Thursday, 6 May 2010

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE MILK AND THE YOGHURT*


There are many things that get lost in the insane juggling act that is working motherhood. One of them is the time to read novels, and somehow I mind this far more than the lack of a lie-in, or a absence of a discernible individual identity, outside that of wife/mother/wage-slave.

Yet, women are infinitely resourceful, and even in a schedule that resembles a duvet stuffed into a pillowcase, we find tiny oases of time to pursue the things that nourish our souls. Well, sometimes: Writing nourishes mine, and I've had no time at all for that recently. But reading? That's a different matter. I swapped the twice daily strap-hanging fight-to-the-death on the Central line for a seat on the 94 bus, which lumbers slowly East in the morning and follows the sun back West in the evening, and now have the best part of an hour and a half each day to sit and read, and delight in language, and narrative.

A novel is a wonderful thing - everytime you open the pages you take a holiday in someone else's life. I'm particularly fond of those where the good end happily and the bad, unhappily and have little patience with books offering page after page of depressing wailing and uncertainty and which cheat one of a satisfying ending. Spare us your misery, says Daisy Goodwin, and I quite agree: If I want Real Life, I'll take the 266.


Of course, hanging out at bus stops and journeying on the slow poke, you notice all sorts of things, including the advertising hordings. The Milk Marketing Forum ads are everywhere, though Gordon Ramsay and Pixie Lott are not the kind of cultural icons that would persuade me to drink more milk.

I can't help but think this earlier Milk Marketing Board campaign from the late 1950's, shot by Norman Parkinson, might have been more effective.




Postscript:

The title of this post is from John Mortimer - *"The shelf life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between the milk and the yogurt."

I can't think this will apply to the wonderful novel I'm reading at the moment - Andrew O'Hagan's 'The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his friend Marilyn Monroe', worth the price of the hardback for the language alone - he has Sinatra "clicking out words that shimmied over the great topics of the day". Isn't that heaven?

Norman Parkinson is at the Chris Beetles Art Gallery, Ryder Street, St James SW1, from 19th May to 12th June

18 comments:

Alison Cross said...

I bought the 'Maf' book too and am really enjoying it. Fantastic idea to have small philosophically astute dog as the narrator.

Wonderful little details and am wondering what details are fiction and what are facts in this novel.

The wondering is part of the enjoyment.

Ali x

Rose said...

I listened to the radio 4 book programme podcast the other day and it was about Maf in part- sounds like a super book- and an excellent idea

If it can't be a taxi, which is rarely can, then I prefer the bus- the tube is for need to get there only- the bus is for watching the world, reading, listening to radio 4 (tube much too loud mostly) and relaxing with my thoughts- even some jotting of my own writing.

Agree about the milk- and I love a hot milk with a dash of rosewater before bed

Penny Dreadful said...

Your book sounds like more fun than mine. I'm trudging through Hard Times, one of the main characters has just made a Very Bad decision, and it is subsequently becoming difficult to enjoy. My last book was The Bell Jar, so I must be a glutton for punishment (as if the tube wasn't depressing enough). Happy endings are my homeboy.

Helena Halme said...

The book I'm reading for my book club at the moment is making me slowly lose the will to live. The book is the most depressing I've yet to read...and I chose it for the club because it was recommended by some one whose taste in books I used to admire.

Do you think I should email all the members and change the book in case there are casualties?

Helena xx

Knackered Mother said...

You're back, hooray. Just finished re-reading a Mitford, about to start One Day, interspersed with Living Dolls and Hello! mag. Looking at this in the cold light of day, I think my children may have a longer attention span than me. x

Judy Astley said...

The first photo of Kate Moss that I ever saw was an advert for milk. She looked so young and sweet and wonderful. Can't remember if I actually drank the stuff though. Couldn't find the proof percentage info on the label..

Sue George said...

That Norman Parkinson picture makes drinking milk look glamorous. But as for the milk across your top lip look, I find that repulsive. For Freudian reasons, no doubt...

Fran said...

I can't help thinking with that Pixie Lott picture that if the milk stays on her upper lip that well, she must have one hell of a moustache under there.

Make Do Style said...

I was chatting to fellow MA grad last night over supper and both of have yet to attempt to read a book let alone a novel since finishing a few months ago. My digestion is blog and magazine only at moment - must improve.

awhirlinlondon said...

Thanks so much for the recc. Have ordered a copy - and had a small Amazon binge thanks to a happy lack of self-control and the "if you liked that book..." tab. Can't wait for the lovely brown box to arrive.

Glad you've once again found space in your life for novels!

awhirlinlondon said...

Helena - why not email your book group and say "I hate this book. If you do too, let's talk about that, and let's talk about why." It can be a lot of fun doing this - and particularly interesting and productive if there are one or two members who *do* actually like it. Another way in if no-one does: read some reviews and see why the reviewers-- or your friend like it. Can be a wonderful and eye-opening way back into any form of artistic expression that one isn't fond of.

Troutie said...

Much prefer the 1950's milk look. The Pixie Lott thing is just very, very, wrong.

Hugh Wright said...

As with so many things, Mrs T, we share a love of literature. I recently devoured Robert Hamilton-Paterson's 'Cooking With Fernet Branca' and after a brief pause to read Timothy Conigrave's 'Holding The Man' (in which the good end heart-breakingly badly - so probably not up your rue) am now racing through its sequel, 'Amazing Disgrace'. They are hysterically funny, fantastically intelligent and highly imaginative, definitely worth a look!

Christina Lindsay said...

I'm so with you re the tube... I haven't been on one for fourteen years. I like the bus and trying to curb cab habit although they've opened the new line right by me so don't know whether I'll get away with the not being near a tube excuse any longer. I'm going to order Andrew O'Hagan's book now, it sounds fantastic. I have left a blog award about shoes at mine for you, if you can be faffed xx

Lewis William said...

Wonderful! Though I'm so upset I cannot physically come to see the exhibition... In my head I'm there now.

Lewis William said...

PS have tagged you in a game, it's V little though... xx

Blighty said...

I love your blog, I so admire someone who can effortlessly move between nits and literature via designer stuff, inspiring!

private boarding school said...

I think the 1950's picture is much more likely to persuade people to drink milk. The milk moustache campaign makes me not want to drink milk.