Friday, November 2, 2018

Brooding

It's been a chaotic week... I always enjoy a visit from my siblings and this week I had my grown up sister come and stay. She's the one that always has it sorted (at least on the outside) and is the first arm around you either to hold you back or pick you up depending on which way your mood has swung.

She now has two children - the chalkiest of cheesiest children you will ever meet. One is a quiet, obsessive little thing who loves magic and fantasy and his own company. The other is... well, actually according to everyone he's a little me. He's temperamental and funny and often totally baffled by his own emotional outbursts. It's interesting to watch.

This week they were incoming and I'm always so grateful to them for shoehorning their 2.4 family into our shoebox flat for a cramped but giggle-filled vacation. This week Nephew the First was fascinated by the fact that Brighton is full of flats. He lives in a village in the West Country and doesn't know anyone else who lives in a flat - he thinks it's amazing that we live in a "pile of people". Amazing is one word my little innocent.

The only down side this week was that I couldn't shift my gigs around to be about in the evenings so I had to pop up to London and work after bedtime.

Monday night I popped up to MC a show and came back a little rattled... I won't go into details but, it takes a lot to make me feel insecure on stage. I've been threatened whilst on stage, put in a head lock by a man after a gig (yes, really) shouted at for something another act said and generally dealt with everything comedians deal with at some point during their careers. Comes with the territory, right? Well, except the headlock. That was over the line. But, Monday... Monday rattled me because it came from acts not the audience and the nature of the show meant I wasn't in my usual position of power to deal with it in the way I normally would.

NOTE: I dealt with the show brilliantly and the whole spectacle for the audience was fine, ok? So if any part of you is tempted to message me in some way to tell me that if I can't handle it then I shouldn't do it... I did handle it, ok? Handling it like a professional at the time and then admitting you felt things about it as a person afterwards are two separate things.

To admit I was rattled and to be admitting it now is a HUGE thing for me. In my head now the business manager is trying to get a memo to my fingers saying "don't type this - it won't go well." Reasons the brain business manager is suggesting are:
"If the booker reads this they won't book you again." which then translates to "if the booker reads this, they might not book a woman again." Because, I was the first woman to do this show EVER and so that's an absolute tonne of pressure that anything I say or do has an effect on a whole swathe of people being considered for it again. Maybe I'm inflating my own importance (probably - hell I'm a millennial comedian, when am I not eh?) but that's a little bit how it always feels.

Self employed = shut up or it'll be harder to get work.
Self employed woman = shut up or it'll be harder for women to get work.

So, Tuesday morning I'm feeling a little wobbly but thinking to myself I'll just let it sit for a bit until it settles. Distance will help and I'll throw myself into being an Aunt. When one persona doesn't feel right put a different one on.

That's when the projectile vomiting begins. A tummy bug rampages through both nephews and Wahaca cod tacos are flying everywhere.

Nephew the First learns an important lesson about living in a flat; when someone vomits spectacularly in it, there is nowhere to hide from the smell. When two small people with impeccably bad aim vomit in 4 out of the 5 rooms then it's best to burn the building down and move to a new continent.

The poor little mites are lying still, trying to keep fluids down and I'm trying to find bits of guacamole in the hinges to the loo seat. There's a knock at the door.

"Hello?"

"Hi!" The man's nose wrinkles at what appears to be 6 people living in a two bedroom flat that they are mainly using for vomit storage. "I'm from the management company for the building."

Hey! Nephew the First - here's another cool thing about flat life, there are so many people making a living from not dealing with your damp!

"Right, ok?" I'm vaguely wondering whether there is vomit dripping into the downstairs neighbours flat already and I am about to be evicted.

"We've had an alert from your downstairs neighbour..." Oh crud. How did tortilla get through the floorboards? "... about some pigeons nesting. Have you noticed them?"

Oh. I wasn't expecting that. My chest tightens, and not in the good "I look mid-20s way".

"Yes. Yes, there are some pigeons." Nephew the Second releases a rainbow of dry cream cracker somewhere in the distance.

"Are they on your balcony?"

"Yes, they are."

"Do you mind if I come and have a look?"

"At my pigeons?"

"Are they yours? Are you keeping domestic pigeons?" He sounds concerned, but it could be fear.

"No! No... they're just... they're just wild pigeons. Not mine." On the horizon of the living room, a fruit winder goes flying upwards into a hastily provided waste paper bin. I shut the door.

I show the man through the flat - look Nephew the First, so many people can just come through your home when you rent a flat?! If we weren't here he has keys!

The man looks at the pigeons on the balcony.

"Have you reported them?"

"No." I say, "I don't mind them."

I more than don't mind them. I'm very attached to them.

"Do you feed them?" He asks.

"No." I say, casually kicking a crust of bread off the side of the balcony.

