Thursday, 12 July 2007


Two interesting articles in last weekend's Guardian (the weekend before, now I'm finally finishing this). One is by a woman who got amicably divorced and found that all her friends expected her to be rather more devastated than she was. "Someone writes [to me]: 'There are no words for a catastrophe of this magnitude. I am thinking of you.' And it begins to seem as if my husband has, in fact, not moved five minutes away but died." In many ways she's enjoying her newfound freedom, and is coping just fine, but people just won't accept this. "At no other point in my life have so many people tried so hard to convince me of how miserable I am," she says.

The other is by a woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby. Gut-wrenching. But in stark contrast, she found that her friends were mostly embarrassed, and desperate for her to 'get over it' and get back to normal. They advised her to take anti-depressants, but she wasn't depressed: she was grieving. I wonder why that's something that's not allowed any more?

Maybe we can cope with divorce because it's comprehensible: anyone who's even been dumped can empathise to a certain extent. We all know about rejection. But death is the great mystery, and getting more mysterious all the time. I watched both my father and my grandmother die, in their own homes. It wasn't terrifying in any of the ways you might think, and both of them had huge reserves of courage and dignity. Especially with my father, who I'd been very close to, I really believe that seeing it happen made it easier to cope with. If I hadn't been there, I'd have found it difficult to believe that it had really happened; that he'd really gone. But the number of people allowed to die at home must be getting less and less. I proselytise for home birth whenever I can, but I begin to think we need a campaign for home death too. Maybe if death was closer, and in a familiar place, we'd cope with it better?

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Si ch'io vorrei morire

To London yesterday evening, feeling very odd without a baby anywhere on my person. We went to see the last UK performance of The Full Monteverdi by I Fagiolini, and had the pleasure of taking along a friend who didn't know what was going to happen.

Everyone is sitting at little tables, with drinks and nibbles, talking amongst themselves, some more earnestly than others. There's no stage or obvious area where anyone can perform. So you sit down, chat amongst yourselves. Then someone starts to sing. Someone sitting next to you joins in... soon there are five or six voices weaving in and out of each other. It gets louder and more passionate... someone stands up, and you see that each singer has a partner, and six miniature dramas are enacted. The music, from Monteverdi's fourth book of madrigals, is sublime, and the harmonies unbelievably dissonant at times.

As a friend said, the singing would be pretty stupendous if they were reading from music standing on a concert stage. In fact, they're singing from memory while acting out a scene that's designed to follow an emotional arc within the music, over the course of an hour or so. It's amazingly intense. I was almost in tears at some points, and A definitely was. The singers are just fabulous (we both have a crush on the mezzo, who's got the sexiest low notes you've ever heard). They've just finished recording a DVD of it, which will be out "in time for Christmas". From the trailer, it looks fascinating -- a long way from just a live recording of the show. There's a trailer if you're interested. And if you ever get the chance to go -- I think they're doing three performances in New York, which may be the last ever -- then go, and take all your friends.

Do have a look at the Fag's website, too: other people have written about this far more poetically than I can.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Sumer was icumen in

This is odd: I though this blog couldn't show pictures. Now I spot a huge button to add a picture. Duh and double-duh. Anyway, here's a reminder of the glorious summer we had back in spring -- and a touching cross-species relationship too...

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

How pleasant to know Dr Greer

Oooh, ooh, I am starstruck. I just met Germaine Greer in Budgen's. Actually, I passed her in the High Street and took too long to recognise her, then dithered for five minutes before going in, running her to earth next to the cat food, and introducing myself. She was extremely nice, cosidering how weird it is to be accosted by a stranger (I know this because I occasionally meet someone who knows me because they've seen me sing, so I don't know them.): friendly to Sasha and quite chatty. She was buying a Guardian because she's got an article in today about the Australian Aborigines, which sounded suitably polemical.

I just wanted to tell her that if there was one book that changed my life, it was The Female Eunuch, which I read when I was about fourteen. If nothing else, it makes other feminist writing pale into the shadows, being both logically argued, fiercely polemical and in places very funny. I stopped buying Spare Rib (yes, cast your mind back to the eighties...) when it started carping about Victoria Wood not being radical enough and I realised that they had missed the point. Which is that humour is a far better tool for changing people's minds than aggression can ever be. Proven, in fact, by comparing the longevity of the magazine, and Wood, who seems to be turning into a female version of Michael Palin and therefore quite a national institution.

Anyway, we talked about The Thorn Birds , as she is writing about it, she said. It has interesting comparisons with Gone with the Wind, which -- in my opinion -- has interesting comparisons with Vanity Fair. Dr Greer (except I bet I'm years out of date and she's Professor Greer by now, isn't she? Rats) said she's never been able to get through Thackeray, which surprised me as I think compared with, say, Dickens, he's easy to read. And Vanity Fair is a fabulous novel: Thackeray has a wonderful narrative voice, generous but cynical, and there isn't a two-dimensional character in the book. And it has one of the most devastatingly written deaths in literature. And of course Becky Sharp is an incredible creation.

I haven't read any of his other books, mind you. Someone once told me that the others are more populist, since he felt that VF didn't make him enough money. I'll have to try one day, though.

I wonder if there are any phrases in Bunyan that haven't been used? Could you have a magazine called Slough of Despond? I suppose not...

Sasha is wrestling with a banana skin and now has a facepack of brown slime. The child seems to get rather more fun from the skin from the banana, but hey, this is a household that eschews petty convention, no? A recent visitor warned me solemnly that banana skins are poisonous. It's odd how people will do that.

And larger conventions too, of course. Apparently some people *did* object to my breast-feeding at a parish council meeting. The comment was (I'm told): "Who is that woman? And is she married?" Priceless. I told my informant I hoped he'd let them know that I most certainly was not...