Does anyone else think it’s been an unusually long week? I am so very glad a weekend is coming and I am intending to do nothing in a very focused way. The week has been a tad stressful for me as, despite only being 41, I have been somewhat hormonally challenged of late, and fear that the old system is gradually grinding to a halt. The only reason I tell you this is that the college nurse suggested a rather surprising palliative, which I have just begun to try out. The nurse is the least voodoo-minded person I know, so you could have knocked me down with a feather when, during a conversation when ostensibly we were supposed to be talking about other things entirely, she suggested I try these magnets. ‘I’ve heard such good reports about them,’ she told me, ‘and other than the danger of sticking to filing cabinets, there don’t seem to be any side effects.’ Really, I do wish you could all meet my college nurse; she is such a delight. No one, but no one masters dry irony the way she does. Last year, when she was just back from a gall bladder operation, I asked her how it had gone. ‘Marvellous!’ she cried. ‘I loved it. Right up there on my top ten list of surgical interventions.’ But you have to hear the ongoing march of irony underneath her tones to really appreciate her for the gallows-humoured stand-up comic that she is, on the quiet.
So I tripped off to the chemist and duly kitted myself out with the mysterious magnets. The main one is fashioned like a rather enormous flat-fronted pear drop. Alas, the people in design clearly became over-excited at a vital point in the process, as it is also purple and sparkly. Now, really, what were they thinking? On no one’s terms could this be a fashion accessory. Anyway, the big magnet you place against your skin, below the belly button and then there is another small circular magnet that holds it in place through one’s knickers. It made me think of a sort of rewriting of The Matrix for the menopausal. Before I had even got the thing home, I was alerted to its formidable powers, as I became attached wholly unexpectedly to the metal bar alongside the checkout conveyor belt in Marks and Spencer. I spent a whole 30 seconds wondering why I simply wasn’t making the progress I intended in the queue. The magnet wasn’t fixed to me at that point, I hasten to add, just in the plastic bag I was carrying, but it gave me quite a shock. When I stepped forward to start loading up my shopping, it swung forward with a muffled thh-doing! and attached itself once again. I was having the hardest time stuffing my groceries away and keeping it clear of the rail and trying not to succumb to hysterical giggles. I admit after that it took a couple of days for me to screw up the courage to try it out, because who knew what trouble it was capable of getting me into? On the plus side, I thought about sitting down on all the stuffed chairs and regaining the loose change that falls out of my husband’s pockets. In the end, the biggest difficulty is keeping the silly thing in place. I think you are supposed to commit to granny pants, or some kind of large, tight, inflexible undergarment, and I am not quite ready to go there yet. But I can walk backwards and forwards in front of the fridge in perfect safety.
As I say, I’ve only had it a little while, not long enough at least for any miracles, so today I am curled up at home feeling distinctly blah and hard to satisfy on the reading front. I am unfairly disappointed in Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, which I was looking forward to as if it had been a kind of toffee meringue. In fact, it has turned out to be spam and onions. The South Riding in question is a miserable place in the aftermath of the First World War. The people are mostly poor with lives full of worries, and the few characters with vim and enthusiasm are doomed, I fear. There’s a big estate run by Robin Carne, whose aristocratic wife languishes in an expensive nursing home for the insane. His daughter, Midge, is over-sensitive, over-emotional and a loner. Do I think the ending will restore the desperately-missed wife and mother from the loony bin? Nope. Do I think the gloomy Carne will find happiness and love with the feisty new headmistress of the girl’s school? Nope. There’s another young girl we’ve been introduced to, from the poor side of the tracks, thrilled to bits to be able to go to the high school and learn, now that her mother has finally stopped having babies. I don’t think much to her chances of happiness and fulfillment, either. It’s just that kind of book, you know? But I am unfair, in that it is clearly brilliantly written; the words almost corrode the page with their acidic sharpness. It’s just that I long for comfort and kindheartedness and a world of the imagination where mishaps may occur but it all comes out right in the end. I’ll tackle grim and doomed next week.
I’ve also been reading Scott Fitzgerald’s stories, or to be precise, I read ‘A Diamond As Big As The Ritz’ yesterday and was so surprised by it, I haven’t got my head around it yet. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, either. It begins conventionally enough, with young, middle-class John Unger heading off to a posh boarding school where he meets and befriends the aloof Percy Washington. When the summer vacation rolls around, John accompanies his friend back home, an extraordinary journey that includes their car being winched over the crest of the Rocky Mountains. For the Washington family live in magnificent secluded splendour beyond the reach of orthodox maps, and equally beyond the reach of orthodox rules and regulations. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give all the secrets of the story away, suffice it to say, I had no idea that Fitzgerald wrote tales with a fantastic edge. It was Jazz Age sci-fi, in a way that really surprised me. Glorious prose, though, and a rich – in every sense of the word – imagination fuels the story. I’ll be reading more of those but right now I want a novel, something to lose myself in and I haven’t decided what it will be. Just something to keep me absorbed and entertained over the weekend. I realize I am hugely behind answering comments and I do apologise – I treasure your comments. Only in the busy times something has to go, and I decided to keep reading and commenting on your posts regularly and will catch up with my own comments over the next couple of days. Grey, rainy days they are predicted to be here, so once my picky reading appetite is satisfied, I certainly intend to hunker down at home for them.