Since I seem to be getting nowhere with anything I thought I would resurrect a creation that I prepared earlier. Still edible I think!
‘Come at me from a new direction, find me by surprise’ I said to it, taking to my French box-bed and pulling the duvet under my chin. This is on a bank holiday and I’m not even tired, just tired of walking about with the same thuggish head on my shoulders, and tired of the options it monotonously offers. Bed is my way of saying no to all of them. It is my head I am talking to, or perhaps more accurately, my mind. I have after all, carried this same old mind about for over sixty years; it seems totally unappreciative, gives me no thanks. It never leaps up with a new idea or puts a posy on my pillow; those that appear new, on analysis, are simply re-assembled from older reclamation. I recognise all the components however painted over. I could do with a change. I’ll find a way to shut it up.
So I try to recover my old skill at meditation to put it in its place, imagining my muscles turning to stone like a weighty Henry Moore nude welded to a plinth and impervious to drifting leaves in some anonymous park. Mind protests.
‘You think it’s that easy huh?’
It feels rather more like weighting a tablecloth with odd pebbles, so insistent is the flapping of windy thought. Ok then, I’ll conquer you with a book until sleep defeats you utterly. My mind gives me the two fingers.
The choice within reach is limited; the best thing on the locker this rainy noon is Virginia Woolf and her seductive solution; that all one needs is five hundred a year and a room of one’s own. I have both, but what she left out was the mind to go with it. If you were continually thinking her limpid, clear running-water thoughts which refresh every rock they flow over, you might even do without the five hundred. Anybody who can turn prunes and custard into a philosophy should be an alchemist.
‘I could do that, if I wanted to. It just never seemed worth it; I mean who cares?’ says Mind.
I pretend I cannot hear. I can’t quarrel with Virginia on any matter, not even her sly suggestions about George Eliot’s constraint and bitter social constipations- although George Eliot has always been hailed as our family’s most illustrious connection- the only orchid amongst our African daisies.
‘That’s why your pretentious Aunt decided to fly solo and give away that autographed first edition of Daniel Deronda, (destroying all the evidence just to collar all the glory.) I tell you something else; Daniel D was probably discreetly flogged to pay for a new catalogue for the smiling librarian, since Rhodes in the Eastern Cape is hardly on the George Eliot walkabout’.
This is the sort of monotony I’m talking about; tracking through arid claims without fresh water, hoping that some new succulent will sprout a flower. I already knew all that. I can’t forgive anything that hammers a point.
‘You’re a fine one to talk…Now no doubt we’ll get on to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’ says Mind yawning ostentatiously ‘can’t you leave it out?’
I could but I’m damned if I will. It’s their influences that have brought me to this point. The real reason I value whatever connection I have with George Eliot is the same as I derive from Elizabeth Barrett Browning-(Grandmama being a lesser Barrett, not that ‘lesser’ was a word she understood)- simply that they both ran off to do their own thing, in their metaphorically divided skirts. Wedlock was a serious one to pick in those days. Elizabeth, from her Italian roof-garden had it about right, but she probably started my rot of dreaming too insistently…‘What was he doing the great god Pan/ Down in the reeds by the river?’
I know Mind will interrupt if I give it half a chance. It’ll say that originality never needs to quote, but that’s only because it can’t be bothered with the storage problem. Mind is an insubordinate secretary, who refuses an in-tray and prefers to clear the desk daily. It has never bothered to even file the archive that blows about in any gust under the cellar door. Going back to those two women; they were models not in the literary sense (that came later but never seemed to help), but in the ‘don’t expect to depend on a man’ sense, the mantra in a family consequently bereft of men. I took it much too literally; discounting the possibility that any man was any use at anything. You begin to see the difficulty. Mind, full of seductive rags, makes only heavy quilts in repetitive patterns, under which one takes refuge on a Bank holiday.
‘Nothing wrong with that. You need to remember Victorian thrift and candle light. What’s the hurry?’
Sod off. I do want to make clear I start at the opposite end of Virginia’s arguments about women weighted down by the superior authority of men, and struggling to be born, shedding skins like snakes. Men were simply posturing fools playing at soldiers, in one sense or another. So it proved.
‘I could have persuaded you otherwise. You just never listened to logic or mastered statistics’
All the men I took up with or married… Continue reading “Checkmate. A Reverie”