Monday, January 17, 2011

Rainy Monday

Alone in Brighton, doing what I needed to do, which was very little. Woke early, went over the road to the lovely, retro corner shop that is like the corner shops I remember from London childhood, with the same smell of mints and cigarettes and grumpy-but-friendly hunchback woman behind the till. Forgot about being a vegetarian and bought a packet of Walls bacon, six eggs, and a couple of oranges for squeezing. Relentless rain. A new antique shop has opened opposite our flat. Yesterday we bought a small wooden clothes horse there and the woman recognised me today in the road. I probably didn't smile enough so she asked me if I was all right. I said yes and remarked on the weather, wondering if a small transaction and the fact of her knowing that our flat is opposite her shop is enough reason for her to put such a question to me. But remembered also that people used to accost me in the street all the time when I was younger, telling me to cheer up. After breakfast and just one side of notebook-writing, fatigue and muscle pains drove me back to bed. Slept until nearly three, so not many hours of daylight today.

I am enjoying Candia McWilliam's new book, even though I haven't read very far. She was a successful writer and quite a beauty, then became an alcoholic and was afflicted with a strange condition that meant she could no longer open her eyes. She turns her gaze on herself - her past, her family relationships, and she looks inside herself, is honest and unflinching. I am wondering if it is more intrinsically satisfying to know about where people fall and fail, and how they deal with that, than about success and achievement. I don't know. The writer Susan Hill has been in the papers recently - her life an extraordinary catalogue of achievements, though she was never glamorous. Even so, she often worked through, and out of, pain and bereavement. One of her best books, In the Springtime of the Year, was written after the sudden death of a man she deeply loved. She lost a prematurely born daughter.

She had no patience, she said, with writers who moaned about how difficult it was to write - made a song and dance about it. Just get on with it, is the thing. After all, you don't have to do it. I don't know what she would have made of my one-page effort today.

Tomorrow a gathering at Sussex University - to launch Poetry South East.


Mim said...

If S.H. has any taste at all, she would admire the details.

trousers said...

I think nmj posted a link to an article about Candia McWilliams, I think she was being interviewed. It was fascinating stuff - both her experiences and her attitude towards them - and I'm sure the book is too.

Interestingly, I was walking along yesterday, hunched up against the rain, when someone crossed over the road to me (there was no-one else around) and asked if I was happy. His manner, rather than the content of his enquiry, felt intrusive so I gave a rather defensive I'm fine, thanks by way of reply.

Reading the Signs said...

Mim, she seems like a veritable powerhouse of energy who always has many projects on the go. She might like my writing but would probably find it hard to understand why I don't do more of it.

Trousers, I've read a couple of interviews with C McW - I agree that it's the combination of experiences and attitude that makes her so interesting.

Someone crossing the road to ask if you are happy, unless you know the person, does seem to trepass across boundaries that (in our culture, at any rate) we kind of assume. I don't know how I'd reply. Would probably ask why he wanted to know.

On the other hand I remember my dad telling me about someone he knew who struck up fascinating conversations on the underground by asking individuals if they believed in life after death. So perhaps it is down to the way you do something like that.

Fire Bird said...

Ah yes the smell of corner shops - and Walls bacon - I can almost see that grumpy hunchback woman, sitting behind the counter in semi-darkness.

The ticket man on the train to Leeds on Saturday kept telling people to 'smile!' Not me fortunately for him...