Heartburn

There’s a scene in the film Heartburn where Meryl Streep’s character and her husband, played by Jack Nicholson are at a restaurant dining with a group of friends. They are playing a game in which you have to describe yourself in three words. I think I’ve seen the same game played as a device in more than one of Woody Allen’s films. Anyway, Streep says, and I think I’ve got it right, Wife, Mother, Writer (or journalist – I think she writes a cookery column). Then it’s Nicholson’s turn. And he says, if I remember it correctly, Writer, Father and In love. He doesn’t say lover but ‘in love’. She goes all gooey, grinning from ear to ear at what she sees as a public pronouncement of his feelings for her. I think they all clap, or go ah!. Later Streep discovers that he is having an affair and the full import of what he said then returns to her. I thought of this game as I walked this morning. I was trying to make sense of the dream I had a few days ago about the closed door and not wanting to go through it because I didn’t know this woman’s name. I was trying to fathom it, wondering if it was a dream about identity. I could easily have opened the door but I was scared, scared that I would be found wanting. That I didn’t have the key, the name, the knowledge – the identity. Perhaps the name I’d forgotten was mine. And the older woman, my landlady was me, the wiser, the more-in-charge me. Who knows? And who cares, he would say, adding, it’s only a dream. And yet, they mean much to me, as much as this waking semblance of reality does.

Is that why walking in the early morning has such power for me? The world is half-dream, half-reality then. I could see the horizon this morning, a dark blue line. The sea was like oil, heavy and sleepy.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice, half a pound of treacle, pop goes the weasel. Sometimes I just find songs singing themselves in my head. I don’t know why. Had I heard it somewhere? An odd song, was that one about the plague too? I thought rice was a relatively new phenomena in the West, perhaps, not. Did they import it? When is that song from, the sixteenth century? I know so little.

I finished Tulip Fever yesterday at work. It was sumptuous, glorious. I’ve been writing about being in Amsterdam too. I miss it. So much colour, richness. It is a luscious novel. I love the short chapter’s, her attention to detail, the viscera, the sensation. The horse pissing, the de-headed sprats – the way the detail gave meat to the action. I could see the silks.

I took up my tapestry when I finished the book and it seemed to imbue it with deeper, richer colour. I am still just following the lines. The tapestry, for the moment, satisfies me more. It is even simpler. What am I doing? Am I reduced? I don’t know. Something will come. I think about doing tiny sewn still lifes. I want the richness, I want the colour, the shininess of silk. Not painted but sewn, bejewelled. I want to write of the detail too. Do the two at the same time. I too master place, sense place through the stuff of detail. This morning the heat coming off the parked Gregg’s lorry as I walked past. The screeching pipping of the oystercatchers, the stink of the lobster pots and that trail of fish gut from the trailer by the harbour, the way I have to try to close my nose because it is too much. The group of what looked like West Indian youngsters encircling a bonfire on North Beach, their emptied supermarket bags strewn in a circle around them. I saw glimpses of fire-lit faces, patterns, smiles and heard their laughter. I want to write the memory of such things. I want to write of Norway, of Amsterdam, and how I lived there, felt there, made home there.

Cleaning done. Writing done. Yoga, then tea, then more following the lines. It is enough. Then later we’ll sit looking down on the Bowling Green. Me and him holding hands.