Monday, 12 January 2015

Heritage and Hipsters

This weekend, in a rather masochistic mood, I decided to clean out. I mean, The Big Clean, the one I promised myself I would attempt over the summer. These are the things that slip behind while what we call 'life' goes on, right? 

You may not know this but in my house I have many wooden trunks. I used to collect them. You may also not know that I moved around quite a lot in the early years (I was even going to say 'self-defining years', but when does one ever finish defining Self; we are all works-in-progress). So, in these many wooden trunks I have been stashing letters, photographs, kids' drawings, unwanted jewellery, beads, more photographs, beady-eyed sculptures, torn diaries, for years and years. 

I need a drink before I can open them. 

As I began I remembered something that a friend once wrote to me - in a handwritten letter!- that stuck. She spoke about the moment that she was putting out the rubbish and she looked back to the lights of her house, where her family (since split up, re-partnered, split up) had just finished dinner. She said that in that moment, she saw her life, and she realised she was content.

This thought crystallised as I started to open envelope after envelope of images. Just-born babies, kids in trucks, first-day-at-school shots, art shots, nudes, road trip reports, ceremonies, a friend who told me he would kill himself, (and did); more breastfeeding shots, a new baby, a tableful of family, bedraggled kids on a beach, sandcastles, my hero Youssou N'Dour..

And then, at the bottom of the trunk, face down, I saw love. Oh geez. That knocked me for six. You remember it. You wanted it so hard, you fought for it so hard.

And you lost, by the way.

Initially your kids are such unknowing and generous beings, prepared to love you unconditionally as you do them, but if they knew. If they knew how messy it all was then, all the high drama, would they have traded you in or begged to be adopted out?

I wonder. And yet, looking at these innumerable photos, you see moments where it worked, where there was harmony, deep and fundamental harmony or snatches of it.

Years ago, when my kids were young and we had come to live in this house, I used to go outside in the dark with a cup of tea and look up at the bedroom lights glowing. Even then I knew I was holding onto it, that these moments were vast and finite. Now, most of my kids have moved out to study and I rather enjoy walking up to the main road with the rubbish, along the unsealed drive between the vineyard and the green winter wheat, with the dark villa on the rise looking like Arnold Böcklin's Island of the Dead. It isn't a long walk, but it's enough to allow a few thoughts to wriggle loose. On the way down the hill - always - I see the house lit up, less than in years passed, and I think Yes, this is happening now, this is what it is.

Not a bad thought.

In other wild and alluring news from the ranch I spotted a pair of hipsters at my local country supermarket. I began a sneaky pursuit. Were they real hipsters who had moved here to grow cherries? Were they on a visit to some confounded farmer - a family relative? I followed the girl's blue hair and the guy's cropped beard and tattooed neck and rolled-up jeans until they cottoned on to my crooked trolley full of dog food.

It remains a mystery.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Divorced Author's Guide to New Year's Resolutions

1. Don't bother about saying you are giving up coffee. You never will.
2. Don't bother dressing up for work.
3. When in doubt about your current project, go for a drive listening to Rachmaninov. You will realise the smallness of your concerns.
4. Try and food shop for your offspring
5. Do not buy another Moleskin for your writing notes. It will join the fifteen empty ones in your drawer.
6. When depressed, try cleaning the house. Remember it makes you feel useful.
7. When doubly depressed, swim a hundred laps and watch Law & Order eating a huge spinach omelette. You will feel strong and righteous.
8. Decide what you're going to do about the mouse in the attic.
9. Who cares about the story order in your new unpublished story collection?
10. DO NOT talk to non-writers about the order of the stories in your new collection.
11. DO NOT ask your adult son to read new short stories with embarrassing sex scenes.
12. Accept that impoverished writers do not require countless pairs of gorgeous leather boots and Dolce e Gabbana stilettos. Yet.
13. Fill the damned fridge!
14. Don't bark at your offspring when they hungrily ask for an Italian lunch. At 4pm.
15. Stop screaming at hunters in the fields just because they are killing doddery pheasants and you think they are cruel beings. Remember they might take a potshot at the wild foreign woman dressed like a Sherpa.
16. Get off Facebook. Try and understand Twitter.
17. Don't eat ALL the Pierre Marcolini chocolates in three days.
18. Try and remember one good joke.
19. Blog regularly, eat regularly, sleep regularly.
20. Feed the cats.

Good luck and a marvellous 2015 to all you divorced authors and more balanced people as well!