Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mary Poppins and Lawrence Durrell and the fine art of sorting

There are days like this when the wind blows a certain way and you expect to see a woman with bright beetle eyes and an umbrella sailing calmly towards your front door. Everything seems skewed, up-ended, even.  It could be the wind that's doing it, blowing relentlessly like that. But it could also be all the review books and manuscripts that are packing out my head (not my own, I read other people's manuscripts and write publisher reports).  They're all good reads so far - and if they're not 'good' they're at least, stimulating and edgy - so I'm in that lovely but crowded state where my head is a railway station of characters and ideas, insights and phrases, and it's hard to know where everyone else stops and I begin....

And there are other things too - we have family here from Canada, the lovely people my daughter and I stayed with just over a year ago in an Ottawa winter, and visitors always skew your ordinary everyday life, because they're not in their ordinary everyday lives. You do different things while they're here, and you can't help but take on some of their excitement about ordinary things, and remember when you were the one in that enviable state of travel, which makes you feel a little - to take the title from a terrific new George Clooney movie - 'Up in the Air'. His character never settles and does ordinary things because he's always flying around the country - Mary Poppins-like - on business. Popping in and out of real lives, touching them, only slightly, causing mayhem, flying away. Needless to say, he eventually realises this is not an ideal way to live a life.

There are other reasons too for my Mary Poppins day. My year is starting differently from usual - less paid work 'out there', more stuff here at the new Mac computer, no car because my son trashed it ergo more bike rides and bus rides .... So I'm having to adjust my pace. I have to say the long rides on the bus remind me of the joys of long rides in the London tube aeons ago: people in crumpled suits, stoic, sweaty, anxious, tightly packed, and I'm in one of those boiler suit things I used to wear to work at the radio station in Shoe Lane, and the rich language of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet is spilling from the tatty library book in my hands like melted butter from burnt toast. None of which helps me now, really ....

Anyway, to ground myself in the midst of this up-ended, 'up in the air' feeling - I have dusted the shelves in my house and sorted out a few drawers, and done the same thing to my blog. I've only just discovered blogspot's letting us have pages now - so I've flicked most of the stuff I used to have in the side column into separate pages - reviews for The Blue, my other writing, my own reviews/books I recommend etc. Look there, to the right. All neat and tidy. As satisfying as an orderly drawer.

And now, I will do that thing that never fails to set things back on an even keel. I'll walk the dog. That wind's still doing it's thing, however, so I won't take the brolly. Just - in - case...

9 comments:

Beaut Commute said...

Lovely post Mary! I have been house and dog sitting for a few weeks now and find it liberating having to change my everyday life and live with less of my things and routines. It's quite stimulating.

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks, Beaut Commute. I love that you stopped by when part of my post is about commuting! You're right about fewer things being stimulating as much as a change in routines. When we moved into this house I deliberately kept it minimalist - like a beach house - to help with my writing.... and it works.

Gondal-girl said...

great post Mary - crowded characters and buttered toast - wish I could pick out all the great things - but my mind is cluttered too!

Apparently tidying is great for the new moon / and Chinese new year ( Kung he chow fat!) - so you must be in for a brilliant year of the Tiger

do you recommend Durrell by the way?

Must read Mary Poppins - P L Travers was a wonderful nutjob

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks GG -maybe the Year of the Tiger is the year for me! I like tidying... (which doesn't mean it's always tidy - sometimes there are just tidy piles...) I LOVED Durrell in the mid 1980s, and have since bought some lovely tatty Faber copies of my own. But a friend who loved him too says the Alexandria Quartet isn't as she remembered it .... the dense language, the shift in viewpoints - has been done since and better. So that put me off re-engaging with the Quartet a little, although I've bought some of his other books second hand and loved dipping into them e.g. Bitter Lemons. I'd certainly give him a try if I were you. Reading those four books on the tube in London was one of those seminal reading moments for me ...

maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

Ah, Mary 'Up in the Air' - the hilarious spoof on the corporate gurus and hiring and firing via cyberspace - but the coolest moment of all was the pilot with the fab moustache congratulating George Clooney on reaching his goal - maximum flying hours - brilliant - where did they find the man with the moustache - my guess is, he is an actual long-serving pilot... or they photoshopped him. And the good part about this movie is that Hollywood avoided the cliche ending...thank goodness. Light-hearted, funny, but very poignant, which is a bit of an achievement really for a mainstreamer.

maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

Oh, and the 'melted butter from burnt toast' is so good, I'm tempted to use it myself... it sort of runs off the toast and onto the tongue.

Tim Upperton said...

I know what you mean about Durrell, Mary. I've read most of his books - not all (the later novels are pretty slapdash and poorly written, I think). Of the quartet, the first one, "Justine", stays with me - especially its opening chapter, with the narrator on his island, remembering... it's been a very long time since I read it, and I wonder if I'd find his prose too purple now.

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks Maggie, glad you loved 'Up in the Air', too. My son pointed out the actor who plays the lovely pilot with the moustache plays a similar character in The Big Lebowski (which is hilarious) - with a moustache!
And hey, Tim, perhaps some books are meant for particular times... many fade, don't they? Congrats on your poem in the Listener btw.

Rachael said...

And he was also in The Golden Compass with the same moustache. What's his name... Sam Shepherd? If they need a moustache, they just call him!