The Seasons of Enlightenment
It’s not losing our glasses that causes us the most grief anymore, not even losing our keys or the odd sock….it’s our telephones. Our personal telephones are like our gods, they are called a different name in each religion and each culture, but essentially, they are all the same. In France, it’s ‘Portable’, in Germany ‘Handy’ in America ‘Cell’ in Ireland ‘ Mobile’. (If an Irish person says they’ll call you ‘ODM’ it doesn’t mean ‘ASAP’ or ‘when I get around to it’ it means ‘On De Mobile’).
“Where did I put my ‘phone?” is, like the Millennium Whoop in popular music, the contemporary wailing soundtrack to our lives. Recently, I couldn’t find my ‘phone, When I documented that it finally turned up in the big freezer in the garage, friends re-assured each other that if I had been somewhat cool in my communications with them of late, there was a practical reason…….
If I now disappear off the social radar, it has nothing to do with freezing my ‘phone, my friends or my pheromones. It’s just that I want peace and quiet to write. When Himself contacted a business contact in India last week, he got an ‘out of office’ automated reply. It was in capital letters: “I AM NOT ANSWERING EMAILS BECAUSE I AM WRITING MY LATEST BOOK”. It was not rude – as anyone who lives by percolating thoughts into concrete well knows – it was the cri de coeur of a desperate creative. (The correspondent did actually reply and he really is writing his ‘latest book’, for he already has several to his credit). I remember once ‘phoning the writer Joe O’Connor (brother of the more famous Sinéad) with what I thought was a really good idea for a screenplay. He all but wept on the ‘phone, saying he was SO busy and caught up with all he had to write and finish at that time that there was no way he could take on another project, however interesting. In a less equitable (and rabidly politically incorrect) time, the children’s author Enid Blyton created the father in the “Famous Five” series to be a scientist, closeted in his study, who Must Not Be Disturbed. Enid Blyton was a wife and mother…..and if she was not a very good one, it was out of pure frustration. It was SHE who wanted to be closeted in her study, SHE who was pleading that she Must Not Be Disturbed. I remember my own mother’s exasperation when we’d troop by her desk as she was at the typewriter demanding “What’s for dinn-ur?”. In our house, being “at the typewriter” was (supposedly) a sacrosanct occupation, which should not – except in direst emergencies – (the dinn-ur) be violated. Maybe that is why we were allowed – nay, encouraged – to run wild and free in fields and streams and rivers, to lose our wellingtons in mud, travel country roads on top of tractor loads of hay bales, fall out of wild damson trees breaking bones.
So the summer is all but over, the seasonal guests have departed, the mirabelle and basil harvest is almost in, there are pots of freshly made jam on the shelves against the hard, cold winter, and I, like the Buddhists philosophers, artists and poets who only produce from October to March, am contemplating my seasonally expanded navel.
The title of The Book has been registered as a domain. I have a Dot Com. I have been percolating ideas all summer as I worked in the garden, slaved in the kitchen, shopped in the sales, sat by the pool, ate by the lake, read (like the young Wordsworth) “lazily in trivial books”. The summer flew by….as has the year so far, as has this year, this century, my life. If I do not now, immediately, apply bum to chair (or wrists to standing desk, for ‘sitting is the new smoking’) I shall be dead and then I’ll REALLY be cross, when St Peter, his finger still on lines in his big ledger (have the Pearly Gates become computerised? does one not get to actually meet a REAL St Peter anymore?) looks at me over the rims of his glasses adjusted on his saintly nose and says “you were given a talent. What did you use it for?” and I have to answer haltingly “I…I wrote good Facebook posts?” and he opens the trapdoor and I fall forever, into the company of time-wasters…..to be surrounded forever by a slush pile of chicklit, motivational aphorisms, management tomes, self-help lists and blatherings, and I never get to chinwag with the greats.
Feeling guilty about abandoning the garden, entertaining, house maintenance, project management, design, decoration and even cleaning, the making and baking and raking and staking, I worked out that for the past 16 years in France – when I get bitter and twisted about having worked my white ass off on such aforementioned all encompassing, ageing, thankless occupations – going on the increase in property prices linked to what I achieved in upgrading – I was actually earning us about 1,000 euro a month, which isn’t bad I suppose, for a Bear of Very Little Brain. So now, I can, with impunity, retire, be a superannuated woman, placate St Peter (and Saint Paul).
Last year, aged 70, the actress Helen Mirren said in an interview that if she regrets not telling more people to “feck off” in her life. (Because she’s English, she said “fuck off” or as the publications quoting her wrote it, “f**k off”). According to the Huffington Post, Mirren “explained that the phrase is empowering to women especially because we’re so often taught to be polite in every circumstance. ‘We were sort of brought up to be polite and sometimes politeness, in certain circumstances, is not what’s required,’ she said. ‘You’ve got to have the courage to stand up for yourself occasionally when it’s needed.’” Earlier, she had told the Daily Mail that if she had had a daughter, the first words she would have taught her would have been “fuck off.” “It’s quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say, ‘No, fuck off, leave me alone, thank you very much.’”
I could not be happier at the job before me. “Now” said my daughter (who uses popular swear words far more sparingly than I) “all you have to do is write. Don’t tell me that you’re ‘ready to write’, but that you’re ‘writing'”.
So look, its a nice invite and I’d love to, thank your very much……..but………..