A lot of reading lately, but no writing. Exactly three years after the original covid lockdown in Victoria, I finally caught the virus. That was three weeks ago, and I’m only just emerging from the illness. I have to say, it’s no fun. Aches, chills, fevers, the worst headache. I’ve still got the cough. But thanks to antivirals, promptly prescribed, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and I am well and truly on the mend. Having seen a close family member with pneumonia in the ICU, in an induced coma on a ventilator, looking like a little broken doll, I know how bad it can be. And I feel so grateful to Medicare – imperfect though it may be. Long live socialist medicine!

My sickbed entertainment was watching gardening shows (Monty Don, I love you!), cooking shows (baking is so soothing) and British crime on my laptop. And reading, of course.

Cook books, because I didn’t feel like eating.

Crime novels, because they take me into a different world, a world of fantasy where justice is done – which cheers me up.

Georgette Heyer regency romances, cheering also, as (fantasy, as above) love conquers all.

A stack of current Vogue magazines, from my sister-in-law, which were interesting to look at…but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t understand today’s high fashion aesthetic. Which is OK, I’m old, I’m probably not meant to. In contrast, I have some 1950’s English Vogue and these are fashions I can appreciate and understand. Impractical, mostly, and probably uncomfortable (corsets, stockings, high heels) but so elegant.

Luckily, I had borrowed a pile of books from the library just before I got ill. The literary fiction didn’t work for me.  The non-fiction went a little better, although I skimmed and skipped and therefore can’t really remember how to have a beautiful mind, the science and secrets of memory, the ultimate guide to household budgeting, and radical science fiction from 1950 to 1985. The one that really defeated me was The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets: Tradition and Craft by Claude Lecouteux. Not Now, Not Ever: Ten Years On From the Misogyny Speech, edited by Julia Gillard, had me alternately cheering and seething at how so much has changed, but not enough. Watching footage of the speech, I wondered once again how Tony Abbott ever became Prime Minister.

One book I’d like to read again was The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood and the Mind-Baby Problem by Julie Phillips. She looks at the ways in which creative women who are also mothers face the challenge of meshing the two identities of mother and artist. Her subjects are varied – writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Doris Lessing, Angela Carter, Alice Walker and visual artists such as Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois and Barbara Hepworth. There’s a long-held idea (or prejudice) that you can’t be a mother and an artist. Both are all-consuming: something’s got to give. Women have to choose between maternity and ambition because a “real” artist needs solitude, an oasis of freedom tucked away from domestic life and especially the tasks and cares of parenthood. However, these women had the courage to stake a claim for their art –  that it mattered, that they mattered – and they devised ways of combining care with their vocations. It’s both inspiring and depressing.
And made me remember (proudly) the time when I finished a book, typing one-handed, with a newborn held in my other arm.

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  1. Kate C says:

    Weirdly I think some of my most creative years were when I had little babies. I had the benefit of regular baby sitting help — from my mum, and from a (male) writer friend who had a baby the same age, and we’d take turns — but also I found my mind could wander (or escape!) into another world quite often while I was baby-caring or feeding or walking with the pram. Older children won’t allow you to be mentally absent in quite the same way! I took great solace in the idea of ‘good enough’ parenting…

    • susan says:

      Better now, thank you. Covid is not pleasant! I think I got off relatively lightly, but it’s taking me a while to get up to full speed.

      “Good enough” parenting! Bless you, Dr Donald Winnicott. I still take comfort from those words. I used them the other day in a conversation with a friend who was lamenting the mistakes she’d made with her children. She, like lots of women, suffers from mother-guilt stemming from an idea that there’s such a thing as perfect parenting. I it’s pointless to strive for it. “Perhaps, as long as you do your best…” she said, and I kind of disagreed with that, too. Sometimes I knew I wasn’t doing my best, but at times something has to give and if it was a choice between my best and my sanity, the choice was pretty clear.
      That being said, I still remember the shameful day I got a call from my son’s teacher at around 4.15, wondering if something had happened to me…
      I was writing, and forgot school pick-up.

  2. Kate C says:

    Oh dear, I forgot to say, I hope you’re feeling better! Covid can be a bugger.

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