There are very few writers, even those with published work on the shelf, who can say that they earn a living wage solely from that writing. A few articles, the novel-in-progress or in my case the fund-raising anthology don’t pay the mortgage. Very few websites or books advising would-be authors suggest you throw up employment before you see how far your work will take you. I was made redundant almost two years ago now, and if it hadn’t been for a husband on an average to good salary and a couple of freelance administration jobs I couldn’t even have afforded the proverbial garret to starve in.
A poem I love, but which I find a little troubling at the same time (possibly because I don’t understand it well enough, or am not a middle-aged slightly alcohol dependent man) is Aubadeby Philip Larkin and most particularly the last lines:
The sky is white as clay, with no sun. Work has to be done. Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
Editor’s note: After a short break, we start the second year of monthly mental health guest posts. For November I have secured a moving description of living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Nettie Edwards, a hugely talented digital artist who creates work with her iPhone and iPad. Her images illustrate this piece and I urge you to take a trip to her blog – http://lumilyon.blogspot.com/ – to see more of her work.
One of those sparkling early mornings that sometimes follow a night of heavy rain: birdsong rings brightly through air not yet choked with traffic fumes; the sun, low in slate-blue sky, glazes all with a golden wash. Inky shadows collect in the creases of the pavement. I usually miss all this: I’m rubbish at doing mornings.
You’re getting hard on yourself again! Move on, bring your focus back to the present. What am I feeling right now? Absolutely nothing, I’m numb, there’s no physical sensation, as if my life is happening in front of me on a cinema screen. This is heart-breaking, I used to love the rain. Then one day, the floods came and washed all the feeling away, leaving nothing but this feeling of not feeling.
But at least I managed to get out of bed this morning, managed to leave the house.
My mind wanders back a year…
I’m with my doctor, wrung out and desperate, telling her that I can’t bear being inside my body any more: I’m a bag of nerves: physical tension, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, lack of concentration, memory and motivation. Exhausted from hardly sleeping, but having nightmares when I do, I’m afraid to step out of my house, most of all: of being with other people.
Then: words that I never wanted to hear myself saying: “Do you think anti-depressants might be a good idea?” My doctor shakes her head “no, you’re not presenting as a depressed person. To be honest, I don’t know what’s wrong with you or how I can help you…”
Whilst researching for a longer post about John Keats and his medical studies, I had the opportunity to read some accounts of the student accommodation he shared during the time he spent at Guy’s Hospital, in London. They are fascinating, in that they offer a wider context and indicate that even when away from the horrors of operating theatre, ward and dissecting room, the hardships of life in London still pressed upon the young poet.
In July 1815, just as Keats finished his apprenticeship with Edmonton doctor Thomas Hammond, the Apothecary Act was passed. Instead of being able to establish his own practice immediately, Keats now had to study at a hospital, so followed his master’s example and went to Guy’s. He signed up for one years study as a surgical pupil at an initial cost of £1 2s. Astley Cooper, then senior surgeon at Guy’s, was drawn to Keats and helped him to find somewhere suitable to live, close to the hospital.
28 St Thomas Street was in Southwark, or the ‘Borough’. In 1815 this was a notoriously squalid area; streets of dilapidated timbered tenements, open ditches full of foul waste and prostitutes and thieves commonplace in what Keats described as ‘a beastly place in dirt, turnings and windings’. Situated as it was at the southern end of London Bridge, along the main road into Kent, the roads were jammed with coaches and wagon loads of provisions making their way in and out of the City. Continue reading “Keats at Guys Hospital Pt 1 – Life in a ‘jumbled heap’ of ‘murky buildings’”
I am a centenarian! I cannot believe that this is the 100th time I have posted on no more wriggling out of writing. It was in July 2010 that the first tentative jottings went out into the blogosphere and at that time I wasn’t even sure if I could keep going for a week let alone eight months. So I must first thank everyone that has read my blog and supported me, even if just one post caught your interest I am grateful and I fully intend to make sure there are many more you might find interesting.
Anyway – to business. For this 100th post I thought I would set you a challenge. I am afraid there is no prize, but I will be sure to link and promote the best answer or comment I get in response. I know from the fascinating blogs I read that there could be some brilliant ideas to come.
So, in a similar vein to the Time Travel post recently put up by my old friend at The Blog Up North, I am offering you the opportunity to travel back in time to three historical events that you have wanted to witness for yourself. They can be well-known and well-documented, part of your own family history or even a key moment in your own personal history that you would like to revisit and make sense of. Fun or serious, there are just a few rules:
1) You can only spend 24 hours in any one place
2) You can only observe, not interfere. We all know what happens if you try to do that…
3) You cannot make monetary gain out of your trip. So anyone planning to go back and buy a lottery ticket after the draw – shame on you.
On Sunday I went to Castle Drogo, which is just a few miles further on from Exeter in the SW of England. Having joined the National Trust a month ago during my visit to the Lake District the first really warm weekend of the year gave us the excuse we needed. We had to start taking advantage of the fact that living here in Somerset we are within an hour of some of the most beautiful houses, gardens and coastline in Britain.
