Wendy: thank you very much
Checkout staff: you’re welcome very much
Wendy: thank you very much
Checkout staff: you’re welcome very much
Seattle, 2006, I’m 43. A weekend phone call home. Dad always triages the phone calls. One phone is next to his computer. He doesn’t chat, but I’m prepared with a question primed by my annual medical check-up
“Dad, how old was mum when she started the menopause?”
“56 and we’re still suffering!” She was 66 at the time
I was still giggling when mum picked up the extension line…
Bar staff: (raises eyebrows, furrows brows looking perplexed)
Wendy: It’s in the USA
Bar staff: Wow! I’d love to move out of Reading
Estate Agent #1
Estate agent #2
Estate agent #3
I didn’t get the impression that any of them offered anything that would add any real value over the property details and access to buyers that have been pre-screened for a mortgage. None of them really told me about their access to the type of people that would like to buy the Wendy house. I suggested excluding:
Estate agent #1 was the least offensive, arrogant. She listened and related to me as a person most effectively. Maybe I’ll have to make my own promotional materials pack – showing related documentation from my purchase, guarantees on work done, local service professionals etc
Wendy: Mum! I’ve found some beautiful old-fashioned style furniture, like Grandma used to have. It’s imitation 1700’s and probably really from around the 1900’s
mumzie: have you looked inside the doors and drawers to see if it’s labelled? There was a good reproduction furniture maker in Nettlebed
Wendy: Nettlebed?! That’s nearby, Sue Ryder have a beautiful big place there
French Speaking Montréal Native (FSMN): Do you know Montréal?
Wendy: I’ve never visited, but a friend from there spoke of it fondly and frequently, I suspect it’s beautiful
FSMN: was she a French speaker
Wendy: He was born and lived in France for the first 12 years of his life, and spoke French as his first language
breakfast bouncer: What room are you in?
breakfast bouncer: I don’t know that room
wendy: maybe it’s floor 1 room 18? My check-in card says 118 (holds-up check-in card)
After checking my name a hefty line was drawn through the paper sheet that listed the breakfast sentences of hotel guests.
breakfast bouncer: just to let you know, the toaster’s not working, do you want white or brown toast?
wendy: (confused, pauses)
breakfast bouncer: DO you WANT white or BROWN toast?
Wendy: Brown, please?
The bouncer sent me to my seat with an instructive arm wave. Minutes later returning to tell me I could get myself tea and fruit juice. Timidly, I left my allotted cell and made myself a tea. Sometimes it can be a bit of a trial not pissing-off the British breakfast bouncers.
Today I failed.
wendy: a glass of merlot, please
waitstaff: what size?
wendy: oh, um, 125ml please
waitstaff: no, we don’t have that size
wendy: oh, um, what size can I choose?
waitstaff: 175 or 250ml
wendy: 175 please
waitstaff: is that red wine?
waitstaff: is that red wine?
wendy: yes it’s red wine
Do you think I passed that test?
I learned that I am more comfortable with silence than my friend. It felt like my friend talked almost non-stop. They didn’t, but it felt like it. As if they needed to fill every silence with words.
At first, I listened to all the words, then gradually my mind wandered away. Their words like a radio programme chattering in the background as my thoughts wandered around the fabulous autumn Devon views. My friend didn’t appear to need my listening, no input from me needed.
Normally living alone, with much silence, I found this stream of talking most strange. On the occasions when my friend was silent they were tapping away into their phone, or computer, presumably social networking. They would read, with verbal annotation and explanation, the text’s they’d received. This total sharing is not something I’m used to. Unsolicited, it felt somehow inappropriate. I suspect it was actually some kind of generous gift of openness, non-exclusion. A sweet generous friend.
If I said something, made a statement, it would be followed by my friend’s analysis of the topic of my statement. I learned a lot about my friend. They learned about my silences and way of being, little more. They didn’t ask. I wonder if they felt short-changed.
