Profuse and sincere apologies to my few and precious followers for the lack of postings in recent months. We’ve all been living through interesting times, but in addition I’ve lately been given reason to reflect on my own mortality. One of the outcomes was the realisation that I wanted to give priority to a novel I had completed, in draft, back in 2019. I had deliberately put it away in a drawer until I could see it, and especially its flaws, more clearly. Suddenly it has seemed important to confront those flaws, and to arrive at a version that’s worth offering to the world. That’s now my work in progress. I have, however, also been negotiating with a handful of poems, and there’s a chance I’ll come to terms with a few of them.
The novel is Eulogy. It’s a tale centred on a very ordinary, middle-class, Englishwoman. It’s also a story about heartbreaking love, and male oppression and sexual incompetence; plus, if that’s not enough, violent crimes and police investigations. As a small peace-offering, here’s a short extract.
Kat went and got her coffee. On her return she held the mug as she stood and gazed around the studio. David’s large drawing desk dominated the room. Behind him was a metal cabinet with narrow drawers, a bulky PC on top of it; to his side, an old table with pots of pens. The rest of the room looked more like a neglected storage area, and there was dust on the tiled floor.
‘Somehow I’d expected jars of brushes, and tables splattered with dried oil paints, not computers.’
He laughed. ‘Oh, yes, and you thought you’d find me waving around a brush, and a palette loaded with oil paints. I haven’t worked like that for years.’
Kat was assessing a battered chaise longue placed against the wall below the window. Its once rich blue upholstery was faded, and starting to pull away from the studs. ‘Is this OK to sit on? Or is it only for ladies that you’re going to paint naked?’
‘I don’t paint ladies naked.’
‘You mean you keep your socks on?’
‘Ha ha. No, don’t worry, I haven’t done life drawing since art school. You’re very welcome to sit there. And feel free to keep your clothes on.’
Kat put her coffee on the window ledge and sat down. However, if she sat straight on it she was facing in the wrong direction. She tried sitting at an angle, so that she was facing David, but then there was no support to keep her back upright, and when she leaned back against the rising end of it she was leaning too far, and looking down her nose at him. She tried lifting her legs onto the sofa, and then holding herself upright by pointing her knees up and curling her arms around them; but that was too uncomfortable. David watched, amused. Eventually she got off and dragged the seat around until it was facing him. She sat down on it, but it was too narrow for comfort. In the end, she put her legs up and out along the sofa, and supported herself with an arm across the raised end.
‘Damn you, sofa!’ she said, laughing. ‘I’ve just been objectified by a piece of furniture! The only way to be on it comfortably is to lie like a whore on a brothel tea break.’
‘I’m sorry. I could get a chair from the house.’
‘No, no. Don’t worry.’ She smiled broadly at him. ‘It’ll make sure I don’t stay too long. Just as long as we’re clear I’m not modelling for you.’
‘Shame, you’d make a good reclining Venus.’
‘Not sure about that. If you mean Titian’s Venus of Urbino, I don’t have the plump figure, or the small dog. And, for that matter, I’m not really cut out to be an icon of heterosexual love, as I guess you’ve heard.’
David noted the reference to her sexuality, but it was her knowledge of art that had shocked him. ‘Well, you could be a different kind of reclining figure,’ he said, testing her a little further. ‘Maybe Manet’s Olympia?’
‘A little closer to my figure, but she really was a tart.’
David beamed at her.
‘In that case, I suggest you stick with Venus. Feel free to redefine her looks and appetites.’
‘And her clothing, I hope.’
David laughed. ‘Yes, adorn yourself as you prefer.’