Month: February 2014

Sounds & distractions

It’s hard, now, to be with someone else wholly, uninterruptedly, and it’s hard to be truly alone. The fine art of doing nothing in particular, also known as thinking, or musing, or introspection, or simply moments of being, was part of what happened when you walked from here to there alone, or stared out the train window, or contemplated the road, but the new technologies have flooded these open spaces. Space for free thought is routinely regarded as a void, and filled up with new sounds and distractions. Rebecca Solnit I finally read Rebecca Solnit’s essay last week (prompted by Denise and Keri). I’ve been thinking about it ever since. She writes so well on the rhythm of the recent past: the newspaper being delivered in the morning, the excitement of the post arriving, the news arriving via radio and television at appointed hours – a rhythm that was once so familiar. I used to wonder at my grandparents growing up in a world without cars, without television; now I know that my children wonder …

Stories can wait

Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait. Mavis Gallant, 1996 (Preface to her Selected Stories, Bloomsbury 1997) Last night I read that Mavis Gallant had died. And then I took up Carrie’s recommendation & read ‘The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street’ for the first time. I think I’d passed over this story before because of the opening paragraph with its mention of ‘world affairs’. I’m also burdened by a beautiful, but incredibly thick copy of Gallant’s selected stories. The kind of volume that never feels quite right in the hands. Anyway, I was wrong. The story is wonderful – and its ending is just incredible. Here, there. Past, present. Connection, and the ways in which we can never truly understand another. All in a single, dizzying paragraph. I can certainly promise Carrie at least another nine visits to this one. And, when I wanted to …

The Hare

It’s been a strange week. The Biscuit came out of school last Friday into a flooded playground and rising uncertainty. Despite the amazing efforts of the staff and the wider community, the youngest children now won’t be going back to school until March, and then it will be to a temporary ‘new’ school housed within the grounds of another school. Meanwhile, the waters on the main road to the Moose’s pre-school rose & rose. By Wednesday morning the road was closed and we were becoming rather too familiar with some very narrow single-track lanes, come-streams, leading up into the hills and round. Nearer to home, the water that has flooded the school is now visible from our windows. We’re up a slight incline and safe for now, but at this point it feels like all bets are off. Storm after storm – much like the one I can hear shaking the roof now – is forecast. Whole communities are already submerged. But, for the moment at least, I’m just glad that we’re all safe – …

We love: This Little Cat

The Pip-Pop is fourteen months. His favourite word is ‘cat’. He’s also very fond of ‘hat’. ‘Hat’ involves a long-running joke in which he places a book, a sock, or a buttery piece of toast on his head, smiles his devastating smile and says ‘hat’, then waits for our appreciation. We, of course, laugh every time. Or at least – in the case of the toast – smile and sigh, ‘Oh, Pops!’ while rubbing at his head with a baby wipe. Someone must have taught him this. I fear it was me. Anyway, back to ‘cat’. His Christmas stocking contained the perfect book for a cat-loving baby: Petr Horáček‘s This Little Cat. Its differently sized pages are perfect for chubby little hands to turn and it builds to the most delicious joke: the last cat is ready and waiting to eat you up. The Pip-Pop roars with delight as the final page is turned. He’s even added ‘tiger’ to his repertoire. Quite something for someone who refuses to recognise the existence of dogs – far …

The Examined Life

Today the wind is banging the sash windows against their frames. The rain is fast and steady. It’s that time of year when I compulsively buy bunches of daffodils at the supermarket checkout. Fat buds within dry, papery spathes. And then – miraculously – overnight they split open, and at breakfast we’re greeted by a vase of glorious sunshine-yellow coronas. On the drive to pre-school we pass banks of snowdrops. Sheep nibbling the sodden grass at the edge of temporary lakes in the flooded fields. A village where blue pipes drain water away from the houses, out onto the road. ‘It’s a river now,’ observes the Moose cheerily. My thoughts linger with the owner’s of these – and so many other – flooded homes. It’s a week for catching up. I’m trying to get back on track with Dovegreyreader’s A Suitable Boy read. I’m somewhere back in part 6, and this month is, I think, parts 9 and 10. I stopped somewhere before Christmas, but it’s proved incredibly easy to slip back in. I love …