4 people under 40: *WINCE and scowl*
wendy: actually my whole family used to drink tea with at least one teaspoon of sugar in it
4 people under 40: *chorus of: YUCK with liberal nosewrinkles*
wendy: come to think of it, everyone I knew drank tea with at least one suger in it
4 people under 40: *leave the room shaking their heads and tutting*
Times have changed…
what did you do to your arm?
How did you do that?
fell off a bike and landed on the curb
Does it hurt?
I think she was trying to make conversation. I totally failed to help out. Her assumption that blamed me - ‘how did you do that?‘, rather than unplaced blame ‘how did that happen?’ , for the break coupled with no obvious empathy made it was easy to forget to be generous to this stranger
Repeat 3 times:
me: Hello, my name is Wendy House. On Wednesday 29th August during my appointment at the fracture clinic the Dr told me that I would have my first physiotherapy session next week, which is this week. The receptionist told me that I would recive a letter with the appointment time – I haven’t recived a letter and I’d like to check what time my appointment is.
I’ll forward you to the [name] department.
They shouldn’t tell you to phone us.
me: They didn’t. They said I’d get a letter, and I haven’t so I decided to phone you.
They shouldn’t have said that – we don’t send out letters.
You’re not on my system. Hang on while I look at these files.
Oh! you’re right on the top with a note to phone you and make a direct appointment – broken arm. It will take some time to enter all this data but I can make the appointment now. Will 11.40 on Thursday suit you?
me: Yes. Do I go to the same place as before? The fracture clinic on Floor 2.
No! Go to physiotherapy.
me: So I’ll walk in the main entrance and ask reception to point me to physiotherapy?
No! They could send you anywhere. Are you driving?
me: (giggles) No, I’m on foot
Go to accident and emergency, stand at the entrance facing the main car park and we’re on you’re left
wendy: yes, at solstice
Sue: at solstice?
wendy: I was wearing the fox’s ears
Sue: I remember the fox’s ears, I just can’t picture you in them, you look so…. ….so….smart
wendy: errrrm, thankyou, I think….
On a Friday evening commuter train riding home from Paddington toward Reading town I watch the scenery roll past while listening to the American in the seat behnd me talk on the phone about the data retention policies of an international organisation
I’m drowned in the chatter of half-conversations around me. Everyone is travelling alone, most people are talking to someone on the phone.
A lady two rows back is having an arguement about her ex-husband and her medication. I suspect that nearly everyone in the carriage heard, no-one comments, it’s not our business.
Private in public, privates on parade…
Spottydog: (laughs) are you serious? I’ve known that for ages!
wendy: well obviously I suspected, what with all the trousers and buying mens jumpers. But I bought the jumpers because they’re virtually the same as the womens jumpers except they’re cheaper. I thought I was just buying cheaper versions of girls clothes. But I’m not sure anymore. I think I might be a transvestite. Is a transvestite the same thing as a cross dresser?
Spottydog: does it matter?
wendy: well, I’d like to know what to say to people when I come out of the closet
Spottydog: you’re not in the closet
wendy: oh yeah… ….do you like my new cricket jumper? It’s to go with my kilt…
During a conversation about Reading town pubs, one fellow suddenly blurts out
I love your house!
wendy: that’s the right answer, me too (huge cheshire cat grin)
fellow: it’s like a secret courtyard hidden away from the city, in the heart of the city!
wendy: (HUGE Grin – pours the fellow more alcohol)
My mother’s elder brother-in-law, a 94 year old ballroom dancing Mason, brings a collection of origami animals to a House family meal:
Niece 92’s boyfriend: I can work out how it’s made, if I take it apart
Bros 57: Will you use a MaSonic screwdriver to take it apart?
Bros 62 and I laughed outselves off our chairs. The waiters hovered like vultures. We lost our Masonic uncle a couple of times that night, physically, mentally and metaphorically
Later that night I dreamt that Alan Bennet dropped by to sort us all out
“It was colder last week, it’s not like we live in the Arctic, you’ll just have to man-up“
Please could you arrange for good ideas to arrive with clear steps on how to realise their potential.
Yesterday a good idea arrived like a large flock of rooks attempting to roost in a rather small woodshed – a lot of wing flapping, sqwarking – unnecessary fuss. It’s a tad discombobulating.
