Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A women’s word and how to use it

The second follow-up to my night in Cambridge, promoting my book Filthy English: the word that Maggie didn’t mention.

Before my appearance at Women’s Word, I made sure I read some of one of my friend Maggie Alderson’s novels, Handbags and Gladrags — chosen because it was on my daughter’s shelf.

I hadn’t finished it, though. I did that this week. And found in it a moment she could have — maybe should have — mentioned.

It’s on page 379 of my paperback edition and it’s the crux of the novel. (The plot: skinny fashion editor, fucked up by father’s suicide in front of her, has affair with Australian über-macho photographer and finally abandons her ‘perfect’ marriage to Ollie, an effete adulterous, upper-class English make-up manufacturer/promoter.)

She is finally confronting her less than satisfactory husband, in their Notting Hillbilly apartment*.

Him: ‘Why are you looking at me like that?’

Her: ‘You cunt. You self-satisfied, judgemental, superficial cunt.’

The chapter — it’s the penultimate one, of course — closes quickly . . .

‘By the look on Ollie’s face, I knew those words had done the trick more effectively than any pyrotechnic display could have.’

I wish I’d read it before. I would have got Maggie to read it out. What do you call yours, indeed?

* Place and brand names are as essential and well-worked as they are in a Chuck Berry song. As the newly-wed couple of You Never Can Tell ‘furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale’, so Maggie’s couple have copies of Derek Jarman’s Garden and a book about Yves Saint Laurent artfully placed on a ‘kilim-covered ottoman’. No ‘Coolerator, jammed with TV dinners and ginger ale’, though.

PS One night, I was watching a TV documentary and I liked it so much that, unusually for me, I kept watching right through the credits. I saw that the director was someone called Jill Nicholls. I remembered that I’d been really good friends with a girl named Jill Nicholls when I was still at junior school. I also remembered that, a couple of decades ago, someone called Jill Nicholls had passed a message to me via a mutual friend, asking me if I was the same Peter Silverton she remembered from our childhood. I passed the message back, saying yes. Somehow, though, it got left at that.

Right after the TV documentary, though, I googled her. Took but a few minutes. (I found her via Linked In, if you’re wondering.) I emailed her. We exchanged news. She’d been recently widowed — and wrote a most moving eulogy for her late husband, a painter. You can find it online, if you try.

She came to dinner with me and my wife. She had pictures of our childhood. We told each the story (well, a story) of our lives since we were young and short-trousered — ankle-socked in her case.

She told me, too, that she had nearly finished another documentary, about one of my near neighbours, Diana Athill. Now she’s finished it. It’s on TV tonight, Tuesday, June 29 — but I'm sure it will be repeated and repeated and repeated.

A little more filthy (Israelite) English? (I was pointed in its direction by a Canadian student in Cambridge.)

Next up The final D of my 4-D defence of Freud. Finally.

No comments: