Return of the dream ghost

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“It is far more difficult to murder a phantom than a reality.”

Virginia Woolf

Word of the day: Alcherina – dream time

This afternoon I was playing the card game Shithead with Hamoudi and Jinjing. That game is known all over the world, turns out it’s even got a Wikipedia page. While we were playing (and I was winning, I want you to know) they started talking about their dreams again. About the sinister man who appeared in Jinjing’s dreams staring in through her window and then followed Hamoudi around the tube in real life. He is now ‘on the move.’

Rather than just being in her dreams, Jinjing has seen him in the street, on a roof and under her bed. Hamoudi saw him on the Central Line last night. While sitting in the bright kitchen playing cards and eating Bombay mix, they sounded to me like teenagers trying to scare each other with ghost stories. But now I’m back in my room sitting on my own and monsters from my own dreams have started scratching at the back of my memory. My dreams have been numerous and miserable recently, plagued with stress and sickness, but was there someone in them? A shadowy figure watching?

Nah, probably not. I suspect I’m just mixing it up with angry staring man from the train.

Betrayed! No nomophiliac!

 

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“I find people confusing.”

― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Word of the day: Bionomics – study of organisms interacting in their environments

Ok, so today I was going to do it, I was going to talk to angry staring man. I spent the walk to the station psyching myself up, I had a shortlist of possible opening gambits. I was ready. But as I walked down the aisle, I saw him sitting bold as brass and looking at his phone!

He must have known that was a betrayal, we don’t look at our phones! That’s what everyone else does, but we’re the nomophiliacs! We’re different! But was looking at the screen very seriously, as if he was getting some news of a corporate takeover of the mafia. Or plans to replace the Queen with a clone. Definitely something with huge repercussions for society. So can I forgive him?

You may be thinking, If angry staring man is so important, why is he taking the train, wouldn’t he have a chauffeured car? But that’s because you’re wrong and don’t understand the ways of angry staring man.

Anyway, so I went and sat opposite fabulous woman. I tried to catch her eye again, but she had a careful not-catching-eye demeanour. Maybe she is a celebrity and she’s sick of plebs trying to talk to her. Maybe she’s a superhero and is worried if she gets distracted by petty conversations she won’t be ready for when the villain tries to flip the train into another dimension. There is a black stripe in the middle of her orange striped hair now. Tiger!

I haven’t given up yet, but I’m not good at this.

So close to sinister secrets

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Phrase of the day: Today I am all tick and no tock (great phrase, courtesy of Colin McQueen)

The angry staring man was on the train chewing gum today. Angrily. Hands on the single crease down his trouser legs. I’ll bet he not only owns an iron, but a travel iron. I really want to talk to him. I feel like his life is so far away from anything I know and vice versa, we could strike up an exceptional partnership. He’d tell me the murky secrets of working in an International bank, arranging coups and investing in stock things for corporate murderers and I’d explain how to get a broken mower started or how to prune a climbing rose.

I know what you’re thinking: he sounds evil, why do you want to talk to him? Well, because I never meet evil people. Everybody I know and work with is lovely, thoughtful and completely without any kind of power or money. And I have this fascination with worlds I can’t enter, with locked doors and hidden truths, however terrible those truths might be. Angry Staring Man has access to those locked doors, I’m sure of it.

Fabulous woman was there too, with lots of huge rings, a skull, a bull, an opal, they look like knuckledusters. I keep expecting the other passengers on the train to start dressing like her. I’m always on the look out for someone else wearing a new pair of fluffy boots or a tiara of spikes. Fabulous woman should be on the television.

No nomophobia

 

 

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“I could see her fighting an internal battle, her face furrowed and fevered, her sentences trailing off as her concentration kept flicking time and time again. She was tethered by a choke chain to her cell and whenever she tried to pull away into the cafe where we sat, the chain yanked and she was checking for texts once more.”

Our Last Hurrah – Dorothea Wallick

Word of the day: Nomophobia – the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power.

Continuing on my people-watching on the morning train…

I’ve realised that one of the twins is slightly cooler than the other. He’s a bit bigger, walks with more of a strut and less of a hunch. I wonder if he knows, I wonder if he lords it over the other one, or if the other one is resentful. Could wind up as a Whatever Happened to baby Jane situation. Going to keep watching to figure out the dynamic.

Today biker boot lady is wearing earrings with lizards on them. But not dainty little silver lizards. These are the size and colour of actual lizards. And I’m sure I just saw one of them twitch.

Yesterday I mentioned angry staring man. He was there today, staring furiously.

Because I tend to spend the journey ambling around my thoughts, I don’t look at my phone or read. I stare out the window or watch my fellow passengers. But everybody else, everybody! is somehow engaged with their phone: playing games, watching TV, having a conversation. That rectangle of technology contains everything people want and reality does not.