I don’t mind a wee bit of searching, calming, ducking, cleaning, sorting and praising. But it woud be rather nice to have the occassional good idea arrive as a yellow brick road with time for me to walk tall, breath deeply and wear a stylish pair of sunglasses as the idea unfolds.
Thank you, yours sincerely, wendy-flocking-a-fab-inspiration
“are you the princess?” the 67 year old lady asks the 7 year old girl, adding “I’m a dinosaur”
“no you’re not” even though the girl is already displaying advanced gender conformity, she hasn’t yet refined her agism prejudices… …she can still spot the difference between dinosaurs and old ladies
“No, not really, but it’s what old people call themselves” The child makes an accurate observation about aging “when I grow up my hair wont be blonde anymore” The old bint espouses the popular psuedo-feminist position of ‘choice freedom’ within the boundaries of legitimate girly behaviours “you can dye your hair any colour that you want”. The mother sighs and adds “she’s a very girlie girl, she’ll only wear dresses and loves pink and purple”
I press my face against the train window watching the beautiful English, Dorset, countryside fly-by – but I can’t escape the conversations of popularist female conformity…
A Psuedo Liberal Dude (PLD) notices that the patriarchy has eroded his wife’s self-worth:
PLD: I wish my wife was more like you
wendy: MwaHaHaHaHa….(pause) No you don’t
PLD: Yes I do, I wish she was more confident
wendy: I’m more confident because I see myself doing a relatively good job of something compared to others. So, I can see when others need to put some effort into improving what they do. I could give them helpful advice, if they wanted it. Do you wish your wife was more confident like me?
PLD: Um…. …. no
wendy: didn’t think so
He’s tired of fighting the patriarchy by repeatedly re-inforcing her self-worth. But he doesn’t really want her to have strong self worth. If she did, she might see his shortcomings and suggest improvements. From his perspective it’s better that she has an irritating lack of confidence while paying adequate homage to him…
Smoking and drinking alone outside a pub
Grey overcast skies and a chilling September breeze
Between taking long drags on her cigarette, she talks
As-if to another person
Her brow furrows, she leans towards her imaginary friend
It doesn’t look like a happy conversation
Luckily, I can be very selective with my imaginary friends, they’re a fabulous crew who are more likely to draw laughter than a frown
With bubbly enthusiasm Tracey describes the people she met in Geneva when representing the UK at a Proctor and Gamble hosted international conference:
His parents were from Naples in Italy, they moved to New York before he was born, so even though he looks Italian he’s a real New Yorkan
He was a bit of a scientist boffin from Germany, his name was “Yo!-harn” or something like that, I had trouble with it so I called him Yogi Bear, how we laughed!
Tracey’s exhuberance was captivating, she quickly built a picture of people from all over the world enjoying each other’s company, sharing a passion…
Words are a powerful force, even descriptive statements have the power to cause action, illocutionary force. What people choose to say, or not say, causes the world to change
If a guest in the Wendy House makes a statement like “it’s cold in here” then I will interpret that as a description of discomfort. The force of the statement pushes me to suggest either
Some people use their illocutionary force with skill, wisely or cruely. Some people spew words in a stream of consciousness seemingly without awareness of their forceful impact on listeners
Someone said ennui in a real conversation
what a tease!
It sounded like “ahn-wee, setting-off my sensitively calibrated toilet-word-radar alarm. Wee?!
This was not a tease. This was a real word and the utterer had used it in a sentence that made total sense
A celebratory tea party is in order
Bring on the cakes!
Making sure you got your phone calls was a complicated affair in the days before cell phones and answer machines. Especially for a teenager. This is just one of the problems I encountered – after coming home from a long, fun night practicing with the marching band:
Mumzie: Graham called while you were out
Wendy: Graham! Which Graham? What did he say?
Darn, now mum knows there are several Grahams in my life and he might have told her something personal.
