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 enjoyed. I 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.