Weeknote, Sunday 26th June 2022

This has not been much of a week. I missed last week’s week note because I was sick: I had been coughing for a few days and generally felt tired and run down. I managed to work through it from Monday to Wednesday, but Thursday decided that I had to take a day off work in the hope that a bit of rest would set me back on my feet. In fact, Friday was worse. The cough continued and I felt absolutely exhausted.

This has been affecting Kim too and at one point on Friday we had decided that this might be something which only antibiotics were going to clear, and so we would call the doctor today (our doctor doesn’t work weekends, but there are emergency services in place). I even looked up what the symptoms were of TB. That’s how bad I felt.

On Friday night I had a terrible night’s sleep, unable to sleep until about 2am, but on Saturday morning I woke up and for the first time in a week felt vaguely human. I am still not entirely well, but I don’t feel the kind of levels of awful that I didn’t. I am still coughing, but instead of being a long, hacking thing it’s now, as the doctors say, “productive” – a sign, I’m told, of being on the mend.

And that meant that finally – after what seems like but probably wasn’t a whole week of being cooped up – I got to go out, down to Whitstable for a couple of hours. First coffee in Blueprint, which has both good coffee and the kind of tiny collection of well-curated books which makes me whimper with delight, and then to Harbour Books.

Harbour is probably my favourite bookshop in the world. Its collection is incredibly well pieced together, with particular prominence to women writers of all kinds. It’s the first general bookshop I’ve seen where there are more women authors on display than men, and that’s incredibly gratifying. What I love about it is that I’m absolutely certain to find a book in there I have not heard of but instantly want to read, often from a new author.

All this lead to a couple of hours of pleasure: sitting in the garden on a bright evening, with a cup of tea and a book to read.

My view from a garden chair (book missing)

Reading

Buyer Beware by Sian Conway-Wood. There are lots of slightly hokey books that I’ve read about consuming less. This is the first one which I’ve seen which not only tackles how to consume less, but looks at both the psychological tricks which manufacturers and retailers used to get you to consume more and takes a view on the way that capitalism itself is structured.

Next in the never-ending book stack is Julian Barnes’ Elizabeth Finch, which I’m actively having to stop myself from diving into instantly (“finish the book you’re reading first, Betteridge!”). You probably already know Barnes is a great writer, but if you don’t, then you really need to know it. There’s an old phrase from Clive James who wrote “all I can do is turn a phrase until it catches the light”, and although James was writing about himself (writing about himself was really most of what he did) it could have been about Barnes.

Writing…

Very much curtailed this week. Writing is one of the things which suffers badly when I’m ill, particularly when I’m trying to fight through it and work. If I work when I’m ill, which I did for the first three days of the week, then I don’t have any energy at all to write in the evening.

What I did manage to write on Saturday was a small wall of angry social media posts. The demise of Roe vs Wade in the US affects many friends and hundreds of millions of women, and it fills my heart with anger and sadness. It put me in mind of Peggy Seeger’s Song of Choice:

In January you’ve still got the choice

You can cut the weeds before they start to bud

If you leave them to grow high they’ll silence your voice

And in December you may pay with your blood…

The weeds are all around us and they’re growing

It’ll soon be too late for the knife

If you leave them on the wind that around the world is blowing

You may pay for your silence with your life

We – I – believed for far too long that the progress we had made on women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights, the rights of minorities was part of a forward march of progress which could never be revoked. Roe vs Wade is the first large-scale unwinding of that, the literal cancelling of a fundamental right for women. We didn’t cut the weeds of fascism early enough, and now we have to work harder to clear them before, as Peggy wrote, it’s too late for the knife.

Watching…

Pistol, Danny Boyle’s utterly brilliant and completely batshit story of the Sex Pistols. What Boyle has done is great: taken fragments of Steve Jones’ book Lonely Boy and turned them into poignant little moments in motion.

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