Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hodmandod's Haven

Like any sensible snail I have retreated into my shell in recent weeks. It is cold outside and I don't want to show my face. However on Tuesday night my aerobics teacher texted my mobile to find out what had happened. Ali looks after us all to a touching degree - it is just one of the reasons we all think so much of her.

On Wednesday she turned up at my house with waterproofs and her dog, and we went out to the forest to talk about the things that can make the world suddenly stop.

'I like it under the trees.' she said. 'I feel like I'm talking to him.'

It is strange how the death of Kevin has affected us all. He is just a man who came to the class, who was so full of life it didn't seem possible that he could ever die, but he did; one Sunday suddenly after lunch - after a weekend filled with doing what he most loved in the world - aerobics, hang-gliding and cricket.

Now every aerobics session Ali plays his song, a discordant little number by the Squeeze, and every time she does I want to go out until it finishes but I don't. Music, I find, has the most affecting qualities.

Today I went to see my mother-in-law in the home near our house. She looked content and peaceful lying on the top of her bed. It took her a few seconds to recognise me but that is understandable because it is a long time since she last saw me.

Of course she too is a Hodmandod and has a similar tendency to prefer the company of her own shell. She complained that they were nagging her to join the rest of the residents in one of the lounges.

'You don't have to, if you don't want to.' I told her, and she smiled.
'No, I won't. Why should I?'
'I think it is always better to have a reason to talk,' I said, 'a shared interest...'
'I'd like to draw.'
So I promised to bring her a drawing pad and a mannequin and we would draw together.
'And you could tell me what it was like in the war,' I told her, 'and I can write it down.'
'And before that...'
'And your book,' she said. 'I've never found out what's in your book.'
So I would tell her all about that too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought of you last night, watching Silent Running with my family. There is an enormous snail right at the start--must have been rather overpowering on the big screen.

Thinking of you in your shell this coming week... Lots of sad things to remember, but there are friends and hodmandods of all sorts and walks and pictures to draw.

Fri Nov 10, 10:13:00 pm  
Blogger mareymercy said...

It seems like everyone is retreating into their's hibernation time of year, I suppose.

Sat Nov 11, 01:39:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just want to tell you how much I love your writing -- so evocative, thoughtful, vivid and (I know this sounds weird, but it's what comes through strongly)compassionate.

I reviewed your novel _98 Ways of Being_ when it came out and gave it a rave (in a fiction chronicle for the _Hudson Review_). I thought you captured so much, so well in that. And it's eerie how sometimes the reader's own life feels entangled somehow in the text. When I picked up your novel, I'd just finished reading various articles about 19th-century insane asylums (I'd been writing about John Clare, incarcerated for most of his life in that era, and I wanted to know more) *and* had recently been fascinated by a German edition of "Struwelpeter" that turned up in our attic -- my mother-in-law was German and it had been hers as a child. When she died, my husband brought it home. (He remembered being terrified by those tales as a child; our kids were amused by them.) How cool that you were able, then, to locate them, give them their provenance.

You sound discouraged about writing, yet to me you look like someone standing on an alp (my perspective is that of the novice climber, still at the base of the trail, looking up and hoping I have the stamina to get there); some shadows darken your way occasionally, but, oh, how much closer you are to the light when it gets free of the clouds.

In my own life, I've learned most from failing. I hate it (especially when it comes in the form of rejection slips for mss.), but I recognize its value. As long as it doesn't silence you, it can only make you better.

Keep writing; you really have a gift.

Sat Nov 11, 06:15:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me, of course I meant _98 REASONS for Being_ -- I wrote that at 1:30 a.m., at the end of a long shift at work....!

Sat Nov 11, 05:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marly: Well I have to see 'Silent Running' now! Thanks Marly, today hasn't been so bad now that it has come and gone. I was dreading it.

Twitches: Yes, hibernation time. It's so very cold outside.

Susan Balée: Well thank you for your very kind remarks about my book and thank you for visiting here. That is strange how so many things merged together then before you read my book - very strange indeed. I enjoy the way coincidences like this bring out the superstitious side of my nature. Ah, it was meant to happen, I'd say, a sign - and even though I know what I'm saying is utter rubbish a delicious little thrill passes up my spine.

I see that looking at the Hudson Review (and what a wonderful magazine that seems to be - I feel honoured that my book was reviewed in there) that you are an editor fot the Philadelphia Inquirer. For me that is some fine pinnacle - strange how our perceptions are different depending on where we stand.

Yes, I have to admit I am feeling discouraged at the moment. I am finding it hard to work out what to do next. So thank you again for your encouragement - it is much appreciated.

Sat Nov 11, 09:14:00 pm  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I'm glad today went better than you thought it would. Take care this week-end.

Sat Nov 11, 11:49:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeremy - much appreciated. I'm thinking of you too in your place in the Fens.

Sun Nov 12, 11:32:00 pm  
Blogger Debi said...

I'm so sorry to hear you're feeling discouraged, Clare. Why oh why? We need to work on this ....!

Mon Nov 13, 01:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello again, Clare. Just to let you know, I am just a peon at The Phila. Inquirer -- a mere copy editor and only part-time at that. In order to spend more time with my family and to have *some* time for writing, I decided a few years ago that whatever I did to earn a paycheck would not consume me more than 3 days a week. This job has been a godsend in that way, though I fear it won't last: The new owner of the newspaper says he must cut 150 newsroom jobs and p-timers will be the first to go.

My husband has his own consulting business and he, too, only works a few days a week. I think it's been a blessing for us. We don't have much money, but we have a lot more time to spend with our kids and to do the things we want to do. Obviously, the Puritan Work Ethic didn't take with us! We don't know too many other Americans who feel the way we do and even our kids sometimes think we're nuts. (My daughter expressed intense embarrassment recently upon coming home from school and discovering the 'rents engaged in a ferocious Scrabble game at the dining room table. "Why aren't you people *working* now, like everyone else's parents?" she moaned. Someday she'll have a different perspective....I hope.)

One of the next books I have on my 'to-read' list is your _One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead_. I know already I will love it. Thank you for the gift of your enormous talent, Clare, and please keep writing.

Mon Nov 13, 06:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Debi: I'm pretty sure I have your email somewhere - I'll fill you in...!

Susan B: Well, your philosphy and choices in life appear to be sound to me! Rather admirable in fact. It's funny about your daughter. My sons are similar - they are hugely embarrassed about having a mother who is a writer and beg me to keep it a secret from all their friends. The worst thing, according to them, are the tortuous book launches. If they could wear paper bags over their heads at this extremely traumatising event I am sure that they would.

Thank you for reading my books and thank you especially for your kind words. Times are a bit tough for me at the moemnt - but everyone gets times like these, I know. They will pass - but your kindness at the moment means a lot to me.

Mon Nov 13, 11:18:00 pm  

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