Wednesday, 29 February 2012

March 1st: The Faber Social at Selfridges

I'll be there tomorrow at 7pm, with Linda Grant, Ali Smith and Alex Clark. Thrilled to be included in such a wonderful lineup.
Meanwhile, apologies for silence -- I've been wrestling with what I hope is my new book, goimg up, down, and all around; finally, in the last couple of days, it feels closer to being right, but I don't want to tempt fate by saying so.
Anyway, here we are on the last day of February -- an extra day, which is a blessing, perhaps, though I am longing for winter to fully retreat (but never wish away days, I know; they are too precious for that). I've had the same hacking cough and sore throat as most of the rest of London, but lucky to have an afternoon with my mother at the Royal Academy's Hockney exhibition, which was glorious, despite the crowds. She was (and is) a very wise guide; and Hockney's landscapes are vivid reminders, amongst other things, of the particular joys of each of the four seasons. I hope that doesn't sound horribly Pollyanna-ish, to anyone who is gripped by the mean reds or wintry blues (I've been there myself), but the London sky was beautiful at six o'clock this evening, when darkness had not yet fallen. Tomorrow, will it be spring?

Monday, 13 February 2012

A ring of truth

Herewith this week's Closet Thinker: an alternative Valentine, with thanks, as always, to Mio Matsumoto for the lovely illustration.

This is the weekend when journalistic tradition demands that readers are advised to buy suitably romantic items, to wear our hearts on our sleeves and flash rings on our fingers, in readiness for Valentine’s Day. But having gone through the acutely unromantic experience of divorce, I know how unhelpful it is to be urged towards displays of tender coupledom; indeed, it was only three years ago that I spent the evening of February 14th watching ‘The Wrestler’ on DVD with my friend Susan (a double date after her bereavement and my separation), and very therapeutic it was too, seeing Mickey Rourke being slammed into the ground.

That said, I have come to realize that rings are to be treasured, encircling as they do the rituals, romances and losses of a life. Those I wear now are from my mother; on the middle finger of my right hand, a diamond that she was given by her mother-in-law, my Russian grandmother, who brought it as an émigré, fleeing from persecution (a jewel that could be slipped into a pocket, one of the very few valuables her generation carried into safety). And two other maternal inheritances: a delicate coral ring, and a Victorian garnet Рthe gem clasped in tiny gold hands Рin memoriam of her maiden name, Garnett.

My wedding ring is in a safe place – no longer worn, but impossible to forsake (my ex-husband is, after all, the father of our two beloved sons). I didn’t buy myself a divorce ring, although it did occur to me that some sort of ritual might have been appropriate (certainly not a party, but perhaps an emblem to represent the long legal and emotional process). If I were to have wanted a non-Valentine’s piece, I might have found a suitable design by the young British jeweller Claire English; her gold Smouldering Spent Match ring, for example, or a silver Wishbone ring (£225 and £115 respectively, from Elizabeth Galton Studio).

Instead, rather magically, I woke up on Christmas morning to find a moonstone in my stocking; at least a century old, but still shimmering with a silvery gleam. I’m not wearing it quite yet – it is being set in white gold, at John Lawrence jewellers in Hatton Garden (one of those long-standing, traditional workshops that are reminders of the subtle overlaps between the past and the present in the city, and perhaps in an emotional landscape, as well). When the ring is finished, it will be slipped onto my engagement finger; for yes, there is a life after divorce, and beyond Valentine’s Day, as well…

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A park full of snowmen

Wandering around my local park, where the snowmen are still standing after the weekend snowfall -- frozen statues, but also like children's drawings come alive -- and I was reminded how they can occasionally look as sinister and evocative as scarecrows, while others seem more innocent. The ice on the ground is stubbornly refusing to melt, up here in the wilds of north London; so the snowmen remain, for now. At night, in the quiet park, I wonder if they are watching each other; I can't imagine them flying, but whispering, perhaps...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Blue skies and ice in Tillypronie

It's very, very cold in London -- the primroses in my garden are in danger of freezing, though I'm hoping the micro-climate of kitchen warmth will keep them from harm (thanks to simmering beef casserole for dinner last night and pasta with anchovies, pancetta, courgettes and broccoli this evening; yum yum). Dashed up to Scotland for 24 hours on Sunday afternoon -- plans to make, an even icier garden to explore -- and then made it back to London in time for supper on Monday. Since then, have been hibernating and writing at home; hoping that the fragile new beginnings of a book just taking shape...