Month: October 2014

St Ives

Half-term, and we’ve escaped to St Ives. We make like the three bears and have porridge for breakfast, with a starter of grapefruit & a dessert of chocolate-spread covered toast. Mornings on one of the beaches, sipping coffees & watching the little ones mess about in the sand. Lunch back in the cottage that T insists has come straight from a fairytale: Cornish pasties or scrambled eggs, maybe leftovers from the night before. Afternoons, and B works while I read Littlenose — my own brother’s childhood favourite & staple of my babysitting years — to T & the Moose, and the littlest bear sleeps off his sandy adventures. A walk into town with one or other of the older children to buy provisions and visit the wonderful bookshops. Dinner together & then a round of Uno. Evenings: for more work and for reading. Mint tea before bed. The perfect routine.  

Girl Meets Boy

And it was always the stories that needed the telling that gave us the rope we could cross any river with. They balanced us high above any crevasse. They made us be natural acrobats. They made us brave. They met us well. They changed us. It was in their nature to. from ‘Girl Meets Boy‘ by Ali Smith It’s been such a good reading year; I’ve been pulled from one book straight into the next, hit after hit. But then, just like that, nothing was working. I started stalling part-way through books — the middle of A Sport and a Pastime; the start of Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World, which I was enjoying, but couldn’t commit to. Somehow the joy had gone. And once the joy had gone, I found less and less time to read. I re-read ‘The Lady with the Dog‘. Twice. I felt like I could keep re-reading Chekhov forever. But then I remembered Ali Smith, and the joy was back. How could I have forgotten the light, playful, exuberant texture of …

We love: Ramona Quimby

The terrible, horrible, dreadful, awful thing happened. Ramona threw up. She threw up right there on the floor in front of everyone…Nobody, nobody in the whole world was a bigger nuisance than someone who threw up in school. Until now she thought that Mrs Whaley had been unfair when she called her a nuisance, but now — there was no escaping the truth — she really was a nuisance, a horrible runny-nosed nuisance with nothing to blow her nose on…As she fell asleep, she decided she was a supernuisance, and a sick one at that. from ‘Ramona Quimby Age 8′ by Beverly Cleary T threw up at school last week. I picked her up from the school office where she was sitting ashen-faced, a bucket held between her knees. As we walked home together, we cheered ourselves up by talking about how it was just like when Ramona threw up at school. ‘Yes, but we don’t have any fruit flies,’ T pointed out. ‘And,’ she added, ‘I know I’m not really a supernuisance, because — …

Language development: 22 months

A significant milestone: the Pip-Pop can tell on his big brother. One morning last week, he ran into the kitchen crying, his feet thundering on the wooden floors. I crouched down, taking him in my arms and perching him on my thigh. ‘What’s the matter, Pops?’ ‘Ra-Ra hit yooooo.’ ‘Did Ra-Ra hit you, Popsy?’ ‘Yes!’ He nodded his head and smiled. And, just like that, he turned and ran back to his brother. He’s on that cusp — words clustering into almost-sentences. His ability to tell us things is growing fast. ‘Bit more, Da-da!’ he cries, pointing to his empty bowl. ‘Bit more paa-staa!’ He’s scrupulous about his end consonants — often sounding them a beat late: ‘Ladybir– –d got spo– –ts.’ We frequently hear, ‘Popsy do it!’ And, my heartmelting favourite: ‘Mum-ma help yooooo,’ said as he takes me by the hand and leads me off to whatever he has decided I need to do. Although our older two have had many nicknames — & plenty are still in circulation — he’s the first …

Leaving the Atocha Station

I wanted to know what she had been crying about and I managed to communicate that desire mainly by repeating the words for ‘fire’ and ‘before’. She paused for a long moment and then began to speak; something about a home, but whether she meant a household or the literal structure, I couldn’t tell; I heard the names of streets and months; a list of things I thought were books or songs; hard times or hard weather, epoch, uncle, change, an analogy involving summer, something about buying and/or crashing a red car. I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds. How do you write a novel about the slippery instability of language? About the multiple simultaneous meanings of everything we try to communicate? About our fumbling, clumsy attempts to assign words to our emotions and to interpret the words of others? You probably need to be a poet to try. …

The capacity to work feeds on itself

My children were at that time six, three and one. Their care came first. Doctors’ appointments, reading to them, rocking the baby to sleep, car pools — all that had to be done, and done as well as I could, before I could turn to myself. Confronted by this situation, I made two major decisions. The first was to invest in myself, as needed, the money I had inherited from my family. I simply poured my capital into my work […] The second major decision was to increase my energy output and use it as wisely and as fully as I could. Again fortunately, during the years from 1948 to 1961 I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work. This habitual discipline came up under me to support my revved-up schedule. I simply got up early every morning and worked straight through the day in one way or another, either in my household or …

On rituals (or, what is enough?)

I always believe that the next week is going to be a ‘normal’ week. A week with nothing out of the ordinary about it. A week when the rhythm will be just so. When things will run pretty much as they did the week before. When I nail everything kid related with grace and precision, including the swimming lesson torture, and the ballet night sting-in-the-tail that ends our week.