Instead of writing my novel I am staring at a bunch of bananas, or more precisely at the juxtaposition of the fruit with a box of Gourmet cat food, a calendar, jars of pasta, a face flannel and a pack of hair grips. The randomness of this arrangement reflects the insanity of my life during these Covid months. If ever there was a plot I have truly lost it along with any desire to keep a tidy house. The absence of visitors due to the restrictions has eroded my inner hausfrau. Instead I have developed a taste for the creativity of chaos. I used to be one for everything in its place, now I think there is a place in everything.
I keep thinking about the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat. If no one speaks to me or sees me or hears me for several days there is the equal probability that I am both dead and alive at the same time. The reality of my existence is not validated by others. For ten months I’ve been living in a grainy gritty twilight zone like a scene from a movie shot on Super8. I need to keep looking in the mirror just to check I’m still here. There’s always a tingle of surprise when I see myself, relatively unscathed, looking back.
I am writing this with a yellow pen and therefore prone to optimism.
When it happens, it happens quickly
without fanfare or farewell.
One minute you’re crawling
around the kitchen in search
of crumbs, avoiding His Doc Martens
and dreaming of better things.
to floating face down with tail
between your legs, guts protruding
a sad bloody mess
into the cat’s water bowl. You repeat
your last words in nine different
languages but still no-one hears. Que sera, sera, as Doris would say.
He watched smoke rise up to the winter
moon and realised they no longer
shared this same sky, this frosty air.
Her world was darkness now,
falling stars to catch and hold.
When it happened, it happened quietly,
like the tearing of soft tissue.
When it happened, the shock
was Hitchcockian without violins
or cutting away. A long shot
of detached suburbia zooming
into a shadowed interior.
Her pale face,
smokey eyes looking into a mirror
where no-one was looking back.
Britain has a new fairy tale princess. Meghan Markle is refreshingly different from the usual British Royal being of mixed race, successful, independent and a self-declared feminist. I am not a monarchist but it is always heart-warming to see two people genuinely happy and in love as Meghan and Harry seem to be. But I’ve been wondering how many of Meghan’s female friends are sincerely rejoicing at her good fortune? Or are they secretly sticking pins into little Meghan effigies, making vicious comments behind her back and tearing out their own hair in a jealous frenzy?
As a teenager I devoured feminist writing by Simone de Beauvoir, Marilyn French, Erica Jong, Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan. I grew up believing in the value of female friendship, that there was a natural bond between women. Unity would make us stronger and female friends would offer a sympathetic ear and support in times of despair. We didn’t need men to rely on, we had each other. The feminist argument implied that in the past men had practiced divide and rule, forcing women to compete against each other for male attention. By grouping together women would be liberated from male oppression and pursue fulfilling lives.
Decades later I’m not so sure about this theory. After fifty years of feminism women are at each other’s throats more than ever. Female bullying is on the increase with the development of social media, an ideal weapon for bitching and back stabbing. I’ve lost count of the number of female friends who have betrayed me, lied to me, magically disappeared whenever I have a crisis, resented my boyfriends, tried to sabotage my relationships and begrudged me any kind of happiness or success. Experiments have shown that narcissistic women who are often at the center of social cliques try to surround themselves with women they perceive as less attractive, weaker and less successful. This makes them feel better about themselves. They will shine ever more brightly by comparison to the ugly ducklings. So any attempt by The Queen Bee’s entourage to break out of this subservient role will be perceived as a threat, met with negativity and even hostility. Insidious passive aggressive tactics may be used to demean a female friend in these situations. It’s tragic that many women feel so insecure about themselves that they cannot tolerate a friend’s success. We cannot blame men for making us compete among ourselves. No-one can have everything in life. We are all blessed with different gifts and talents. The important thing is to be the best possible version of yourself and stop comparing yourself with other people. Some of us drive BMWs, some of us take the bus. Some of us play the violin like an angel while others make the best cookies in the world. Some of us have children, others have exotic holidays. But we are all equal, precious and unique. As the cliche goes, life would be boring if we were all the same.
If you are a woman with real female friends then count yourself lucky. True friends are like rubies in the mist of deceit. If you ever find one, make sure you treasure her. And Meghan Markle, I wish you well. I hope you will sparkle in the glow of sincere friendship and love.
DIARY OF A RAG DOLL
Here she comes… stilettos
tapping, floorboards creaking.
She’s no dainty, porcine
in skinny jeans reeking of charity.
I shudder, squeeze back into the darkness
under some old Cosmos.
I’m in for it once more, beaten
blue, still sore from our last meet,
left knee splitting at the seams,
dress fraying, fingers unravelling two ply.
We started out so well. I thought
she was my friend until she began
smothering with home-
made soup, stories of The Perfect
Life. So I told her stories of The War.
She smiled, looked away.
She said, get out more,
visit Barcelona or Tibet,be more party,
get a tan. You’re so depressing;legs so thin,
skin so pale, eyes so sad.You’ll never win.
Her six inch heel smashed down my head.
Afterwards, I tried harder, pinned
flowers in my hair, started writing poetry. You’ll never be normal, she laughed.
Her feet were jelly fish stranded in a rock pool
or filo pastry left in the rain
and her toes were marbles lost under the sofa.
And her ankles were secret trapdoors
and her legs were ships lost in the Haar
and her thighs were a terrorist ambush.
Her crotch was a picnic under a shady tree
or a foreign film with subtitles
and her vagina was a waiting room with velvet sofas.
Her stomach was a piano keyboard
or a bottled gas cooker
and her waist was Fingal’s Cave
and her ribs were hieroglyphs found at Skara Brae
and her buttocks were exclamation marks!!
Her breasts were cumulus clouds at sunset
or thermonuclear weapons
or lamps in a distant window.
The crooks of her elbows were pistachios
and her arms were War and Peace
or bulldozers on a building site
and her hands were Olympians.
Her spine was a rope bridge over a canyon
or an Aeolian harp
and her shoulders were white whales.
Her neck was a seagull diving
and her chin was King Canute
and her cheeks were beech leaves used as bookmarks
and her skin was Flamenco.
The tips of her ears were whipped cream
and her teeth were a cryptic puzzle
or the standing stones at Callanich.
Her eyes were a film by David Cronenberg
or Mississippi Mud Pie in a late-night café.
And her eyebrows were squeezed tubes of tooth paste
and her nose was a wind turbine on a Scottish hill
and her mouth was a furnace manufacturing steel rods
or a jewellery box lined with jade.
And her hair was the wings of a Gypsy moth
or frosted willow branches
or a moonlit path
to an unknown destination.
My surrealist poem, Serenade was inspired by Not the Furniture Game by Simon Armitage. He is one of my favorite poets and he was born in Yorkshire, England like myself! I wrote Serenade during a bout of influenza, high with fever, painkillers and sleep deprivation which I’m sure helped the flow of bizarre images. Perhaps it was worth getting the flu as this is a poem I remain proud of. I often use it in writing workshops with adults to encourage the use of bold metaphor.