I win the award!
Thank you for voting!
Himself goes to yoga!
Oh yes amigos, an action packed month but first and foremost, thank you so much for voting for me in the Irish book awards because I won and I was THRILLED, mes amies, really really thrilled and it’s all down to you, so thank you very, very much. I felt validated and understood and accepted and all kinds of emotions that, frankly, are very alien to me.
And THANK YOU for the veritable torrent of sympathy and advice that has arrived about my appalling feet. Nothing I’ve written before has ever generated such a passionated, inflamed, empathetic response. In the words of that great sage and poet, Sting, ‘Seems I’m not alone in being alone.’ I’m far from being the only person in the world who is mortified by her feet. Vaseline jelly worn with socks and left on overnight is a recommendation that I’ve tried and have found helpful, thank you very much. In fact Bliss do gel socks that I must get because then the sock doesn’t absorb any of the ‘ungent’ (I love that word) so that it all goes on the feet. Has anyone tried the PediEgg? I saw it on telly being advertised and my ears perked up. It looks good, but is it?
Then the day after the award, myself and Himself went to France on a walking holiday. I know it must seem that my life is one big holiday but honestly it isn’t, it’s just that there was a gap in the schedule, the new book had gone off for the copyediting and there was nothing for me to do for a little while and soon enough I’ll be doing the proof-reading so you’ve got to take your chances where you can find them, so we went to France. Also I feel so guilty about reporting going on holiday in these horrible financial times but if it makes you feel any better, this was a very cheap holiday because we were spending our days walking at no financial cost and staying in very basic places (lino on the floors, extremely small rooms so that one of us had to stay in bed while the other of us got dressed, that sort of thing. Also no tellys, not that it would have made any difference seeing as I can’t speak French.) So we had the cost of the ferry and the petrol, which obviously is an expense but it’s a bit different from going to Reethi Rah in the Maldives and staying in a villa with it’s own pool and a butler for 2 weeks. (I spend a lot of time on the interweb looking at it and dreaming...) So anyway, off we went to France, to the Auvergne.
Have you heard of it? Probably not. No-one seems to have. It’s a volcanic region – the place is RIDDLED with extinct volcanoes – and the book said it was very remote and I had visions of inbred peasants throwing stones and shouting ‘Allez chez vous!” at us as we tramped past in our walking boots and rucksacks but the book had it ALL WRONG. It was STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Lakes and yes, hills, indeed you could call them mountains. And – this is the best bit – meadows full of wild flowers, wild daffodils and violets and foxgloves and poppies in the hedgerows and butterflies and all of that reminded me of the way rural Ireland used to be before they started using pesticides and killing off all the wild flowers.
And there were cows in the fields and goats and sheep and – unsettlingly – llamas. Yes, llamas. The Peruvian type, not the Tibetan. Twice I saw them. Once, I would have put down to a fragile state of mind. But twice made me think that I probably wasn’t imagining it. And not once were stones thrown at us. We met hardly anyone but the few ancient oul fellas on tractors we encountered were very nice and SALUTED us, like actually saluted us, like we were in the army. It’s funny because my mother is a rural type and she uses the word ‘salute’ when she means ‘greet’ or ‘wave.’ But I didn’t realise it was something that LITERALLY happens.
So we walked miles and miles every day. 13 of them. Miles not days. 6 days. Then in the evenings we would arrive at our lino-floored billet and eat enough stodgy food to sink a battleship. Yes, the food was fascinating. Completely not what I expected from French food which I always associate with complicated reductions and creamy sauces and general gussied-up fanciness. This was proper rural stodge, their signature dish is half-an-acre of potatoes, mashed with a warehouse full of cheese and 112 pints of cream and the side of a pig. The PORTIONS, amigos. MASSIVE. Like rural Ireland, where the woman of the house feels she has failed as a hostess if her dinner guests don’t spontaneously develop a hernia in the course of the dinner. And for breakfast there was no chopped fruit or granola or ‘life-style’ food, what you got was a ginormous croissant and a bucket of coffee and I was fecking DELIGHTED because I live for carbs, live for them and adore croissants but won’t let myself eat them because of the continual war that rages between my appetite and the size of my arse. But I had no choice but to eat my ginormous croissant because there was nothing else and I had a hard days walking ahead of me, so it was great. Then we’d buy cheese and stuff to bring for our lunch and one day I insisted we purchase 10 slices of parma-style ham, only to discover many hours later when we’d collapsed beside a lake to refuel that it wasn’t parma ham at all, but raw bacon. A low moment, amigos. Yes, some disappointment and – sad to say – a shameful attempt to reapportion the blame, as I sought to absolve myself of responsibility.
So while I was walking every day and spending far too many uninterrupted hours in my own head, I had a great idea for a new book. I was full of joy and enthusiasm and all those emotions, but then I woke up the next day and realised that the idea was cack and as I write I STILL have no ideas and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I picked an awful bloody time to have to look for a new job. But another thing that was in my head while I was away was my beloved yoga. Oh yes! I am a yoga type now. I even did it while I was away. I made Himself get into the bed so I could do my sun salutions every evening when we arrived at our new hotel. And I was thinking… about compassion. Compassion for ourselves. And how bad we are at it. Well. how bad I am at it. And about all the stuff I read to try and combat it. Rumi and the like. Do you know Rumi? Oh amigos, do yourselves a favour! He is so kind. He really understands human suffering. I have to quote something for you.
