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Joyful incoherence

It has been a strange few weeks.

I have not written much on this blog this month, partly because there are a couple of sad and confusing topics which I cannot yet bring myself to cover here even though I sort of want to, and also (more mundanely) because I have been trying to finish my ‘avid theatre-goer in COVID times’ essay. I have been trying to get this finished for months –  during which time I have of course kept watching more things which I wanted to incorporate.

On and on it went. Procrastination, more writing, procrastination, editing, additions, avoidance, more editing – hopeless.

However, yesterday, serendipitously on the actual one-year anniversary of UK theatres being forced to close as the country prepared for lockdown #1, I managed to load it up onto this very site here.  

And Tweet about it on the best possible day to do so. Genius. It is, of course, too long. I realised this last weekend and tried valiantly to shorten it. I chopped unnecessary bits out, then wrote extra bits. I took out all the silly personal references. I re-read it and decided it was pompous, uninformed and actually rather incoherent in places. And boring. So I restructured it so there was a better narrative flow (there, you see, I can do pompous alright), re-wrote it more in my own voice (whatever that actually is) and gently took the piss out of myself in places (yeah, that’s my own voice!). So most of the silly personal references were back in. But it seemed to read a little better, so I did one more revision. Same number of words I had started with. Sigh. And no-one will read it anyway, will they?

With a lighter feel, especially as my feverish Twitterings yesterday evening had brought at least 10 people to this website (hahahaha – ten!), I today turned to the job of writing a short history of my old rowing club. They only want a few paragraphs for their website at present – surely I can rustle that up? No doubt it will be several pages of rambling nonsense but I will be ruthless this time – again, hahahaha. After at least half an hour of serious web-surfing and fervid note-taking, I started looking at that Twitter bird again. Counting the page impressions – that way madness surely lies…

So it was that I chanced upon a promotional Tweet for Dermot O’Leary’s podcast series People, Just People. And joy of joys, there was a ridiculously funny trailer for the latest edition with Andrew Scott and Olivia Colman which I watched several times before having some lunch.

Back at my desk, I forced myself to scribble another page of rowing club history notes (my current notebook has quite small pages), then I set off on my walk as the sun came out. I listened to Newscast first – I am a creature of habit after all. And then the O’Leary podcast*. 

By this time I was in Richmond Park and although the weather was nice now, there were not many people around. Which was just as well, because here was one of those occasions when I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

These may be one of the best broadcasters and two of the finest actors of our current times, but honestly, the whole hour was just gloriously incoherent. At one stage, Dermot used the phrase ‘this is like herding cats’ (one of my former colleagues used this expression all the time, which made me smile even wider with nostalgia), and raucous laughter drowned out the ends of any sentences which were in danger of actually being finished.

Gin-in-a-tin from M&S probably featured more heavily than it should have done, but was a wonderful Fleabag reminiscence for all concerned. I am honestly none the wiser about anything they may have been discussing, but who cares? In these isolated times it was just joyful to hear people having a laugh together. Tears streamed in the happy breeze.

It was thus with a light heart and an only-ever-so-slightly-still-teary eye that I sat down for my evening’s 10 pages of self-improvement reading. I’m reading Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera, and very much enjoying it, but laugh-out-loud it generally is not – particularly the couple of pages I started with detailing horrendous slaughter and harrowing brutality. 

And now I’m off to watch a documentary about the murderous Rose West. Cheery stuff.

This all makes me think, as ever, about the importance of humour and lightness – the incongruity of a tipsy luvvie exchange wedged between my literary efforts, a serious news discussion and the atrocities of Empire.

Keeps me sane.

Or does it….?

‘Descends into self-incoherence’

*Available on Audible





Nearly there

I am so close to finishing the article I’ve been writing for the last many months.

In celebration, I’ve been distracting myself yet further by attempting to write a sea shanty. Why not join the millions of others who are jumping on this particular bandwagon? I’ve already declared to my singing group that I haven’t written anything new for our virtual pub session tomorrow, so I have no idea why I’m even trying. Maybe the relentless rain has something to do with it. Or just the usual procrastination over my article. That’s usually the way anything else gets done – when I was originally determined to do thing one, I’ll get things seven, eight and fifty-five done instead.

