My week alone – periods, breasts and pornography.

               Something peculiar is happening this week and for a while I wasn’t sure that I liked it. For the first time in approximately a decade I have only myself (and the dog) to look after. The eldest girl is skiing in Switzerland with the school – a fact that I can now mention nonchalantly because she is almost home but for the past month or so has caused me to have recurring, jumbled nightmares about ski lifts, trees and fractured tibias – and the youngest girl is abroad in Portugal with her father.

I looked forward to this week with a mixture of horror and joy. On the one hand there was the travel to get through. Every time a child of mine climbs aboard a plane I become convinced that they are going to die and nothing will dissuade me from that, so the duration of the flight finds me pacing the floor, hyperventilating and self-medicating with wine. In comparison the thought of the eldest girl spending twenty-four hours on a coach bothers me not. Rough ferry crossing at midnight? Not a problem. Speeding down through France? Bring it on! Winding through tiny, slippery Alpine roads? But of course. On the other hand a week of freedom spilled itself tantalisingly out in front of me……. A whole week with no childcare, no meals to cook, no bedtimes to do, no baths to run, no stories to read, no tidying up to do, no conversations about the tooth fairy or summer exams to have. It…..would…..just……be… I kept picking up my period of freedom and looking at it, examining its structure for faults. It couldn’t be as simple as just being an enjoyable thing, could it? I mean, my entire life revolves around my children; ergo I have no life for a week. But slowly, I began to think differently. No children = no restrictions. I can stay up as late as I want, I can go out whenever I want, I can watch television all day if the mood takes me (it doesn’t), I don’t have to get dressed and what eventually dawned on me was that I would have endless creative space to write. Shamefully, I had been putting off doing anything with my manuscript because I knew there was something wrong with it. Half of it I loved, but half of it was awful. How then to match the two sides? Damned if I knew, so I didn’t actually open the document for something approaching four months. I thought about it a lot and began to concoct vague plans for remedying it but no bit of me dared to read the thing. So with my week of freedom looming I took a deep breath, gathered up my laptop, iPad, phone and dog, plus a few jumpers and no socks as it turns out, and drove for two hours to an unfamiliar house where I planned to resurrect the manuscript. The main draw of this house is that there is no internet, which is good for two reasons. One: it stops me from constantly hopping on twitter or Facebook and becoming distracted, and two: if I want wi-fi I have to go to the nearest pub. Which thrilled me because I’ve never owned such a bona fide excuse before now. It’s like the time that the only place that was warm enough for me to be comfortable was the local Joules shop.

Before I left I made a chilli for a friend one night and severely misjudged the amount of chilli powder so it had all the heat of Dante’s hell, and then whilst he was consuming it he turned over something black with his fork and said “Er – is this a leaf?” The answer was no, it was where I’d burned it to the bottom of the pan, but it was then that I realised quite how wrapped up I had become in regressing to my teenage years for a week. My mind had drifted away from catering and towards indulgence. I planned to do little but eat, sleep and write with the occasional foray to the pub. Basically I wanted to emulate Branwell Bronte, but on a lesser scale. And so far it’s going quite well. I braved the horror of my first twenty-five thousand words immediately and plunged straight into serious editing and re-writes. Approximately five hours later I emerged triumphant. Parts of the manuscript were indeed as dire as I’d remembered them, in fact some bits actually made me cringe to read, but I ruthlessly deleted and re-wrote until I achieved inner, writerly, peace. I’ve more or less marshalled my characters into line, and one of my main protagonists is now in possession of a much more satisfying personality. She swears, drinks whiskey, wears the skinniest of skinny jeans like a good girl and gives those who deserve them withering stares and says things like “Honestly, Kate?”

And when I’m not writing, I am reading voraciously. I’ve just finished an absolutely brilliant book called “The Last Time I Saw You” by Eleanor Moran, it’s so brilliant I urge you all to buy it immediately. Clever, funny, sad, utterly engaging and wonderfully written – it is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. I shall be keeping my eye on her. And from that I went to Caitlin Moran’s “How to be a Woman”. I’ve just paused for a few seconds whilst I think about exactly what comment to pass on this work. It’s hard when all I’ve read so far is about periods, breasts, pubic hair and pornography – all of which she discusses with varying degrees of affection. I think the sentence that has appalled me most so far (quite an accolade) is “Of course I’ve tasted my own menstrual blood”, which is so horrifying it took my breath away. Germaine Greer has a lot to answer for. But I suppose, begrudgingly, it is a clever book. No-one could describe me as an ardent feminist but Caitlin is a very funny lady and holds some very funny views – which makes for interesting reading. However on the whole I’m quite looking forward to finishing that book and beginning Adele Parks’ latest one.

And meanwhile I shall be mainly be living in my imaginary hinterland, populated by characters that I have made up, doing things that I create for them to do. Put like that, it doesn’t sound very healthy does it? But never mind, as long as I can channel my inner peace then I don’t care. Some people achieve it through tai-chi, some through drugs, but my own personal method is swearing quietly, pressing delete a lot and sipping at a glass of Fleurie.   


PS. I’m not quite brave enough to leave this post without apologising to my parents for the title of it. Sorry.


One Response to “My week alone – periods, breasts and pornography.”

  1. Tracey U says:

    That sounds like an ideal child-free week, although I’m still in awe of such things (still at the parenting stage when I crave a cup of tea without a cold skin on top). Good luck with the ms!