Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Whispering Gallery.

One of our friends who is the same age as my husband has just had a baby. I don't mean it emerged from his body, although with modern medical advances that possibility might not be far off, or perhaps even already here but The Man is keeping it from us because if women the world over discovered we could hand over pregnancy and birth to men we would make them stay at home, barefoot and pregnant, and sally forth into the world to have fun ourselves, and then sexual assault would all but disappear, and the newspaper industry would have to fold. But I digress.  I mean that his wife just had a baby, a girl, his fourth child and her first. 

On the day I'm due to meet the new baby I go on a recce to St Paul's Cathedral. I have to queue to get in, along with all the Spanish and Italian tourists. I have my bag searched at the door, then walk purposefully towards the nave but encounter an obstacle there - Evensong, about to begin. A woman holding copies of the order of service asks if I'd like to take part and for some reason I say yes, and take a copy, and then a pew among the congregation, and then think: strange decision.

I don't believe I've ever been to a church service that wasn't a wedding, a funeral, or a christening. I've certainly never been to one by myself. A friend once asked me to be her child's godparent but I felt I had to politely decline because I wouldn't be able to say all that stuff in church without everything crossed. And now here I am, alone in St Paul's Cathedral, on a Saturday afternoon, listening to the choir boys' song reverberate around the walls of the Whispering Gallery, and it brings tears to my eyes because it's so beautiful, and because a woman fell from here a few weeks ago and looking up at the precarious railings I can't help but think about that. What was going through her mind? Why the Whispering Gallery? 


After the service, walking from the cathedral to the Strand, it's eerily quiet because the roads are closed in preparation for the Lord Mayor's fireworks display. Without traffic noise I can hear my own footsteps echo along the pavement and snatches of other people's conversations as they pass. 

At my hairdressers in Covent Garden I tell Sergio about the service in St Paul's. "You're Italian," I say. "Do you believe all that stuff?"

"Oh no," he says, twirling his scissors. "Not anymore."

I tell him about going to visit the baby and when I mention her name - Fallon - he mishears and thinks I say phallic.

"That's my religion!" he laughs, which is funny, and not true because he later tells me a long and involved story about a car accident in his twenties when he was sure his life was saved because his patron saint was looking out for him, then he shows me a picture of him in his office before I leave.

At our friends' house later I meet up with my husband and cradle our friends' baby in my arms. She's like a tiny mewing kitten. My husband pours the champagne he brought for the occasion. The three of us sip it as the baby's mother unfolds the tissue paper enclosing the tiny outfit, with matching tiny shoes, that I took great pleasure in choosing after I left the hairdressers. We all stare at the newborn baby in silent contemplation for a moment.

"So," says the baby's father. "A guy in a shop thought I was her Grandad; and I'm going to regret telling you that, aren't I."

"What's it like being a Daddy again, Grandad?" I ask.

He smiles, and says... 

Actually, I don't remember what he says, I'm too busy looking at his baby.

Love E x


Wednesday, 8 November 2017


Are you easily bored? Like a teenager, say? "CBA," says our youngest teenager, when I ask him if he'd like to jump on the tube and join us for dinner after we've seen The Death of Stalin at the cinema. 

If you don't speak Teen 'CBA' loosely translates as: I am experiencing an overwhelming ennui and cannot muster the enthusiasm to lift my arse from where it is permanently situated here in front of this Xbox/computer game/smart phone to join you for a meal and some, you know, like, actual conversation. 

I reckon I no longer have the luxury of boredom because I don't have time on my side. If you don't speak Mid Life this loosely translates as: grab every experience you can and squeeze every last drop out of it because your time is running out, my friend.

"Oh, but you do have the luxury of boredom!" Says my mate Jim, when we're sitting in the audience at the London Palladium on an evening out watching Michael Kiwanuka's support act and having a moan about our teenagers. "You just said this support act was boring five minutes ago." 

"I said she was boring compared to Joni Mitchell," I say, "who she is trying to be. Not the same thing." 

"And only last week you said you found Bladerunner 2049 boring." 

True. I did. Especially if you compare it to Bladerunner, which I don't think you should. I also found The Death of Stalin boring, in parts. All the parts that came after the death of Stalin. 

