Sometimes I fall on the keyboard with enthusiasm, thinking oh good, I can write about that for annalog : about the Chilean lady of the new family moved in up the road, a real delight, and meeting the Jungian who helped me face up to my part in the failure of my second marriage on the bus – of course, the bus – would I have a life without a bus ? How the magic of her unthinking perception and Louise Gluck’s wonderful poem Hesitate to Call changed the game. I want to tell about the garden, in that last blush of growth and warmth as autumn is and winter calls, the pleasure of the programme on Auden on BBC2 last night and Anna Jones’s recipes in the Sunday Times colour magazine – the first time I have really wanted to cook something new for ages, no moody stuff with overrated kale, pineapple and some hifalutin’ spice combo you know you’ll never use again. My mind is like a stuffed shop.
So I make lists. I don’t make them every day and I don’t fixate about them but I do make a note of things. Otherwise I’d just hide in a book. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions which all too often become a case of ”now I’ve acknowledged it so I don’t have to do it” ie drink less, exercise more, have one night a week with all the communications media switched off, one night a week off (not the same night). Resolutions of that kind are omnipresent chez Raeburn, addressed every other day if not daily. I am a great believer in one day at a time – only do Monday on Monday.
I have a book list in the notebook I am rarely without. Every so often, I read through and dump things I have tried to remember for too long. Other things stay with me (or have more descriptive titles) and I work my way towards them. I keep notes of films I love or want to see, of artists I admire
and every so often of some cosmetic wonder that is going to work a miracle on my face or my hair – though I should add these get crossed off faster than anything else except shopping items.
I have a Big List – new boiler, ring the gardener, sell Pop’s medals (? son), renew passport. And a weekly list – call the IFA (not next week, he has exams), book the inhouse soft furnishings cleaners (once a year), dentist (this side of Christmas or yon ?).
I have a daily list – milk, potatoes, salad, rubbish bags, citrus, call the plumber (about the new boiler, a domestic god which murmurs and is every bit as unknown and frightening to me at the stone heads at Easter Island.) And I do try not to just slide things from one day’s list to another, though the list is not conventual rule and I don’t go anywhere unnecessarily in the rain.
There is a small sense of achievement if I work through several things on a list. At other times I wish I had never started but acknowledge that now, there is only one way – forward – no going back. Forward is frightening, the boiler again – but I can’t rip the darned thing off the wall and throw it away, however much the idea currently appeals to me. I knew what I was doing when I embarked on it though the midwives of domestic improvement probably lie as much or more than the ones who deliver babies. “It will be fine” and “Don’t worry” are not phrases that do a lot for me. It will be fine – for whom, I want to know ? And as for don’t worry – it is the only thing I do to Olympic standard.
There isn’t a list for everything. Some things you don’t plan to do – you just do – like the amount of effort I have put into my nails this year, having all the strength in my Samson hair and nails like tissue. There isn’t a list for the woes of the world – it would be too long. But putting an item on a list acknowledges it and crossing it off says it’s done – or “well begun is half done.” Thank you, Nanny McPhee.