Monday, 20 December 2010

A room of her own...

I was scanning the on-line news today in search of a reliable update on the travel chaos in Europe caused by the cold snap. Internet news is so difficult to follow - one clicks on links and follows little distracting stories about hair and sales and weather updates and movie reviews and what so-and-so thinks about the coalition's comments on such and such and before long amidst solving problems on the domestic front because someone has someone else's felt tip and the phone is ringing and the kettle is boiling and there is a buzz at the door and no, thank goodness it is only the postman delivering Grand-dad's presents, not a Tiger coming for Tea - again - and then realising that it is colder than one thought and one had better put socks on and goodness what was I looking for in the first place - oh yes I must google headache on right side of head and see whether it is indeed an aneurysm (hate those "sm" words that are hard to spell) or just a pinched nerve in my taut and uptight shoulders due to 48 hours gym deprivation and what was it again that I was on-line looking for.. 

Right - Heathrow, havoc and such. So the paper describes in terms of peril and woe how the UK has ground to a halt. And yet in my little haven, it is anything but at a standstill...  Indeed I can barely gulp down the Nespressos fast enough to keep pace with the rumpus, dressing up and general melee in the second bedroom (just the Offspring at play, I assure you), while colouring the increasingly grey locks and writing the list for the store. You see if the country is at a standstill then the shelves will soon be bare as we all rush out and do our panic buying. And it occurs to me that one cannot really be embracing a "panic buying" opportunity if one is carrying a list and has time to browse for those books the supermarkets sell which are perfect holiday reading - the Lee Childs and the Tami Hoag's and the like (though I did buy two packs of Special K and two Agave Syrup squeezy dispenser things and another dozen eggs and 1.5 kgs of frozen fat oven chips - so a hefty shop by my standards).

And after all of that it was time for lunch and I could suddenly relate to people who say that sometimes they seem to get nothing done... 

I am not so interested in the misery at Heathrow as I seem, I should add. It is merely that Mr Springgirl may not get back for Christmas given that flights from Accra are cancelled for the third day and there must be a lot of passengers to accommodate when they do resume... Now I should say that Mr Springgirl is not one to let the grass grow under his feet and if there is a seat on a flight he will get it. This tenacity, while admirable in many ways, can be disconcerting to the likes of me who tends to stand back to let others in first and hates crowds and so on and would really just like to board at the last minute.... so again, I realise how lucky and blessed I am - despite the whole stuck in doors due to the cold, feeling just a little bit like a caged animal - because I do not have to jostle for a flight, queue with hundreds of desperate travellers and worry anxiously whether I will be home for Christmas.  I am reminded of that carol about being home for Christmas - Bing Cosby sings it on "White Christmas" - which informed me as a girl as to what Christmas really meant - being Australian and sweating over roast turkey and Christmas pudding and praying for a storm to come after lunch to cool things down while we finished the washing up, I really had no idea that Christmas could be cold and dark and full of fear that snow might prevent one from reaching one's loved ones.

Be careful what you wish for - as Mum would say.

And amidst all of that mayhem, and thoughts of "well I really should make the most of the time at home this week and finish the novel", I came across the following (before the Offspring hijacked the computer and watched two straight hours of BBC's Planet Earth):

"Imagine a small cottage in an idyllic country village. It is a very small cottage - 15ft square - probably medieval and rebuilt about 1700. In 2001 it exchanged hands for £50,000 and restored for a further £25,000: what was once garden privy is now a washhouse.
It was bought at the instigation of a single person, who had in mind a single purpose - to make such a space available, rent and running costs free, to a woman over 40 who has need of seclusion and financial security to get on with her written work.
The charity - for such it is - takes its inspiration from Virginia Woolf's famous remark in her essay A Room of One's Own - "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
The woman who takes up residence in the cottage need not be writing novels but must offer some evidence that she can produce written work. She is given £750 a month for living expenses, and most of all, freedom from worry."

Well, one does come across the most astounding things on-line, no?

The mind boggles - a quiet idyll away from worry and responsibility, with living expenses of £750/month, for a year. Mmmm.

I have drafted an application but see a few potential issues.

1. I like my family, friends, colleagues and neighbours and would miss them if away for a year.

2. Heretofore, I have found that two-three hours solitude (say at a movie, or gym and reflexology) are ample for providing a fresh perspective and recharging my energy and motivation. I admit to being lucky enough to have had as many as two weeks away from my family in recent times. Every moment seems a lifetime (in the words of Michael Buble), - but in a very good way - and immensely restful. Much longer and I start to feel cast adrift, anchorless, selfish.

3. If one was to be paid for the privilege of writing - even just expenses of £750/month (nothing to sneeze at) - one would be a lazy cow to not be able to get on with it in one's own house, surrounded by the familiar and well loved.

4. If one could take a year out of life, would one not prefer to have a life changing experience like walking to a Pole or two or learning a new skill, helping someone who otherwise might perish or suffer?

5. I do like a good chat - is one allowed to take a phone?

6. Given I wrote a book over five months sitting on my bed between 8 and 10 pm every night, the pressure to deliver something truly amazing if blessed with a room of one's own for a year would be almost crippling, I suspect.

7. What does one do for inspiration and ideas if one is stuck in isolation? Solitary confinement if you will?

8. Surely the true value of a room of one's own is that it lies within the heart of one's life and existence - at the epicentre of all that one is and does and enjoys, such that one can access it easily and readily (if one can quiet the demons urging one to do and be more all the time). Is this not what holidays and nations grinding to a halt are for after all?

9. I need a gym and decent coffee more than space and time alone.

10. No one is their right mind would expect to win such a prize and return to their old life happy. In my case, the credit that would be owed to Mr Offspring if a year on my own were to be accommodated would be so massive and debilitating as to make the entire project utterly untenable.

I may not know my Virginia Wolf, but isn't the point really to help people - indeed, women - create a "room of their own" within their lives and within their minds? To help them carve out the space and time amidst the responsibility, the striving, the worry, the exams, the rows at school and in the office, the disappointed longings, the doctor's appointments, the pounds gained and the shopping and washing not done (reminds me - put the load on tonight!), to know and express something of themselves? For it is in how we cope with the bad times that we show our mettle and worth? Don't we wish to celebrate the works of fiction, achievement, humour and success that rise from the ashes of real felt life with all of its chaos and pain, rather than spend thousands so that one woman can go and be a hermit?

A room of her own? Hardly - more a cell, a sentence, or a vocation perhaps.

While I won't tell the Offspring, I quite like the crumbs underfoot and the "pictures for you Mummy" piled on the shelf and the fact that I cannot find my purse beneath the half used tissues. I quite like switching key and refocussing, even if only for a second as I gaze upon the sleeping head of my child or a photo of a loved one or the view from my shared room.

I quite like the idea of a room of my own where the door is always open and the real world can enter any time it likes.

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