The only other person on the train not looking at his phone, is angry staring man. He looks straight ahead, occasionally around, with a steely look of impatience. Sometimes chewing gum. He wears a smart suit with a silk lined jacket and shiny shoes. I’m aware when I’m sitting there in my mud streaked trousers, with my hair tied back in what has been kindly referred to as a ‘messy bun’ and my dirty nails, that me and angry staring man don’t have much in common. But it’s just me and him not snagged by our phones, which means we are the only two floating around real life while everybody else is asleep.

I know what I’m thinking about, but what about him? Unlike my vague wandering thoughts, his look is angry and filled with intent. He’s not in a morning fug, he is working things out. Important things.

Ah look at all the lonely people tum te tum te tum te tum te tum te

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“I like to prowl ordinary places
and taste the people-
from a distance.”
― Charles Bukowski, Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit

Word of the day: Farrago – a confused mass of objects or people, any disordered mixture

I’ve been spending the week paying attention to my fellow passengers on the morning train. I only see for them for a short time each day, when at my most befuddled and slow, and when everyone is sitting silently, also befuddled and slow. But over the months, I’ve noticed little dramas play out and the fascinating oddballs become apparent (this isn’t an insult by the way, I am definitely an oddball, oddballs are my people.)

For example, there are the twins, two young men who aren’t twins, but travel together with the same hairstyle and clothes and rucksack. When one gets a haircut, the other gets the same a few days later; when one starts wearing shorts the other does the next day. They get off at the same station and walk side by side, hands in pockets, the same loping walk. But they never speak to each other. They don’t sit together or acknowledge each other in any way. My conclusion is that either: they are psychic, although I’d assume they’d start wearing the shorts on the same day. OR: one is stalking, following and copying the other who doesn’t know how to get rid of him. One day I’m expecting a punch up.

Then there’s the large, middle-aged woman who wears biker boots with spikes on them, a pink streak in her hair and huge colourful jackets. I love her. She’s my hero.

Then, sometimes, there is the angry staring man.

It’s starting again!

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Take me to a place where the dead roam the Earth and the living float above them.

Word of the day: Aeriform – gaseous or unreal

Weather: wash out!

Mood: sun dried!

 

I got up this morning to find Hamoudi looking miserable in the kitchen. He was making a tower out of clothes pegs and sighing. The pegs kept pinging across the room.

‘What’s up, champ?’ I asked.

‘I think it’s starting again,’ he said.

My ears pricked up and I had to hide my eagerness behind a veil of concern.

‘Seeing ghosts?’ I whispered.

‘Maybe,’ he said, the peg tower shot a pink peg under the fridge and then collapsed. He started again.

‘What do you mean by maybe?’ I asked, trying to not get tetchy, because seriously, he likes to drag things out. He figured out a method with his building, creating a triangle with three pegs.

‘When I was at the station yesterday, I saw this movement out the corner of my eye. A red cap, and blue jeans. I think it was a small boy. Then he was gone, just vanished.’

‘Well, if it was busy…’

‘And last night, I woke up and he was standing at the end of my bed. The same clothes, red cap, blue jeans. But his eyes were hollow, staring at me.’

‘Did you recognise him? Did you speak to him?’

‘No.’ He puts another layer on the tower, and it stays upright, but this doesn’t make him happy.

‘I left Canada to get away from all this,’ he says. ‘What if they’ve followed me here?’

It would be cruel to point out that if there are dead people wandering around Canada, they are probably  everywhere. I pat his shoulder and the peg tower falls down again. Sympathetic though I am, I’m also pretty excited about this development. If there are ghosts in our flat, I wonder if I’ll be able to see them. Maybe Hamoudi can introduce us. That would change everything.

Murder and the drama llama

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I took this photo by the river in Waterloo. According to a guy there, many bones lie scattered on the beach. It isn’t connected to the cat, but kind of fits with the mood.

Mood: I don’t even know

Weather: drizzly

Word of the day: Cataplexy – condition feigning death used by animals

The police came by to see the cat’s head. They deny it’s murder, since the famous Croydon cat-killer is a case considered solved, and that the killer never existed. ‘Could this be a different cat-killer?’ I asked. ‘No,’ the policeman said firmly. However, we still have a body-less head that looks to have been cut with a knife. I feel like we should do investigating of our own. But where could we even start? I’m sure I had a book about how to be a detective as a kid but I don’t remember any of it now.

Saw Hamoudi in the kitchen. He seemed pretty cheerful, not seeing dead people or receiving gifts from strangers. He was wailing about his lack of vegetables so I offered him a tin of sweetcorn I’ve had sitting in my cupboard for some time. He explained  he can’t eat yellow food – not pasta, yellow peppers, nor chips, and not sweetcorn. When I asked why he said yellow food always caught in his throat. He demonstrated with choking retching sounds. I’m starting to suspect he might be a little bit of a drama llama.