Castle Drogo is not just the last castle built in England; it is possibly one of the last private homes to be built of granite and it is an imposing building, almost fortress like from the outside. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe, retail tycoon and founder of the Home and Colonial Stores, it was actually built between 1910 and 1930. Drewe had discovered that he had as an ancestor a Norman baron named Drogo de Teigne and apparently determined to build a castle on the acres that had once belonged to the baron.
Although the outside appears strongly influenced by medieval design, inside the rooms are warm and comfortable and very much of their time. From the very beginning it was a castle with all the latest home comforts – central heating, electricity and lifts for example – although poor Julius Drewe had only one year in the completed building before he died in 1930.
……but a great year for making snowy photographic memories.
This is a post for week 38 of The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme is ‘white’ in honour, or otherwise, of the snow and ice most have us have experienced in varying amounts over the past two weeks. As I write the army has been called out to clear the streets of Edinburgh of snow and much of the country is gripped by sub-zero temperatures. I have been braving the garden to put out cheese, crumbs and seeds for the starlings and wagtailsthat are literally flocking to the bird table and flat roof outside the window where I write, only to see gulls and magpies snatch the bigger titbits. I suppose they need to feed their fat bellies too.
We are due to get a heatwave here in the south-west tomorrow. It is going to be 5 degrees centigrade. Put it this way, I am not putting the jumpers away any time soon. I loved Len Goodman’s remark about Anne Widdicombe on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ this week. ‘It’s like the snow – its fun to start with and then you just want it to go away…’ (or words to that effect). It is true that I have never seen so many people on twitter complaining of some hideous lurgi or other and when I took the dog out yesterday I swear my lungs froze. But snow can be so beautiful, and is so rare in the south of Britain that it seems a shame to wish it away. So I am posting my photos because they make me think of really good times in the snow, with the family and on my own. I hope I can look back on these when the 25th December dawns grey, wet and dreary as is it’s wont in these parts and dream of a white Christmas.
The prompt for week 32 of The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers in The Colour Red in homage to Halloween and all things gory and gruesome. I love ghosts and the gothic at any time of year but it is a long time since I went to a Halloween party, and when I did I just looked like Robert Smith of The Cure. My kids are also past the age of Trick or Treating thank goodness – the sooner that evening of permission to beg for revolting sweets at the doors of strangers goes out of fashion the better in my view (what is the equivalent of Bah! Humbug! for Halloween?). So as I know Tara is always happy to look at the prompt from every camera angle I thought I would post one of a series of pictures – basically tinkering with a tree.
Actually, looking at it again, out of context (there were other colours in the series) it does look somewhat gory, like the blood vessels in a lung. Uugh….
My mum is not a ‘silver surfer’ thank goodness, or I have little doubt she would be very cross with me for posting this photo for The Gallery at Stickyfingers this week. She is a highly intelligent ‘with it’ woman with all her faculties, so I admit my title is a little contrived. My siblings do read this though, and I must therefore pledge them to complete silence or I will be called ‘Suzanne’ rather than Suzie for weeks to come (do all mothers revert to full names rather than pet ones when angry?)
Anyway, the prompt this week is ‘My favourite photo and why’. I have huge respect for Tara and her ideas but this one is SO difficult. Where do you start? Children? Husband? Yourself? A place that means something to you? I could do one for each of those and still leave hundreds on the cutting room floor and frankly you have probably seen enough of my son and daughter to last you a while.
So I thought that I would be the child this week and I would choose to post my favourite photo of the last 12 months of my favourite lady of the past 40-something years. She very rarely likes photographs of herself, and I have very few of her in those taken as we grew up. She tore them up in fact which is strange, as to my mind she is one of the prettiest women I know, even at 81. Continue reading “The Gallery 31 – Does she know it’s Christmas?”
On Sunday afternoon, after a lazy start to the day and breakfast at noon, we left our daughter watching repeats of the Commonwealth Games (a little like watching an old Midsomer Murders in my view – cosy but ultimately lacking in thrills) and set off for Lyme Regis. Living in Somerset as we do, Lyme is down and to the right a bit (you can tell I am not a geographer) and journey time is less than an hour across the most beautiful East Devon countryside. We should venture in that direction more often.
Lyme Regis is one of the key stops on the Jurassic Coast, one of the few natural World Heritage sites in the UK. It is a magnet for fossil hunters, which may explain why I haven’t been more enthusiastic in the past. There was but a brief spell when my husband managed to interest our children in cracking open large pieces of grey rock; but an afternoon of family hard labour never really caught on, possibly because in an age of CGI none of us could make the imaginative leap from tiny ammonite to T Rex.
However, on Sunday I was feeling indulgent and agreed that an afternoon with my husband standing under a landslide on the other end of the beach to the chips and ice cream was just what I needed. I was absolutely right.
I have just been checking through my photographic record of our already well-documented two week break in Suffolk, and apart from the fact that I want to go back and take some decent pictures instead of the rather random ones I have ended up with, I have come to the disturbing conclusion that I am wearing the wrong, or too much, or just bad make-up. This horrific discovery has left me wondering whether a do-it yourself face lift using elastic bands and safety pins isn’t such a bad idea after all.
At what age should one decide to stop trying to paper over the cracks? When should you start using putty instead of a light skim? Why don’t they put a ‘Use before 45’ on the side of a black kohl pencil? When does blusher look more like rosacea?