By this stage, I have absolutely no idea why I am doing this. I have almost lost interest in the date. I worry for the sanity of the Dear Readers. But I am so cussed and stubborn, and I had promised myself to record the whole day, so the thing must be done.
WHY? WHY? shouts the sane, adult voice in my head. (I am sad to tell you this voice almost always loses.)
There doesn’t have to be a reason, yells the insane, throw the toys out of pram voice. It clearly thinks this is rather a clever answer.
So, on the fingers tap.
I finish work, as always, uncertain about what I have achieved. Early in the day, I get excited about a good word count. Then I wonder whether any of the words are worth a damn, and usually, by bed-time, I have convinced myself that almost all of them are rotten and shall have to be re-written. This is so normal that I would usually not notice it. It is just today everything is being recorded, so I have to face my oddities in print. No wonder I tend towards the melancholy as the evenings draw on.
For strength, I make watercress soup. This is the real hardcore soup, with only garlic and a little lettuce to soften the dark green cress. I add chilli and olive oil for fire and health and drink it like medicine. It is rather lovely, the greenest green thing you can put in a bowl.
I listen to Radio Four while I make it, but still manage to miss the news. I just catch the end of the six o’clock bulletin, which tells me that Rebekah Brooks has been paid something like ten million pounds in compensation for being sacked. I do not understand this on any level. I know, in my bones, that it is wrong, on every level. I am not sure I could explain to you why, without falling into class war cliché, or chicken soup homily. I just know that it is.
Then Mark Steel comes on and is funny about Handsworth. He is making jokes about Rastafari and Birmingham accents and old ladies. He says the word ‘coon’ which you don’t hear much on Radio Four these days. I remember the seventies, when people really did say it, and mean it. I think: the people who shout about political correctness gone bonkers should remember those dark days. I’m really, really glad that people don’t use words like that any more.
As I eat, I read a copy of The Independent from five days ago. I am becoming like one of the crazed old women of my imagination, who keep old newspapers and believe the end of the world is nigh. I am glad I did keep this one, because there is an interesting article by Terence Blacker, about children and fear and risk. Apparently, today’s smalls are being brought up to be terrified of risk, and particularly alarmed by the idea of failure.
Ah failure, I think, my old, old friend.
Failure runs beside me like a faithful dog. Only two days ago I explained to The Horse Talker that the book I am currently working on so hard has absolutely no guarantee of ever being published. She seemed astonished by this. I told her of the four novels and two screenplays and two plays which moulder in the bottom drawer, having never seen the light of day. I never fail to regret those lost words, but I am used to them. They are part of my professional life. If I feared failure, I would never get out of bed in the morning.
I thought of the latest blow, which was out of my control, but a big fat failure nonetheless. I have not spoken of it because I was sad and faintly ashamed. Even though it was not my fault, it felt like my fault, in the way these things do.
There must have been something you could have done, say the midnight voices, which slide into the ear when defences are at their lowest.
I am still in the process of picking myself up, dusting myself off, and starting all over again. It is a process with which I am familiar, but it requires an awful lot of concentration, and effort, and stoicism, and special green soup. Thank goodness for the special green soup.
Thank goodness for this:
And the enduring blue beauty of this: