Monday, 7 February 2022

Weather matters. The privilege of heating. Ethical problems for writers.

Today is bright and crisp and cold - a perfectly nice day for going out for a run. The stretch of lane that was re-surfaced and consequently has a regular flow of water over a couple of sections where the work disturbed the drainage had extensive ice patches this morning. It’s not been cold enough for the mill ponds to freeze but thin shallow surface water like that has become quite treacherous. Despite the sunshine I still got wet feet as the mud on the bridle path has not frozen. I’m going through sports socks at a furious rate.

The vagaries of the weather must be very annoying for those who still have to work a normal week and rely on the weekend for relaxation and maybe even getting out for a walk. This weekend must have been especially so - mostly dull and wet, interspersed with squally hailstorms! One of my nodding acquaintances told me that even her dog refused to go out for a walk in it.

One of the delights of being a retired lady is that I no longer have to depend on the weekend for free time. Every day is the weekend now. And as a retired lady with an adequate pension I can warm my cold, wet feet up after a run with a nice hot shower. One of the little bits of luxury that I most appreciate is the heated towel rail in the bathroom. Stepping out of the shower into a warm towel is soooo good. The real trick is to put my towelling bathrobe on the heated towel rail while I use the towel. Putting on a warm bathrobe once I’m dry is not just good, it’s absolute bliss. 

Why did I not have a heated towel rail in my youth? 

Goodness, I can remember as a child putting my feet down on cold lino, gathering all my clothes and getting back into bed to get dressed under the bedclothes. And that was not because we had a cold house - downstairs my parents would have lit the fire - but because houses generally did not have central heating at that time. And it’s crazy, not to say immoral that there are children who are still waking up to cold in a first world country!

It must be very hard to have to choose between heating your house or giving your children breakfast. And the energy price rises are forcing that. And the government “solutions” don’t appear to be helping. Here’s a little something that’s going around social media at the moment:- 

“This is France.

France didn’t privatise it’s energy supply and pave the way for rip off companies

France capped it’s energy price rise to 4% so people wouldn’t struggle

The French don’t take it when the top 10% try to exploit them 🦺

France is Smart, be like France”.

Enough said!

Skimming the newspapers online I came across an interview with the writer Monica Ali. Whenever I see her name I remember working with her mother Joyce Ali at a sixth form college in Bolton. Joyce Ali is white, married to a Bengali gentleman. This gives Monica Ali a mixed heritage. However, it seems that many people only see one side of her heritage because in the interview she tells how some people were surprised when she wrote a book imagining what would have happened if Diana, Princess of Wales, had not died in that famous car crash. 

“The response was bafflement. I remember one critic saying about Untold Story, ‘a curious marriage of author and subject matter’. People would ask ‘Are you trying to get away from something?’ To me the question they really seemed to be asking was ‘Are you trying to get away from brown people? Are you trying to get away from your ethnicity?’” Ali said.

In a curious reversal of all the arguments about appropriation, the ones that tell us only disabled actors can play the role of disabled people, that only gay actors can play gay characters, that only black people should write about black experiences, Monica Ali was more or less told that she was expected to write only about ‘brown people”. How dare she think of writing about anything else?

How curious. Taken to its extreme, only murderers and detectives can write murder mysteries, only “real” adventurers can write adventure stories and surely only women can write female characters into their stories, and vice versa, of course! Life experience adds veracity but proper research is also a good tool. Otherwise how do historical novels ever get written? Maybe all writers whose books are set in the deep and distant last are really time travellers. Who knows?

Having said all that, I think about my daughter who is looking for a children’s book about the Chinese zodiac animals and their stories. She wants one written by someone with a Chinese background. As a mother and as a primary school teacher she likes to find books with protagonists of a whole range of backgrounds. But she says she feels guilty using books about, for example, children of Afro-Caribbean background written by an obviously non-Afro-Caribbean author. She argues that if an Afro+Caribbean writer tries to get his/her children’s book published they can encounter difficulty because that corner of the market has been covered already by a white writer. So if I, just for argument’s sake, were to write a set of Chinese zodiac stories and had it published, I would be making life difficult for a writer of Chinese background. 

Oh, boy! This gets complicated!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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