1. Well, I did it. I managed to write the essay despite starting it so very close to the deadline. I know a lot of people find a deadline energising, but I find it oppressive and dispiriting. If I’ve only got three or four days for 5,000 words, I think, what’s the point? I was so close to abandoning the whole idea. But then I decided to knuckle down to it, and the process was smoother than I’d anticipated. So I wrote it and hated it, as you do, but my posse of readers actually returned very encouraging feedback. Maybe I am finally learning how to write biography.
2. When I resurfaced after a mere week away from the internet, there were almost 300 posts in my feed reader. You’ve all been very busy, haven’t you? Yesterday I read through most of them, and commented on some of them, but I’m still not caught up with my emails. It’s amazing. No way would I put pen to paper and write this many letters, but email holds this false promise of ease and concision. In fact, I probably write more than I would long hand. Between the emails and the blog reading, I am forced to come to the conclusion that my virtual life has got out of hand. How on earth does one prune it, though? I like chatting to all my peeps.
3. I’ve been reading a lot of crime fiction lately because it seems to suit the winter months to my mind. I finally read Elizabeth George – in particular: Payment in Blood, and found it to be excellent. Really fine classic crime, with lots of character development, a twisty plot and a satisfyingly surprise conclusion. I also read my first Louise Penny. It happened to be A Trick of the Light, which is book 7 in the series. I am not normally bothered about reading things in order, and I fell foul of my practice here, as the novel spent a great deal of time talking about events that took place in a previous book. To begin with, I felt the endless series of short, faux-dramatic sentences would get on my nerves. But once I’d settled into the style, I did enjoy it. She has very good observations and is generous with them.
4. My reading project for December is very odd for me and probably doomed to failure but I want to give it a go nevertheless. I’d like to read three chunksters this month: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (with Stefanie if she’s up for it), Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (for Caroline’s Dickens in December) and Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (with Danielle if she can squeeze it in alongside Camilla!). I don’t think I can possibly read one after another, so I’ll have to read at least two simultaneously if not the whole three. I do wonder what on earth I will post about all month. Best of 2012 lists can’t stretch that far. Anyone got any good memes?
5. In the wake of the Leverson enquiry into the conduct of the press, the question now is how any form of reliable self-regulation might be put into practice. Given that the police and the politicians all turned out to be complicit in the phone-tapping scandal, ordinary forms of law enforcement are looking a little dodgy. I wondered whether regulation of the press couldn’t be a kind of jury service for English teachers? You could take a team of a dozen and assign them to the tabloids for a week, and they could pick to their hearts content at the appallingly emotive argumentation, the lack of evidence-based facts, the fallacious causality, and so on. I’m so tickled by the idea of all those dreadful stories about Z-list celebrities being returned to their authors with ‘Please come and see me to discuss this’ scrawled across the bottom.
6. Talking of new job opportunities for the 21st century, I was Christmas shopping in John Lewis yesterday (along with half the population of Cambridge) and waiting in the queue to pay when I noticed a harassed employee running up and down the line, directing customers to a till when one became free. This was an entirely unnecessary task. We were in full view of the tills and could all see perfectly clearly when a bag-laden shopper moved away, business conducted. Yet the unexpected cabaret being put on by this poor lady, who seemed utterly fraught with anxiety about us all making reasonable progress towards purchase certainly calmed and quietened the queue. I realised then that we were all outsourcing our frustration. She was doing the impatience so that we didn’t have to. What a thought! Would it be possible to use this technique elsewhere, I wondered? Like in examination halls, or virtual forums? It might be so much better to hand the negativity over to trained personnel rather than letting it get out of control with ordinary individuals.