And it was a very enjoyable birthday too.
No basil available, so I put in seedlings of coriander and flat-leaf parsley. As I finished tucking plants into big old terracotta pots and went off to find my watering can, my Giant Dane of a dog clambered up into the pots and trod on the seedlings. I yelled at him and he wagged his tail at me, looking like an ungainly trapeze artist. Only one pot was cracked and a few seedlings survived. Dogs will be dogs.
Had a call from my friend Pia. We used to meet for coffee in the crypt of Hereford cathedral a few years ago. That sounds gothic or a little morbid, but there is a coffee shop or tea room in the crypt and we sat amongst the medieval tombs and obituary stones talking about books and recipes and travel. I loved that cathedral because it had such an unchurchy feel about it, dating back to the 12th century, with a chained library of rare manuscripts including the Mappa Mundi and dazzling stained glass windows in a chapel dedicated to the poet Thomas Traherne. ‘More tea, vicar?’ Pia would say, and we would discuss why female orgasms should always be multiple. Then we would wander around the grassy lawns and steal a handful of ripe black-red mulberries from an ancient bendy tree, sit beside the River Wye and watch joggers running past in the mild summery heat
Pia has suffered from a baffling chronic fatigue syndrome for the last year that keeps her in bed most days of the week. She announced last night that she has decided to become an online hypnodomme.
Pia: ‘Oh it’s the latest thing, everyone on Facebook is joining hypnosis fetish communities. You go online calling yourself Madame Cruella Titibooboo and hypnotise men who want to be hypnotised and erotically dominated by women. You call yourself a sensual hypnodomme and sing to submissive men on Skype until they fall into a semi-conscious state and become amenable to acting out their deepest fetish fantasies.’
Mary: ‘Oh, you mean sex worker stuff? What about stalkers?’
Pia: ‘No, it isn’t sex work at all, this is just a cosy little non-judgmental niche on the web. Very moral and proper except for all the dirty talk. And the men don’t remember what happens under hypnosis, but they send along little horseriding crops and leather boots anyway, just out of gratitude.’
Mary: ‘Earth calling Pia? You can’t sing, you’re tone deaf. This sounds like those dreary encounters in chat rooms we all stopped doing 15 years ago. Don’t give your address to a stranger who wants to send you high-heeled boots and whips. Are you spending too much time online these days?’
Pia (cunningly) : ‘I have the erotic gifts sent to the Anglican convent bookshop for collection.’
I feel a new steampunk novella coming on: Harriet the Sneaky Hypnodomme. All my courtesan fantasies are coming back as fictional impulses, it must be the spring.
On a more sobering note, pun ha-ha, a quotatiuon from Guy Kettelhack’s Sober & Free: Making Your Recovery Work For You. I get very lonely out here in the mountains when the work isn’t going well and there is no phone reception or the Internet goes down, but the difference now is that when I was drinking I felt not only lonely but unlovable, incapable of befriending others or deserving their love. That gave the loneliness a very bleak edge. I don’t agree with Kettelhack that recovering alcoholics or addicts have to look on the human condition with more depth and breadth than others, but self-loathing and shame makes loneliness more of a prison.
“Inescapably, addiction is a disease of isolation, of acute loneliness. . . .
Judging from the intense despair this loneliness can engender in us, the roots
of this feeling of separateness go deep.
. . . in some deep sense, we don’t feel “cared for”. We need only look at our
own individual experience. Whatever the source of the profound disconnection so
many of us feel and have felt (before, during and after drinking and drugging),
few of us haven’t felt disconnected. And for a good reason. In a sense, it IS
true that we’re separate and apart.
. . . one of the bedrock conditions of sobriety is breaking through isolation,
realizing we are not alone. We can’t recover, it seems, without exploring,
celebrating, making rich use of what connects us: we need each other. But also
we ARE alone.
. . . Coming to terms with this inescapable loneness is a challenge to any human
being seeking self-knowledge, but it seems to be especially difficult for
alcoholics and addicts. Addictions often open a kind of window through which
we are forced – in recovery anyway – to look upon the human condition with more
depth and breadth than nonaddicts ever NEED to do. Alcoholics and addicts MUST
examine their pain in order to heal . . . Facing pain isn’t a lot of fun. And
a part of the pain we face in this human condition is the realization of our
But, as with so much else in recovery, we can enter this dark, cold territory
without destroying ourselves; we can approach it with curiosity and care,
knowing there is more to be found in this dark than we realized. What we find
does not have to cripple us. In fact, what we find can lead us to deeper
healing and serenity than we’ve ever known before.”