Up before 5am on a chilly clear Sunday morning, stars bright and no dew on the grass. The housemate opening the security gates so she can drive out, the dogs called in from the enclosed yard and the back door bolted, security lights switched on in the garden. What I would give to not have to live like this, the awareness of danger always too close, too much of a possibility.
But reality is what it is. Some realities can be challenged and changed, some realities must be accepted. We work for change, for a kinder and more equitable society, and at the same time adjust and brace ourselves to survive in a reality that is not equitable and certainly not kind or safe.
More writing laid out on on my table in the study for inputting and editing, to be reworked and cut back and amplified, polished or left rough in places. Reading the spiky and brilliant Jeanette Winterson on teaching creative writing:
If the new writing phenomenon is to be positive it needs to be bold. I believe that we are all part of the creative continuum, but I am sure that there are different doses and dilutions of creativity. We are not all the same and we do not have the same aptitudes or talents. I can’t make you a writer. What I can do is show you how to strip a piece of text like dismantling an engine – and put it back and see why it roars or purrs. My own method is oily rag and spanners. Words and how they work is what interests me.
I was born in Manchester and I grew up in a working-class tradition of self-help that included Worker’s Extension Lectures and the Mechanics Institute – one of many radical and pioneering Manchester initiatives for uneducated workers. I know from my own experience that learning how to read deeply – and that means diverse and sometimes difficult texts – trains your brain and improves your sense of self. Learning how to write, even reasonably well, gives fluency to the rest of life.
As I set out my notebooks and reference material, I wait for a call from the housemate to let me know she has crossed the mountains safely and arrived at her destination without any trouble. We have had cars hijacked on that lonely road and I will not be able to sit down and work until I know she is safe. Living with anxiety day and night is wearying. And anxiety, whether it is real or somatic, is very painful to live with — that tense coiled spring inside, the inability to relax, the overwhelming sense of dread and helplessness, the imagination jumping to its own frightening conclusions, the slow disciplining and calming of runaway thoughts. An emotion that comes in many uncomfortable shapes and forms. My friend who is going through an unwanted and painful divorce tells me how she wakes each morning to a knotted stomach and the sensation of panic — she has constant headaches and an upset stomach, has lost weight. Another friend who says she has ‘nothing much to worry about’ at two years sober has the same symptoms, just as real and distressing, and she is tormented because she says there is no reason for her to feel this way. Anxiety disorders are hard on mind and body.
There — the call as dawn breaks over the mountains, the small buck (klipspringers) scattering at first light, running up from the river in dappled swift formations. She has arrived safely,the security lights can be switched off, the back door opened, the day can begin. And perhaps one day we shall not have to live in fear of one another, perhaps one day the thief in the night, the armed and desperate intruder, the ruthless gangs roaming the rural areas, all of them will have found safety too and we might all learn to become human together.