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Virginia Woolf and gastroenteritis
‘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 world 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 Wool.’ from ‘A Sketch of the Past.’
Last Saturday I had an outpatient appointment at the hospital for an endoscopy.
That didn’t happen, my stomach pains were deemed unserious, possibly gastroenteritis or just as likely from alcohol abuse. On the way home, by bus, over the South Downs, affording me a view to Beachy Head and the English Channel, I was sneezed upon by the woman sitting behind me. This is why I loathe public transport (it is also why I am becoming increasingly tired of going swimming in a public pool where I invariably pick up a nose, throat or ear infection).
I had forgotten about the sneezing incident when on Monday night I fell ill.
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), read a several of books cover to cover, eventually did a great deal of writing and only recovered after three weeks. Then, having taken the children swimming, I go down for another week with a hideous cold and sinusitis. So I’ve been ill, confined to the house if not bed, for a month.
‘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.
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. 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 Fiona Feeley. 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 complete shits’ 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 girlfriend 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 constant adultery. 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?’
If we could choose them the way we choose our partners, we’d do a better a job of it.
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 ‘childhood partner in frequent sex’ 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 affairs. I never thought sex was possible without love, she taught me that it was possible, it was her words that we could have ‘sex for sex’s sake.’ 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 ‘sex goddess 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.
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)
Mum now believes I should be a travel writer or journalist
If I could be either, how come I haven’t written a thing about my season working in the Alps, or my tours around France with a French TV crew?