Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Ordinary People

TV.   Alienating.

I was late to bed last night – 3am – because I sat up transcribing a small out of print book I have borrowed from a friend.  It was published in the 1930s, there is no trace of a copy or even a mention of it online, so though it is precious she has lent it to me, and I am slogging through the slow process of typing it up so I can refer to its wisdom at leisure.

When I finally went to bed, I lay with a small, dim light still on, admiring my shelves.  They are beautifully tidy and calm.  After years of struggling in this direction I seem finally to have tamed my clothes.  I like everything I own, it is all comfortable and the shapes suit my body.  Everything I have is stretchy or (if woven not knitted) strung on elastic, so I can expand and shrink without fear of expense.  My shoes are all comfy and good for walking in.  I have warm clothes and cool clothes, snuggly and soft.  I have thick leggings and tights for winter, different undergarments to suit the seasons, everything is modest and everything, except nightdresses and some undergarments, is purple.  My stuff is mostly herded up in baskets and it all feels spacious and well-organised and this brings me peace and well-being.  I lay a long time looking at the shelves, occasionally getting out of bed to re-organise something that caught my eye, just to make it perfect.  And eventually I put out the light and drifted off to sleep.

Because I went to sleep so late, though I woke early as usual I dozed off again.  I finally came to about 9.20 and within five minutes my cellphone rang.  It was the Badger urgently needing details of his passport to book a flight to a Christian book conference.  We puzzled over the final detail being sought, which correlated with nothing on the passport page. In the end he asked if I could scan the page and send it to him.

We have a new printer, wireless.  It works fine, but I had never tried to print wirelessly, so I took my laptop downstairs – which is a bit of a performance because it has something wrong with its bios and the battery holds no charge so I have to rush it from socket to socket like a medical emergency.  And the socket by the printer is on the floor behind the sofa so I almost expired through crushing my internal organs (yes, gentle reader, I am too fat) hanging over the back of the sofa trying to plug it in.  Actually that’s not too bad because all you have to do is push – unplugging it is the challenge; you need powerful fingertips.

At first the scanner denied all knowledge of connection even though ‘Emberputa’ came up clear enough on its little screen.  It pretended the broadband was down or it wasn’t turned on or there was no computer.  Sigh.  I printed out a couple of notelets with violets on I designed yesterday evening just to try and jog its memory.  It liked the violets but refused to have anything to do with the passport.

Then I remembered that our Alice, who used to work at the library and has long and bitter experience of This Kind Of Thing, showed me how to establish connection through the computer control panel not through the scanner’s own computer.  So I did that.  The first PDF came out upside down and I don’t know how to rotate on a PDF so I made a second one and sent it off to the Badger, pointing out how ultra-cunning I had been in remembering to take his passport out of the scanner and put it back in the file so that when he tries to get the aeroplane we aren’t searching wildly through heaps of paper in the garret wondering where the heck his passport can be.

I made some delicious vegetable soup for lunch and while tidying out the pantry came upon some Nutty Knobbly Nougat in a carrier bag with something in a jar – chutney or whatever, I didn’t really look, I was fixating on the nougat which I love.  And though I certainly didn’t put it there I ripped it open and ate some even though I had dessert (sticky toffee pudding and HALF FAT crème fraiche – yes I do know I shouldn’t have) after my soup, with a cup of tea.  Sorry if it was earmarked for something else.

Then this afternoon I watched the episode of Broadchurch (gripping TV crime drama) because today I didn’t need to be here or there or even anywhere doing anything in particular - and I got the book I was writing finished and in to my editor as planned at the beginning of the week (hooray!) so I made an executive decision to award myself chillout space.

I corresponded a bit with one or two people about things going on with them, I felt guilty for not getting round to Morning Prayer and decided as it was by then 4pm it’ll have to be Evening Prayer today.

I typed up some more of the book and fetched in some wood for the stove and brought in the wheelie bin – and took out the trash that should have been in it when the bin lorry came round.

I photographed a bookcase and advertised it for sale on eBay as it seems to have no family takers.

I opened my mail and enjoyed reading news of a friend in the other (West) half of Sussex, and perusing a copy of Our Lady of the Lost and Found which arrived from Thrift Books late this afternoon.

And tonight the Badger hurtles back in from publishing Christian books in Oxford to drop panting to the floor for a short night before leaping into action again and rushing up to Tunbridge Wells to take three teenage girls (!) to Spring Harvest Christian Conference in search for further Christian authors to write books for his publishing programme.

