April 26, 2016

Life, continuing

Part of the problem is that I don’t know what to say to you—to the blog. The Blog Persona, already crumbly at the edges since Peter’s first stroke, disintegrated when he died.  It was based on a few simple facts including that I was married to a lovely mad Englishman named Peter.  You yank a cornerstone like that out from under a house—even a fairground funhouse*—and it goes down with a crash.

I assume I will bolt together a new Blog Persona out of scavenged fragments of the old—like Peter building the kitchen at the old house out of bits scrounged from the tip and the side of the road waiting for dustbin pick up**—although the broken funhouse mirrors may be a problem.  But while both blog and I are a trifle moribund . . . it’s hard to know what to say, to demonstrate signs of life.  I don’t much want to hammer you with my bottom line, which is I go to bed every night bewilderedly aware of not having seen or told Peter about my day, and that I’m not going to see him or tell him about my day tomorrow either, nor twist his arm to come to the opera with me, or say that I’ve discovered a new tea shop and we should give it a try.  I never come home from any outing without wanting to tell Peter about it, and I still haven’t managed to stick a sock in the instinct that says, as I’m riffling through the local paper or reading the notices outside the village hall, oh!  Peter might enjoy that!***

It’s not just the idiosyncratic, not to say aberrant, I that writes the blog.  All of I doesn’t feel like myself any more.  None of me feels like myself any more.  I feel like someone else.  Someone I’d rather not feel like.  I didn’t realise the fairies went in for late-middle-aged changelings.

And just by the way I still can’t read his books. I was granted a stay of execution while we were pulling the memorial service together but since then just looking at a favourite dust jacket gives me the wombles.  I’m probably going to have an interesting time when I can finally spare Atlas from building shelves at the Lodge and hacking back the jungle at Third House† and he can put up the shelves he’s already built on the One Remaining Blank Wall at the cottage, which is due to contain as many of my copies of Peter’s books as a single wall can hold.

But all of this is not to say there isn’t life-continuing stuff going on, it’s just that it’s all going on through a filter of Peter.††

For example, long term readers of this blog, who are therefore well aware that I think SHAKESPEARE IS OVERRATED, will be fascinated to hear that I signed up to read a sonnet at the Shakespeare Sonnet Gala this past Saturday the 23rd of April 400th anniversary yatta yatta yatta, run by some muscular local poetry society that puts on festivals and generally makes iamb pentameteric trouble in the area.  I can’t remember how I happened to fall over the web site advertising that they were looking for 154 ordinary members of the public to read 154 sonnets but I did.  First I laughed a lot and then I thought, you know, even though it’s Shakespeare, I like the idea of involving the hoi polloi with high literature, especially because one of the things that makes me a little crazy is that Shakespeare was writing for the hoi polloi, will you stop making him some kind of ornament to academe? So I signed up.†††

This epic occurred at the big central library‡. They cleared out the fiction section‡‡ so we were plonked down in the middle of everything with stacks on one side of us and the café on the other, and people streaming back and forth along the usual passageways, which is the way live poetry events should be, you know?  It wasn’t quite a flash mob but it was maybe a close relative.

Most of us readers were okay. I was okay.  If the RSC had a talent scout in the audience I was not on his/her short list but I was okay.‡‡‡  I didn’t have to go home and drown myself.§  I left during a break, and while I was stuffing my KNITTING back in my knapsack a woman came hesitantly up to me.  Are you Robin McKinley? she said.§§  Yes, I said, blinking in surprise.  What are the chances that in a group of thirty or so random British readers one of them would know my name?  Dismal.

I just wanted to tell you I love your books, she said.  And so does my daughter.

Suddenly, standing there clutching my knitting, Shakespeare seemed like a really great idea. You’ve just made my day, I said to her.  I’m glad I came.

::Beams:: §§§

Life, continuing.#

* * *

* Not the frelling TV show, which is way after my time.

