If I had to chose which of the many forms of media I would hate to give up – TV, dvd, ipod, ipad, laptop – it is an almost impossible task but I know, really deep down, it would probably be the radio.
I can almost believe I’m multi-tasking (not something anyone can usually accuse me of – damn this grammar fixation I seem to have developed lately: ‘of which’….) when I have a radio on while I carry out some mindless task. I can drive with the radio on (and really, I’d be happy if I never had to drive myself again). I can read and write and sleep. I can allow ideas to permeate some bit of my brain without realising it – fr’instance my bedside alarm is a radio; the other morning, the day of Cameron’s reshuffle, I woke convinced William Hague had announced he was to become a bishop – it was only when the headlines came around that I realised his resignation and the Synod of the Church of England’s decision to allow women Bishops had been conflated by my subconscious into one extraordinary, and in some ways, harrowing and nightmarish story.
I’ve cycled and walked miles with a radio burbling in my ear; I’ve enjoyed sporting events in the most intense ways via a radio broadcast – Rob Andrew’s scream when Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal won England the Rugby world cup will remain with me forever. I laugh and cry with , fulminate at and relax to radio.
And the pictures… oh the pictures on radio are the best, the most profound and the most extraordinary I have ever not seen. When Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first broadcast I knew I had experienced pure radio love. I can still remember how happy it made me. Written for radio it achieved a remarkable goal for me. I lay on my bedroom floor for the thirty minutes of each broadcast, doing sit ups (I was in a phase where the existence of an ab was suspected but not yet visible) and entered a transcendental state of euphoria.
So I listen to a lot of radio and since I retired from fulltime employment I’ve discovered some day time gems, one of which is Woman’s Hour. A perfectly pitched magazine programme that rarely has a dull article and when it does it is soon over and we’re on to something else. I’ve learnt masses, felt deep anger and had laugh out loud moments of embarrassment in the deli (social etiquette point no 1, for the twenty-first century – when entering any shop tug out your earphones).
The other day, on Woman’s Hour, Jenni Murray interviewed Warsan Shire a young poet, the current Young Poet Laureate. If you’ve not yet heard of her, you will. Her poem, For Women Who are Difficult to Love, has already been voted in the top 50 modern love poems in the Guardian. Try it out. I think it is great (even if I think the title could do with some work). Warsan was asked the usual questions about how she started writing. She said she started at six but it wasn’t until someone encouraged her that she believed she could write. Until then ‘It stayed in the bedroom’, she said.
It stayed in the bedroom.
What a great way to describe a writer’s insecurity. So much ‘stays in the bedroom’, tucked under the mattress, hidden in the back of the wardrobe, slipped beneath the carpet, secreted down the side of the bed.
Until I reached 50, I didn’t even realise I wanted to write, my passion was so suppressed. My bedroom was inside me; the blank sheet of paper, the empty screen on the laptop, they weren’t even on my horizon.
Even now I have the same sort of feeling, thins are still stuck in a bedroom, even though I’ve written a book.
How hard is it to actually write that sentence?
I have written a book.
Because what I really feel is I have written a book length group of words. It is still almost pretentious to say I have ‘written a book’. In the same way that I eschew the label ‘writer’ when applied to myself. I can agree with: ‘I think therefore I am’. But ‘I write therefore I am a writer’? That feels a step too far, still.
My book length group of words has a cover and is going through a final edit. I will have to write a blurb and master Amazon’s publishing rules and the reformatting that is apparently necessary to self publish. And then there is print on demand for those who might (even this feels strange to write) want to get hold of, acquire – dare I say ‘buy’? Why would anyone want to spend money on it? – a hard copy.
Will I feel different when it is finally published? I think so. I will be able to say just that and if something is published maybe I can say I’m a writer. It will feel damn good, if I can. And it will mean I stop tinkering with my book length group of words. Finally. And then I can move onto the next book, and the next. They are stacking up like aircraft over Heathrow but one by one I will bring them down and land them on an unsuspecting public.
Time to open that bedroom door…