Last week, one friend had a cancer scare (clear), another’s husband collapsed with what turned out to be pneumonia, a third’s husband was having a back operation, Wal’s beloved dog died and Lydia had migraine. Misery loves company indeed.
Television was terrible, I couldn’t concentrate on a new book that might be disappointing (I’ve had a couple of those recently) so I re read Hilary Mantel’s two Cromwells, which have for me a unique appeal. There are passages of that lovely writing that sound just like my parents talking. It’s not that they were hardworking Tudor fixers but that the cadence, the music if you like of the language, is wholly familiar and thus very comforting.
My artist friend now renamed Salad because that is how she rendered her name when sending her first email had a birthday and typically, when you go to give her something, she effortlessly returns the compliment. So, upon hearing my son was coming to supper, she gave me organic Jerusalem artichokes which I learned to cook differently, hooray for Nigel Slater. We cleared out the fridge – venison sausages and black pudding panfried with the aforementioned artichokes, an enormous green salad, a reduced bag of banana shallots simmered whole in a mean mixture of oil and butter. It was cold, we were tired, it was heavenly.
In my ongoing celebration of London as a geography lesson with real people, I met an attractive Albanian manicurist, a tall but tiny wand of a self-described Malay Chinese/English girl, a splendid lady from Singapore who explained the validity of that description (Malay is a nationality, not an identity, thank you ma’am): John from Ghana who got out of the cab to stand in front of me saying “In my culture, you only shake hands with a woman if you are on the same level”. I met a translator (of Chinese among other languages) who has spent years in Spain, now relocating here because her daughter is at university. And an apparently talented barrister, and noted the discrepancy between his eyes and his mouth.
When I was about 12, I found two 1930s film annuals in David Smith’s garage and asked his mother if I could have them. “Yes, love” she said absently. “Are they clean ?” I was half out of the door and home to a duster and it was years before I realised what she might have meant. They were full of names I had never heard of and one image that has never gone away – Joan Crawford without jewellery in a full length gold lame trench coat. My mother looked over my shoulder at another face on the page and recognised Miriam Hopkins, whom she described as “the woman who acted with her mouth.” I asked her to explain and she said “People say eyes are the window of the soul – but eyes can lie, or just not tell you very much, or tell you something that the person is at pains to hide. Or the eyes have a concealed message and the mouth sends what message is appropriate.” I began to look at faces very carefully.
The BB (beautiful barrister) had a smile that reached his cheekbones and above them, eyes of cold dark pain and fury. The discrepancy between the two was quite shocking. I’ve seen it before. It’s a disconnect. I mistrust disconnect, it means unresolved difficulties, no peace. And people with no peace of mind lash out.
Nowadays, outside a psychiatrist’s office, we talk of integration as something socially desirable but the first integration is to put the bits of personality together. We may need help for that and recognition before we seek help. Some of us are unwilling to even contemplate the process, too difficult and too uncomfortable. But if you don’t face yourself, you carry your emotional difficulties around and play them over and over, learning nothing about yourself except painfully that you have a pattern and you don’t seem to be able to change it. And you visit them on everybody else.
To be sure, therapy doesn’t work for everybody, especially not the six weeks-to-a-breakthrough kind, but I can never forget the relief of realising that the load was lighter.