Wednesday, February 06, 2008



Last week was spent rewriting just one chapter, over and over, every day facing up to the same words again, not allowing myself to move on. Pretty miserable. I can't say I got there in the end, it's just less bad. I find it amazing that, after all this time, I'm still finding scenes where I'm getting people to and from places, greeting each other as they arrive. Why haven't I learnt the jump into the action, start late, get out early rule?

Confidence raised a bit by reading some of it out to writing workshop on Monday. The first one I've been to since we've moved. There were just 3 of us and I appreciated the intimacy for my relaunch into reading out aloud. A bit of positive feedback, discovering I was brave enough to read, was a much needed boost after an intense week of lonely struggle. We talked about it a bit. How when you don't have the business-side working in your favour any more it can be very hard going getting through the walls when they hit (in the 'no wonder I'm not published any more' etc etc glums). So I was very grateful for my little bit of attention. The feeling that the novel is nothing more than stone round my neck has lifted and I'm keen to get on again.

A good haul from the library last Saturday. Ed Glinert's Literary London
had me strapping on my moneybelt and setting off northwards. I crossed Holland Park, looking sideways afresh at Holland House (now a youth hostel, you can stay there too! And ooh see from this unaccompanied children from 14 are accepted). Lots of literary connections here, not least it's where Lord Byron met Lady Caroline Lamb. Made my way down to Portobello fruit and veg market, past the flat I used to own (some jobsworth has tarted up the entrance with potted trees and bossy notices telling people not to park, glad I'm out of there) and all my old haunts. Returned homewards with my purple sprouting broccoli, tulips and pears via George Orwell's house. The guide is great in that it doesn't just say where these places are but gives you little stories.

After resigning his commission in the Burmese police force.... in need of a place to stay... the poet Ruth Pitter came up with a sparsely furnished, freezing room in this unassuming little house at the southern end of Portobello Road, next to the pottery studio where she worked. The landlady, a Mrs Craig, has once been a maid to a titled lady and was an insufferable snob. One day Orwell came back to find the occupants of the house locked out and staring hopefully at a window that was open on an upper floor. He suggested they borrow a ladder, visible in the front garden next door, no. 20, but Mrs Craig objected on the grounds that in fourteen years of living in the street she had never spoken to her working class neighbour and could not bring herself to do so now. Orwell relented and had to walk a mile or so to one of Mrs Craig's relatives and borrow their ladder, which he then struggled to carry back. This vignette of the complications caused by middle-class respectability gave him much ammunition in later novels. Pitter, meanwhile, was shocked at the idea that Blair/Orwell wanted to be a writer. She felt he was starting too late and had no income to fall back on, and her scepticism was reinforced when he let her look at his verse. She thought it naive and amateurish, and later remembered how 'we used to laugh till we cried at some of the bits he showed us.' Nevertheless, Orwell pressed on with his ambitions and chose to experience life as a tramp in the slum areas of east London, with some vague idea of collecting research for a book on the subject (what became Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933). Orwell used Pitter's pottery workshop (rather than Mrs Craig's rooms) to change into his tramping clothes, bought from charity shops in Lambeth, and then walked the seven miles east to Limehouse to begin his travails. He left the house for Paris in spring 1928. A Literary Guide to London Ed Glinert

I stopped and looked at the house, and the next door houses, thinking about the ladder problem and wondering which was the kindly neighbour, no. 24 obviously but I didn't take the book with me. The front door looked like him, I thought, sort of olivey green and narrow.

Back home via Kensington Church Street and Ezra Pound's in Kensington Church Walk. I wasn't aiming for this one, know nothing about Pound, so had to look up the story later, 'He rented a first floor room. The flat had no toilet or running water but there was a cast iron fireplace with a hob either side of the bars, as Pound described in his poem 'The Bathtub'. Funny, until now, whenever I've looked at blue plaques on houses, I've always imagined the celebrated artist or poet living there elegantly on their achievements or in some idyllic childhood.

Discoveries, Saunt 2:

Holland Park youth hostel possible solution for daughter's 14th birthday sleepover party.
Market veg not as good as Waitrose (sad, very sad about that).
I don't like the sound of Ezra Pound, or his silly bath poem.
I am glad I don't own my flat any more.
Blue plaques are only grand in retrospect (?) (or something like that).

Am looking forward to Campden Grove (James Joyce), Young Street (William Makepeace Thackeray), Kensington Square (T S Eliot) and Holland Park Avenue (Ford Maddox Ford edited The English Review here & Conrad used to sleep on the floor!).

Talking of famous writers, the security guard is on the terrace doorstep outside our front window talking to a woman next door. Cwoo. Wonder if it's our own celebrated Author, actually In Residence? Or the cleaner. What's the matter with me. What's wrong with cleaners? Why can't I be ooh, it's a cleaner, a wonderful woman. Everybody's wonderful. Anyway, if it is Her, I Will Not Stare.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

1 comment:

liz fenwick said...

Thanks for the timely reminder about entering and leaving and so on.......well done about reading aloud to others. Not sure I could manage that one :-)