If the big picture is too much to deal with concentrate on the details, the small things, for they are there, as they have always been, to delight us, to distract and comfort us. I wanted these to smell, that gorgeous almost too-sweet smell of lilywhites but they didn’t. What are the sweets that smell, and indeed taste, like small narcissi? Something to do with squirrels. They were red, came in a little plastic bag, and were like hard nipples. I loved anything small as a child. I would curl my hands around such things, making them mine. They’ve begun serialising The Miniaturist on the radio. I listen to it as I make breakfast – not sure about it yet but the image of that dolls house stays in my mind. I know a woman who spent years making tiny samplers for dolls houses, and I knew another woman, the mother of my sister’s friend who had a dolls house shop. How I longed for a dolls house. I never articulated such longing. I wonder why? Perhaps I knew it couldn’t be sated. The theme of the book makes me want to make small things again. There is something safe in the reduction of real life. The articulate re-making. I miss making. I miss having a reason to make.
He would say I was cruel. And perhaps I was. I need the structure. I need to have my working time. I know that I am rigid. I just want to rely, to know that he will be as steady as I endeavour to be. He cannot. We are made of different stuff. I remember his frustration with his mother when she was unwell, and the countless references, tongue-in-cheek style, to her ‘stoicism’. He is cut from the same cloth. I was raised differently. I recall a very particular day at sixth-form and knowing I was unwell and wanting her to notice and take care of me. But no, it was the no-nonsense mother that greeted me at breakfast and that sent me off on my bike, only to receive a call from me at the phone box down the road, doubled over in pain. She didn’t relent, or say sorry, just took me home and put me to bed. But there have been times when she was marvellous, kind, patient and tender. I mustn’t forget those. Ah, she is in me. I forced him out. We did our chore and now he is back in bed, and I have softened. It has been a grey time. And I so want to see our friends tomorrow, but I hold my breath.
It was surprisingly pleasant to be in the National Library yesterday, once I’d got over my new-girl nerves. The light, the peace, and those windows with their prospect of the sea. Marvellous. And I’m beginning to find some interesting data. Lovely. Data is the wrong word. Resonances is better. I am off again soon, though today I have to take on the hill. So be it. I shall find my strength, as always.