Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Today was a crazy news day. Police are beating protesters in Egypt, Mervyn King is saying sad things about lack of economic growth, President Obama gave his State of the Union address (which I damn well refuse to call SOTU). Ireland has a new Prime Minister, after Brian Cowan stepped down; Oprah Winfrey apparently has a hitherto unperceived sister; some football commentators said something disobliging about ladies, thus astonishing the entire civilised world. There is so much going on that it was hardly even reported that Britain's national debt shot over the trillion mark. Probably too many zeros for the human mind to process.
And the point is: I'm supposed to have serious thoughts about all this. I have no idea why, since I am not a columnist, pundit, talking head, radio presenter, political editor, or taxi driver. I am writing a book about beauty; for this, I have no imperative to understand the ramifications of the coup in Tunisia. Nonetheless, there is some shouty voice in my head which insists I must not only know what is going on, but understand it, and comprehend all the fiscal, geopolitical and sociological ramifications.
At the weekend I was talking to the husband of an old friend. He is someone I like and admire very much. He saw that I was reading the new book by the brilliant Paul Berman.
'That's impressive,' he said.
I felt rather pleased that he admired my choice of reading matter, but instead of just taking a compliment, I sat bolt upright, waved the book at him, and shouted:
'You know what drives me mad? That I'm almost forty-four years old and I don't know enough stuff.'
(There was a slight look of surprise, but he is a very polite man, so he hid it well.)
Where does this come from? It is not genetic. My old dad proudly knows nothing, except what will win the 3.30 at Kempton. My mother knows more than she will admit, but has no compulsion to hoard any more knowledge than she needs.
I have a horrid feeling that it springs from some kind of magical thinking. Of course I value knowledge for its own sake; I like being interested. But I fear that I may be gathering facts in the way that some middle-aged men suddenly start going to bed with much younger women. They think, in the primitive part of their brain, that this will immunise them against death. I worry that I think that knowing things will make me immortal.
Or, it could just be that I have written 1182 words today, and at that stage, like the great Talking Heads, I stop making sense.
Maybe I should contemplate nature and dogs instead -
(Look who thinks she is Bette Davies in Now, Voyager. Don't let's ask for the moon; we have the stars. Cue violins.)
Today's hill, in panorama, to make a change:
Now I am going to make some chicken soup.