|Curtains at last!|
Over the past week, I have been reading Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. The premise of the book is the rediscovery of a lifetime's reading collection around the author's home, the chance groupings of like and unlike texts and the memories associated with each. The outcome of her year-long survey was a list of 40 books she could not live without, an idiosyncratic list, but all the more interesting for it. It made me regret the purging of my library before I came North. I whittled it down to three boxes, donating many many more to a London University library and a Walthamstow charity shop. Where are those books now, I wonder?
At the same time I have been dipping in and out of The Wonderful Weekend Book by Elspeth Thompson. It is subtitled: "How to reclaim life's simple pleasures" and sets out to cover similar ground to Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a book I keep by my bedside at all times. But I am afraid the Wonderful Weekend irritated me in that special way reserved for (whisper it) J.B. the author of a famous domesticity blog / books. In one word: privilege. I can't cope with it. Shoulder chip? Moi? Absolutely.
Moving on, and I am currently immersed in The Stranger in the Mirror by Jane Shilling. Subtitled "A Memoir of Middle Age", it is speaking to me. So much of this is familiar. And frequent references to Virginia Woolf only serve to endorse what she writes and make it... true. But I was bristling at a quote from Simone de Beauvoir of the "Pathological Creativity" of middle-aged women. Pathological?! Because we can no longer make babies we manufacture endless and pointless knitted and crocheted artefacts. Ouch! I need to go back to The Second Sex. I remember being totally taken with it in my teens.
Jane Shilling writes about observing her mother and her grandmother, and their relative acceptances of age and aging. And about having to choose "which parent to save", deciding to leave her father in a nursing home for a week in order to take her mother on holiday, returning to find him withdrawn and terribly alone. It is not an easy read but it feels like an important one.
Last night, as I was curled up on the sofa with The Stranger..., FL got up from sleeping in his chair and shuffled through to the toilet. Shortly afterwards there was an almighty crash. I ran through to find he had tried to reach above his head to switch on the bathroom heater, overbalanced and fallen backwards, hitting himself on the bath and pulling the towel rail off the wall on his way down. He claimed to be "fine" but he stayed in bed longer than usual this morning and has not gone out to meet his friends at the golf club. He has a new vulnerability. This is what aging really means: the subtle changes that lead to a loss of independence, the worry of leaving a partner on their own in case of an accident.
Today I indulged in Angry Cleaning. This is how I let off steam when I am scared or worried: I scrub and scour and tidy and restore order. The kitchen reeks of bleach. The dog is hiding in his basket. I will finish writing this and then pick up my pathological knitting or perhaps another book.
Also on the windowsill:
The Age of Shiva
The Proof of Love
and (not pictured)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children