Month: May 2014

Literary Mothers

“Don’t have a kid until you have a book published,” she says. “Your life changes, you stop caring so much. Get a book out before, when you still think art is the most important thing.” Helen Phillips on Jenny Offill It’s half-term. The little ones are off school and it’s raining in an endless grey drizzle, a fine mist of water. We’re still having adventures (simple ones), and have had two picnics (coats on). Afternoon readings of Mrs Pepperpot are going down well. T, who had the stories read to her a couple of years ago and has now read them hundreds of times herself, calls out which story I should read next (‘The hospital one!’, ‘The one where she goes ski-ing, it’s right at the back of the book!’). The boys sit one on either side of me, until the Pip-Pop gets bored & wanders off to read his own books, and T sits at the end of the sofa knitting. Yes, really knitting! (It’s a scarf for Dog. There’s sometimes a sigh when …

Dubliners

When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played until our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent streets. from ‘Araby’ by James Joyce It’s hard to come to a book without expectations. The author, the context in which you select the book (a review, a random find in the library or charity shop), the cover (oh, the cover!), the blurb – everything conspires to give you a sense of the space the book might occupy, the position it might take in the shelves of your mind. It’s even harder to come to a book without expectations when it was first published a century ago and has been discussed and written about ever since. And so it was with James Joyce’s early short stories …

After the party

And so she is seven. It’s been a weekend of glorious weather: one day for parties; one for gardening. Twelve growing girls, and our own two small boys, ran wild in the back garden yesterday. Peg dolls were made, hula-hoops twirled, ice-cream eaten. Later, B & I went to a party of our own, and drank, and talked to friends, and stayed out in a magical garden until long after dusk had turned to darkness. And today, I planted out the sweet peas, some mange-tout, and a verbena bonariensis, watched and chatted to by the older of the small boys, while his little brother sat in the sandpit (eating sand as it turned out), and his sister devoured Ramona books one after another on the garden bench. The first vivid purple alliums are out, and the aquilegias, dusky pinks and purples, are nodding their bonnets. But now the partying is over. And I’m planning an early bath and an evening with a long awaited book.

Seven, four, seventeen months

The Biscuit will be seven this week. Once she was only seven weeks. Let’s call her T to celebrate. Seven feels a big deal. Other years have passed with me thinking more of myself. A year, two years, five years ago today we still weren’t parents. I was five, seven, ten days overdue. I remember the feeling of being poised in free-fall, falling and yet not falling; and how, as the days went by, I felt less and less sure we would ever land. But this year, this year I think less about that. We have been parents forever, and it feels like her birthday is finally all about her. She rolls her eyes at me. She tears out of school, just like Bella in Dogger. She reads until late in the evening, and then again when she wakes. She keeps a diary full of exclamation marks and cryptic remarks about how much fun she and her friends had at break-time. She still skips along when she’s happy. She is, in all essential ways, just …

Lost In Living, free documentary this weekend

  Lost In Living, confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes. The complex realities of family life unfold in this documentary film about the messy intersection of motherhood and artistic expression. If the trailer is anything to go by, Lost In Living is the perfect movie for me right now. Filmmaker Mary Trunk followed four artists over seven years as they combined motherhood with art, two becoming mothers for the first time and two continuing their established careers with adult children. And it’s streaming for free this weekend here (4pm PST on Friday May 9th until midnight on Sunday May 11th). [Via the wonderful bluemilk.]  

Pleasures elude me

It’s been a tough week. Not for any reason in particular. Just hard to regain solid ground. Hard to move towards some sort of equilibrium after the Easter break. To reconcile myself to the limited time I have to read, to write, to idle. I’ve noticed that even in my daily writing (the fifteen minutes of something small), I don’t want to be fully alone with myself. I try to trace these feelings of suffocation and constriction back to their source. They seem to be simply a rising panic, a strange desperate sense that I should be doing more. That something small is not enough. I feel like I’ve reached this point before: notebooks full of words; scraps and observations; ideas and beginnings. But nothing finished. Nothing complete. I start writing a poem in an old notebook. The poem on the page before is dated May 2009. Five years ago. Two children ago. With time at my disposal, say an hour in the evening after the little ones are in bed & before B gets …