Writing in Bed

Photo by Annie Leibowitz
Marcel Proust did it. So did George Orwell, and Winston Churchill, and Truman Capote. Also Edith Wharton (as recreated in the above photograph), and Nancy Mitford wrote all her letters first thing in the morning, before getting up.

Over the school holidays just gone, I got into the habit of staying in bed for a couple of hours and working. Daughter no. 1 was still asleep, daughter no. 2 would get herself some breakfast and happily occupy herself on the computer, so I could often count on a good two or three hours of uninterrupted time to bash out a few hundred words, or prepare a writing workshop, or even write a blog post. Then I could get up, with almost the whole day ahead of me, and the lovely virtuous feeling that I'd already been productive.

So this morning, first day back at school, I'm trying to recreate this useful habit. I'm not sure if it's going to work quite as well when I've been up for two and a half hours, showered, taken the dog for a walk and seen everyone off to work and school before I hop back into bed. I suspect part of the success of this technique depends upon the writing being the first thing I do, rather than making lunches, buttering toast, nagging about runners for PE, brushing hair, shooing the dog outside, getting dressed, etcetera, etcetera. But I'm prepared to trial the going-back-to-bed variation for a while and see how it works.

So far I've written a blog post. No progress on the novel yet. But we shall see.

I suppose the other alternative might be to wake up early, say 5.30am, haul the laptop into bed with me and work for and hour and half or so until it's time to start all the other morning stuff. But my husband might object to that. I can't find any evidence of what the above-mentioned writers' spouses might have thought of their writing-in-bed habit. Hm, now that I think about it, quite a few of them were single… I'm sure that's just a coincidence!


Girls' Stuff, Boys' Stuff *UPDATED*

We are looking at buying a bike for our soon-to-be ten year old daughter. This is the kind of option we have to choose between -- a dark, hard, 'masculine' boys' bike, or a prettified, frou-frou, pink and purple, flowery 'girls' bike. There seems to be no middle ground, no bicycle choice for a girl who might not like pink and 'girly.'

Even a dozen years ago, when my first daughter was born, things weren't this bad. Every damn thing seems to be genderfied these days. There's nothing neutral: bathers, building blocks, bicycles, guitars, are all aggressively gender-coded. I realise this is hardly an original observation but I feel increasingly exasperated every time I step into a shop. What kind of a gender panic is gripping our society, when every children's purchase has to be unambiguously labelled 'for males' or 'for females' only?

The last straw was when Evie saw a top she really wanted -- a black, long-sleeved top with a Tardis on the front. And it was in a box, labelled BOYS TOP. Not 'Child's Top' or just 'Size 12 Top.'

BOYS TOP. There were no GIRLS tops.

Fortunately Evie didn't care. She wears that top just about every day. Don't they know that girls love Dr Who, too?

Evie informs me that there are also gendered toy crossbow/bow and arrows available! Boys get a green and black 'Zombie Attack' nerf crossbow, to wipe out all those apocalyptic zombies and save the world. But girls get a pink-and-purple 'Rebelle' (nicely feminine) 'Heartbreaker' (!!) bow and arrow, so they can… break hearts? Play Cupid? Seriously, I am speechless.


Gulag Primary

We live near our primary school, about as near as we could be without actually camping in the grounds. We open the back gate into the laneway and the school is just on the other side of the fence. I'm the first to admit the convenience of this arrangement. If we're running late in the morning, a child can climb the low fence and sprint straight to class. At home time, I stand just outside out the back gate with the dog and wait for my offspring to come running across the playground. While I wait, I see the other laneway regulars -- families who live in the streets nearby, who use the alley as a shortcut. We smile and chat, and the dog runs to greet them.

Now I hear that there are plans afoot to build a new fence along the alleyway -- an eight foot high fence, impossible to climb. The neighborhood families will no longer be able to use the north fence as a handy shortcut; we will all have to walk the long way round. I could live with that, if there was a good reason for building a dirty great high security fence; but there isn't.

The reason, apparently, is 'safety.' Whose safety? Are they worried about children injuring themselves as they scramble over the fence? That doesn't seem to be the problem. No, 'safety' is, as is often the case in these situations, code for 'predators.' It seems there are concerns (whose concerns?) that the low fences of our primary school attract paedophiles, who lurk in the alleyway waiting to catch a child clambering over the fence and whisk them away. It's odd that in all the afternoons I've spent waiting for my children to come home that way, I have yet to set eyes on any suspicious characters; instead I see other parents, my neighbours, older siblings, schoolkids, walking home.

It's not huge high razor-wire fences that keep our communities safe. What keeps us safe is connections. Recognising and greeting each other every day; exchanging a few words of gossip, and a pat for the dog; holding someone's baby or their plate of cupcakes while they scramble over the fence; kids being able to say, 'That's Evie's mum,' and giving me a wave when they see me walk past.

If that fence goes up, I will not be happy. Not only is it a massive, unnecessary waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere (literacy support, anyone?)