Other Peoples Ketchup
"Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal, I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel."
- Elvis Costello, 1983
Since the age of eighteen, it has always been my intention to write a book. The idea wasn’t born of a university English degree or a love of writing poetry, prose or short stories. It was not my wild imagination or my day-dreamy nature. It was born of my love for people and their life stories. It was born of my appreciation for the absolutely unbelievable, exciting, agonizing, adventurous, sometimes pedestrian, boring, even bittersweet true tales that make up a life.
The idea to write a book floated into my stream of consciousness when I was working as a bus girl at my local pub. Too young to serve alcohol, I was stuck scraping plates, balancing wobbly tables with paper coasters and fending off the heckling kitchen staff while getting to know all the daytime regulars who would slink in out of the sunshine to sip an afternoon glass of beer in a dark room with familiar strangers.
The patrons sat side by side at the bar, staring off with no uncomfortable eye contact necessary. It was as though they were waiting on the bench at a bus stop on a route that no longer existed. Waiting for some vehicle to take them to some new exciting destination but ultimately knowing the only thing that would arrive was a fresh glass of lager and maybe an ear or two to listen to whatever they wanted to share that day.
As they finished one drink after another I dutifully filled the dishwasher behind the bar and polished each glass to get it ready for the next pour. This is when they told me their stories. Heartwarming, heart wrenching, funny, drunken, true fact, exaggerated, repetitive stories. They told them all.
As I made my way across the sticky bar floor, carrying stacks of dirty dishes, I was forever looking for something to wash my hands with. My apron would be smeared with the messy condiments of meals abandoned and drinks spilled. It was a messy job. One day, it occurred to me how listening to these souls share their tales and dealing with their fluctuating moods every day was kind of messy too. I was an empath who felt the feelings of others deeply and I responded to the vibrational frequencies of the daily lunch rush as if they were my own. It was like bathing in a cesspool of dirt, germs and mixed emotions.
Anyone who has spent time working in the restaurant business will understand this. One is constantly cleaning up messes, putting out fires, bending over backwards to please each guest, even if it means listening to their self-important stories and jokes again and again while touching their disgusting leftovers and used napkins. I felt literally and metaphorically that I was always covered in other peoples ketchup. The least these people could do was lend me their anecdotes for a creative project!
This is where my idea to write a book was born. I knew by now that working in the service industry would pay the bills and give me some interesting and intriguing tales to tell so when I left home to travel abroad I threw on my apron and developed a serious case of chronic waitressing disorder. It wasn’t a glamorous vocation and I really wished I was more interesting so when people asked me “what do you do?” I often responded “Oh, I’m doing research for my next book.” It sounded more impressive, right? If they asked me to tell them more (and they did!) I’d simply say “My book is called Other Peoples Ketchup.” This was always a good conversation starter and over my many years of travel, I have collected an arsenal of friends across the globe who are absolutely familiar with the name of my anticipated “book”.
Over the years I have started and stopped and started the book again. Off and on, I was creating the anecdotal tales that were intended to become “Other People’s Ketchup”. As life unfolded, I began to recognize that I had my own stories to tell, every bit as interesting as those of my old patrons in the pub - lots of lessons learned and many still to come – but I struggled to find a clear message. I had a lot of ideas but I wasn’t crystal clear on what I wanted all these stories to collectively say. So, I dabbled and journaled and even abandoned the idea of writing a book altogether until the fall of 2020 when all the content I ever needed – everything I ever wanted to say - came flooding in to me on a wave of tragedy.
Thirty- two years after my original idea came to mind, I have finally accepted and almost completed my mission to co-create this work with the universe.
Working title since 1991...
“Other Peoples Ketchup”
“Snapshots Of My Broken Heart"
How We Find Peace and Connection When We Choose
to View Loss Through the Lens of Love”.
Heal & Be Healed,