Monday, January 11, 2021

Fresh nuancing - a long read

 As I sat in bed this morning, quietly enjoying my quilt, which I like so much I am painting a picture of it:



and munching my two oatcakes (home made by Dave) spread with lemon curd (home made by me) the breakfast which has to last me till lunchtime (and which I'd like to relish in peace - aren't you supposed to think about the food when you're eating it so your body knows it's been fed?) Dave came in to deliver yet another harangue, this time not about Trump, but about our own crappy counterpart.

("It wasn't a harangue. I was simply airing my views."

"The same as you do every morning."

"They're fresh everyday."

"No they're not."

"Freshly nuanced, then.")

...it made me think of that passage in Plotting for Grown-ups... 

"I get out of bed and stumble to the kitchen to get myself tea, and to my study to collect my laptop, with the intention of coming straight back to bed without engaging in any kind of conversation. I am  semi-comatose, thick-headed, unable to bear noise or animation of any kind, and in the perfect state for writing fiction, being still in some demimonde of consciousness.

Unfortunately, Richard is in the kitchen in his boiler suit munching muesli, while looking at furniture-making videos on YouTube on his laptop, while listening to John Humphries grilling an unfortunate MP on the Today programme. I try to sneak in and out of the kitchen with only a minimal good-morning, but he leaps upon me and subjects me to a barrage of talk that I am too weak to withstand. As I wait for the teabag to impart some decent colour to the boiling water in my mug, I lean against the worktop and stare at Richard, saying nothing. I do not respond. I am rubbing my eyes and yawning, and giving (without faking) every non-verbal signal known to man that says I am deeply dozy and unavailable for social intercourse.

He is oblivious. He goes on about some geek in Canada who posts on YouTube, who makes amazing wooden jigs for every kind of purpose (what is a jig?) and who has decided that milk bottle crates are the perfect storage device for a workshop and yet it is illegal to take them as they are the property of the dairy and so he has designed and made his own replicas in wood, using a special jig that he designed for the purpose. I, meanwhile, am glassy-eyed and silent, and thinking SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

As soon as he pauses for breath, I retreat to bed and open my laptop and resume my writing. I have just got into a tasty bit of dialogue, when Richard knocks and comes in and says “Are you writing?” and I say “Yes,” and he carries on anyway: “Because I want tell you something REALLY EXCITING I heard on the news. There is a woman in the North of Scotland with the exact same DNA as the Queen of Sheba.” OH MY GOD."


I had also been thinking about the journalist Katharine Whitehorn, who died last week. My father, who was an agricultural adviser and freelance journalist, introduced me to her writing back in the 60s when I was a teenager and she was writing a column in The Observer. I have a published collection of her writing here which I brought home from my parents' house, after my father died. KW's dedication in the front of the book reads 

With love and thanks to my parents who provide so much copy

Like the great, late Nora Ephron, she mined her family for copy. As do I - see above.

When I went through my fathers' papers in 2008 I found a poem he had written in praise of Katharine Whitehorn. The poem was fun, and I thought she would enjoy it,so I sent it to her and she wrote back:



She was probably one of my influences, though I have only just thought about it now, as I didn't start writing first person pieces that appeared in The  Times until I was in my 50s.

And here I am now, posting a badly constructed piece which ends in the middle of nowhere, except that...yesterday in a break out room after Zoom Quaker Meeting, a Friend told me she was reading DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE, and how much she was enjoying it. You have no idea - unless you're a writer - how cheering it is to hear such things. As KW says above:

I am humbled and touched by people who not only like what I write but have the generosity to write and say so - such as you.

This goes for you, dear blog readers who comment on the blog, or who write reviews online. Thank you. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Katherine Whitehorn’s letter, and for the tribute to her.
I always swooped on a new column from her, enjoying her point of view and distinctive tough-mindedness.

When her dementia was finally acknowledged, her son Bernard Lyall wrote movingly about challenging her stance on assisted dying: he said ‘the young Kath isn’t here, and the old one is, usually, pretty content.’

I was grateful to him.

And to you - for sharing so much of interest and entertainment!
The exact same DNA as the Queen of Sheba??

Thea xx

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Thea, yes the exact same DNA. I know this because at the time I was writing PfG I always took notes of what Dave was saying. Getting it word for word makes for more authentic dialogue.