** ARRRRRRGH. MEN.

*** What age I’m remembering him at varies. I almost immediately reverted to thinking of him when he was young and lively—so ahem about the age I am now ahem which is not young AHEM and at the moment significantly unlively as well—when I’m just thinking of him—sorry to be unclear, any of you who’ve been through it^ will know what I mean.  My cornerstone Peter is the young [sic] one.  The one I talk to in my head is the young one.  But a lot of the looking-for-outings instinct is recent, and immediately after the, Peter might enjoy that!, is the, can I do it alone or do we need a third person to come too in case the ground/parking/seating/gargoyle raids are worse than I expect?

^ It being not merely the death, but the hideous decline and death of someone so inextricably and intrinsically mixed up with your molecules that you can’t really imagine living without them, even if you are, somehow, breathing and so on.

† Which is still not officially on the market, although it’s occasionally being shown unofficially, but we’re getting there which is to say it’s now cleared out enough that I’ve rung the housecleaning service . . . which is not getting back to me, festering festering festering ARRRRRGH.

†† Also . . . the ME is well beyond mere ratbaggery and has plunged into the flamingly demonic. As I keep saying to people who want to know how I am, I don’t have good days and bad days I have good minutes and bad minutes and I never know when I’m going to be in the middle of a sentence and my mind will not merely go blank but shut down, lock itself up and pull the plug.  Or that I’m out hurtling over the countryside and not merely have to stop to lean against a tree, but sit down, put my head between my knees, and wonder if I’m going to make it back to Wolfgang.  Or if I care.  No, wait, the hellmob would care.  One of the first things I did after Peter died was stop carrying Pooka with me everywhere because why?  Being attached at the hip to my iPhone was a Peter-related emergency thing which was no longer an issue.  But I’ve started taking her with me again^ just in case I am an emergency one day.  Grief with ME:  avoid.

But this whole quadruply-cursed journey of the Effect of Grief and Trauma on Physical and Mental Health deserves a post all by itself. Short form: I’m off ALL SUGAR AND ALCOHOL. No CHOCOLATE!!!^^  NO CHAMPAGNE!!!!!

It doesn’t bear thinking about. So mostly I don’t think about it.  Pity I can’t instruct my mind to shut up and lock itself in a cupboard on demand.

^ Erm. When I remember.

^^ So, please note, you kind people who keep giving me chocolate . . . the monks are delighted.

††† If you’re interested, they gave me # 101. I went for snarky, since himself is being snarky, and I can relate to being snarky at one’s dratblasted Muse.

‡ Where Peter and I used to go every week. Our best, most reliable regular outing.  Sigh.

‡‡ And stashed it in the theatre. Snork.

‡‡‡ The best reader I heard—I listened to about thirty sonnets, I think, whilst knitting frantically^—was a tiny little old lady who wandered up on the dais like she was thinking about her next cup of tea and sauntered through her sonnet like having a conversation with a friend.  It was one of those moments when what all those rudely mechanical actors are prating on about How to Perform Shakespeare suddenly comes to life.  You really can make Shakespeare sound like a conversation with a friend.  If you’re really good. Which, just by the way, I think most professional actors, including the Famous Shakespearean Ones, are not. They eat the scenery unforgivably and make me want to throw things and scream.

^ The kid’s due NEXT WEEK. I’m not going to make it.  I’m four-fifths done!  Plus the frelling sewing-up, however, which is sure to manifest unpleasant surprises.

§ I did however have to sit through the cream-faced loon of an introducer saying how nice it was to hear people with different accents doing Shakespeare. BITE ME.

§§ This is not as nuts as it sounds. I had signed up and was on the list as Robin McKinley Dickinson, not only because I have no idea what I’m going to do with my name in the long term but also because Peter was the Shakespearean in this household.

§§§ And if I’d had my wits about me I’d’ve asked her^ what else she’d been reading lately that was good. I’m always in the market for books to read like I need more books. Like I need to go to the library every week and check out more books. Still. I would have asked her if I’d thought of it in time.

^ Because she looked nice. Like someone you could have a cup of tea with and a good wrangle about books.+

+ As anyone who has ever been to a book convention or belonged to a book club knows, further common ground cannot be carelessly assumed with someone who merely happens to like the same books you do. Or possibly that you wrote.

# Although of course I wanted to go home and tell Peter. . . .