A long time ago, I wanted to write a book called something like: The Ordinary Griefs. I was interested in how people dealt with all the expected sorrows of life, mostly the old best beloveds dying. The extreme griefs, the headline griefs, what I call the rip up your life griefs were beyond my remit. I could not imagine, and still cannot, how a human carries on after a child dies, or their entire village is wiped out by a natural disaster, or their country becomes a war zone. I have no idea how the women of the Congo continue to put one foot in front of the other. What I wanted to examine was how people faced the everyday sadnesses, which chip away at the vulnerable heart.
I never wrote that book, in the end perhaps because it was too ordinary. In the end, perhaps, because the only answer is that you keep buggering on, and one really can’t make a whole book out of that. Some days one buggers better than others. Occasionally, the demons wrestle you to the floor, but you do not speak of that, especially if you are British. Even now, with the internet age and reality television, the default mode of the Ordinary Decent Britain is a sort of resigned and humorous stoicism. Worse things happen at sea.
My mother is in the hospital. It is not a grave ailment, but she is having a horrible time. I tell myself not to fret. The redoubtable stepfather travels in and out of Aberdeen, carrying on, making no fuss. I cook him breakfast. ‘You will need an egg,’ I say, seriously, ‘for strength.’ Then we discuss tribalism, and its discontents. We love a bit of geo-politics with our eggs.
I ride my horse and do my work and eat some fish for my brain.
My childish mind shouts: I want my mum to be better. My adult mind says, calmly: come along, better do the washing up and then take the dog for a walk.
Today’s pictures are two little photo essays, one of a happy horse, and one of a happy dog, who has a handsome new boyfriend:
As I finish this, an email pings into my inbox, with an update from a fellow blogger. I have met her in real life, and we are connected through mutual friends, but she is truly a blogging friend, a kindred spirit I met through this funny new medium. She has heartbreak because a gentleman she thought might be The One turned out not to be. (Reading between the lines, I suspect he has not quite behaved like a gentleman either.)
There is an ordinary grief for you. Every day, all over the world, people leave, and there is only a blank space where all the hopes and dreams were. Every day, women like my friend do exactly what she is doing which is: admit the pain, and bash on through it. Every day, there are good women downing a stiff gin, swearing a bit, reading themselves lectures on their own folly (it is always our own female fault, in the irrational mind), picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and starting all over again.
My friend is doing this in a gloriously British way, with understatement and quiet courage. In fact, she is half Norwegian and lives in America and is really an International Woman of Mystery. But the good old British phlegm is there, even as she writes ravishing heartbroken prose, shining like a beacon, calling to me like across the ocean like a homing pigeon.