Do you know 'Orlando' by Virginia Woolf? Wonderful book, and Tilda Swinton starred in a great adaptation. Talking to friends recently I'm not the only one who would quite like to sleep through this crisis and wake up a better person. If 'you' were allowed to stay fundamentally the same, what would you improve? Would you stay put in this time? Would you travel to the future? Right now I like where I am - but the body of Cindy Crawford, the wit of Dorothy Parker and the bank balance of Bill Gates would do nicely.
I should be at book club tonight (but sadly the pilot is still away, the little one has a fever and anyway babysitters are like gold dust around here). Do you have a book club? If not - why don't you start one where you are? It's a high point each month - recruit your best book-loving buddies, take it in turns to choose a book and host the dinner. Sometimes we all manage to read the whole thing, sometimes we don't, (there have been a couple of epic stonkers), but it is a lovely, monthly treat - a child free evening to touch base with your friends outside the Pamplona like school run or the stresses of work and talk books, catch up with one another.
This month was Isabel Allende's 'The Sum of Our Days' - a great read, less harrowing than 'Paula'. At our Christmas pub dinner we were toying with the idea of re-naming ourselves 'The Sisters of Perpetual Disorder' in honour of her group of friends. Well, it does feel like that most of the time. Their motto: 'Never do harm, and wherever possible do good.' Bravo. You appreciate your friends at times like this don't you? I love her work - (sure I've mentioned before my brief - ill advised - foray into magic realism thanks to her books when I started writing). It happens - while you are finding your voice you try on others for size, everyone does it. 'Aphrodite' is still my favourite cook book. Isabel's recipe for rice pudding got me through pregnancy in Spain. Like a lot of writers she is superstitious - starts every new book on January 8th. Haven't quite fixed my magic date, but a book a year is what I'm aiming for too.
How superstitious are you? The Romans were heavily into the significance of birds, omens and portents - hence today's clip (and I just love it, and we've already had 'Here, There and Everywhere'). I'm always curious about other writer's and artist's rituals. My 'upstairs' desk is pretty basic - computer, basket of family files, seven books on the Spanish Civil War and 'How to Write a Mi££ion' picked up from the '3 for a £1' open air 'honesty box' section of the Petersfield book store today (irresistible, and I never seem to return home without at least one 'new' book). But downstairs in the basement it's a cornucopia of touchstones. Old 1st birthday bear from Hamley's, stuffing coming out (know how he feels), teenage Magic 8 ball, day of the dead skeleton from Mexico, stones from Ojai and Flying Point, tarot cards, runes from my brother, Saints candles from Spain, icons from various cathedrals ... and I think of myself as 'down to earth'. What are your rituals writing? I always light a candle (maybe it goes back to church?). Jo Malone jasmine, or Diptyque preferably (though lately more standard beeswax). I'm convinced with writing there is a mystical side that doesn't get talked about often. The perfect phrases that appear fully formed from nowhere come from somewhere. Where?
Perhaps it's a question of being receptive and open? For the record I'm at the 'smells and bells' end of C of E - but have always embraced other religions and the more mystical side of life. I don't know about you, but as I've grown older I rather like not knowing the answer to everything. I was reading my horoscope today (Leo), and wondered whether Obama has a White House astrologer as I seem to recall Reagan did. How do you feel about horoscopes, psychics, tarot etc? Some writers (King, Koontz, Dahl et al) focus very firmly in this territory, and pretty much everyone is curious. The only time I've had my cards read, they said I have 'the gift' (but then the cynic in me thought 'I bet you say that to all the girls ...')
TODAY'S PROMPT: One of the best bumper stickers I ever saw was: 'Question Reality in Ithaca' (probably a philosophy student at Cornell). Curiously (our school is very liberal and non-denominational, celebrating all world religions), the six year old asked to borrow my Bible this weekend and has been reading '101 Questions Children Ask About God'. It was given to her by the lady vicar who christened her. (Anne rented a wing of my family home growing up - an amazing woman who would whizz round the Devon lanes with her dashing cravat wearing husband in an old convertible MG). One fabulous thing children do is make you question everything. As you are driving to school you find yourself discussing free will, physics, music, literature. Their minds are hungry and curious, jump around like grasshoppers. 'Why ... why ... why ...' - sound (exhaustingly, wonderfully familiar?!) Today, why not question your world view - who you are, what you'd improve, what you believe, where you're going. On the front line of parenting you're continually faced with this whether you like it or not - but if it's been a while, why not question your reality?