Onion Skins and the Paranormal (or: A Short Stint as an Ethical Cleaner)

Note: I found this piece of writing in my folders and was quite excited because I never got around to writing Part 2 when I started it about four years ago. So now I’ll finish it at some point, but it might not turn out the way I originally intended.


I was secretly pretty happy about the fact that I was doing a cleaning job, and a Masters at the same time. Though I did neither particularly well, I liked the fact that telling people about it – if I got the tone right- made me sound serious and conscientious; the type of person who ended up quietly damaging their health permanently through overwork, but of whom people said, “She’s just so….inspirational. She just gets on with it and never whinges or complains.” Since this is not and has never been the case (I complain loudly at any given opportunity) I didn’t really tell too many people about the cleaning job at first, waiting instead to fine tune the aura of saintliness. Launching in with it too soon probably also would have spilled the truth; that it was actually a whole lot of fun. This would have reconfirmed the absolutely correct impression people have of me that I will avoid anything looking like genuinely hard work.

The cleaning firm was run by a bright, extremely tall and angular woman called Nettie, who dressed as if on route to a Cath Kidston catalogue shoot and whose pert, pretty range of multiple children (I never quite worked out how many, there were loads of them distributed throughout the house at different times) had names like Jemima and Albie. Jemima wore designer corduroy trousers at the age of two, and her bedroom was bigger than mine was at the time.

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MoMA- and the people who are not there with you

This Saturday, I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was a bit of a whim: I was on my way to Prospect Park in Brooklyn when the weather turned a bit grey, and I completely changed tack. (The thing I love about wandering cities alone, is that I have nobody I have to explain my abrupt and irrational decision changes to. I can be put off restaurants which have a single crying baby in them, or a space in a park that has an unpleasant view of a building across the street, or a wait for a subway train that is more than 5 minutes in duration. I have walked out through turnstiles that I’ve only just paid to get into, more times than I care to remember).

So I navigated to MoMA, a bit erratically as I got unreasonably enraged at people who weren’t walking across roads fast enough or blocking corners. I’d have to duck into shops to rifle through pretty summery skirts and calm down (I’ve only been in NYC two weeks and already I want to take a sniper rifle to most tourists).

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