‘Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.’
Is that not wonderful? And comforting? And inspiring? And here’s something else I found. In the Sunday Times magazine Tim Lott wrote about living with uncertainty. ‘We tend to fantasise about eliminating uncertainty so that the world can be safe… the first thing to note about uncertainty – or insecurity, the uncomfortable feeling it produces – is that it is intrinsic to a dynamic existence… insecurity is inescapable.’ And one more and then I’ll stop. Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart says - I’m paraphrasing here but basically what she says is that when we’re in emotional pain, we think it’s a mistake, something that needs to be remedied. ‘We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that.’
And I’ve read THOUSANDS more kindly books and poems and articles so I was wondering if I could hire the parish hall on say, a Wednesday evening and people could come and lie down and I’d cover them with a nice blanket (Designers Guild do lovely colouredy ones) and encourage them to breathe and then I’d say all these kindly things, then I’d put on Earth Wind and Fire or Sister Sledge and we’d get up and have a little dance and all go home feeling a bit better. What do you think? Is there a market for it? Or am I making a terrible eejit of myself? In fairness I am only joking. But I like thinking about it, it fills the empty spaces in my head where a new book should be.
In the meantime and despite my feet, I’m still doing the yoga and LOVING it. So much so that I made poor Himself come, even though he was nearly crying and saying he didn’t know a downward dog from a hole in the ground and it would be all girls and everyone would laugh at him and he didn’t want a pink mat and did I not have any other colours. But he came and claimed he enjoyed it. However, he was been disappointingly vague when I’ve asked him if he’ll come again. (He’ll only go to the Tuesday evening class because the teacher is a man, lovely Frank.) But we’ll see! So what else? At the start of the month we went to see Bob Dylan and amigos, what a bag of shite! All of it, awful! Firstly it was on in the 02 Arena in Dublin which has been newly done up and I was told it was now magnificent, that and I quote ‘you’d barely know you were in Ireland.’ But the night I was there the ceilings were oppressively low and I was with Himself and we were trapped in these claustrophic corridors with horrible malign blue lighting, trying to find our seats but there were no signs and everyone looked lost and scared and were lurching towards me, pints in their hands and menace in their eyes. Then! THEN. The place was fecking enormous and I was about 4 miles from the stage and there were no screens, so far away in the distance I could see an ant that might have been Bob Dylan but I had no way of knowing because a) I couldn’t see and b) he didn’t SOUND like Bob Dylan. He sounded like someone with the dry heaves. Have you ever had the dry heaves? Probably not, because you’re probably not a recovering alcoholic. But if, like me, once upon a time, you began your day doubled over, with your stomach trying to leave your body via your mouth, you will be familiar with the strange, gutteral, throat-chokes of dry heaves. Well, this was EXACTLY what ‘Bob Dylan’ (I’m convinced it was a body double) sounded like he was doing, when he was meant to be singing. And he was so ungracious. He didn’t even say hello to the audience. Last year I had the privilige of seeing Leonard Cohen and he was so LOVELY, so humble and grateful and generous and loving and it was such an uplifting experience and I suppose I thought that Bob Dylan would be lovely too but he wasn’t.
So there we are, May. The copyediting is done, the next phase is the proofreading, then the middle-of-the-night my-book-is-shit panic. Has anyone read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel? It’s magnificent. It’s about Oliver Cromwell and it’s so compelling. I’m sure I had much much more to tell you, mes amies, I can’t for the life of me think where all my thoughts have gone. Oh yes! I met the Hoff on Saturday night, I was on the last ever Tubridy Show and he was on and he’s hilarious and very gracious and was posing for photos with everyone and sang songs after the show finished. A living legend. Very tall. Great fun. The only moment he seemed to part company with reality was when he asked the woman doing his make-up to put in his contact lenses for him.
Also – this is worthy of comment – the weather in Ireland is beautiful. The sun is splitting the stones AND it’s a bank holiday. I don’t think these 2 events have ever overlapped before in modern history.
Cosmetic news of the month – Clinique had brought out a new powder to combat redness, which the skin on my nose suffers from. It’s called Redness Solutions Instant Relief Mineral Powder and I have found it to be very impressive. The relief is indeed instant – my red nose disappears and becomes a more normal colour, fitting in with the rest of my face and because it’s mineral powder it’s very light so there isn’t a load of yellow powder sitting in obvious fashion on my nose. Also after a while of flirting with other eye creams I have reembraced Dermalogica’s (what is the exact name, I’ll have to go and find it.) Right, I have it. It’s Multivitamin Power Firm and it’s like being reunited with an old friend. It’s my favourite. I didn’t mean to flirt with other ones, it’s just that I ran out and I had some other stuff in the drawer, but I just love it and it’s also for around the mouth and I sincerely think it changes the look of the skin around my mouth too.
I hope, wherever you are, you’re keeping well and enjoying the good weather, if indeed you are having good weather. Remember – be earth, be crumbled, you’ve been stoney for too long... humour me, I mean no harm. Thank you again for all your kindness, for the voting and the advice on the feet and for not judging me and my Rumi-stuff. Have a lovely June and thank you for reading this.
Lots of love