Christmas Retreat

This Christmas has mostly been about recovering from minor arthroscopic surgery to correct a torn meniscus in my left knee.  My stitches came out on 19 December and I had hoped to do a lot of writing because, coincidentally, my husband and two grown-up children have been visiting a close family friend in Australia for two weeks so I’ve had the house to myself.  The truth is, not a lot of writing has been done and  I’ve missed my noisy, demanding, distracting, annoying but totally fantastic family very very much –  far more than I thought I would – and they’re not back until January 4!

But I have established a kind of routine, including exercising to increase and improve my mobility post-op, and I have completed some boring but necessary jobs that I’ve been putting off for far too long.  These include donating old poetry magazines to charity shops, reshelving poetry books that have been piled on the floor and making room for my own books by putting some of the children’s books into storage.  I know, exciting stuff.

Exercising on a new static bike – a present from husband, Andrew –  has been a wonderful opportunity to listen to the radio.  In fact, rediscovering the vast catalogue of dramas and dramatisations available on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4Extra (via the BBC Radio iPlayer app which I connect to my Bluetooth speaker)  has been one of the key pleasures of my holiday.  Cycling away on my bike, I’ve listened to and enjoyed dramatisations of Daniel Deronda by George Eliot,  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and ghost stories by M R James.  I’m now listening to readings of Sylvia Plath’s Letters.  I can’t help but feel inspired by her energy, her hard work, her ambitions, her hopefulness, even knowing how badly everything turned out in the end for her.

I’m catching up with these recent issues of poetry magazines:

and I’ve finished reading Helen Dunmore’s novel A Spell of Winter (I’ve been carrying it around for years) which I found rather bleak.  I’m now reading Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.

I’m attached to Elizabeth Taylor’s writing because it was reading her novel Angel on a holiday in Brittany ten years ago – again a book that I’d carried with me for years without ever reading –  that set me reading and writing again, after a long spell of not being able to read or write, after my children were born.  My recent knee operation, my general lack of speed and thoughts of my ageing body are making me empathise with the elderly Mrs Palfrey and her fellow inhabitants of the Claremont Hotel perhaps a little too readily.  I admire the way Taylor writes about age and ageing very much.

I’m also dipping into these hefty volumes.  Lifting them and carrying them from bed to sofa to bed counts towards my daily exercise regime.

On TV, again using BBC iPlayer, I’m remedying my ignorance of classic novels by watching filmed adaptations of them.  Emma and Brideshead Revisited are two I’ve enjoyedI finally watched Alan Bennet’s The Lady in the Van which I thought was wonderful and I also liked Agatha and the Truth of Murder (on Channel 5) – a new dramatic variation on what happened during Christie’s eleven day disappearance in 1926.  Click and Collect (BBC One) was warmhearted and fun and, on Netflix, I was blown away by Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (reviewed in the Guardian here) a biographical film about the director’s childhood in Mexico City.  I should warn you that there is a devastating scene of a stillbirth in this film.  I am hopeless at describing what anything is about, as you have probably realised,  so I urge you to read the review and see the film.  Although it has been released through Netflix, there are some cinema showings – I would certainly love to see this film on the big screen.

So, more or less, you now have some kind of idea of what I’ve been up to in recent weeks.  There has been some writing and perhaps this blog post will prick my own conscience into accomplishing more before my beautiful family return home.  Best wishes to you all for a reasonably happy and healthy New Year.

15 thoughts on “Christmas Retreat”

    1. Thanks, Peter! Actually, I really don’t want visits! I’m not lonely but I am missing the family. It’s quite weird. Strangely, I think it might all turn out to be good for my strange creative process. I urge you to see Roma, by the way. Fantastic, non-condescending portrayal of working class women’s lives in service. Love to you and yours xx

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love your blog posts Josy and enjoyed reading about your solitary Christmas. How strange it must have been compared to others you would have had! I’m glad you weren’t lonely: I guess because you knew it was temporary! Happy new year to you all and glad your knee op is done and mending. Karen x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this kind message, Karen! Yes, you’re right, it’s because I know it’s temporary that I haven’t really been lonely. I think this temporary absence has made me more grateful for what I have and for my family. In many ways, this is a blessing, and is surprising because I thought that I did value my family very much. It’s also made me realise that I probably do need some noise and chaos around me in order to write! Very best wishes to you and yours. J xx


  2. Hi Josephine,
    Glad to hear you are coping with your post-surgery recovery and empty nest so positively. I’ve always thought that a good routine can help enormously with most vexing situations.
    Also enjoyed Roma on Netflix but found the stillbirth scene harrowing and upsetting. But what a film! So many memorable moments and potential still-shots.
    Looking forward to our February Stanza meeting. Hopefully we’ll all be back in our writing routines by then (for I, too, have lapsed…)
    Take care of yourself,
    Sarah x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post, Josephine. I’m glad your knee is mending and that you have your exercise bike and have listened to so many interesting programmes. I’m sure you do miss your family. My daughter has been living/working/travelling in various parts of Australia since May and now is on holiday in the Phillipines. Two years ago at Christmas she took off to Thailand by herself for 6 weeks. Needles to say I miss her but I admire her greatly. It was good to catch up at Aldeburgh. Have a great 2019. Pam x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Pam. It was brilliant to see you and to hear you read at Aldeburgh. I can well imagine that you miss your daughter, who looks so full of life and intelligence in the photos you’ve shared of her in various places. I’m sure she knows how much you love and admire her and I hope you spend some time together soon. Love and best wishes for 2019. J xx


  4. I hope that your knee continues to get better and that you do get some writing done before your family return.
    I didn’t know you can listen to Sylvia Plath’s letters being read I shall go and find them.

    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some good recuperative reading there Josephine. Elizabeth Taylor’s novels are just the ticket. I’m recovering from an op too and enjoying browsing through ‘I am the Seed that Grew the Tree’ – a beautiful new nature poetry anthology by Waters and Preston- Gabon (for children but definitely for adults too) and also though recipe cuttings to plan our winter meals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Best wishes for your recovery, Sue. I like the sound of that anthology – especially as I’m planning some climate change writing workshops for schools at the moment. I wish I could be organised enough to plan meals – it’s something I imagine doing but rarely succeed. Happy New Year! – Josephine

      Liked by 1 person

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