Thursday, May 22, 2008

My eye has been twitching for days from reasoning with teenagers about creating a passage between clothes on the floor, endless washing, cleaning, shopping, meetings about work and worrying about money.

Negotiating and juggling are the downsides of liberalism. How easy it must have been back in the day, as they say, when food was seasonal and children obeyed their parents or were beaten.

Now the school's let the GCSE kids out and I have a teenager on roam setting, with revision to do. It's a freelance mother's nightmare. Do the educationists who make these decisions never consider how a lone parent will be affected? At least a few weeks ago I knew he'd be in lessons, with teachers who were being paid to get him through a few exams.

Now, I go to a meeting in London and he's off to the beach because the summer's back again. Can you at least make some notes of what you have to revise? I ask. Write out a revision plan before you go out? Give yourself a schedule of what you're going to do each day?

I come home and the CD player's on an extension lead outside the bathroom. It's the only sign of life, apart from jam on a knife and a lone trainer at the bottom of the stairs.

My other teenager's off to Paris with a friend. She seems to spend her time channel hopping - just back from Monet's garden and this time she'll be right in the centre of my favourite city, a stone's throw from the Louvre and the Marais. It's her friend's birthday treat and the weather forecast's brilliant. I am deeply envious but delighted, too, that she's inherited my love of the place. She's promising to bring me postcards from the Louvre and I'm wondering how I can go back to the city myself, soon...

When she's wandering around the Place des Vosges, I'll be marking, but on Saturday I'm off to a party being given by a wonderful woman, who is one of the brightest and most well read I know - and before that to see Helen Dunmore speak at Charleston festival because the OU, my very part-time employer, is sponsoring some events.

Charleston is always entertaining as an exercise in monied Sussex people watching and eavesdropping on the name droppers sitting behind you on the excruciatingly uncomfortable plastic chairs. I go there with my toes already curling, but it has a lure, nonetheless. It's a museum piece, a reminder of power and snobbery, of what wealth can do for the arts.

I was there last Sunday for a biography event and had a rather delayed realisation that biography is the middle classes tabloid reading, their justification for raking around the bins and dusty cupboards of dead heroes. Which would explain why biography is so popular - it fits perfectly with tell-all misery memoires that pad supermarket shelves and supply quantities of vicarious thrills, voyeurism and judgement......

What the middle classes haven't cottoned onto yet is organics for the brain. When I was writing about retail there was heavy resistance from senior retailers to admit there was an organics movement. I remember the edict coming back from our editorial board - the public's not interested.

Hmm. It was a Canute type statement and we knew they knew it. They were just trying to buy time. But who's making the point about brain food: poetry, translations, the big novels of ideas? Read Moniza Alvi's forthcoming collection of poems, Europa and Barbara Korun's Songs of Earth and Light. Read Neruda,, Auster, Plath, Longley, Popa, out the poets.

Here's the dark chocolate, fresh chard, home grown new potatoes, crisp pears and good bread. Here's the rich red wine to keep the heart going.

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