I am slightly worried that another reason for sea-shanty writing may be that I feel I have set a precedent for writing original (and mildly humorous) material for these sessions and I am letting myself down by not doing so again. So why didn’t I start a month ago when we were given the theme for this month’s session? No idea. And really, who will care – apart from me – that there is no Jillings special this time? No-one.

It may also be that I can’t settle to anything sensible because I’m currently feeling all skittish with small success. I seem to have got myself quoted on the BBC again: this time on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review podcast (here if you’re interested). In fact, my contribution riffs off a Facebook post of my husband’s two years ago so it’s more of a family affair really, but that’s quite nice in a way. 

Ho hum. I guess it’s good to achieve something though, however small or insignificant that might be in the greater scheme of things, it somehow proves I still exist.

Endless prevarication

Months ago, I began writing an article about monologues. Yesterday I found myself once again mucking about with it, adding more content (well, in the intervening months there have been several additional experiences to recount), reorganising the few pieces I liked from what was already there, rewriting bits I no longer liked, deleting items which were distracting, then writing extra material which is probably also going to end up on the ‘not relevant’ cutting pile – or maybe once again change the direction of the piece.

I just can’t seem to decide what is the angle. But more importantly, I just can’t finish it. As soon as I get somewhere with it, I congratulate myself with another cup of coffee, or a long walk, or even – when desperate – with reading a book for half an hour before it becomes time to cook supper again. And that’s just when I’m engaged with it at all. In those intervening months, I’ve managed to write several songs, watch more plays and TV shows (only in the evenings – I am very strict on this), read more books than ever before, respond to Twitter items about writing (so it seems we’re all as bad as each other in this respect – so, how exactly has that helped?)

In fact, I’ve just taken a break to pop along to collect something from a neighbour, then read the Introduction to a new book (which I’m aiming to make part of my next writing effort – like, that’s going to happen!), emptied the washing machine and checked my connection for an upcoming webinar.

And then completely forgot to post this.

So, now I’m another day further along the line with no appreciable progress – unless you count progress as learning about Sea Shanties on TikTok (and why they’re mostly not shanties at all) and scribbling several more ideas for blog posts in a notebook I can’t currently locate – sigh.

Competition – #2

Many people are temporarily unemployed, inactive, downsized or otherwise becalmed at present. I find myself in strangely unchanged times, albeit with more restrictions on my movements outside the house. However, my lack of daily purpose has perhaps become slightly more pronounced – a state of enhanced purposelessness, if you will.

So, following my limited success writing to a deadline recently (here), I thought I’d get a bit of a grip on things, and try writing something else for a competition. This time I had allowed myself a whole week, to come up with 3-4 minutes of monologue. By the morning of the final day, I had about thirty seconds worth – procrastination and self-distraction having engulfed my every waking moment.

Clearly I am motivated by urgent deadlines though. With just five hours to go before submission closing time, I finally knuckled down and completed it very quickly.  This allowed me a short break which was followed by a re-read, a ‘performance’ re-read (strictly in private, but definitely performed, so as to confirm the length) and several ‘final’ edits, before I chucked it into pdf format and sent it off with a mildly whimsical email, the character of which may owe some debt to Daisy May Cooper whose script-writing Instagram broadcasts I have loosely been following over the past couple of weeks. This may, of course, be a mistake…

The satisfaction was immense. I had decided to be kind to myself and not care if I couldn’t achieve the deadline – but hell did it feel good to have done it. It (almost) doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish, and it really doesn’t matter if I’m not selected, but I’m just so pleased and surprised at myself for achieving it at all.

And the content was, in itself, something of a self-explorative narrative. So that was liberating too.

My reward was to spend all morning on Easter Sunday sitting in the garden reading the newspaper. With no guilt. Hurrah!


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