Tidy Room, Tidy Mind…

Paradoxymoron by Patrick Hughes

Or so goes the theory.

When Virginia Woolf articulated the necessity to possess A Room of One’s Own I’m not sure this is what she really envisioned. Heavy wooden doors propped awkwardly against the alcove, next to the chimney breast, where the pink mortar dust drops through the hole in the ceiling from the attic. I disagree with the conclusion of Mrs Woolf’s comparative appraisal of two of the three Brontë sisters, in which she accuses Charlotte of trying to write like a man. Charlotte Brontë wrote boldly, in my opinion. Unapologetically. Womanly. And without the luxury of a room of her own very often, I imagine. Jane Eyre reduces me to tears every time. After my one and only reading of Wuthering Heights I was honestly left wondering what all the fuss was about. I honestly prefer the Kate Bush song.

Where to start?

Coffee. Diary. Pen. Paper. [To Do List: Employ a joiner…]

[Make an appointment with the optician…] I carry the laundry basket (bigger than the space it is attempting to occupy) of new but as yet un-detagged, un-softened kids clothes downstairs to add to the countless-load-queue for the washing machine. Boy will almost certainly refuse to wear any of this stuff. He wouldn’t wear the cool, super soft Rolling Stones T-shirt with the iconic tongue sticking out of the chest. He’s sure as Hell not going to want to wear anything even vaguely resembling a school uniform. So far he’s gotten away with wearing his glow-in-the-dark “I NEED SPACE” T-shirt to school on the three mornings each week he’s actually there. But he’s growing out of it. Fast.

Why is there an unbuilt birdhouse in here? [Stock up on sunflower seeds…] I head back downstairs, arms full of stuff: a random bag of buttons, typewriter stamps, a couple of wall friezes and the silver wings Boy never wore when he wasn’t an angel in the nursery nativity several years ago. Jeezus, that was the mother of all meltdowns!

I coax the dog onto the bed in the next room to free up more floor space. He follows me back across the landing and stretches out on the rug, exactly where he was before.

Green garden trug = paper for recycling. Purple garden trug = stuff I simply don’t know where else to put. [Need to make time for annual Ikea pilgrimage…]

I overfill a 70 litre storage box with last Spring’s Tribunal paperwork and realise it is almost a year ago to the day since we made our case to the judge. It runs to thousands of pages because everything is in triplicate or more. I expect I’ll be referring back to it some time quite soon. Boy’s Annual Review was two months early – in January this year – and almost 7 weeks on we have still had absolutely zero response from the LA. My suspicion is that someone at Town Hall – or worse, some private, sub-contracted outside agency – are currently tipping the contents of Boy’s Statement (unlawfully) into an Education, Health and Care Plan. They may even be being uncharacteristically diligent about it, ensuring that the educational needs of Part 4 of the Statement are re-assigned as health care needs in Section C of the EHCP so that Speech, Language and Occupational Therapy fall neatly to the NHS (even though they refuse to deliver them) instead of the Education Department. The NHS, as we are all finally realising, is on the brink of collapse now that physical health care has been demoted to the shockingly disgraceful level of mental health care. [Order repeat prescription…] It’s only a matter of time before the ‘care’ component of every department is indiscriminately put out for tender in, presumably, a not altogether dissimilar manner to that of SEN transport. And it’s been all over the news since yesterday’s Budget announcement that the government intends to turn all state schools in England into academies. Schools are barely accountable to parents as it is. With increasing Selfservative attacks upon the young, the old, the sick, the infirm, the disabled, the unemployed, the small scale self-employed, single parents, working families – and pretty much anyone who didn’t go to Eton – I can’t help but wonder why they don’t just euthanase the sprawling working classes and finally have done with it.

I push the plastic box under the lacquered particle board desk and turn my attention to the magazine stacks. The books have already sorted themselves. By genre and size. It makes Existentialism & Humanism really easy to locate, despite its diminutive spine. I smile a false smile at the irony of failing comprehensive schools being “condemned to be free” – an entirely false freedom, obviously – and make a conscious effort to refocus on the actual task in hand. [Apple pie…] The dog yawns and telepathically transmits his desire to go outside and roll. It’s been almost 24 hours since he was bathed and he’s keen to start smelling like himself again. I think about replacing the battery in the clock. That’s been bugging me for weeks.

A colourful game of Calvinball plays itself out across the wall above the adjacent desk where I’m intermittently typing. I smile a real smile at those familiar spiky blonde locks and I thank God (in that metaphorical kind of way that atheists do) that we got Boy out of the state system when we did.

I was introduced to Calvin and Hobbes shortly before the last ever strips were published in the UK, by a film student from Luxembourg. [Photograph some number 42s…] He could see I was feeling fragile. The Seroxat I was being prescribed at the time, before that particular SSRI made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, was sending me loopy. It wasn’t clear to my film noir friend whether I needed cheering up, chilling out – or what the Hell I needed – but he figured I’d probably find it in those comic books. The relationship between literature and mental health is, anecdotally and traditionally, a long established one – for good or not so good. It is a peculiar phenomenon that the kinds of people who should probably refrain from immersing themselves in certain sorts of poetry are exactly the kinds of people to purposefully seek it out. In my own darkest moments I have neither the energy nor inclination to turn to any form of poetry. In the recurrent cycles of highs and lows, the pages which are the last to bear witness to the lights going out and the first to offer glimmers of inspiration, and have been so for the past twenty years, are those portraying the antics of a little boy and his ‘toy’ tiger. Though Poems in the Waiting Room pamphlets might currently come a close second.

The clock isn’t ticking. I think about replacing the battery again. [The piñata needs filling…] I take a spin in my tub chair and realise I need sing-along music to help me organise my space better. Another favourite. Fleetwood Mac. If I can find it…