Every now and again on a Monday morning I seem to lose the urge to earn a living. Even though I am bright-eyed and sober and unreservedly grateful to be this way, I just can’t seem to put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard. So I have been zapping to spam all the homophobic vitriol I received for my comments section yesterday. What is it about the culture of nastiness on the Internet? Recover your humanity please, people. There is a living breathing human being seated here on the receiving end, and being ‘sicker than others’ is no excuse for ignorance or bigotry.
A reminder from my friend Annie K. The sober alcoholic known only as BillW died 25 January, 1971 of pneumonia complicated by emphysema. His own obituary? ‘Just another guy named Bill who can’t handle booze.’ I was particularly struck by his explanation of the principle of anonymity in Alcoholics Anonymous:
“Anonymity isn’t just something to save us from alcoholic shame and stigma; its deeper purpose is to keep those fool egos of ours from running hog wild after money and fame at A.A.’s expense.”
When I was 16 years old, hormonally deranged and keeping a long-winded and savge diary, I came across a copy of the Diaries of Franz Kafka in Kingston’s bookshop, right next to the Confessions of Augustine and the Diary of a Mad Housewife. I bought Kafka with pocketmoney I was saving to buy alluring green eye shadow and took the mention of his ‘pathologiocal sensitivity’ to be a compliemnt because I felt I was exceptionally star-crossed, gifted, irresistible, pathological and sensitive myself. Look at me sideways, would you? I shall leave you stunned and speechless by lowering my sea-green eyelids and batting my spiky indigo-mascaraed lashes.
Anyhow, I loved Kafka and imitated his statacco manner of third-person entries for years. I went on to read him over and over again and search out biographies to find out more about who he was,what shaped him and that bleak but truth-telling vision of our human condition. Now I read that Kafka’s last friend, Alice Herz-Sommer, has died at the age of 106.
“Kafka was a slightly strange man. He used to come to our house, sit and talk with my mother, mainly about his writing. He did not talk a lot, but rather loved quiet and nature. We frequently went on trips together. I remember that Kafka took us to a very nice place outside Prague. We sat on a bench and he told us stories. I remember the atmosphere and his unusual stories. He was an excellent writer, with a lovely style, the kind that you read effortlessly,” she says, and then grows silent. “And now, hundreds of people all over the world research and write doctorates about him.”
And this morning my landlord told me he plans to subdivide and build a second garage that will fill the space now occupied by my garden. I feel heartsick but I have always known this might happen. Human greed. I think of my birds and trees and my heart turns to stone.