And she is an iceberg. Only a third, even less, shows. The rest is underneath, and reveals itself slowly. She is selfless and kind, and doesn't think about herself at all, until pressed. But she runs deep.
Today we decided to start a book club. But what I really want is to read the book she is about to write. It's a strange, strange world, we say, and laugh at our banality. Why we do things, what is important to us. We talked about boys, and rape, and things we felt we had to do, situations we found ourselves in which were uncomfortable as hell, but we were unable to say no. We felt it our solemn female duty to be kind and compliant and to do these terrible things we didn't want to do. We didn't know how to have agency over our own bodies. We thought it was cool when a cute boy liked us. We thought that people were judged by the way they looked on the outside. Oh it's such a waste. It's just so sad. Our friend, at 17 and an au pair, was lunged at by the "man of the house" while she was ironing his children's clothes. And she didn't know how to say no. And she didn't want to lose her job. Or her paycheck. And she didn't know if saying no would make him violent. So she went with it. She was SEVENTEEN.
Thank God that our girls know differently. Thank God our girls have agency, have confidence, have choices, know that they can choose the boys, and not vice versa. Jeez, the horrible situations we got into. (I feel so lucky that I have ended up with good men. My ex-husband and my lovely partner are both gentlemen with a strong moral core, a sense of right and wrong, not alpha males prone to drinking kegs and trapping women.)
I was thinking so much today about the nature of friendship and how women like me, outwardly extroverted, but inwardly introverts, pretend not to need friends, like to be hermits, spend a lot of time alone, either with dogs or with a book, but how we all really, really need friends even if we are horrible ones ourselves. I am the worst. I've killed a friendship this year (I tell myself now it's not my fault, but that I could've handled it better if I had picked up the phone, if I hadn't been so stubborn) but I so appreciate those friends who see you for who you are and can get over the fact that you are phone phobic and can reach out even if you haven't, and know who you are in your core, can see your goodness and treat you as if you are good, and don't judge you or laugh at you behind your back, who realize that you are a whole human. I think of my oldest friend, who walks too slowly and thinks I'm bossy (she says this like it's a good thing, like she's envious of my forthright manner; she says this with pride), and how we can discuss the proper pronunciation of "elegiacal" for hours, and who has seen me at my worst and my most ugly and who I can still make laugh, and I feel so effin' lucky. And whereas I will leap wholeheartedly into a fire kicking and screaming and punching people in the nose, she is slow and measured and thoughtful, and waits, patiently, for her moment, and then delivers a master blow. But she doesn't hate me for my kung fu approach to life.
We moved house, by the way. I don't know if that has been obvious by my complete ignoring of this blog. Between the move and the work, I am gazonkered. But we now live in a lovely farmhouse at the South Western end of the Chilterns, in a rural community not far from Henley and Stonor, and actually even Reading, where there are fast trains to London. We live in a farmhouse down a mile-long driveway studded with chestnut trees and Norwegian maple, with wide swathes of grass verge that it's impossible not to gallop on. And my little horse lives across the driveway, with 12 or 15 other horses, and she sleeps in a field at night with another mare, a grey named Silver. And we have peacocks flaunting our lawns, and those dumb pheasants (they are the dumbest of all animals, truly) on the driveway, and partridge, and wood pigeons, and the fields are full of red-tailed hawks, as the farmers are ploughing and the vermin are being churned up. The open fields are like West Side Story - seagulls on one side, hawks on the other, crows in between spaced out like guns. The walled garden is at the crossroads of the Ridgeway and the Ridgeway bridlepath, so we are in walking heaven. Thistle has yet to bite a peacock, but my money's on the exotic white one. Fingers crossed we don't get chucked out. Or, alternately, the peacock might nip her which would make everyone happy. There is a gamekeeper called Ian and a gardener called Lester and a handyman called Steve, and they are all completely lovely and conspire to help us. They speak with pleasant, old-fashioned Oxfordshire lilts and Charlie tells me not to mimic them but I can't help it. It's the most pleasing accent I have ever heard. Lester parks himself at the gatehouse and gives ramblers potted history lessons (and throws in a lot of mentions of Henry VIII for our visiting American friends. He says things like "I'll look for your cheque in the post at Christmas" and grins broadly.
Tomorrow I shall make proper authentic pasta e fagioli with white beans and rosemary and not too much tomato (pasta fazool for you Tony Soprano fans). I don't have enough time to cook but I get on kicks. You know how it goes. I love the taste of cooked rosemary and white beans and salt. I love it.
Goodnight, if there are any of you left reading this. I won't promise you anything, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment and well being when I've finished here.
With love. xo