So obsessed am I with my Greek that I forgot all about the blog this morning, and jumped straight into a 20-minute lesson this morning when I came into the office. M laughs at me because I’m so competitive, and there are league tables in this Greek-learning app, and I’m always trying to stay top of the league that I’m in. I can’t help it.
Of course, I realised yesterday that saying I’m retired from playing cricket isn’t quite the same as being retired in body and mind, and my body and mind were longing yesterday afternoon to be in Cambridge with the lads (from both sides, actually), and to feel that end of the day sensation of walking off the field, sweaty and tired, kicking off my boots and sitting down on a bench at the side of the field in my socks and sinking an ice-cold beer. But those rose-tinted memories and wishes ignore the fact that all the rest of the game I would have been cursing myself for being mediocre and asking myself why I was spending an afternoon hanging around on a piece of grass rather than being somewhere else doing something else. I woke up this morning understanding that yesterday’s craving and homesickness for the game was just that – taking all the best bits (and I did once write a poem about one moment of happiness being contained in a thousand life-times of sadness – which the children still critique as being too negative) from 43 years of playing cricket and compressing them into a universality that is actually not true.
In therapy yesterday, I did discuss with my therapist this view many people have of me thinking too much, of going round in circles with those thoughts, and explained that without this constant thinking I wouldn’t actually be able to write, that to be a writer, I have to be this whole being, and that my inability to compartmentalise is what allows me to write. Without the pain (if you can call it that) of being constantly emotional, constantly thinking, I wouldn’t be able to create (or hear speak to me) all the different characters that inhabit the worlds of my books. And if this constant thinking is what makes me miserable now and then (and I do think it is only now and then nowadays), then I have two options – keep writing and being occasionally miserable and this overthinking visceral creature; or stop writing, divorce myself from my emotions, put every separate event and thought into a little box, and become a husk devoid of emotion. And if you think that’s extreme, it’s not, because my current state of being is the one that sits in the middle ground, the one that is not extreme either way, the one that doesn’t think writers have to be demented geniuses who always are on the brink of self-destruction, and whose actions can be excused by the fact that they are demented geniuses. Because that extreme is just as bad as the one where emotions aren’t felt or shown.
You might not think it, but I am happy most of the time, just often preoccupied with practical concerns, and mostly with the human condition. And isn’t that the preoccupation of all writers?
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 162
‘Get off me!’ the woman shouts, turns round and raises her arm to slap Aggie. It’s not Marit.
‘God, I’m sorry,’ Aggie says, stumbles backwards. ‘I thought you were someone else.’
The woman drops her arm. ‘That’s OK, I suppose. Get your eyes checked, eh?’ And with that she gets onto the train without looking back.
‘Fuck, fuck, fuck,’ Aggie screams. ‘What is wrong with me?’ The rattle of the departing train masks her noise.
‘It’s my fault,’ Lilibet says. ‘I pointed her out to you.’
‘That’s not the point. I was convinced it was her,’ Aggie says. ‘And I am supposed to be perfect.’
‘I do. The m…’
‘The mentor did,’ Lilibet finishes the sentence. ‘I thought you wanted to escape those memories. Just be you. No-one’s perfect. Nothing is perfect. It can’t be.’
Aggie’s head drops. ‘Yes, I know. But I should be better than that. It feels like my powers of observation are totally shot. ANd that’s dangerous.’
‘She did look very much like Marit, though. Almost identical.’
‘What if she was just pretending, and it was really her?’
‘She’s not that good an actor. And she would have flown at me, not at you.’
‘And Cassie?’ Aggie’s shaking now, afraid she’s made the biggest mistake of her conscious life.
‘You’re overthinking this whole thing. There are lots of people who look like each other.’ Lilibet puts her arm round Aggie’s shoulders. ‘I bet there’s a woman who looks just like me within a ten-mile radius of this place.’
‘I’m supposed to be the rational one,’ Aggie says.
‘None of us is rational. I’m just being realistic. That’s a bit different.’
Aggie leans into Lilibet. ‘But this doesn’t help us find her.’
‘Neither does panicking.’
‘So we give up?’ Aggie says, stands up straight again.
‘No. Let’s just wander round the station as if we didn’t have a care in the world and see what happens.’
‘And delay getting down to Norwich even more.’
Lilibet shrugs. ‘It’s all part of the same picture, isn’t it? An hour here or there can’t matter, mustn’t matter.’
‘Is that how Valentine treats this war?’
‘Does it matter?’
‘If he wins, yes, it does.’ Aggie says grimly.
‘Well, he won’t. Not if we’ve got anything to do with it.’
‘I admire your optimism.’
‘That’s why you love me,’ Lilibet says, elbows Aggie’s side.
‘And why do you love me then? This overthinking pessimist of a woman?’
‘That’s exactly why.’ Lilibet laughs.
‘That makes two of us.’ She grabs Aggie’s hand. ‘Now let’s go for our walk. Discreetly, of course.’
They wander along the platforms, eyes on the departure screens all the time, eyes scanning the crowds all the time, hands squeezing hands all the time, and Aggie feels the tension drop from her like weights falling out of her hands, like a veil falling from around her eyes, and the light in the station suddenly feels brighter, and the shapes shaper and the faces more defined, and her brain clicks into the top gear she knows it has, and she senses something change in her, around her. And she’s not thinking about it, she’s just feeling it, and not questioning it. She’s admiring the architecture, revelling in the feel of Lilibet’s hand in hers, loving the wooden structures inside the station, the way the steps are worn by a million footsteps. And then she sees the familiar black hair cresting the staircase over one of the platforms, and the familiar pale face rising, and she knows it’s Marit, and she pulls Lilibet to one side, out of sight.
‘I should have known,’ she hisses. ‘She went another way, and we got here before her! She wouldn’t have run. Now all we need to do is get her.’