Peggy came to visit. She came to find some rubbish to read because her daughter has recently died and she is struggling to get going again. I do not know how to offer consolation on such a profound loss. She said: give me some rubbish to read and it’ll help get me going. Then she said: I didn’t do enough and this is why I need to be distracted. Do you ever think that? I said that I think this every single day. She said she has been reading all night long and wakes up suddenly when the book hits the floor. She recently stayed in bed all day with Tolkien and Georgette Heyer. I admire her more than I can say.
Then she said: I am getting old and cannot remember things well. You should put it into words, the details about your children. Also, I am going deaf.
I am thinking of the details.
David came in and said: what are you doing? I said that I am writing some words about each one of my grown children so that I can preserve these details. David is emotional and dramatic. He said: oh I see, I see. He told me to write in images, not in words. But I am unsure of what this means.
A couple, looking through the Hesperus Press editions straightened up and said: our grown children…there are few words to describe it, the grown part. That’s hard.
David said to us all: I do not have any children.
This couple, who had come in for The Canterbury Tales and bought instead The Mill on the Floss said that sometimes they did not always want their grown children to visit.
I am writing just a few words for each one, so that, as Peggy reminded me I will not forget:
I have a daughter and we can argue on anything. We did not start like that but we became like that. We argued on the small things, the big things and then needed to argue on all things; the loss of the toaster, the temperature of cheese, the origin of grain. And then the position of pain, the right to comfort, the clarity of lies, the theft of the past. She is a quarter boy who struck the bell for every quarter hour that I was not honest. This is how I learned to be honest and it is how I learned that honesty is important. I am speechless with criticism and respect.
I have another daughter who can realign the hours and take care of the days. I look to her confounded and follow her example of gentle lists and goals. Together we have enormous quantities of fun and then suddenly she is a stranger to me; brave and fearless. She is completely apart and I am envious of her being completely on her own road. She can sound and show all weathers and allow crying.
I have another daughter who can lie in her own shape and regard unconcerned the future. I look to her with awe and relief that such an attitude is possible and with such bravery and distain. Because I am unable to disregard the hours and days and imagined chores that I need to earn my train pass.
I have a son and I admire him intensely from close and afar. He is rare. He does the things of men. But he can work within all the things of women. Despite my pacing and motherhood fury during his infant days, he achieved all this. There is no more to be said.
I have a new daughter who has joined up with enthusiasm, blended everybody and excludes nobody. She is focussed, generous and excellent. She has the future sketched and is delighted with it and is a gate keeper, making sure that everybody gets though. And we can no longer do without her.
I look at these words and wonder about them. I would show them to David but he has taken his biography of Anaïs Nin and gone home.
A lady bought three books by Ngaio Marsh. She told me that at home she has books open on every surface, everywhere, all the print lying there face up and ready.
A young man said that he does not like the whole world building premise, the land spreading structure etc and this is why he did not read The Wizard of Earthsea even though his dad did.
I am asked for The Nigella Express and for The Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones.
Elaine would like a copy of The Shepherd’s Life. When she drops in she tells me that she is distressed because her daughter, who is 55, will still not answer her mobile phone.