We return to the hall as fresh waves of flat lemonade parade past the tonsils of my favourite little people.

The man turns in his trench coat and gives me a card. "We need to deal with the pigeons. Someone will be in touch about putting in pigeon spikes as soon as these babies have left the nest. We legally can't do anything while they're raising young but the second the babies have gone we need to clear this up. You need to phone us when you see the chicks fly, ok?"

I nod and promise I will. He leaves.

I go into the living room and tell my sister what the man wanted and I'm surprised to find myself struggling not to cry. I blame the watering eyes on the bile haze acting like a smoke screen across the room and look fondly at my poor grey boys lying wanly on a blanket that I will never touch again.

I'm furious. Why can't they live there? What harm are they doing? Yes, there is some poo. Poo washes off. They aren't causing any structural damage and there are precious few trees left for birds to nest in so if not buildings where are they going to go?

The human resources manager in my brain is quietly suggesting this might not be an entirely rational response to being told some wild pigeons need to stop shitting all over your once beautiful balcony. The HR voice is trying to imply that maybe, the pigeons have become a bit of a no human baby placebo. Especially this week when looking at how beautiful your sister's family unit is, it's probably difficult realising the closest you have to that are these birds that fly away as soon as you open the door? HR voice pushes a pamphlet towards me about how being told they must go has probably hit the nerve of environmental guilt and fear that's chiming well with feeling powerless off the back of the wobbly gig. The main stupid voice in my brain is shouting "NO IT'S NONE OF THAT THANKS I ACTUALLY LOVE THE PIGEONS AND THAT MAN WAS EVIL AND THAT'S ALL THIS IS ABOUT."

I think about Nephew the Second angrily insisting he is not tired, and that the reason he threw a shoe at his Dad was well founded and nothing to do with the aforementioned sleepiness. I hope for his sake he stops being like me well before his thirties.

I stomp about for two days. Furious. Loading nephews into cars to go home and sleeping bags into washing machines to try and find the last of that smell. I continue stomping. I stomp around returning the flat to it's usual state: very little clutter, I don't like clutter. Do I?

More gigs pass; more ins and outs of a flat that slowly stops smelling like vomit. I remove the traces of a nephew infestation. It's a nice flat - I keep it very tidy. Because I don't like clutter do I?

Tom leaves for four days away and the flat is very quiet. WhatsApp brings me pictures and chatter and I don't really notice that I only talk to pigeons and audiences.

On Thursday, I go to have a look at the nest. Interesting fun fact, pigeons don't actually nest - they just lay an egg and then shit all around it in a vaguely nest shape. Eventually the nest shape fades as they just shit everywhere and live in a whole sea of shit. I suppose I hadn't really noticed the shit. I was looking at the pigeons.

It'll be nice to have the balcony back I suppose. No more vomit in the flat, no more shit on the balcony. I suppose everything's easier and cleaner without complications isn't it? That's good. I don't like clutter, do I? Focus on work and stuff. Productivity will go through the roof. The big brain boss will be delighted.

As I stepped out on to the balcony the parent birds flew off. Followed by one baby pigeon. And, hesitantly, the second. You bastards. I wasn't ready for you to go. Now I have to phone and tell the management and you can't live here any more.

I made the call. I explained I'd seen both the babies flying and that if they wanted to come and wash the "nest" off then I have some days off next week and they're welcome. I told them I refused to have spikes - that was too far. A net maybe. But no spikes. They say they will hurry along to get it cleared up before they start the next brood. I hung up. I felt empty and guilty.

I pop up to London and do a gig for an IVF charity - I see the lady who was the very first IVF baby do a speech and I think about how desperate people are for mess in their lives. How much we need to be clearing up messes to feel full. I think about the messy gig that made me feel wobbly... how much stronger I feel with two days distance, how I've already said I want to do it again because next time I'll wobble that little bit less. How I've found different messes to tidy. How I still want another little mess, maybe. Do I? Do I want clutter?

Friday morning dawns. Tom is still away. I get up and go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea - the mug goes down on the clean sideboard and everything is in its place. It's a beautiful Brighton morning, I unlock the balcony door to feel the cold air and look at my chicks. The chicks are gone - off enjoying their wings. Mother bird is standing triumphantly up to her knees(?) in the shit of her children, partner and her own motherly ass. She looks me in the eye, a little bit judgey - does she know I made the call? She might - the walls in flats are very thin. She doesn't - she's a bird. She steps to the edge of the balcony and flies away because she isn't my family she's terrified of me.

I survey the waves of shit - white, grey, black, green, yellow - all the colours of the shitbow spread like an ocean across my once pristine balcony. How did I not notice this building up? It's disgusting. I look at the spot where the mother bird had been standing, and there - perfect pure white amongst the pebble dash is a brand new egg. The second my eyes settle on this beautiful, oval stay of execution I realise why you never see the shit.

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