Soup du Jour

 

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“Here it is. Just on the left there.”

The car slows down and a large sign comes into view – Sunshine Acres. At one corner, a laughing cartoon cow doffs a straw hat in welcome. It occurs to me – and not for the first time either – that elderly people are often lumped into the same category as little children. These dreadful names! The last place we visited was called Happy Haven. Must they use nomenclature that would be better suited to a Victorian lunatic asylum? As we pull into the driveway, my daughter-in-law, Nancy, makes enthusiastic chatter at top speed, rather like a monkey. I’ve heard her prattle like this before when she’s uncomfortable and it only serves to make me feel the same way.

We’re out of the car now, feet crunching on gravel and as The Director opens the door to us, a warm blast of the sweet smell peculiar to the old, hits me like a wave. Familiar feelings of dread begin to creep upwards from my bowels.

“Welcome! Lovely day, not too hot.”

With startling insight, I can now see who the model was for the cartoon cow on the sign. The Director is immaculate in a crisp tailored suit with piping and her platinum blonde hair is styled like a policeman’s.  She is smiling alright, but there is a certain oiliness. Even her breasts, restrained within the confines of her jacket, have a formidable, don’t-mess-with-me attitude about them. She pumps my hand firmly and ushers us further down the hall, where the sun is shining brightly in a room called The Lounge and people huddle in groups reading the paper or staring into space.

“Now isn’t this pleasant!” says Nancy chirpily to Bill who has not spoken a word all the way here. The Director begins extolling the virtues of having a life that is still very much your own, where independence is retained right up to the end. The end?  Nancy nods intently, hanging on every word. I wonder if she and Bill ever have a proper conversation. I wonder if they still make love. Continue reading

Patti Smith – M Train

Patti Smith

 

I’ve just finished reading Patti Smith’s M Train and three days later I am still feeling empty and sad that it’s over.  This book  is billed as a memoir but it’s so much more than that, brimming with poignancy, wise but careful observations and a  simple, child-like take on the many things that she encounters in her everyday life. And, let me just say, that the writing is exquisite.

Consider the following:

We want things we cannot have. We seek to reclaim a certain moment, sound, sensation. I want to hear my mother’s voice. I want to see my children as children. Hands small, feet swift. Everything changes. Boy grown, father dead, daughter taller than me, weeping from a bad dream. Please stay forever, I say to the things I know. Don’t go. Don’t grow. (page 209, M Train)

It was also surprising to me that Smith is perhaps not the “angry” poet I was expecting as some of her earlier punk music/work might suggest; rather, she looks after her cats tenderly and is clearly a gentle and devoted mother. Her way of seeing and reporting beauty in the everyday is very Buddhist to me and her rapt devotion and understanding of all things Bloomsbury (she’s actually photographed and stayed at Charleston House and Monk’s House – both lofty ambitions of my own!) also resonates with me since I absolutely share that fascination and am no stranger to cherishing a special piece of rock or a translucent piece of china with a cheerful, chintz motif myself.  Continue reading

To Blog or Not to Blog

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I haven’t been here for a while (hola, you ten faithful readers in Brazil who keep on visiting!) and I have no excuse, save the fact that my blogging mojo has been seriously depleted of late and I have devoted more time than I care to admit to feeling badly about my writing and being completely intimidated by other more polished blogs and writers who look edgy and are all geometric-hipster-haircuts and matte lip colour.

I’ve been writing on and off my whole life and certainly I have been published regularly in that short blasts of non-fiction/fiction here and there kind of way but it’s not really satisfying to me. It’s like making do with cheese and crackers and pretending it’s enough when actually, you are still starving; in fact, it’s like you are pretending you even like cheese and crackers in the first place.

I don’t know why short fiction has an inferiority complex but to me it does. I want the depth of a novel behind me, something I can point at and say, there, see that? I wrote that and there is my name and photo even if the same book is now wedged in the remainder bin … Continue reading