So this gets me musing all week on the subject of boring...

On Monday evening I don't find watching Stranger Things on Netflix boring, but then I am watching the last few episodes of Season 1 on my laptop in order to be able to get on with Season 2 on the telly, which our youngest teenager tells me is definitely not boring, in fact it's one of the things he's happy to sit on his arse all day watching. 

I don't find the final of The Great British Bake off on Channel 4 boring, even though I already know who won it when I sit down to watch it and she is pretty boring, especially compared to Nadiya who won it last year. I like it when they get all emotional and cry at the end, which this one doesn't, this time the presenter does that for us, so I guess that's win win, and not boring.

Wednesday night I don't find listening to Gwendoline Riley reading an extract from her novel First Love at The Goldsmiths Prize evening boring, but I do find Will Self reading an extract from his novel, Phone, boring. But this is because it's a 600 page paragraph of boring. Everything he says after reading it isn't boring though, it's just irritating. 

At a fireworks party at the weekend I don't find the company boring, or the nibbles, which are both tasty and entertaining, and featured at the top of this blog post, and also here...

But when my mate Jay turns to me and says, "Don't you just love fireworks? I love fireworks!" I think, meh, to be honest, after the first five minutes of fireworks I find them pretty boring. 

Maybe I'm more like our youngest teenager than I thought. Although he did come and join us for that dinner after all, and he talked, which was the least boring part of my week.

Love E x


No P.S. CBA.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017


"We had this really cool aunt - called Aunty Libby Lou - and she was kind and she wore pretty dresses and was ever so slightly potty and when we went to stay with her she did all this cool stuff with us, like baking and making things...

"That's how I'd like my nieces to remember me," I tell my husband, "after I'm gone. So I'd better not spend the whole time they're here this weekend sitting in front of my computer leaving them to play on the Wii. I'd better actually do the stuff with them that I want to be remembered for."

My husband agrees.

On Saturday, after my two nieces arrive, I send them off to Lidl with Youngest to buy a pumpkin, then spend the rest of the day sitting in front of my computer, apart from when I'm cooking, or down the pub, while the kids play on the Wii.

On Sunday morning I do some washing, then sit in front of my computer while the kids play on the Wii. By Sunday afternoon I realise my chance to be remembered as cool Aunty Libby Lou is running out so we have a frantic burst of activity. We carve a pumpkin, while listening to spooky music, bake Halloween cupcakes, making orange icing by combining red and yellow food dye, then draw pretty cards to send to a close relative who's been in hospital. All this takes about an hour and a half, then they go back to the Wii and I go back to sitting in front of my computer, and then to the pub, but only for a quick one.

When my sister-in-law sends a text enquiring how it's going I send her pictures of the pumpkin and the cakes and neglect to mention the Wii, or the pub. "Wow!" She replies. "What a lovely creative weekend!"

On Monday morning my brother and sister-in-law arrive to collect their daughters. We all stand together in the kitchen drinking coffee and my brother asks how I'm liking the MA.

"It's great." I say. "Except now I'm obsessed with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Do you know they used to write together, often back to back? He would set her writing tasks."

"It didn't end well, though, did it?" Says my husband. 

I have to agree that it didn't.

"She bit his cheek when they met, and drew blood."

"I bet that's the only thing you know about Sylvia Plath," I say to my husband. "That, and the fact that she killed herself in a tiny flat, in February, when her husband had left her for another woman and she had two small children to look after, by herself, and it was a Monday."

"I didn't know it was a Monday," he says.

Walking down our hall to our front door with his wife and two daughters my brother decides he'd like to leave us with a joke hanging in the air, it's one of his trademarks.

"You've heard my Sylvia Plath poem, haven't you?" he asks. 

It's not really a question.

"Yes," I say.

"Bell jar, bell jar, on the shelf," he begins.

"Yes, I've heard it." I say.

He opens the front door.

"I think I'm going to kill myself." He says.

"By the way," I say. "They spent pretty much the entire time playing on the Wii." 

Love E x


P.S. On my MA course we've been looking at writing in which there is a sudden switch in point of view.