Monday, 14 July 2008
A Pile of Dirty Laundry, Virginia Woolf's Writing Shed and the Use of Chaos Theory to Relate them both to Strange Events
The washing machine broke at the week-end at that precise point when you have exhausted nearly all your clean knickers and are settled in for a mammoth wash. It is far more eco friendly to save up for one big wash rather than throw in just a few items. I know some will happily turn the washing machine on with a tiny load on board. Now I am at last vindicated in my slovenly ways, I feel slightly better that I have offset the odd car journey with a massive load of knickers. Someone very eco official at an information stall on Cambridge market also told me that washing items by hand was less eco friendly in terms of water and energy than doing a load in the washing machine so long as I keep it on eco setting. Thus not only is vindication in my own strange world view achieved but official vindication too. Three cheers for the woman with the pile of pants in the wash-basket. Now attentive readers out there will be joining up the dots from my last post.
No, no there isn’t a connection between heated discussions on the state of poetry and the bursting state of my washing basket although there may be one of those strange causal links like the beat of a butterfly wing and the earthquake chaos theory old chestnut. It is the fly problem I elude to but happily that seems to have abated. As I said earlier the washing machine broke down and as the repair man pulled out the machine I held my breath as to what dreadful thing might be behind it. A dead rat, mouse, frog, hedgehog, badger some tiny corpse that may prove to have been the fly source. I don’t pull my washing machine out to clean behind it, I do not feel guilty about that, it’s too heavy for me to move. Repair man edged it out, he told me lurid tales of what he has found behind washing machines, . What was revealed? A picture frame and some dust , no dead bodies. ‘A picture frame’ repair man said, ‘That’s a first for me.’ I wondered whether he kept a book in which he noted strange finds, a bit like a train spotter or a twitcher. ‘I’ve had food of every description, jewellery, a wedding ring once, bills, magazines, combs, false teeth, a toupee and once a small mummified hamster. All the woman had said, at that call, was that she’d bought the kids a new one when the first had done a runner and she always wondered where he had gone.'
So nothing nasty behind the machine that may have harboured the fly swarm, I felt less judged then. I have got to the stage when I tend to trade off cleaning vigorously or even slightly energetically against writing time. If I am in a fertile phase or a busy phase the house is a tip if I am less driven the house is no where near pristine but it is slightly tidier and the hoover is brought out daily. There is a point though when the house feels so in need that its pitiful voice breaks through the creative mist like Heathcliffe calling across the moors for Kathy in a Kate Bush sort of way and I have to answer it.
Some I am sure have to be in pristine ordered surrounding before they can write or do anything creative. The writer settings I have seen both in photographs and in real life seem also to reflect how different people need different levels of physical order around them. Francis Bacon’s studio was an absolute tip; Jane Austin had a neat little round table in the parlour. In the Guardian series of photographs of writers work spaces there doesn’t seem to be any underlying thread to whether poets, fiction writers, men or women generate different creative spaces. Craig Raine seems a tad chaotic, whilst Andrew Motion and Seamus Heaney seem quite ordered. Virginia Woolf’s small writing shed also looks very neat but it was apparently quite untidy when she was alive, the tidiness owes more to curators than the reality of Virginia’s writing life. Rose Tremain’s is definitely not shed-like but also caters for staring out of the window into the garden. Facing the wall versus a view is also a matter of choice it seems. Barbara Trapido has a little bed which must be really handy for that ten minute power nap that eases itself into a n hour or two’s snooze mid afternoon on a Sunday.
I face my bedroom wall but a turn to my right and I have a stunning view of the side of my neighbours house, a grey wall but to my left I can look out of another window and up the cul de sac and see life wandering by, very diverting to watch children playing out in the street when the words seem a bit constipated. Sometimes I take the lap top to other locations, kitchen, other bedroom, living room but real thinking, real staring time that may result in a worthwhile thought or two is done at the computer desk up in my bedroom. I have been told it is very unhealthy to write in the same room you sleep in, someone even tried to convince me that the wireless router that sits next to my computer and at the foot of my bed will be sending out strange radio waves whilst I sleep, slowly frying my brain. Eventually my mercury fillings will be able to tune me into Classic FM or planet Zod. If I sit up here long enough I can almost forget that downstairs exists at all. I can almost forget that I need to take a bag of washing to the launderette because the washing machine man tells me I need a new heater that will take at least a week to get here. Sod's Law seems at work here however if I let the washing pile up even more the chaos theory may kick in again. Should there be strange happenings in the Bermuda Triangle or a new poetry collection suddenly starts selling as well as Harry Potter then you may have my dirty laundry to thank.