Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Please freeze the time

La Plagne Dec  2013
I feel rather unsettled as another year is ending. Time is definitely moving faster than ever. I am racing through time to finish some of the books I have started reading this month. I am also racing against time in the hope to do more writing in whatever that I started sometime ago amidst my work.  Ideas are scattered.

I remember how one guy I was seeing in my twenties badgered me for not having  a  sense of urgency because in his opinion I had zero sense of urgency and  he was so convincing that I actually felt pretty bad about myself though I had believed then  that  one must go about one’s life  in his or her own time. Now that the sense of urgency is so omnipresent that it is giving me anxiety attacks and causing much distress as  I must  seriously examine what and how I am doing with seemingly endless multitasking and resolve to focus on what I feel really matters.

I know that if something is not right for me, do not ignore the sign or the voices that are telling me so. But the question is how to fix something that is not right and has not been right for a long time. I am still thinking of a way to break out of a habitude and hope to get organized and prioritize what I need to do before things spiral in a manner that is leading towards more disorder and disarray.

I bought Camberwell Beauty written by Jenny Eclair some years back and only got round to reading it last week. Jenny Eclair tells the story of two families who live in South London.

Welcome to  South London, to  one of the nicest streets in one of the country’s vilest boroughs: Lark Groves, SE5.  A determined middle-class oasis of skips and bay trees, where Volvos sniff each other’s bumpers, and men called Giles live with women called Samantha. This is a satellite- dish-free zone of tall houses with big front doors,standing shoulder to shoulder, five floors apiece.Come inside, shut the door and smell the coffee. You could almost be in Kensington.

When Anna and Chris Cunningham  first  moved into the Pink House in the neighbourhood, Josephine Alexandra Travis who is married to Nigel George Metcalf was eager to get to know her new neighbour who was very pretty and very pregnant. Characters like Anna is extremely self-centred and vain. She has a diploma in drama and had nearly been an actress so she ended up doing work in casting.  Jo has always been the kind of woman who is intelligent and capable. At school , she was the head girl and she  continues to try hard to  be a reliable homemaker  and she runs a second hand bookshop that has been bought by Nigel, a phenomenally unfaithful husband. She reasoned why she wanted to befriend Anna: “ Part of wanting to be Anna’s friend was practical; we both had girls around the same age. Useful, you see? A little pal up the road , jolly handy, we mothers can be quite scheming.”

Though the characters are not likeable, the way the story is told has kept me going. The narrations are done by Anna and Jo in first person respectively and also in third person’s voice. 

There are some funny quips.
‘It is only recently that I have realized that the greatest appetite suppressant is abject misery ; Without really trying my waistbands have become loose and I no longer have to lie on the floor to zip up my good Agnés b black trousers’    -  Jo

‘ I am drinking gin today, mother’s ruin. Isn’t it a shame that you can’t edit your life? That’s what I’ve been thinking ; if the last ten years were on tape, I’d just chop out the  bad bits and keep in the good moments. That’s what they do with films, they leave the shit bits on the cutting –room floor...'– Anna

Indeed how wonderful it would be if we could just cut out the bad bits and keep in the good moments only.

Jenny Eclair is observant about contemporary life of  the urban couples . Some of the narrations  are wickedly funny. Voila.

They were all getting older. Age creeps up on you, one day you bend down to tie up your shoe and you find yourself thinking, now is there anything else I can do whilst I’m down here? Women usually fare worse than men in the ageing process, just take a look at the newscasters on the telly. Middle-aged men, despite their spaniel jowls and pink-tie tendencies, manage to achieve some headmasterly gravitas, whilst women of the same age get a faraway, desperate look in their eyes as if they might be about to bolt off to some Caribbean island and marry a twenty- year- old native with a spear and a hundred conch shells around his neck. It’s that ‘last chance’ time.
     Jo thought it might be a good idea to learn conversational Italian. Chris bought himself some golf clubs. Anna began to moisturize her neck and Nigel started taking ginseng and a fungus which he kept in a jam jar in the fridge.

Camberwell Beauty is not like typical chick-lits, its ending is sad and rather upsetting. There are touches of reality in the story. It is true that we cannot edit our lives and often we have to live with the consequences of our actions. As Eclair writes, ‘Some people are luckier than others : they have nicer lives with more things. But luck can run out and whose fault is that ? Fate has a fickle finger, and when you’re least expecting it , she can poke you in the eye.

Jenny Eclair is an English comedian, author and actress and she was born in Kuala Lumpur.  She now lives in South London.  

Park Güell, Barcelona

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