So runs my life.

At the weekend a new historical (or should I say histrionic?) drama called The Village began on the telly.  I wanted to watch it despite its author telling us Life Was Hard in Those Days (oh no, not more of the harsh and gritty) but an hour before it started I discovered a (widespread as it turns out) problem with Google Blogger – a glitch whereby you can add a new gadget to the side pane in Layout, but not edit any of the existing ones.  By the time I’d tussled unsuccessfully to defeat this and finally settle on a ruse that satisfied me (if you start a new list but don’t give it a title it looks near enough like a continuation of an existing list on the page), The Village was in full swing.  I hurried down to join the Badger in watching it, but came into the living room just in time to get a large screenful of a young woman in a pretty dress undoing a man’s trousers (Oh, right.  That kind of hard).  This eventually necessitated the person in question putting down her dachshund which she left to Run Wild through the rough ground of the woodland where We All Knew What They Were Up To as soon as we saw the doggie wander off.   Apart from that we saw a farmer running amok in uncontrollable rage, swinging randomly through his wheatfield with a scythe that nearly saw off the cameraman’s head, never mind the heads of grain, while his young son looked on in surprise and disbelief, as I did myself.  I went back upstairs.

And in the episode of Broadchurch I saw this afternoon, we had prison and paedophilia, mobs, drugs, sinister types everywhere, adultery, murder, despair, anger, underage sex, rude teenagers, destructive journalism, lies, secrets, and hot competition to get into the knickers of the woman in the pub (the plumber was the first but by no means the last).  And why was the vicar so keen to be so helpful to all these women?

And I wondered, where are the ordinary people?  Why does my life bear no resemblance to the lives on the telly?  I wouldn’t dream of propositioning our plumber – never, not even when I was young and tolerably attractive.  My children have hardly ever been rude to me – I can think of two occasions between all five of them in their entire lives.  The strongest drug in our house is Kenco coffee.  Or Earl Grey tea.  Nobody would murder even a spider or a wasp.  And if I had responsibility for a dachshund, for sure I wouldn’t let it scamper off to leave me with both hands free for unfettering someone's genitalia on a chilly English day amid docks and thistles.  It isn’t practical.

Where is the quiet contentment of a skilled job well done?  Where is the profound wellbeing of fireside conversations with someone you have faithfully loved for years, as the evening draws on to night?  Do they never play Scrabble? Don’t they knit or bake cakes?  Aren’t there rooms to be swept and windows to wash?  Don’t they ever pray, or sing, or stand for a moment to look round and locate a singing robin up in the tree, in the middle of hanging out the laundry on a breezy morning?  Why are they so angry so much of the time, always lashing out at each other in bitter, contemptuous fashion?   Why is no young woman on TV, in any film whatever, capable of leaving a room without throwing some offensive and insulting smart-alec quip over her shoulder in parting – unless she’s left in a sobbing heap by her thug of a husband who’s just broken all her teeth.

In my opinion, my life has not been boring.  At times I’ve been poor, terrified, at my wits end, in love, full of hope, despairing, elated, troubled, tested.  I’ve sat up into the small hours talking theology with friends or working out ways and means with household accounts.  I’ve thrown myself onto the floor before the altar in an out-of-hours empty church, pleading with God for the wave of His Spirit to lift the beached life of a stubborn congregation.  I’ve worked till I felt sick with exhaustion, and I’ve stood on the beach and watched the sunrise over the sea, overflowing my soul with the glory.   I’ve sat with dying people in their last hours, I’ve grown a garden where I found only dust and concrete, I’ve sat up half waking in the dead of night feeding infants at my breast.  I think it’s fair to say I’ve lived.

Why doesn’t any of this seem to make it onto the TV? – just an endless weary procession of preoccupation with tits, bums and dicks (are the camera operators or directors going short of something at home?), all bathed in a predictable vinaigrette of lasciviousness with rage and jealousy and bitterness as the tedious side orders.  For heaven’s sake!  Seriously, it’s enough to drive you to Sudoku.

But ooh, look:


Hawthorne said...

