Saturday, December 27, 2008

A notebook is something to be loved

I am enlivened by 'Bennett's Dissection' in the LRB. 'Around 1964 I took to carrying around a notebook in my pocket in which I used to jot down scraps of overheard conversation, ideas for plays, sketches and (very seldom) thoughts on life'. Hurrah! There's hope for me I scribble in the margin before reading the notebooks became 'a reproach, a cache of unused and probably unusable material'.

Oh well! I soldier on. The current notebook (orange, on top of the pile) is nearly three-quarters full. I detoured from my last minute shopping on Christmas Eve to Liberty to choose the next one. Unless, like me, you are obsessed with clean pages and the smell of leather as you read and write, you won't understand the anticipation and the excitement this provokes. A notebook is something to be loved, cherished and fondled.

I love a layer of frost - particularly when I can simply gaze out the window onto it. I call these crunchy mornings. They make me happy inside. Today, however, is different. The problem with deciding to leave your car somewhere (to have a drink) is having to go back for it. Romford beckons (before the parking restrictions kick in out side my parent's house at 8.30am).

I wrap up new socks, new top, new jumper and new cashmere mittens on a string. (I do remember to put on my old jeans, old trainers and old coat too in case you're wondering). I walk briskly through Upney, a slight incline you only notice on foot or bike, towards the no. 5 bus, and eye a stretch of pristine frost-encrusted grass. The noise I want is precise: a crisp, clear crunch. I check over my shoulder before pulling my arms back and propelling myself forwards and up. My two-footed landing is met with a disappointing damp sloosh.

I must have heard the news of Harold Pinter's death on the radio. The television has been unplugged and removed to make way for the Christmas tree. With the exception of my sister's partner we all thought this perfectly normal behaviour on my mother's part.

E: That's sad.

E: I saw the Caretaker when I was in Swansea at uni.
W: Was it good?
E: I don't think I understood it.

A colleague recently explained to me something about teachers and stress. Apparently, it takes a zillion days of consecutive holiday for the stress levels of a teacher to decrease to those of the average person. (You may be able to tell I was paying really close attention to these facts; anything to do with the Union currently leaves me cold - another reason, no doubt, to back up Pat's theory that one day I will be a Conservative MP). I spend all term somewhere on the spectrum between very stressed and breaking point. I leave all this behind on holiday. Very quickly.

Holidays are for luxuriating in your pyjamas on the sofa. All you need for company are a few good books, a pen and a notebook. A window with a view of trees, birds and squirrels , for staring at intermittently and ordering your thoughts, is helpful but not obligatory. Combine these days with those spent tramping the streets of London with a camera (and a notebook) and the odd trip to the Tate or a museum and you have a happy, relaxed teacher.

Admittedly, I don't manage to sit on the sofa all day. It may be conjecture (one of the flaws of an otherwise enjoyable book) but I (possibly) find myself in good company:

While reading Wilde would have been in constant motion, lifting objects to this mouth, such as food, paper, pens, drinks and cigarettes. According to his friend, the author and caricaturist, Max Beerbohm, Wilde had 'the vitality of twenty men'. We can imagine him hastily hunting the pages of the volume in front of him and rapidly scribbling lines in his notebooks as he did so. And, when the tension and restlessness became acute, Wilde would have risen from his chair or divan and paced around his library. He must have frequently walked across to the bookshelves to check a reference, or over to the fire to dispose of a half-smoked cigarette.
Oscar's Books. Thomas Wright.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wilde's vitality comes through in Betjeman's famous poem.