Mumzie: there’s more than one Graham? He didn’t say what it was about dear, just said to let you know he’d called
Clearly this is a discreat Graham. Can’t pick one out from the rest based on that description. So now I have to work out in which order to phone them back. Then how to start the conversation without giving away that I don’t know if I’m returning a call, or calling them for the first time? Then I have to work out how to advise mumzie on taking future calls from Grahams, to help her work out which one called without saying “which Graham are you?” which would make each of them feel insignificant, and they’re not. They’re all special in different ways
Life’s so complicated!
wendy: all trains to Reading are delayed
Concourse displays specify Delay, Delay, Delay…. Hundreds of people stand with their eyes held by the display. Murmurring rises. Jan pulls out her HTC Desire
Jan: Delays until 6.30pm, why don’t they tell me that at the station, why do I have to go to the web to find out
Wendy: can you send me that link for my phone
Jan: Um, err, probably, I’ll try
Our shoulders drop. What shall we do with this time at Paddington? Vicky looks near to tears
Vicky: I’ve got a softball game at 6.45pm
Jan notices a slow, stops everytwhere, train to Banbury, a 90 mins rather than 25mins journey to Reading. We run, weaving through bewildered would-be passsengers, to platform 11. Crushed against the train waiting for the doors to open, carried by the crowd onto the train. Midsummer heat, commuter sweat crammed into a carriage designed for half this load. People wearing black and grey. I manage to climb onto the luggage rack, a seat! Jan and Vicky are swept apart into the standing-only isles. Two ladies near me don’t look like commuters, one wearing a cheerful pink dress, another wearing a jade outfit. Pinky bends down and peers into the lower level luggage rack
Pinky: there’s a child under there…
Jade: It’s a BOY
Synchronised smiling, the childs boyness explains his desire to climb into the luggage rack. I ask the colourful duo
wendy: does anyone know what caused the delays?
pinky: A suicide on the line
wendy: how do you know?
Pinky waves her Blackberry phone, She uses the Blackberry for the whole 2hr journey, raising her eyes only to answer my occassional question then say goodbye as she leaves the train. There are few conversations on the train. Most people appear deeply engrossed in bright phone screens. From my perch I can see 4 i-phone screens – text conversations, games, reading the news
I make several attempts to start conversations with the people near me. They moan about how inconsiderate the suicide was, interrupting rush hour travel. Then they sink back into their hypnotic phones. Suicide on the line, one person traded the life they had left to give todays commuters some unanticipated travel time
I feel the need to use this precious time, someone-elses life time, wisely
Charles: We’d like to invite you to our son’s wedding on April 29th.
Barak: I’d love to join the party but I’ve already got plans for that day.
Charles: We could move the wedding if you’d really like to come along.
Barak: I appreciate your flexibility, but I’ll be busy on the Wedding day, whatever day it is.
Barak: Oh, and Charles, don’t send me an official invitation because I want to keep media attention and speculation about my activity on that day to a minimum. Don’t invite me and dont talk about it.
In a corner shop, the assistant is out back in the stock room. I stand in line behind an elderly man. He looks at the racks of newspapers. The cover pages of every newspaper show pictures of Sian, a girl who’s body was recently found nearby. He turns around smiles at me
stupid women getting themselves killed
How do you reply to a statement that blames the victim, that blames the victims by virtue of their gender? I paused, thinking that even if this comment was made in jest, I cannot find a way to make light of it’s mean perspective. The man watches me and starts pulling facial expressions that I cannot interpret. Facial expressions that feel agressive. There is nothing I can say to him, honestly, without giving away how mean I feel his statement was. He follows up with a loud, clipped comment
I didn’t say anything
I wish I’d never spoken to you
My silence appears to have redirected his meanness to me specifically, probably fulfilling what I think is a mysogenistic outlook. I wish he hadn’t spoken to me, I resisted the urge to agree with his unnecessarily nasty statement. The shop assistant returned, the man settled up his bill and left. After I’d made my purchase I noticed the man had left his walking stick by the till. I picked it up, ran out of the shop found the man and silently gave him the stick.
thankyou, just goes to show…
Again, I didn’t understand his statement, there was nothing I could find to say. I suspect people with such mean spirits lead very lonely lives where people they talk to feel the need and right to reply to them with equally mean comments.