Oh Ember, Ember.... so much to comment on! You have such a gift for putting into words what we are all thinking - well, 'all' except tv programme makers. My life sounds very much like yours, and isn't it a wonderful one? I too looked for the Robin in the tree while hanging out my washing today, and also spotted a Siskin chirruping away. I laughed at the everyday awkward moments like the plug behind the sofa, and how I smiled when I saw all those purple baskets on your shelf! Bless you, bless you x x (And nothing is so bad to turn to Sudoku! I can only manage the children's ones where they give you a place to start....)

Ember said...

Ah. You must be on the same Sudoku book as I am . . .

;) x

Ganeidaz Knot said...

It's so we can all sin vicariously & feel virtuous in church! ☺

lol I can't watch American crime shows. I worry about whether all the murdered people have made it into heaven or not! And my poor Dearest, settling in to watch one of those really, really old *nice* shows, had the Holy Spirit get in his ear & go,They're all dead ~ And how many of them do you think knew me?

Watching t.v is dangerous ~ before you even get to all the *bits*.

Ember said...

I like Masterchef Australia.

Bean said...

I hope you enjoy the book, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, I read it fair number of years ago and rather enjoyed it.

Pilgrim said...

Can you photocopy the book you're copying?

Yes, tv is mostly a wasteland. Sometimes I watch the cooking of home decorating, but that is aimed at younger people all the time.

Ember said...

Bean - It looks good! :0)

Pilgrim - yes, I could photocopy, but I want to make it into a nice little book, and once I've typed it up if one of my family wanted their own copy I could make one for them.

Buzzfloyd said...

But... but... I like Sudoku!

I think the level of nasty stuff in popular fiction is people's way of exploring ideas that they wouldn't want to enact in their own lives. But my experience is that the more difficult your life has been, the less interest you have in seeing such difficulties in fiction. Enough of that, thanks!

My approach is to only ever bother watching or reading anything that has been personally recommended by someone I know. This works tolerably well, even though it means I'm later than the rest of the world at discovering good things.

Beth said...

Well, today I was cleaning. Scrubbing the tub til with baking soda and a little orange essence til it was clean as could be. Then I moved some bookshelves and dusted them, rearranged books, cleaned the closet and gathered a bag of clothes to give away, and gathered all my fabric in one place so I can go through it and decide what I will use and what can be given away. It was a very satisfying day, apparently not the stuff of television. I am certainly one of those ordinary people who no one will ever see portrayed in a crime show. At least, I hope not!

Julie B. said...

I love ordinary people, ordinary food, ordinary days. I loved the Mitford books because they make the reader delight in the ordinary and see the beauty in it. All your purple piles are pleasing to the peepers. And I loooove Sudoku. Blessings to you Ember... xxoo

Suzanne said...

Pen, this is exactly how I want to store my clothes!

Ember said...

Buzz - yes, I think you're right; and I find personal recommendation is important, too. x

Beth - what a satisfying day!

Julie - actually I like Sudoku too, really :0)

Suzanne - it's very practical. The holes in the baskets keep the clothes aired, and things like tights and bras that don't stack effectively on a shelf are contained without falling around.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ember,
I think that it is easy for us to blank out on the knowledge that "entertainment" is an industry, and the shows we are watching are only provided so we will see the commercials in between them and buy the products they are selling (or pay for cable). The sex and violence is continually ramped up in order to keep media-saturated people needing more and more, like an addiction. That said, I love crime dramas, (especially UK ones,even though I am American, our tv is often too slick,canned, coiffed, made-up and well-dressed for me, and yours feel a bit more real and true to life) and you can often catch our actors spouting their witty retorts while reading the monitors over each other's shoulders. I've read law abiding citizens love murder mysteries, probably because the perpetrator is usually brought to justice, and I love the psychological/sociological aspect of these shows, but watching Joan Hickson's Miss Marple can be more satisfying to me then all of the blood, guts and perversion of current stuff.PS: a week-long intensive at college in which we had to do two Sudokus a day was a horror story for me!

Ember said...

Hiya :0) From what I've heard, American TV is rather different from UK TV. Some of our channels are BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) which has no commercials. Some of our crime dramas are excellent, very thought-provoking, dealing with important social issues. And I appreciate that having a crime drama at all implies that something violent or sordid will be part of the picture: I just wish the ordinariness of ordinary people appeared in a better light - the value of simplicity, contentment and kindness.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason I gave up my TV!

Also...I wish someone would make The Hawk and the Dove into a TV series :-D

Ember said...

Yes, I think people would like it. x

Rapunzel said...

Oh-Purple Baskets! Squeeeee!!!

