Thursday, 7 May 2009


The builders have been and gone, and my computer sits lonely and disconnected, tangle of wires temporarily housed in a waste-paper basket. The longterm 'hole' in my wall - offending fireplace - is newly blocked up and pinkly plastered. I should feel good about this: it was a scar on my aesthetic sense for far too long. But I feel strangely blocked up too: a few days too many without writing. (In the end I came to the gym. Firstly, to quench my nervous energy tapping on the PC in the cafe. Secondly, only secondly, to quench my restlessness by stepping on the treadmill - that's for later). Because, there are those who write, who have to write, who 'need' to write. I am one. The best-selling author Jodi Picault (who's written a novel a year for the past god-knows-how-many; had penned ten even before success; and who has one for each of the next two years already mapped out) talked about this in an interview I read recently. She wouldn't stop writing even if she stopped publishing: "Don't you think that when J.D. Salinger dies they'll find a barn full?" (of unpublished novels), she asks, rhetorically.
It would help me no end to be desperately (as in single-mindedly) churning out novel after novel (preferably published, not in my garden shed!) instead of just desperate. But I'm no Jodi Picault. Or even J.D.Salinger. Just a mum. Oh well.

And there are other, more prosaic, things to do, too many. An absent husband. Busy kids. A wall of flocked cream wallpaper to strip off. The daily grind of life. Recession. Sacrifices. Then guilt - we've got it better than many. Than so many. But this is my life, not anyone else's. A horrible, sinking feeling of desperation, of drowning. My sister-in-law's fortieth today. Mine soon. What have I accomplished in those forty years? A lot, says Hubby. A husband (working all hours, then watching football). Two lovely kids (agreed. Thankyou!). A (ramshackle - Oh God!) house with a (stunning - Thank God!) garden. Lovely friends (sanity) and not enough time spent with them (insanity). Health (priceless). Career? Ambition? (don't make me cry...). Conclusion: I STILL just feel: "Not enough". Sodding 'A'-type personality. Bloody ambition. But: Happy days. And then: days of frustration.

BUT. But, then: driving to school this morning, I turned out of our drive (over the generous cycle path) into the line of traffic trickling slowly down our road. Further up, a car, parked frozen in the position in which it had swerved to turn into a driveway just like mine: diagonally half over the cycle path and half in the road, like one of those matchbox model cars of my son's when flung onto the playroom floor. Off to the side enough for the queue of cars to pass. So, we crawl past. Similarly, half on the pavement and half on the cycle path: a long blue cyclist in tight dark blue lycra, lies there. Somehow, rings a bell. Tall man. Hurt. Mangled bike. Someone runs out of the neighbouring house with a pink flowery blanket. He's not moving. Far away, back in my rear view mirror, the flashing lights of an ambulance stuck in the morning rush. "Someone's hurt", I tell my children, who are wondering what it's all about. "I think someone in a car wasn't looking and hit into a man on a bicycle who also maybe wasn't looking. Cars are hard and people are soft. So the man is hurt. But I think he'll be OK. There's an ambulance coming. That's why we always have to be careful in life, to watch out, to look carefully. So there aren't accidents." My children, quiet, accept this. We move on, turn off the road. End of subject. But I feel strange. I've got a horrible feeling the cyclist is the one who mouthed: "Bitch!" at me the other day. As, already half out of my drive to turn into the line of traffic, he appeared from nowhere and speeded on towards me, in dark blue lycra, racing. And I stopped to let him past - cyclists have the right of way, don't they? And that was fine. Or maybe it wasn't. He had to slow his pace and he didn't like that. And so he mouthed off at me. And I was surprised, a tall obviously middle-class man of my husband's age in expensive cycle gear on a very posh cycle, swearing foully at someone who could be his wife (or maybe that was the point, I'd thought!). I suspected it was him on the pavement this morning, I was horribly sure. The word "karma" came to me and I felt like crying. I could in another life, perhaps, have been the motorist, the car pulled over beside the injured man mine. If fate had had it differently I could have been the driver the police no doubt were questioning when on my return from the school run I saw a bare pavement on the same spot, but a police car too. Then I wanted to cry again. For the cyclist, a man, someone's husband, someone's dad maybe. And for me. Shocked for the man. Relieved for me.

I'm wanting to cry too much this week, in any case. But I stop, and shake myself, and remember to be grateful for what I've got. So, I'm off to the treadmill. The real one, not the imaginary one that sometimes feels, most ungratefully on my part, like my life.


  1. And it's that that gets me on the treadmill: Think of all the people who can't exercise and would love to. Counting blessings, even in the gym is what gets us through. MH

  2. Ooooh. My man cycles to and from work a couple of times a week. *shivers*

    Luckily (!) Sydney traffic is awful and there are no cycle paths in our area, so he takes backstreets and is very careful. Plus he got hit by a car (nasty but no bones broken) a few years back and now stops for red lights...

    I bet lycra man (assuming he's ok) will respect cars a whole lot more when he's back on his bike. Cars are hard and people are soft... which is why I hate motorbikes too.

    And karma's a bitch.