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Dinner ladies

  Sun 22nd September 2019

Yesterday I went to see a room in a house. I was on the verge of cancelling the viewing several times because of its distance from town. I like the unpredictability of living in central Bristol. I like walking home in the small hours, with all its night-time opportunities.

I got off the bus, and turned into the unfamiliar stillness of suburbia. Cath, the owner, my age -- grey cotton floor-length dress -- showed me in and apologised for leaving me with her daughter for a few minutes, but we talked easily and I didn't fancy her. She'd been to Albania, a rich topic.

The houses, Cath told me, were completed in 1929. The flat front windows have protruding rectangular windowed sections on either side. "Why do you want to live here?" was one of her questions. Amongst other things, I said that I'd forgotten how lovely English Edwardian domestic architecture can be, how it has a sense of order without being full-on Modernist plain. I meant it both objectively and as a compliment to her taste.

She showed me to the room that I hope, as I glance every minute at my stubbornly quiet phone, will be mine. Light washes from the west and I imagined writing there.

It has a garden made for boozy lunches. It's five minutes walk from Bristol's first micropub, fifteen from the county cricket club, and the main road is lined with independent shops selling things that one can use: mangoes, Allen keys, hats. There's a Lithuanian "general store" which is general in the sense that they generally sell a general range of East European beer. There's a park which I could use for sleeping, reading, drinking, and not thinking.

I sat next to an elderly, rheumy cat whose purr is more a trill. Cath wanted to know if I was "left-leaning". I got my membership for a leftwing party out of my jacket and regretted doing so. You're trying too hard. I know you're desperate to move in here but try to be subtle about it.

"Have you got a partner? Or someone who'll be staying over from time to time?" I thought with some awkwardness about Hayley. "One lives in hope Cath. No." She's going to ring me. When, she didn't say.


In the private school in which I work as a dinner lady I work with three English women, and three Jamaicans. The chef, a man, gives me simple, repetitive jobs like coring and slicing a sack full of peppers. I'm happy in my little corner, earwigging on my colleagues' chatter. I don't particularly want to learn or get better at anything.

The English women look worn out, with gappy teeth, thin hair and bony faces. I wonder about their toiling histories. They make poor but amusing jokes at the end of the shift to keep me out of the room in which we get changed. "You can come in now looby. I've just started my performance!" Inside, she was imitating a stripper's dance, swinging her hair net about her head.

The chef suggested I apply for the permanent position there; a teacher serving teachers their dinners. It's relatively good money -- £18,600 pro rata -- but I like the variety of agency work, and I'm finding it a struggle to get up at eight o'clock when I only get home at 1 or 2am from my evening work washing up in hotels. I started the application form but gave up at the stage where it asked for my complete employment history.

3 comments

Comment from: Scarlet [Visitor]

Have you heard about the room yet? My house was built in 1929. The window in my ’studio’ is wonderful - pity it’s got UVPC double glazing. Sometimes I dream about having enough money to refit it with wooden frames, but that probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Can’t you edit your employment history?
Sx

Sun 29th September 2019 @ 13:06 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yes – I’m moving in tomorrow. I know what you mean about the windows – I’d love to live in a place with lovely windows, either coloured and leaded static ones, or wooden sashes.

I could have edited my employment history I suppose but I was just too tired, doing it in the small hours.

Sun 29th September 2019 @ 22:04 Reply to this comment
Comment from: Scarlet [Visitor]

Excellent news!
Good luck with the move.
Sx

Mon 30th September 2019 @ 06:31 Reply to this comment


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M / 55 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

"Looby is a left-wing intellectual who is obsessed with a) women's clothes and b) tits." -- Joy of Bex.

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