Today I’ll be treating myself to an itsy bitsy teeny weeny pity party here on the blog, after which…
I’ll be writing about writing again.
I am (or was) a (sort of) writer. It feels like frigging ages ago.
So what have I been for the last few months?
I suppose I’ve been mostly a teacher slash anti-academies activist. But thanks to the mostly term-time nature of those activities (although fear not, Inspiration Trust, I shall still be gunning for you right through summer… to infinity and beyond, if necessary) I am now on my holidays. En vacances, as they say in la belle France, and although I’m not actually going anywhere, because the flip side of a term-time job = holiday poverty, I will certainly, like Paris in August, be a lot less busy than usual.
Many of my shops and restaurants will be closed. My metro will be occupied almost solely by tourists (not a euphemism) and, while others holiday in far-flung climes, I’ll be home in my garrett, fronting up to the giant-sized task of Le Novel.
But never mind the giant-sized novel, what about the teeny weeny pity party? Well, fire up the cheesy mix tape (Mustang Sally, Love Shack, the Macarena, etc) because the festivities are about to begin.
I am really extraordinarily hot as I’m writing this, and I am really extraordinarily sick of it. It’s very warm in England at the moment, but this is the sort of warmth that comes from inside and is driven by wildly fluctuating lady hormones, and this is my third year of getting so wet (in a bad way) when I walk up the road that I might as well have been swimming. I know you’re not supposed to talk about the M word in mixed company, but let me strike a blow here for forward-thinking on this issue. After all, you didn’t used to be able to show married couples in bed together on a TV screen and now… well, now, you patently can. It’s high time, IMHO, that talking about menopause was normalised and made okay. And if, like me, you happen to start it stupidly early (hot flushes at 32, Fact Fans) it’s meant to be worse and more intense and last longer. To which, I say: hurray! Oh yes, and you die earlier as well (so I’m told) which makes it all-round brilliant, really.
I need, I think, to get me some drugs. But these, you see, won’t be cool drugs of the kind the Verve once sang about the ineffectuality of; these will be distinctly un-cool, if cooling (see what I did there), Ancient Biddy Drugs (Ancientionius Biddicus in the original Latin) and then I will have to ‘be’ an old lady and can’t masquerade as a slightly crispy youngish lady anymore. Which is to say: I will have to ‘be’ an old lady inside my head, even more so than I am already. It is important to me (to everyone, I imagine) who I am inside my head.
My dad, for instance, although he can’t see well enough to walk anymore – except familiar routes from chair to bed to bathroom, etc, and even then with occasional difficulty – refuses to have a wheelchair so that we can take him out. He refuses even to hold my arm in the street. He refuses to do both these things because, even though he has dementia, he still maintains an image of himself with which the image of an otherwise housebound granddad in an adult perambulator is markedly at odds.
I suppose (or know, in fact) that I too hold an image of myself inside my head with which the image of a wrinkly biddy requesting HRT whilst, under her clothes, her neck and breasts are switching themselves to the rinse cycle, is also markedly at odds. But, yesterday, as I came back from a workshop day near Diss to find the streets half-shut for our local Lord Mayor’s Procession and, hence, no proper buses running, I very nearly actually died (all right, I didn’t, but sshh, I’m telling a story here) walking to the nearest available bus stop in the strobing sun, and when at last I caught the bus I went instantly onto a 60 degree pre-wash and thought, you know what, I just cannot anymore. I don’t know how other women manage this, and all power to those who do, but I am so far over this I’m peering at it from the wickerwork confines of a hot air balloon basket.
So: drugs, I think. Let the mantle of Biddyhood fall where it will. I could get on board pretty well with being a biddy. I love my cats a really extreme amount (in spite of the fact they’re psychopaths) and I like books and board games and hot milk in bed and, even though it’s begun to rain – the loud, hard, window-slashing kind of rain – since I’ve sat on my old biddy backside writing this post and, undeniably, the air through my bedroom window has a minty cool, refreshing quality, I am still surreptitiously sniffing myself because I’m convinced I smell like cheese and onion crisps and my clothes are still stuck to my skin and I’m not sure if my laptop is cooking my legs or my legs are cooking my laptop.
I feel a bit sad about it all. And not just because of the extra washing – both of clothes and body; both of which I find very boring even when done in normal quantities – or waking with bird nest hair, a strange mad cross between straight and curly, because I’ve got hot in the night. It is sad not to be able, anymore, to make babies, even though babies are mostly composed of poop and sick and have magical, soul-stealing properties that make their parents obsessed with said poop and sick – as if art, and literature, and science, and current affairs had simply stopped existing. I don’t want to get up in the night anymore to have my nipple nearly bitten off (true story) and slink back to sleep so tired that I literally didn’t care that blood was pouring down my top. But neither do I want to be perimenopausal. Ain’t life grand.
But actually, yeah, my life is grand. And I need to remember that fact. I don’t have everything I want, of course; but, better than that, I have everything I need. I can ask for my old biddy drugs on the NHS (for now, at least…) and I can play piano when I’m sad and hug my daughter and sometimes, when I’m teaching, I see people look at me, like, ‘I never knew that before, what you’re saying, and now my life’s been changed a little bit’ and some of my lovely students buy me things like this:
… because they know I fall down holes sometimes, and get low, and also because Wimbledon. (Although damn you, Nadal. You were going to be my guy candy for the next ten days.) I have food, and shelter, and derive a bizarre amount of happiness from rubbing my feet together in bed. (I’m doing it now.)
But it’s weird, I think. One day you’re a lion, enormous, roaring. Then one small thing in your universe changes and, suddenly, how fast you shrink.
I’ll always be like this, I’ve realised. Never knowing, today, how big or small I’ll be tomorrow. Or later the same afternoon. Or last thing at night. It’s a very uppy-downy life I lead.
So I wanted to have this one last whinge, for now, about non-writing things because the book is calling and, from tomorrow onwards, I’ll have oodles of writing-related things to whinge about. I will care less about the ups and downs in my life, the things I wish I hadn’t said and done, the tumours in my womb, the sweats, the spots (I even have them on my shoulders now FFS), the grey hair, the blah blah blah. I will (I hope, I pray) be back to my writerly self, which is my best self, in my opinion, in spite of the fact there’s rarely any gratification in it. I’m planning a sequence of posts like the ones I did for NaNoWriMo once, because suddenly, once again, it is ‘Camp WriMo’… but more on that tomorrow. Or the day after. We’ll see. I’m not going to pressure myself this time, but I’ll aim for a regular update – if only to pin myself more tightly to having to finish the novel, properly, at last, before the Arts Council come at me with a hatchet.
Until then, I’ll be having a shower. A cold one. Cheerio.