I’m terrific at both. Fiddle arseing (is ‘arseing’ spelled with an ‘e’ or without? ....... see what I’m already doing here – I’m putting off writing this blog entry...) about the house and procrastinating are my usual modes of operation, especially when there’s actually some paid work to do.
Before you all groan and say things like ‘but you were only whingeing a short time ago about how hard it is to find work and now you’re blowing your opportunities by wasting precious mental energy on whether there’s a bloody letter E in ‘arseing’ and if cyberspace was truly elastic I’d reach in and angrily flick that bulb on the end of your nose until your eyes water......’ - let me reassure you of something.
Somehow – despite the rare skill of expertly hanging out THREE ENTIRE LOADS of washing inside a small apartment, cleaning the coffee machine, walking the dog, eating Sunday’s leftovers, going for a run to nowhere, chatting in broken French to the Fratman, taking the wine bottles to the public recycling bins and trying to ignore the disapproving stare of the old lady with just three tins to contribute; sneaking in an old episode of Antiques Roadshow, chasing up an old medical account with an insurer who only answers phones between 9-12 on weekdays and even then has an answering machine that says, ‘Our lines are busy. Please try again later,’ and fishing out 52 retro French magazines from the papier skip before photographing and putting them up for sale on ebay – I do manage to do all of my freelance writing gigs on time.
To be honest, it’s difficult to explain or pinpoint exactly how this is done.
Milly is the self-appointed rest-and-recreation director. Her wet nose is subtlely jabbed into the part of my back where my top has ridden up against the chair revealing 'the computer worker's jean cleavage' of bare skin. The end result is that I jump up in shock and we head downstairs for a quick sniff and wee (her), and a stretch and deep breath (me, but not near where Milly did a wee).
Back upstairs, emails are read, saved to draft, responded to, received. Job boards are scanned, applied to, Skyped and accepted. Online research is done, albeit liberally peppered with side clicks to cute animals, videos of people falling over and shameful Hollywood gossip. The printer jerks into action, whining and blinking; loose leaves floating haphazardly to the floor if my attention is on numbskulls in front of paparazzi instead of the numerical order of pages.
Phone calls are received and made - usually whilst walking through the house sipping coffee, enjoying the view of snow on the Jura mountains and pushing in the dining chairs as I pass.
The screen saver slides into action when the mouse is left idle and my head is drooped down reading something on paper. I look up and instantly get lost in a fog of nostalgia at old holiday snaps, images of a baby Sapphire surrounded by ancient Tupperware lids floating in the bath, Love Chunks holding up a freshly caught fish at Victor Harbor and dinner parties long past. Who stole the rose out of my bridesmaid's bouquet and stuck it in their.... and then photographed it.....??
Hang on, my ears feel blocked. A quick visit to the bathroom for a cotton bud excavation turns into a long one as I then clean my fingernails and examine my face for new wrinkles and – these are new and now obsessively sought – sun spots. Age spots. Liver spots. Two of the evil splodges have recently appeared and my hooded, sagging eyes are on the alert for more. It used to be that adopting a facial expression of suspicion would eradicate any crows’ feet but now all that happens is that they shift to my forehead and turn my mouth into a child’s drawing of the rays of the sun emerging from a puckered up pencil sharpener. The room echoes with a final duck quack fart as I remind myself to get on with the article due by close of business their time which is, well, an hour in our time and one that I oh-so-confidently assured them I had oodles of experience and knowledge on.
Sapphire arrives home from school, unfortunately in one of her eager-to-talk moods. The days when my fiddle arseing has been at prime level are never the days she wants to flop in her room on her own and decompress. We chat and I make her realise that it’s our pets who get the best greetings in life. “Think about it, Sapph. Every time Milly walks into the room, we all go gooey and coo, ‘Helloooooo there, sweetie’ but who does it for us?”
Diet cokes now consumed, she heads towards the study.
“Hey hey HEY, you can’t go on Skype or Minecraft, I have WORK to do!”
“Well, tell me when you’ve finished then, as I have a English essay due,” she huffs half-heartedly. With Milly at her heels and an episode of ‘Take Me Out’ waiting on the telly, she’s not exactly devastated.
And that is when I work. Forty minutes before Milly’s pre-dinner Dog Forest poop-and-patrol and Sapphire’s daily cyber appointment with her Minecraft Mates. I attach, click ‘send’ and lean back in the chair, sighing in fatigue and satisfaction.
Tomorrow, I tell myself, I’ll get it over and done with early. No housework; searching for sun spots, general goofing off or time wasting. Tomorrow it'll be different.
Then again, that’s when the flea market is open; Anita wants to meet up for lunch; an interview request has just been emailed and I might have a re-think about the novel that was started a couple of months ago and set aside......