Something different this week. As part of the writing group I am now attending, our host Pat sets us writing exercises. These are excellent in a number of ways. Firstly they take you out of your comfort zone and make you think and write in a way you hadn’t thought of or subjects you would not normally consider. Secondly it exposes you to other styles of writing and the different thought processes other people go through to answer the same challenge. This week the exercise was to write about an Edwardian picnic, where you are the tutor to the children to a wealthy family on holiday in Cornwall and nature of your relationship to the family. This is my submission. I approached it as a stream of consciousness in a letter form. I deliberately did not think to closely about the content. Just let it flow from the original idea. It took less than half an hour to write and apart from some minimal grammar and a spellcheck is unedited or refined. So for better or worse enjoy.
My Dearest George
God how I miss you! I know I am supposed to be a writer, but words cannot convey the frustration I feel at being apart, by virtue of having to play this woe-begotten part. Although we are trapped and denied by our feelings, I find myself even more oppressed by the stifling mediocrity of the middle-class. These automatons seem to revel in their conventions that prevent any emotion or pleasure escaping their fixed expressions.
Let me tell you of my plight. last week we went on a picnic. A picnic! An occasion for pleasure, for laughter, for words and feelings to be exchanged in the full view of the sun. The warmth should have fuelled our excess, our lust for life and each other. It should have been a time to make memories to be treasured and to warm the dying embers of our old age. Instead what did I find? Yet another occasion to display circumstance and class, preserved like the salmon, in aspic. Even beneath the glorious sky, perched on a hilltop with the sea close by, my family found a way to suck the majesty of our location. Servants moved like agitated chess pieces, ruled by a nervous queen, desperate to ensure that everything and everybody were in their correctly allotted roles and places. A formal imposition on the ragged fecund nature that surrounded us. And there was I, dear George, a piece with no real role, a token to be played with by whomsoever saw fit. The father, thinking I am interested in his dull job in the city. The wife, anxious about the progress I am making with her dense progeny. The daughter, precocious only in that she thinks I find her attractive. She looks at me with wide bovine eyes and imagines I find her irresistible. The only think I am resisting here is the overwhelming urge to tell them all how pointless they all are. That there is no nobility in their lives, no future that has not yet been decided and mapped for them. Theirs’s is a life already over. It has been written, like a poor script to be performed by amateur actors in life. Not even a good farce to be enjoyed with friends.
The dull ache of playing my part is taking its toll. I cannot write. All that emerges is bile and doggerel. I am consumed by my position. I thought it would be an escape. A summer to teach and a freedom to compose. Instead I feel more trapped and more observed than ever before. My soul has retreated. It longs for our peril. That is the fuel I know I need to create. Not a picnic, not responsibility for learning, but fear of discovery, of illicit talk and clandestine meetings. That is what I crave. So, if you hear a knock, late at night, do not be afraid. It will be me, escaped from my cell, free to join you in our dangerous future.