Well, a lot has happened since I last wrote anything here. Four marriage proposals being, I suppose, worth a passing mention – three made to Peony, two by her best friend, Justine, (“at last we can be the nuclear family John craves”) and one to me. All were turned down. Laurence is now being comforted by a Russian radiographer.
I really don’t mind the radiographer, the only awkwardness in the whole situation being the fact that shortly before we broke up – and in an effort to prevent that disintegration – Laurence somehow wangled me the post of writer in residence at his hospital. I hoped this might prove a sinecure but in fact it’s unpaid and I’m obliged to produce two short stories and three poems a year to justify my title.
I can’t write poetry to save my life or anyone else’s but I’ve discovered a wonderful app (how often do you hear those words these days?) where you simply put in a few basic commands and it juggles with some arbitrary vocabulary and produces a brand new poem for you. The process is, I think, perhaps even more gratifying than had I dreamt up the things myself. You simply have to fill in three basic requests, for example:
Subject: Spleen operation
Mood: sombre, nervous
Form: free verse
And it produces an original – a highly original – creation for your negligible efforts. The most enjoyable part for me is perhaps the wonder of the randomly selected titles, no two ever the same, and rarely do they have anything to do with the poem to which they’ve been attached. My favourites to date have been the gentle nostalgia of Oatcake Britain and the rousing Wash Him!
The short stories I write myself and the process is the same laboured scratching-out exercise it’s always been.
But Peony said to me after reading the last one: “Mum, I despair in your crap brain, I do.”
“Do you? And why is that?”
“Because nobody reads anything anymore. You’re a slag heap.”
“Surely I’m on one rather than actually one.”
(She thinks I prevaricate, can’t face the truth. I just want her to get things right.)
“Enough,” she said. “Just pay attention to me. Don’t think about readers. Think about listeners. Everyone listens.”
“You wanna story? Stick the buds in. Who can be arsed to turn a page?”
As ever I needed time to ruminate. I always dismiss her dismissings of me and then I wish I hadn’t been so dismissive.
And so I present to you – very soon – original podcasts, yes podcasts. Like our earliest ancestors who could not be arsed to turn a page, we now listen to tales told by others and the only difference is that we’re not sitting around a campfire with jackals circling us just out of sight, but we’re pressed up against a whole heap of other jackals in public transport as we head off to work.