too many people using dashes these days. Think they run scared from commas ‘cause they’re not sure how to use them. You still writing?’

I nodded. ‘Blogging mainly, half a novel…’.

Hits 'record'.

'…believes that his family is…’

Hits 'pause'.

‘You have discussed this with Maude haven’t you? I mean, you don’t technically need her consent these days, but your partner really does need to know.’

I nodded.

Hits 'record'.

‘…complete. I have outlined the preoperative requirements, comma, the nature of the procedure, comma, the risks, comma, and the usual recovery period. Full Stop ‘

Hits 'pause'.

‘Have you thought of joining the Royal Society of Authors. God-send. Got thoroughly fed up with the writing scene around here – so parochial. I go to RSA meetings in Edinburgh. Made lots of contacts – novel out in two months. Bingo.’

Hits 'record'.

‘Please arrange for surgery at earliest convenience. Patient will prepare as advised and adhere to preoperative instructions. Double space. Yours sincerely, comma, line line line line [room for big signature]. All the letters after my name.

Hits 'pause'.

‘Lovely to see you. Come back sharpish with any complications (very rare). Look into the RSA thing – good source of critical readers for fiction and, if you don't mind my saying, I think you need a direction, a plan.'

Opens door with a smile. 

'Not sure about blogging though, not really worth the effort…’