Saturday, 7 February 2009
Mary, my exneighbour and fellow blogger, kindly passed this award my way. In return I must tell about a few things that I love. Mary did a great job of this herself, describing in loving detail her old black shoes and her leg-warmers, and I am going to carry on in that prosaic vein.
I read, recently, in the book of Seamus Heaney interviews (Stepping Stones) this quotation: ‘Love is not gazing at each other wistfully, but looking in the same direction.’ I have a tendency to use the word ‘love’ in the gazing wistfully sense about anything from a dress to a bowl of soup. What I really mean is I admire, lust after, am hugely impressed by, whatever has grabbed my attention; it is having some enjoyable effect on one, or more, of my five senses. But that’s not love. It may lead to love once the excitement has died down, but love is about longevity not instant sensual gratification; it may be great to look on something beautiful but you’re going to want to get on and do something else eventually. Love is something to do with shared purpose, shared vision: harmony. When it comes to non-human entities, therefore, the ones I love are those that help me on my way. And here, in an order of no hierarchical intention, are a few of them:
My washing machine: I don’t want to smell and I don’t want to look like a bag lady. Neither do I want to spend hours hand-washing my thick-knits. I have been discovered by my great task* and it consumes time. My washing machine has a hand-wash programme that mimics the most talented laundress, it has never shrunk or mangled a single item of my clothing even though I have tested it to the endth degree. This allows me to get on, fragrantly.
My mini trampoline: Most days I can be found sitting at my desk writing, and most evenings sitting in my armchair reading. Neither require much movement. I don’t like to be taken away from them for too long but I have noticed that reading becomes difficult and writing becomes impossible if they are all I do. A bit of fresh air and frantic movement solves the stagnation problem, so my mini trampoline is a real boon. It lives in my shed so I don’t have to go far to use it, and about three or four times a week I spend an hour or two happily bouncing to music. When I get back in I find almost all my erstwhile, apparently insurmountable, problems can be tackled with ease and many will have evaporated completely. An added bonus is that I no longer sit in a pool of my own flesh.
My hand-blender: Suddenly velvety smooth soups are easy, mayonnaise is a breeze, and my favourite lunch – banana soya-milk smoothie zinging with chili – can be made directly in the glass, so washing up is halved. All in all it saves a huge amount of hassle. I inherited this from my late mother-in-law which somehow gives it added resonance.
My fridge-freezer: I have two hungry men to feed. I want to feed them and I want to feed them well. I could easily see myself spending hours in the kitchen trying to make delicious, nutritious meals from cheap ingredients, every day. But, thanks to the freezer part of the fridge-freezer I don’t have to; it’s just as easy to make a huge batch of soup, stew, or pasta sauce and freeze them in meal sized portions for other days, so this is what I do. It means I don’t have to choose between my family and my work which would be like trying to choose between my heart and my lungs.
My computer: I don’t think a day goes by without me feeling immense gratitude to whoever invented the computer. I’m pretty sure that without it I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Imagine having to redraft by hand, or even on a typewriter: rubbers and Tippex, who needs them? On a computer whole blocks of text can be moved around the page; I can play about with punctuation and syntax; change the form of a poem in the blink of an eye; nick bits from earlier work; skit about from page to page or piece to piece. Work is play with no fear of getting it wrong, because on a computer you actually can undo, and all these possibilities for exploration and experimentation mean more chance of eventually getting it right. I can also have several projects on the go at once without living in a storm of paper, everything I ever wrote is stored, and easily accessed, in this one little box. Not only that, but with fast internet access I rarely have to go anywhere: most of my research, and shopping, can be done right here at my desk. And, of course, one of the best things about it is that I can be in contact with like minded people all over the world any time of the day or night without having to make arrangements or spend any money. Poverty is not an obstacle in the cyberworld.
Update: my memory has just been jogged by a visit to Scarlet's place: I am supposed to pass this award on, to how many others I don't know, so I will choose: the lovely Scarlet herself, Hoodchick, Jane (although I'm not sure how she will fit love into the theme of her blog but she's a poet so I'm sure she'll manage it), Savannah, and Conan,because I would love to read their takes on the subject should they wish to accept.
*Have a look at Nietzsche's autobiography Ecce Homo for an explanation of this apparently pretentious term.