The pain of writing
‘Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what, making a scene come right, making a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy, at any rate it is a constant idea of mine, that behind the cotton wool of daily existence is hidden a pattern, that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this, that the whole worlds is a work of art, that we are parts of the work of art … we are the words, we are the music, we are the thing itself.’
Virginia Woolf ‘A Sketch of the Past’
Last Saturday I had an outpatient appointment at Eastbourne Hospital for an endoscopy.
For three days, I suffered from the most dreadful stomach pains and diarrhoea; it felt like I had a rat inside my stomach eating its way out. I slept a great deal, drank masses of water, tried hard not to vomit (I have a tendency not to stop) and read a couple of books cover to cover.
Lizzie Siddal ‘The tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel’ by Lucinda Hawksley
A gripping novel, it will be made into a film: I wish I could, a decade ago I would have given such a thought a go. I would have contacted the publisher, probably found an agent in America was already selling the rights or that it is being made into a film in New Zealand as I write.
I was passionate about the Pre-Raphaelites in my teens and twenties.
I was a budding artist, my mother had taught me how to draw from life from the age of four. Her tutor at Durham University had been Quentin Bell, child of the Bloomsbury Group and Charlton House. I liked doing portraits the most, of girls in particular. I fancied having my own Jane Morris and copied some drawings down of her by Millais. I wanted my own muse, my own ‘stunner’ and found her in the form of FF. Art as a career fell by the wayside, though I have directed often enough to have the pleasure of running auditions. If I can no longer have my muse, then I will write a contemporary story of an artist or director who becomes obsessed with someone he first sees on the Internet. You can’t just ask them out for dinner, or buy them coffee across the road. They are likely to live hundreds of miles away and may well speak only rudimentary English.
’Fathers and Sons. The Autobiography of a Family’ by Alexander Waugh
A birthday present from my mother who knows that two years after his death I’m still having problems controlling my feelings in relation to my late father and his fourth wife, my third stepmother and the shenanigans over his belongings. ‘So, plenty of father’s turn out to be xxx’ was how I put it to Mum. She’s given up defending her former husband and the father of her four children. I’ve not been in the mood for liking him at all for over 18 months. I caught something on T.V. about Peter Sellers the other day, how he walked in on his family one Saturday afternoon and declared to his wife and two children, then aged 6 and 8, then he wasn’t going to live with them any more. His sparky little daughter asked, ‘do you not love us any more, Daddy?’ to which Peter Sellers replied, ‘I still love you, I just love my Sophia (Loren) more.’ My father did much the same thing; he implied that he was leaving because he couldn’t stand us, although the real reason was his inability to remain faithful. My father, fed up with his children, age 6,8,10 and 12 badgering him over whether they’d see him at Christmas declared that as far as he was concerned Christmas was like any other day. We never saw him at Christmas again, though a bag of gifts in a Hamley’s bag, often unwrapped, would be delivered a few days before Christmas. If we forget to get him something for Christmas or his birthday, he’d complain. We never complained when birthday cards arrived “pp’d’ by his secretary though. Parents, who’d have them? There something we have no choice over. If we could choose them the way we choose our partners, we’d do a better a job of it.
Therefore, I’m smarting.
I’m writing several thousand words a day. Being in bed at home has broken the cycle of getting kids up, dressed, fed, lunch boxes made, into Lewes, into school, find somewhere to park, go to my office. Fall asleep, have a coffee, do some writing. Now I sit up, boot up, pick up whatever I was doing the day before or an hour before, and press on. I have several threads busily jangling, different chapters of this ‘thing.’
All this and I’ve got back into the habit not only of writing these entries, but of transcribing a few entries each day from diaries that take me back nearly twenty years, to the dark days of a tedious break-up with my ‘girlfriend 18-24’ who having been ‘mine’ for nearly five years was now someone else’s. She was on the verge of moving abroad permanently, on return trips in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989 we had brief reunions.
I look back on this now and wish she’d dropped me hard, as I had done with a couple of girlfriends. Anything else is slow death and it stops you moving on. Throughout this period, though I had six or seven great girlfriends I dropped two and let a couple stumble as brief encounters because ‘she of my teenage years’ reappeared on the scene. I’m enjoying the pain of recalling my feelings and applying it to various stories, the hurt, the jealousy, the difficult decisions, the deceit, the hopes, the dark days and bright days and the complete, tedious, life sapping ghastliness of it that left me in tears so often while trying to face other personal calamities in relation to my career and living in London that I needed to share with her. We had promised each other to be in touch when either one of us decided to get married; this I duly did. ‘What about me?’ she asked at which point I realised forever entangled, like a first marriage that had ended in divorce. The greater the distance between us then the better.
Next, up on my reading list:
- Labels by Evelyn Waugh (travel writing)
- Will this do? By Auberon Waugh (autobiography)
- No Abiding City by Evelyn Waugh (autobiography)
- Virginia Wolf by James King (biography)