Monday, 10 March 2014

Today I am being an English Lady (with a mysterious past...)

Sex toy or murder weapon?
Today I am being an English Lady. Not your normal run of the mill English Lady, but one of those English Ladies who look sweet and dull, and would never be suspected of anything, but who in fact has a terrible secret.
It may be that I am the last scion of an aristocratic family that was ruined by the gambling debts of an older brother who died mysteriously before he could set things right. Or else I am, in fact, from a poorer background, but over the years and decades have managed to quietly inveigle my way into high society with the assistance of a rich American communist sympathiser to whom I pass on the pillow talk of two cabinet ministers and an Archbishop.
There are rumours that I may once had a relationship with a ‘foreign gentleman’ or became too close to a maid who was coarse mannered but had the face of an angel.
I dress plainly but always carry a large handbag, which I once dropped during the rush hour at Paddington station, spilling its contents upon the ground. My fellow travellers were surprised to see that the contents included a stout stick with a blue rope tied round it. Later this item aroused much speculation and conversation in the first class carriage. Was the stick and rope a murder weapon or a sex toy; did the knots on the rope carry a message for secret agents; or was the key to a secret vault hidden in a hollow chamber inside the stick?
I could of course be any or all of the above English Ladies, but most the most important thing is that today I am an English Lady with a mysterious past who is resting as only English Ladies who inhabit novels, films, plays and television series can.

When I am tired I lie down with a hot water bottle. When I feel like fresh air I take a walk and listen to the birds twittering.  When I’m feeling particularly vigorous I read P.D James, or take three unhurried hours to make a rice bake. Then I walk a bit more and have another lie down. My wife, who knows how to deal with me when I am being an English Lady, has left out a Downton Abbey Christmas special DVD, just in case…

As to how long I will stay in the role of an English Lady, well that too is a mystery. I may be an English Lady for a morning, a day or even a full week. The most important thing, as I’ve previously said, is that I am an English Lady who is resting.

The reason I am resting is that prior to becoming an English Lady I had spent two solid weeks performing stories, reading from my books and running workshops. The last week was the worse - every day a different town, every night a different bed. It was all so fast and furious my memory of it all is jumbled; Manchester airport at night; a hotel room with water the colour of dried blood spilling out the hot tap; a morning glimpse of the north sea; the flares of a refinery lighting up moorland somewhere in north England. And of course talking, performing, chatting, reading, teaching everyday – which was great fun but doing it without a break was an exhausting business.

When I finally returned to the Galway I was tired and twitchy and unable to rest. Part of the problem is that like too many people I have been brought up to think that resting is a sign of weakness. Added to that is the fear that if things are not done now then problems can only get larger and deadlier. So, things need to be done urgently and done urgently now. But of course, the problem with trying to do everything at once right now is that we end up making a hash of all those urgent things or worse we crash and end up getting nothing done.

Other work had piled up whilst I was away – another book deadline, another tour, another show, more taxes, more bills – and my inbox crammed with emails. It all called out for attention, immediate attention.  So I did what any sane working class Glaswegian man would do. I switched off the phone, switched off the computer and announced that for the time being I was an English Lady with a mysterious past.

I ignored all work, played with my wife and children, got sick, walked around Barna woods, got sicker, laughed a lot, ate good home-made food, and slowly returned to normality. This is my third day as an English Lady with a mysterious past. I felt well enough to check my emails. I replied to two and then read a lovely article from Go Ask Alice about the benefits of Self Acceptance, which I would highly recommend to everyone. I made a few notes in my journal about how to approach all the work that needs to be done – only a fraction of which were really urgent and none of which were life and death urgent - then checked my rice bake. 

I’m rested now and know it is almost time to switch from English Lady mode, but there is no urgency. There is still plenty of time to watch Downton Abbey first and think some more mysterious thoughts…

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