This has been the second week of our Minorcan holiday. Mostly it has involved lots of reading and a couple of visits to Ciutadella, the nearest old town to our resort.
First, the reading. I finished reading Dinnerstein The Rocking of the Cradle. My reading of her thesis is that the problems of modern life, the human blindfold race to extinction, is the result of female led caring; that women care for the children while men ‘build the world’. This keeps us all in a state of perpetual childhood, playing out our designated roles; girls become women, become carers of children; boys become men, go out into the world to continually rebuild it. Passive, stay-at-home girls experience this activity-in-the-world vicariously via their men. If the infant-caring role was shared by both genders, she claims, the traditional split in gender personality would not develop. The book concludes with a chilling chapter on how this split is completely f*****g up the world post-Hiroshima as men have to big-up the frightened, Oedipal boy in their psyche while wasting the talents of half the population who could bring a new vision to the mission. Of course she was writing this in the seventies and things have changed some in this respect. But really, there is still a long way to go in my experience.
I started to read Sprengnether The Spectral Mother. This is an intelligent critique of Freud’s failure to recognise the mother in human psychological development. She shows how the mother is a shady character in the background of his theories but he refuses to see her; or rather he ignores her presence because she gets in the way of Oedipus, castration theory and penis envy. I think Sprengnether is an admirer of Freud on the whole, but sees this blindspot in his thinking as a serious shortcoming; and as a possible symptom of his own psychological issues and latent homosexuality.
Ah, the old days when I used to get through six or seven ripping novels on a holiday like this without having to think too much about them.
We took the service bus into Ciutadella, pronounced Seeyou-tadaya, a couple of times in the week. The buses run on time and are modern and comfortable. Except when they drive over ‘sleeping policemen’ or other bumps in the road. The suspension on the bus was a bit hard and the fourth thoracic felt every bump. But oh my, it was so worth the discomfort. Ciutadella is a gorgeous little city. Its Cathedral is welcoming and has no dress code for visitors as churches in some Mediterranean towns do. Our tickets to the Cathedral admitted us to a convent as well: ‘left out of the door, then left again, then right’. We never found it. But we did stumble into an ongoing church service in a building we assumed was the convent on account of the cross on its roof; it was a parish church, the service being read in Menorquin. When we left the church, we walked the cobbled streets, looked in the quirky little shops, did some gift shopping – and a bit of sale shopping for me. We found the harbour and climbed the town walls to get a good view of it and of the old fortress walls. Minorcan invasion has been attempted lots of times in its history but has never succumbed, the brave Minorcans have always resisted the invaders. We had an al fresco lunch, a huge vegetable paella for me, and shared a litre of Sangria in the sunshine in a square shaded by pine trees. The bus took a longer route back to Santandria as it completes a circular route, so we got to see a lot more of the local area during the journey; win win.
We came home on Friday, had to be up at 5.30 to catch the airport transfer. From the front seat of the coach we watched the sun rise like Professor Fate’s big red balloon. I tried to capture it on my iPhone, but of course all the phone camera saw was a light in its lens. The airport has sorted out its systems superbly and we were through check-in and security in a pleasantly short time. The flight home was comfortable – well as comfortable as you can dare to hope on a package tour flight – and the landing was the softest landing I ever experienced. We were home and unpacking by two o’clock in the afternoon. I love going away, but I really love coming home and restoring my life to normal. So I put a load of washing in and looked forward to getting down to work – i.e. writing – on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning arrived and after breakfast I started to get myself together for work, then a most extraordinary thing happened. Since the accident I had been sleeping in the guest room on my own, worried about having my back knocked in the night by Bill’s thrutching about in bed. So, I went into the guest bedroom to collect some personal and work belongings and I was overcome by the most overwhelming sense of sadness. I just burst into tears. I can’t explain this even to myself, so don’t ask. I know it wasn’t to do with the holiday being over, because I was glad to be home. I think it was being in that room and facing what it meant to be there before the holiday, with its connotation of pain; that is to say it was some kind of delayed reaction to the accident, something I had to get off my chest. And of course, I think I might have been tired from the flight the day before; but it wasn’t conducive to work, that frame of mind; so I ducked out, concentrated on the laundry and pampered myself with a pot of rooibos and an episode of Vera. No, I know it’s not going to get the work done, but I’ll be hard on myself in the week and really knuckle down. Promise. I’m not someone who normally needs to talk herself into work, it comes naturally to me. Then my lovely daughter rang while I was in this depression and that cheered me up no end. She is taking me to visit my son and his family in Telford tomorrow. My grand-daughter has had this wonderful idea that it would be good to take a family holiday in Cornwall next summer to celebrate my seventieth and my daughter’s fiftieth birthdays, so we’ll be doing some planning for that tomorrow I expect. Does Perranporth know what’s coming, though?
On Saturday afternoon, I drove my car for the first time since the accident. We went to do a week’s shopping, to stock up on sensible, fat-restricting foods, so I reversed my neglected car out of the garage and drove to Tesco, Bill in the passenger seat. I scared the whits out of him by doing an emergency stop, the NHS test of readiness to drive. The fourth thoracic survived the stop, so that’s another step on the road to recovery; although when we got home I had to pop a couple of pain-killers so I think it will be short journeys only for a few weeks until I can do it without recourse to Tramadol! It felt good to be behind the wheel though. I have two Batchelor degrees and two post-grad degrees but I always say the driving test is the best qualification I ever took.
And when I think how nervous I was to do it at the time. Who was it said we have nothing to fear but fear itself? Roosevelt, I think. Anyway, I used to be phobic about escalators once until I forced myself to face that fear and step on one in M&S, Ashton-u-Lyne. I stood at the foot of that escalator for ages, plucking up the courage, until security staff were looking suspiciously at me so I had to act. I remember that awful tingling under the soles of my feet as I stepped on; I ride escalators anywhere now, even those long reptilian ones in London’s underground. The point of this is that I am becoming a bit ‘stair-phobic’ since my fall, especially faced with hard and unforgiving stairs like stone steps you sometimes come across in the street. I get to the bottom of the stairs and my face remembers how the stairs in Costa rushed up to meet it and I recoil at the memory. But I will beat that one too. I’m a tough old bird, I can do this!
So that’s my week in brief; well relatively brief. I haven’t got a poem to post this week but I have been giving a lot of thought to my idea of a verse drama while reading Dinnerstein and Sprengnether. It is beginning to look to me like an exciting idea, one worth developing. I need to speak to Jean Sprackland in the autumn; and possibly to Amanda Dalton at the Exchange Theatre if she can spare the time to offer some advice. I’ll leave you with that thought; and I’ll keep you posted on progress.
Have a good week, whatever you are doing.