Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Withnail...and me

I woke up today feeling healthier and calmer than I have any right to, given that I spent the whole of yesterday in bed with a hangover, only getting up when it was time to smarten up my act in readiness for another night on the town. If the Friday I so blithely wrote off was a tad ‘Withnail and I’ in character, the overall theme running through the two evenings that bookended it combined all the good stuff from ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Sex and the City’ (but fortunately without a hint of ‘Mistresses’) and a bit of Jane Austen/Lewis Carroll thrown in for good measure. Bear with me; I can explain:

When I first moved to Bath (from Liverpool via London and Clevedon, taking in an on/off stint in Canada in the BA2 early days) I didn’t know a single soul in the city other than Medad. Frankly, I’m not sure if I even knew myself. I’d resigned from my full time job as Helpline Co-ordinator for a leading voluntary organisation working to end violence against women to return to attempting to make a living out of writing, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do (although I’ve always maintained a strong interest in hairdressing, too). The job I left held ‘big career’ potential (and a salary that went with such status), but, as ‘worthy’ as it was, the politics of the charity I worked for ironically enough ended up filling me with self-doubt, low self-esteem and serious emotional burn out. So I left. And moved to Bath. And for a while, didn’t have any friends to play with. Looking back, I’d embarked on a journey not of reinvention but of true discovery. If you’re forced to spend a lot of time on your own, you become your own best friend. Eventually, my best friend and I (I can’t help putting it like that; I’m a gemini) carved a nice little niche for ourselves, in a flat with a glorious view (shared with a glorious friend), writing about food and life and what’s on at the theatre for a magazine that even the current financial climate can’t kill.

Today, I still have the flat, the friend, the job (and another couple of creative outlets for which I’m fortunate enough to be paid, including an involvement at the Theatre Royal’s egg Theatre) and a live-in boyfriend who gets more and more handsome by the minute. The rest, as they say, is (personal) history, much which is shared here (and there’s much more to come). But before I started writing about food, I didn’t know what an e’spuma was, and used to say haricot with a hard ‘t’.

Last Thursday evening, I spent a very entertaining five minutes discussing how annoying it is when Bree in ‘Desperate Housewives’ (yup, them again) persisted with the American pronunciation of parmesan (“parmajhan” - aaargh!) with a charismatic, hilarious interior designer. I’ve linked her without even asking her permission, but something tells me she won’t mind; anyway, she’s partly responsible for today’s mellow mood, hence this post - and the connection with Jane Austen. The CHID and her friend reckon that Bath needs a new Jane - and I want to be her. Like me, Jane wasn’t actually a ‘true’ Bathonian. Like me, she was obsessed with who said what to who and what they wore when they were saying it. Unlike me, she hated Bath. But y’know - there could be some mileage in this idea. Later on that same evening, I was topped up with yet more inspiration by GP’s resident soul diva (I’m sorry, Joan, for using you as a live karaoke machine, but I couldn’t resist). And yes, I went on to get ridiculously drunk, but hey-ho, it was, after all, a wine tasting - of which there was another one last night (albeit unofficial).

Now you could say that this post is merely a ramble from somebody who has been having just a bit too much fun lately. But seriously, there’s far more to what I’m trying to say than merely admitting to that. Yes, lots of fun has been had. And yes, there was a lot of daft chit-chat along the way. But in between the lines, the time had come, it seems, to talk of many things. While shoes were probably touched on a bit and ships, sealing wax, cabbages and kings didn’t even get a mention, many other things certainly did.

Last night, I was inspired yet again, firstly by a random encounter with the wonderful Molly Mudd, and later by a new friend who joined my old friends (old in terms of how long I’ve known them; I was actually the ‘most mature’ - ha! - woman at the table) and has made the very most of a situation which would have shrivelled those of a lesser character. I was inspired by my friends who had completed the Bath half-marathon. I was inspired by the philosophy one of them applied to a dreadful experience her sister has just been thought. And all the time I was thinking to myself, “this is what life is about. Not recession and scantily-clad invoices and receding word-counts, but experience, and friendship, and inspiration”.

I want to be Bath’s new Jane Austen. I want to write my friend’s life stories (and my own). I want to be brave enough to say “yes, I’m in love” (rather than resisting the idea, for fear of getting hurt). I don’t quite know how I’m going to go about making such dreams into reality (although the ‘love’ thing is pretty much a done deal between my best friend and I), but I know for sure I’m gonna do it. I have the time. I have the impulse. And - thanks to the friends I have made in Bath - I have the resources.

If you’ve stuck with me this far today, I can’t thank you enough. I needed to get all that off my chest, and I hope I’ve made some sort of sense beyond just rambling. Now may I please ask one small favour of you? If you have indeed got this far, could you leave a little note in the comments box, erm...commenting? I know you’re out there, and I’ve put myself out here. So what do you think?

Have a wonderful weekend, y’all.

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