annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


Day 64

  1. Writing workshop wasn't so good today, after all the aggro I put my art therapist through, changing times again and again so I could attend. She'd sent us a Katherine Mansfield story, Bliss, to read and we spent most of the session listening to her talk about it. Only two of us had read it, me and a woman in Denver, where it's so early she comes to class in bed. The teacher is a New Yorker, currently living in Berlin and both of them had plenty to say about the British and class - about how we can all detect minute variations in status and can (and do), place ourselves within any group. In the US there is no class system. Of course, honey, no poor white trash, no ghettos, all even and equal. I was pissed off by the story as I'd read it on Monday, the day of fucking Johnson and the cleaners and nannies, the golf and tennis and it seemed all I was going to be asked to care about was the wealthy and their fucking nannies - not the nannies themselves, obviously - there's a character in the story banging on about his awful taxi ride that he thought would never end, poor baby... I said that and it went down like a lead balloon. Anyway, she had us pick plants and animals to use figuratively in a piece about someone going to meet someone else and I wrote this (five minutes, first draft):

She walked along the footpath between the fields and the houses, amazed at how small it was, how short, how easy to see over the top of the cow parsley which had always towered above her, enveloping her in its smell. Whenever she'd come across cow parsley in her adult life the scent had always taken her straight back to childhood, to here, this path, this cow parsley.

She was getting nearer to the house and could already see that the back gate was no longer in use. It was completely invisible behind the bindweed which had grown all over - beautiful, delicate flowers nodding on a thicket of tangled stems.

The sheep in the field had moved towards her as she walked - some of them were lambs, she realised, almost full grown, baaing and leaping, nuzzling under their mothers' bellies in search of milk. She looked at them wishing she had the rest of her flock with her, or that she could jump the fence and hang out with the lambs, play amongst the cow parsley. This was no visit to be making alone.

But no. She had to go on. She tore away the bindweed, which was not as strong as it looked, and with a shove, pushed open the gate.

We read out and she asked us questions which boiled down to 'why haven't you written something more like Mansfield?' then asked us to continue from the point of view of the person being met. I came up with this, then ran right out of steam:
She looked at the clock. Already 20 to. The girl was meant to be here at half past. Why was she coming, anyway? OK, she'd been a friend of Susan's all those years ago but Susan hadn't been home for years so why was this girl coming? Though she probably wasn't a girl now... not forty years later... It wasn't forty years, was it? The old woman calculated, slowly. 1967... that's fifty-three years ago. No, she won't be a girl.

It wasn't what she was after, but the class wasn't what I was after. There had been a lot of chat about woman writers and how they write about the domestic sphere and make it important - speaking as if this was news, as if this story had been published yesterday not a hundred years ago. I'm going to send an email about why I didn't like it, how there'd been no mention of this kind of malarkey when I signed up, that kind of thing. I just want to write, I don't want to discuss writing.

2. Yesterday there was a spat on twitter, and maybe beyond, over the question of cleaners in this time of contagious disease. Johnson said cleaners and nannies could go back to work in people's houses. Owen Jones (leftie, gay, childless) posted: if someone can afford a cleaner, they should be paying them to stay at home and doing their own cleaning - they've certainly got the time to do it - otherwise they are a shockingly selfish human being. and Sarah Ditum, (female columnist) replied: I don't have more time in lockdown, I have less because I'm sharing my workspace with two teens and another adult. There's more dirt, because of the more people. The cleaning is KILLING me and this is a bad take and we were off. Bloody hell - what amazed me was the number of people who thought it perfectly reasonable to not even attempt to get teenagers or husbands to do their share, pointless, waste of time, just do it, much easier. Awful. I kept writing tweets but not posting them because they can all fuck off. Martyr yourselves or pay another woman but whatever you do, don't stand your ground for decent treatment from those laughingly known as your nearest and dearest. Teach your children that cleaning is women's work, that men get a free pass. Good move.

3. Daughter came round. Not allowed but she was really down and depressed and couldn't believe she would ever not be again. She took Shirley for a walk then we sat in the garden where there was a terrible smell of gas, so I called the gas emergency helpline and they sent a guy round to check it out. All gone by then of course, it was quite blustery, so it didn't hang around. We'd had a few moments of strong weed since then, from two doors down (from him of whom it was said, "Oh, he's much nicer since he's come out of prison," but he blanks me completely so I will never know). The gas guy said they'd had nine calls from round here this lunchtime, but nothing left because of the wind. It must have originated from somewhere, but there's not been an explosion yet.

4. Later I had a call from one of the GPs at my surgery, telling me they were calling all the patients on their list who are "emotionally vulnerable" to see how we're doing. On day 64. But still, in a time of medical crisis to get a call and what ended up as a forty-five minute chat was pretty impressive. And free of course. She was nice and gently persistent, asking questions, not going to be fobbed off till she felt she had the measure of me and how I'm doing. Which is altogether pretty OK, for a person who is "emotionally vulnerable" - up and down, I'm not a fucking robot, but OK.

5. My journalist pal tweeted about a book she's read the proofs of, saying: "This is one of the most tender, beautiful books I have ever read. Please, please order it now for July. I honestly don’t want you to be without it. It is...exquisite" and I did, then tweeted: "I can’t believe I just did that - ordered it and I’m not even drunk!". A bit later I got an email saying cancel your order, save your money, I'll send you my copy when I've finished it. So I did and felt very happy. Small Pleasure by Clare Chambers.

6. It's Thursday so we do the virtual pub quiz, Daughter felt much better. I came last. 23 out of 50. Rubbish. Not last out of the 167,000 people doing it, just out of the family plus my pal MH. Meh. Bloody kids.

Today I am grateful for: art therapy; the NHS - the Thursday clap is still going, as strong as ever - at 8 pm all right-thinking people stand outside their houses and clap in support of the staff of the NHS who are risking their lives for shit pay and conditions, for us; the cats mainly living outdoors now, thank fuck; back to 21 consecutive days of meditation and feel much the better for it; my health

Good night. xxx

12:55 a.m. - 15.05.20


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