I've nodded my head in agreement through your entire post and I would never dream of propositioning our plumber either....not even when He was young and tolerably attractive.

My fairly new rule of thumb for television and films is this: I am no longer interested in watching unhappy people.
(Unless it's Downton Abbey, where the lovely costumes and deliciously grammatical dialog is worth the occasional agony.)

My life is almost endlessly fascinating, but it would make for a dull tv program. The only sex around here is not anyone else' business, and the only violence is between two rather hot headed but unskillful roosters. We somehow manage to keep plenty busy and entertain ourselves without fighting or causing any trouble.
In other words, a pretty good life!
Mercy I'm thankful for real people!

Ember said...

Hmm. You think maybe we have unwittingly created our own reality show on our sprawling network of blogs? Or 'newtwork' as I just typed by mistake . . .

BLD in MT said...

This is exactly why I've almost completely given up TV watching. Its not at all real and so often is just distressing, violent, or immoral. I'd never have thought there'd come a day when I'd say that, but, lo and we are.

And I adore this post, Pen. The flow of it and the detail or your day. Wonderful. Like speaking with an old friend. I smiled imagining you struggling to plug in behind the sofa.

Our laptop (a freebie we got second-hand) doesn't keep a charge. As soon as you unplug it off it goes. But, I only use it at home so its no matter to me and sure beats even thinking of replacing it.

And I am so glad you included the photo at the end.

Pilgrim said...

Tuesday an ordinary woman went to heaven. Today I ordered flowers for the family. I wrote, "You will meet her in the morning.
Our prayers are with you."

Your earlier post reminded me of that song, which I think I was recently reminded of in another context. Or does it just seem that way.

I remember my uncle responded to a codolence on my aunt's death with a reference to seeing her again in that Great Morning.

There is a spiritual: In that great gettin' up morning, Fare ye well, fare ye well.

There have been so many deaths among people in my parents generation, in the small community I grew up in, in the past three months. Sobering.

Ember said...

Hi Beth :0) Waving!

Thinking of you, Pilgrim, as you remember your friend. May she rest in peace and rise in glory +

margaret said...

Yep... yep... yep... to everything everyone has said. Why things have to be “sexed up” is beyond me. I got rid of the television years ago though the chaplain has one in his room but I don't go in there except to demand bedlinen on laundry day. After my father died I'd come home alone to an empty house and eat my dinner in front of Law & Order or the pathologists in Las Vegas (and their spawn in NYC and Miami) and after a few months I developed a deepset feeling that life was sordid and bleak and (not being very bright) it took me a while to realise that it had nothing to do with mourning my father and everything to do with a nightly emotional intake of rape, murder and corpses. I got rid of my television when I moved house and discovered I prefer blogs – I am always interested in what people are cooking, sewing and growing – and I can still see the odd television programme I like on iPlayer. I can even manage murder now if it's being investigated by Mr Poirot or Mr Foyle and I think part of that is knowing that neither Captain Hastings nor Sam is likely to seduce the plumber!

And thank you for the purple baskets, they gave me a mirthful gurgle before putting the clothes peg back on my nose and doing a few more doors

Ember said...

Because we have a household of five reclusive introverts, the TV is good for 2 purposes here:
1) So we can watch things like The Great British Bake-Off, Masterchef Australia (friendlier than the UK equivalent) and Helicopter Heroes while he have supper together by the fire. It feels companionable.
2) So we can exercise with Wii Fit or a DVD as we don't like going to the gym.

Apart from that I think people mostly watch things on i-player if at all.

If I lived alone (or everyone else here agreed with me) I would no longer have a TV. They're ugly, clutter the place up, and I see no need for them since i-player.

Rapunzel said...

Newtwork of blogs reminds me of M.C.Escher's happy little interconnected lizards. That's us.Highly individual, but we fit neatly with each other.

Ember said...

God bless our happy newtwork! x

Nearly Martha said...

Love. Love. Love your TV Review. :) You are really pushing on an open door with me when it comes to this. Is real life really like this? I think not. If it is, I am glad I lead a sad sheltered existence.

Ember said...

Yes indeedy!

Linda said...

Stuff I have been thinking about, always great to come here and have a read, thank you. I think they have some sort of shortage, yes. And ladies with five children I don't think they can understand, food was everything and the little things you mentioned everything. And thank you for helping me to reflect positively on that time.

Ember said...

:0) x