Somebody has to do it I suppose, the night watch, but I am hoping this is going to be a temporary run. Knives in the head is not a good feeling to wake up to, well nothing much is at three in the morning. Then, when I’m properly awake, it’s the usual routine: tea, toast, cigarette, trip over cat, read, brood, have illuminating thoughts which I should really write down and turn into a book. I suspect, though, that the Illuminating Thoughts of a Temporary Insomniac might turn out to be the kind of thing that you think is quite brilliant when you are in the process of writing and high on something – and when you take a sober look at it the next morning you find that all you have done is write your name or I love Marmite over and over.
But still, I feel moved to share: I have decided to ditch the Doppelganger woman I have been carrying around as main character in the Thing that I have been sporadically working on. I haven’t killed her off, just replaced her with someone I would rather work with who isn’t quite so much like me in the details. We had no contract so I can do what I want. Characters have no rights – well, this one hadn’t really been around long enough to assert them. I think it was the Australian writer Kate Grenville who said that you didn’t have to like your characters but you had to love them, allow for human complexity, give them respect. I don’t think that this was going to happen with Doppelganger. I say she was like me, but she was a less interesting version, to my mind; and obviously it's my mind that matters as I was writing her, not the other way round (just saying, though I will have to eat my words if I discover that she is the real author and I'm just a figment of her imagination). I liked her enough, but I was never going to love her.
This new one is a different kettle of fish. She likes, for example, shopping, and would never wear something without a name – and not just any name. Even knickers have to come in a perfumed bag from La Senza. Bigger things are Fiorucci, Chloe, Diesel, shoes by Prada. She feels it says something about her, the names she wears (don’t be expecting complexity just now – trust me, it will unfold). Some people will know where I stand with shopping. I am Pricerite and Heart Foundation and do not know anyone who cares as little about brand name as I do and means it*. My pale blue Adidas shell suit which came to me new, was one of the few branded items I have possessed, a gift in the eighties when they were briefly fashionable. I wore it for over ten years (it improved with age, took on a strange, crushed elegance) until the shiny fabric began to crumble. I become attached to my old clothes and wear them until they fall from me of their own accord. It is the reverse with her: once a garment has become part of her, loses the pristine, just-bought, never-been-touched smell of the shop she begins to itch for something else. She has deep cupboards filled with names, all neatly folded, reeking faintly of Shalimar and Donna Karan’s “Mist”. If we went for coffee together we would laugh about all this and secretly feel sorry for each other.
Anyway. These are notes for myself really, the shopping isn’t going to come into it, I’m just saying that she is different – though I am lending her a number of things from my life. The thing is I know her, we have met before. She is a character from something I was writing a few years ago and when she knocked and asked for the part I gave it to her at once because we work together well and she has not really been properly put to the test as we all must be at one time or another, if we can bear it. She seems to be asking for this and I have more confidence in her than in Doppelganger - though of course one can never be sure. The idea has been hovering for the past day or so.
When I spoke about illuminating thoughts, I didn’t necessarily mean for you, dear reader who has read this far and may be expecting something more in the way of epiphany and revelation. I’m just doing the night watch, mulling, thanks for listening. Hope your night was unbroken.
*with the possible exception of Ms Pants - who is currently profiled on Normblog.