So sometimes an essay on generational feminism, sometimes a rambling list of things, people, books and clothes that are on my mind.
I am reading a lot of non-fiction, and realising that with this medium, writers divulge so much of themselves, but now in a narrative style that mimics fiction. The underlying lesson; anything in life can be a story. Fiction is story-telling, but so is a memoir. When asked last summer at a book event, why I wanted to write, my contemporaries on the panel said the compulsion to write was so strong, that doing so formed a type of cathartic therapy. I answered that I felt I had something to say. Therein lies the rub. This bumps and echoes around the chambers of my creative mind, over and over. If I didn’t have something to say, I wouldn’t keep writing this blog. But if you have something to say, then writing fiction can feel like a straight-jacket, as there is a need to weave your truth – your manifesto – around a purely fictional world. I’ve realised I might not be up to tolerating this limitation, so have started writing non-fiction in earnest, as an experiment. The novel remains in draft form, but I draw from it daily, in an iterative, cumulative process. Morphing from fiction to non-fiction feels less disingenuous. May as well write real life.
I have a heel injury from running up a hill. This strikes me as sad, given that running up a hill is something which didn’t historically result in injury. I receive a litany of tips from any one I mention it to. It’s possibly – although not conclusively – plantar fasciitis, which is the scourge of the runner. I am meant to wear trainers at all times, and yesterday, when sporting a badass denim jumpsuit that makes me look like I stepped out of the the film ‘Tootsie’ from the early 80’s, I had my gait analysed in a Triathlon shop. This was all very technical, and involved me running on a treadmill in my bad trainers and then trying out their good trainers. After much discussion about ‘heel strike’ and hip flexors, I came away with new running shoes which cost a fortune, and the colour of which I did not choose. No other shoe shopping experience like it; a decision based entirely on feel, and not look.
I am still obsessed with podcasts which, on a par with Audible, have altered my days. I am someone who rarely sits still, and I loop from thing to thing; driving, writing, tidying, walking, running, scrolling, googling, organising etc but with minimal time to read. Listening is a different discipline and one that allows me to plunder all sorts of new fascinations. I listened to ‘Everything I Know About Love‘ by Dolly Alderton, and found it compelling, relatable, but also somewhat alien to my 40-something construct. The ‘London Career Girl’ stage is one I missed out entirely, as I moved, as did most of my generation, straight into co-habiting with my future spouse. London remains an amorphous presence in my life; a place I go to but never feel at home in. The book is a powerhouse of writing though, in a journalistic style that I really liked. It’s stayed with me days afterwards and her podcast ‘The High Low‘ (with another girl-about-town Pandora Sykes) is brilliant.
I took my daughter to my old university town, Bristol, for an Open Day, at which we toured prospective accommodation and listened to a lecture from a startlingly clever woman with a PhD, who has designed a super-modern degree course in which students innovate in modern industry. Blew my mind. She talked about ‘disruptive thinking’ and how our children needed it, and I felt like she’d described exactly what defines their generation. Ours was the generation to observe the status quo, berate it maybe, but I don’t feel we disrupted it as my daughter’s generation might. So much of current discussion is around dissecting the way things have always been done and asking why? Is there a better way? It’s not an act of rebellion so much as a collaborative shake-up of everything we’ve ever known. There’s a stealth to it though, it’s subversive and surprising. Which is why everyone must watch, aborb, be shocked by, and understand the song and video for Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America‘. Then to have an opinion on plastic use (David Attenborough’s legacy), sexism (#metoo), corporate ethics (Facebook & Cambridge Analytica), Veganism (why eat meat when you don’t have to?) gender fluidity (identifying as ‘they’ not ‘he’ or ‘she’). It is all about disruptive thinking. It’s all about knowing what your opinion is.
I shop for clothes in the sales and am released from the winter of boots and wool in favour of linen and cotton. I buy with a discerning eye – no longer accepting of polyester or viscose or fabrics that will never decompose. I consider vintage. I feel nostalgic for my youth; the 70’s and what my mum wore, the 80’s and what I wore, and the 90’s when I had money for the first time, and all I wanted was to look like Winona Ryder in ‘Reality Bites’. I think about everything I buy and wonder: where will it be in ten years time? Twenty?
My son is about to end his time at Prep school and so these final weeks of term consist of various events which prick the heart with sentimentality for his childhood. In truth, his childhood is seeping away by the day as he grows, broadening, getting taller, voice changing, becoming a young man. As he enters his teenage-hood, my daughter matures and prepares to leave hers. I feel like a veteran, and note the greener school mothers discussing senior school as if it’s something they will be able to control, whereas I know that the contrary is true. Parenting a teen is to find their behaviour endemic; they will do what they do, and whilst panic ensues amongst the mothers at this prospect, I have learnt that it is a necessary phase. Letting them go is all part of the process, but nonetheless I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t rueful of the change.
So I go to yoga, and plant a herb garden, and write 1000 words a day, and meet my friend for coffee. She says the torrent of words in me is coming, she can feel it. I chatter on. I walk the dog around a field where sweetcorn is growing, and deer bask in the long grass. Look how far I’ve come since those silly corporate days…