All in a day’s work…

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A pretty Melianthus flower to offset the disturbing blog

Miss Marple probably was a murderer.

Word of the day: psychagogue – conductor of souls to the underworld

Weather: blue skies

Mood: pensive

Bit of a grim day at work today. Jessica found a cat’s head in the kid’s playground. It looked severed rather than eaten. She threw it in the bin, but it turns out the police want to see it in case it’s murder. So work has gone a bit Rosemary and Thyme, for those who don’t know that’s a detective duo who work as gardeners, but keep discovering dead bodies. (Why nobody ever pegs these amateur sleuths surrounded by murders as the ones responsible, I have no idea.) Anyway, I’m pretty sure Jessica wasn’t responsible for the decapitated cat, but I’ll keep an eye on her.

At home, tensions haven’t ended, with snapping and glares between Jinjing and Neville. Neville’s sudden painting of the hallway left a few green footprints on the stairs, and he half-painted the skirting board.

‘Why even do it if you’re not going to do it properly?’ Jinjing said. She is mortally offended by his ineptness. I’m used to ineptness, it doesn’t really bother me.

Destiny? Or pseudo-mystical nonsense?

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Word of the day: Athanor – an alchemist’s self-feeding digesting furnace

Weather: grey

Mood: ho hum

I woke up in a bad mood, and it has hung around me like a buzzy fly all day. I cornered Hamoudi, he-who-sees-dead-people, while he was eating cereal. I made no pretence of politeness.

‘So what did the mysterious woman say? In the café?’

He wiped the milk off his chin, leaned over our small kitchen table and said intensely,

‘She said all the strange things happening to me, weren’t happening by chance. That I was on a path and nothing could stop that journey.’ This sounded kind of cheesy and vague to me, but maybe I’m just jealous.

‘So why leave?’

‘Because it wasn’t a good path. She didn’t go into specifics, but she made it sound like I was heading into trouble. She said I had to be careful who I trusted. I’m no good at that! I trust everybody!’

‘But if it’s all true,’ I said, ‘surely coming to London is part of the path as well. You can’t abandon destiny by moving.’ He looked at me blankly, and then alarmed, so I changed the subject. We talked about the ongoing battle between Jinjing and Neville.

‘She won’t let it go,’ he said, ‘when she thinks someone’s wrong, she keeps at it. She’s like a terrier.’

Oh good, the drama continues then.

And I’ve thought about it, I’m definitely jealous. I want to be told I’m on a path by a mysterious stranger, even a bad path, rather than wandering aimlessly and ending up lost all the time. Does that make me naive?

More of Hamoudi’s story

 

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Word of the day: kinkens – (scots) to give an evasive answer to an inquisitive child

Weather: larvely

Mood: driven mad by curiosity

Went out for a walk and came home to find Neville painting the hallway a new shade of green. Seems he’s decided to respond to Jinjing’s complaints by redecorating. I suggested that she’d prefer it if he cleaned the toilet, but he huffed at me and carried on. I guess he’s making a point, but I find making a point is as effective as leaving cleaning products around as a hint.

Joined Hamoudi and Jinjing in the garden. Our garden gets a patch of sun that moves across the grass, so they were making the most of it, shifting out of the shadows as they crept up, a slow game of chase. I asked the usual polite questions, before steering Hamoudi around to why he left Canada.

‘You said something happened, aside from seeing dead people, that is,’ I said, nonchalantly, hiding that I’ve been obsessing about this since he mentioned it last week. I picked a daisy for Jinjing, who was making a chain.

Hamoudi sighed, looked at the sun and sneezed.

‘It was weird, it was like there was a light on me, a flashing arrow above my head. Strangers kept coming up to me. At first it was small, a kid gave me a marble, this old lady patted me on the arm when we were waiting at the side of the road to cross. Stuff like that.’

‘Ah right,’ I said. Hamoudi shrugged, he’s a huge man, so he shrugs effectively, like a mountain lifting.

‘Then one night I couldn’t sleep, so I went out to this café and got myself a coffee. This woman came up and sat opposite me. I remember the café owner looked over with a look of You ok with this strange woman who just sat down with you in a deserted café? And then the woman started talking. She said, “You know what’s happening, don’t you?”’

At that point, the back door slammed and locked shut. I guess Neville had finished painting and wanted to make another point. It’s at times like that you learn you’re no good at picking locks. Eventually we got back inside (which involved kicking the door really hard, turns out it isn’t very secure), but by then the conversation was forgotten. So now I shall have to obsess again.