Well here I am once more waking bright and ready for a new day. At 02.30. Oh bother! Yesterday I spent the hours till dawn completing a commission for Christmas, a quilt for a little girl’s bunk bed. It was a hefty thing to shove beneath my obliging sewing machine needle, and the stitching is decidedly wonky chops but I believe it will hold together. For a while, anyway. The brightly coloured patchwork squares look so pretty as they lie together in no particular pattern. Particular patterns are for particularly minded seamstresses, and I am not one of those. I am way too random for ‘particular’, although I do have standards and am in no way sloppy. In fact I am not sloppy about anything at all, with the exception of one thing. Hoovering. T’is my nemesis, my pet hate, the thing I put off and put off until I cannot recall the colour of the carpet. I’m not proud of this.
Today, if, indeed, it can be named such, at 02.30, I was rather unsure of what to do till dawn, which, up here, is about 08.30. I knew I had to cook some sausages for the dog, so I did that. Then I ironed the patchwork quilt, with some difficulty considering how wonky chops it is, folded it as best I could, then whacked it into submission so that it could fit into a posting bag. I sat on the parcel to get rid of the air in it and taped it firmly. I will post it this morning at 0900 when I go down to buy a few bits and bobs from the local shop. Although I go nowhere around people these days, it is quite safe to go that early, because most lucky people are still snoozing at such an hour, especially on a Saturday, snuggling back under the duvet or sitting up, looking out at the rise of light and sipping a big mug of hot tea. And, I will be masked up like Batwoman anyway.
I light the fire, feeling the slight draught on my bare legs. I don’t mind a slight draught these days, even if the double glazing should keep out all draughts, even slight ones. Of course, I remind myself, I always leave a slit of window open overnight, for a healthy airflow. I open the big curtains and tell the draught to stay outside, please as I close the window with a satisfying click. Into the garage, I flick on the light and chop more wood, apologising to the night creatures for the racket I am making with the big ass axe and the solid blocks of pine and fir. The sausages, now cooked and smelling delicious, awaken the dog, who trots downstairs for breakfast. It’s 04.30! I tell her, but she doesn’t mind what time it is. Her belly rumbles, she wants food. Simples. I think on that. The ridiculous length of my waking hours propel me into strange mealtimes too. Breakfast can be, and often is, around 0500. Boiled egg and an oatcake. This means that lunch can be rumbling my tummy by 11. At first I told myself it was way too early for lunch, and then I remembered that I go nowhere, see no-one and, now, live alone, so who flipping cares what time I lunch?
Now what? It’s just after 5 and I have done all the morning work, apart from hoovering, naturally. I know the carpet is a grey fleck and as nobody will see it anyway till next May at the earliest, who is to judge me? I decide to do something for Me. I know, I’ll dye my hair. Good plan! Up I go, apply the bleach and return to faff about with washing on the pulley. Folded, stacked and returned to their rightful places in drawers and cupboards. Time goes on and I quite forget about the bleach on my head, until I suddenly remember and flee upstairs in a right flapdoodle to read the instructions on the packet. I am 20 minutes overdue. Oh Lordy………
Now I have plenty to do. Not only does my head resemble the yolk of a very happy free range egg, but I am running out of the blue stuff that de-yellows. I squeeze and press and swear and shake until I manage to collect enough blue stuff in my hand, ungloved, naturally, to coat the short stubble I call hair. My fingers, now purple, are crossed.
I have been here before, I remind myself calmly. I have looked like a blueberry, a sickly strawberry, a conker and, once, a gooseberry. That was not my finest hour I can tell you. Longing for the dye to fade is a pointless waste of time. You just have to live with it, take the comments, watch the raised eyebrows and laugh at yourself. I have oft needed to do that and not just for the reasons above. What I have worked out overtime, and thanks to my wise old granny’s advice, is that if I stand tall, pretend I am delighted with the ghastly hair colour or the orange tan or the outrageous frock assemblage, then I win. Nobody can say another word or look another look or raise another eyebrow because I am standing tall, owning what appears to be a disaster, as if it was precisely the result I wanted.
I look out on the stars. Orion is loud in the black sky. The wind howls, as it always does here, squealing through the cracks and moaning around the corners of the old stone house like a restless ghost. I light a candle, watch it flicker. The fire pushes out a goodly heat and the little Christmas tree sparkles in the corner of the room. All is well. And, soon, I will trot up the stairs to see if the blue conditioner has transformed me from a yolk-head to a member of the blue rinse brigade.
Either way, I will own it, stand tall and laugh at myself.