Blogging will be intermittent for a while. The snow/hail/rain miscellany of the past few days has driven me indoors from the garden so I'm engaged in serious spring cleaning. When it's over I'll have the cleanest springs in the land.
There are also two writing deadlines as well as the zombie book and the dystopia (which is scary to write - every time I think of a new oppression, the Coagulation implement something worse) and there is an endowment policy to deal with.
When I was twenty-two I was homeless. By the time I was twenty-five I had a mortgage on a pokey, tatty little flat in the shitty end of town, above a drug addict and below a Goth infestation, and it was an endowment mortgage. It wasn't my best business decision although it was far from my worst, because I did manage to eventually sell it for enough to cover the remaining mortgage, so I didn't land myself in debt again.
The endowment I kept on, even though I rented for years after leaving the flat. When I bought this house I thought 'Great, in 2011 I can knock £20,000 off the mortgage which will bring down the monthly cost nicely.'
That time has come, and with it has arrived pages of forms full of questions that make as much sense as 'Are you now, have you ever been, or does your father in his spare time?' I also have to prove who I am by sending photo ID. For twenty-five years these buggers have taken money every single month from my bank account and never once asked for any proof of who I am. Now it's time for cash to flow the other way and it's all 'Oh? Do we know you?' Yes. I'm the mug who's given you money every month for twenty-five years on the promise of £20K which you now inform me will be 18.5K.
They suggest a financial adviser. I think I need a translator. I need to phone for clarification but I have not yet worked out what to ask!
It won't pay the full amount promised but it doesn't matter. It will still knock a third off my remaining mortgage. This is my only debt and the sooner it's gone the happier I will be. If only I can work out what the hell this form is asking for.
To add to the form woes, today a wench called with an envelope. 'This is your census', she said.
'I didn't order a census,' I said. 'What does it do?'
'You don't order it. The government sends it to you and you fill it in.'
'What does it cost?'
'It doesn't cost anything,' she stated with an evident total lack of understanding of the nature of government. Everything they do costs us all something. We are even paying for her to go around telling us it's all free.
'Well, it's very nice but I really don't have time for questionnaires. Can you come back next week? When I'm not home?'
These census people don't like to engage in banter. 'If you don't fill it in you'll be fined.'
'I see.' I accepted the package, addressed to someone called Mr. Occupier. He's had letters delivered here before, usually from politicians around voting time and from other lying advertisers. He never turns up to collect them.
She had a clipboard. They always do, don't they? I'm going to have to get one. People answer anything if you have a clipboard.
'How many people live here?' There seemed no end to her questioning.
'How many can you see?'
'Well, just you, but there might be more inside.'
'Not when I last looked, although there's this Mr. Occupier who gets his mail sent here. I've never seen him.' I think I detected a little steam from her ears.
'So you live here alone?'
'Yes.' Perhaps I shouldn't have waggled my eyebrows and leered. It was a risk, she was no looker. Not much of a thinker either, judging by her next question.
'Is this house detached or semi-detached?'
There was a pause while I considered whether to push this further, but then the little red man on my left shoulder stuck his pitchfork in my ear.
'Neither,' I said. 'It is entirely attached to the house next door.'
She didn't just close her eyes, she sucked them right back into her skull. Her lips puckered to the point where I swear you could not have put a titanium drill through there. One more pucker and her head would have imploded. Then she marked 'semi-detached' on her clipboard. She could have done that from halfway up the street. Houses are, on a human scale, quite large and visible from a distance, as are the gaps - where they exist - between them. I pictured her asking every occupier of a terrace if they lived in a terrace, and what floor each flat was on. How can anyone resist tormenting the stupid? It's so much fun.
Her eyes reappeared, having evidently failed in their search for a brain because they were still blank. Her lips unclenched just enough to force words through. 'Right. Do you need someone to help you fill this in?'
'Not directly. I plan to fill it in using blood, but not mine. Do you have a list of blood donors?'
Have you ever seen a face attempt to blanch and turn red with rage at the same time? It's better than TV. Eventually she managed to shake her head until something connected in there.
'You can just use a pen like everyone else, you know.'
'That would cost me something. You said it was free. Still, not to worry. I have bottles of blood in the fridge. I use them in my work.'
I do, really. Horse and sheep blood are components of many bacterial growth media and if you really want to get all witchcrafty, try brain heart infusion medium with 5% added horse blood. It really does contain what it says it contains. There is nothing vegan about bacteria. I have had tremendous fun explaining to students that they also have to have a circle of salt while preparing the media and that they must do it at specific phases of the moon. If you have a microbiologist working for you who insists on coming to work at midnight to prepare media - sorry, it was probably my fault.
The blood is in the fridge in the lab, not the house, but I neglected to mention this and the big grin was perhaps mistimed, because she left at that point in something of a hurry.
I haven't yet taken the form out of the envelope. I have important things to do first. Filling it in with horse blood using a quill made from a discarded seagull feather would cost me around £20 but you know, it would be worth it. Especially if she made a special note to look out for the nut at a particular house. It would be hilarious to hear they'd tried to DNA-analyse that blood to find out whose I'd used, because I know they would start with the premise that it was human blood and never consider that it might not be. If they found a match I'd laugh until my hair fell out.
Especially if it matched Census Wench.
She also said something about filling the form in online and there's apparently a code that's personal to me inside the envelope. But the envelope isn't addressed to me. It's addressed to Mr. Occupier so it's his code, not mine. I won't do it online. I can't do it in blood online.
If you don't have access to lab supplies, liver is cheap and comes with a lot of blood. I had liver and onions this week, £1 per half-kilo and it's great stuff. Pure meat, no bones, no fat (it was lambs' liver and they hadn't developed a serious drinking habit yet) and full of concentrated meaty goodness for pennies per meal. Lambs' hearts are also on sale but they are seriously filling and are in packs of three. I couldn't use them all before they went off. Besides, they are a Valentine's day meal really. Funny, girlfriends never seem to answer calls on February 15th. It's a mystery.
I have to wonder why they are in packs of three. Lambs don't tend to have three and if you're cooking a Valentine's meal for three - damn, I'm impressed!
Anyhow, have to get up in the morning. Someone is helping turn my wasteland of a garage into an actual useful workroom. It's going to be messy, in fact it already is because the house is burdened by the piles of crap that were in there until recently. Car? You couldn't get a pushbike in there. Fortunately I have neither.
So if I miss a day, it's because I can't get at the computer through the mounds of stuff I didn't know I had and don't know why I own.
The Day of the Hired Skip is approaching, I can feel it...