In case that you think that while cleaning my house one gentle day, I found a semi comatose artist in one room and a semi comatose mother in another, I am afraid that you are wrong. I am, dear reader, both the semi comatose mother and the semi comatose artist. One body and one soul.
Alan and I set up the A Graceful Death exhibition in Birmingham, and Eileen (www.eileenrafferty.blogspot.com ) and I were there with the poet Penny Hewlett for the opening. I came back from Birmingham for one day during the week, because deeply beloved Youngest Son, the one who is learning to be gentle and sweet, turned 15. Early the next day I shot off back to Birmingham and got on with the opening. Late on Friday, Eileen and I arrived home here and I started to clean. Hello, I said to all who were here. How are you all, lovely to see you, pass the cleaning fluid, and tell me your news. In fact, I said, tell Eileen. I am going to clean the cooker and take out the rubbish and wash the kitchen and bathroom and re-tile the roof. So Eileen sat and listened and I entered an alternative universe and repossessed my home by cleaning it. It is something that I find I have to do; after being away I cannot sit in the house without putting it immediately to rights. It has to be exactly perfect or I will die. Now. I have to do it now. It must be a kind of mental thing, there is no reason for it, but it is rare that I come back from being away and sink with a contented yawn into the nearest chair and say Yeah, whatever, bring it on. I want perfection after being way from my home and I want it now or a comet will drop on our heads. The only thing I couldn't do was hoover because by the time I was ready to hoover at midnight, everyone had gone to bed and not only were they in the rooms I wanted to hoover, with the lights off so that I couldn't see (goddam it), I would have woken them up and they would not then want to make me tea in the morning and let me eat the banoffee pie that was in the fridge. So twitching and frothing, I went to bed too.
On Saturday morning, dear Fatema who had sat in for me here while I was away, caught the train back to her world. I spent the day finishing the housework. And the shopping. And the washing. By late evening, the house was glorious, everyone was fed and I was a shadow of my former self. I looked 80 years old and I had lost the power of speech. I crawled into bed like a man crawling out of the desert into an oasis. Sort of. If the man had only been lost that afternoon in the desert, he had gone the wrong way coming back from the loo behind a sand dune and spent the afternoon being lost and feeling dreadful. Anyway, a man who was not really in dire straights, just a bit needy for the time being, crawling out of the desert into an oasis. That was how I crawled upstairs to bed.
This morning, while lying in bed, I decided to wear my pyjamas all day. I thought that if I did that, my whole life would fall into place. It was a relief to feel that at all times I was connected to my bed, and that it would take no time at all to rush back upstairs and fall into it. It was after all, the place I was dressed for. Oh the joy of putting on a dressing gown and slippers. There was nothing anyone could do - I couldn't possibly leave the house for anything ever, there was a huge barrier between me and the outside world - my pyjamas. They said No! I am mentally and physically deficient, I cannot go further than the front door! Bring me tea! So I drifted from room to room, patting a surface here and smoothing a cushion there. I smiled with a trembling and weary smile when any of the Sons came near me - I am weak, I made it say. Do not ask more of me than my fragile body can manage. I drifted from the kitchen to the sitting room grasping onto the furniture if anyone was watching and holding myself upright. See? I am in my pyjamas and my strength has gone. I hold this furniture because I am spent. Bring me a sandwich or I may collapse behind this sofa; and if they were still watching, I would pass a weary hand over my brow and sigh.
Oh but the house is so clean and tidy today. I am fulfilled. Yes, the exhibition is up and running, yes, Christmas is coming but right now - my house is wonderful and sparkly and I am in it, ready at a moment's notice for bed, and all my world has narrowed down to being hopelessly delighted in a hoovered and polished house. With, of course, lots of lovely flowers and scented candles. I am after all, an artist.
Do you see the tray of tea on the sofa? That is for me! And the big cushions for me to sit on. I can't launch myself onto them, because I am supposed to be a faded, wizened and pathetic creature (until tomorrow) so I stagger from door to mantel piece pausing for effect, and then a face forward fall onto the sofa cleverly missing the tea tray.
Now it is late and time to go to bed. Tomorrow is Monday and it will be a day to get dressed. I need to build up my strength so that come the morning, I will bounce out of bed at 7am with a roar of defiance, and pummel the day into shape. Perhaps. I am still a bit weary...
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