NS March 14th, 2011
As I stood at the sink this morning washing dishes, I found myself continually glancing out the window at the glorious sunshine and our freshly-cut-for-the-first-time-this-year lawn. I smiled contentedly and thought of all the things I wanted to get done today.
With Noble Girl at school and Noble Boy at the childminder’s, I had nearly 6 hours of time in which to tick things off my to-do list. Census forms needed filling in, car tax needed renewing, a session on breastfeeding and newborn care with a client tomorrow evening needed preparing, many emails needed sending and at least three posts needed writing, for various blogs (both mine and others’). I also thought I’d squeeze in a walk and perhaps a chapter or two of a new novel on a park bench somewhere, if I had time.
But then I made the mistake of turning on a BBC talk radio show while I finished my chores. I listened with increasing levels of astonishment as various Londoners called in to explain why they wouldn’t be donating any money to the Japanese disaster relief funds being set up. They have enough money, it’s a rich nation, they have the resources and efficiency to do it themselves, what difference is my few quid going to make, who knows where money donated to charity really goes, the audacity of said charities in having admin costs and paying salaries, blah blah blah blah blah. Heard it all before. Doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear, but at least it wasn’t particularly shocking.
And then we have an older woman, one claiming to be horrified by what’s happened in Japan, banging on about how her Christian faith tells her to extend sympathy and help, but…BUT…
What about the war? she says.
Jesus. Will ‘the war’ ever go away in Europe? I’m so sick of hearing about ‘the war’ that I almost wish another, more awful and far-reaching one would start just so I wouldn’t have to hear about this one again.
Beryl from Merton, or whoever she was, goes on:
Japan never admitted to or apologised for the atrocities it committed during World War II, according to her. At least the Germans had the good sense to be ashamed and hold themselves accountable. But not the Japanese, no. And it’s just not quite right, is it? To give our few hard-earned pounds to a rich country that hasn’t come out and said sorry for killing scores of our boys in uniform 60-some years ago. Could it be that earthquakes and tsunamis and other natural disasters are God’s way of punishing us for past mistakes, for not treating each other and the planet a little more kindly?
I’m sad to report that the radio show host didn’t tell Beryl to fuck off and take her brand of ‘Christianity’ somewhere it might be better appreciated (I don’t know — maybe Hell?), but I certainly did, right there in my kitchen.
It made me so angry and despondent at the human condition that instead of doing any of the things I’d meant to get done, all of which involved dealing with, speaking to or thinking of other people, I instead switched off the radio, put the computer in sleep mode and spent the rest of my day reading a novel, from start to finish, while drinking enough tea to sink a British battleship. When I put the book down briefly to boil the kettle, stretch my back or go to the toilet, I’d think of Beryl in Merton and, in order to protect myself from the sense of frustrated rage that threatened to darken my mood on this bright Spring day, I made like a laptop and put myself into sleep mode too.
If you’d have seen me or tried to interact with me at that time, I’d probably have held up a sign that said, ‘Noble Savage isn’t available right now. Her sense of morality and indignant rage have reached levels not advisable or compatible with the Spring 2011 operating system. In the meantime, please be appeased by this rhythmic and colourful graphic.’
When I emerged from my literary cocoon and was forced to interact with others at the school pick-up, it was like someone had moved the mouse and woken me back up. God, what melodrama! Why do I get myself so worked up and allow Beryl in Merton to represent The Entire World, Ever? I thought I’d gotten a handle on this when I finally stopped reading the comments on online news stories. At least I’d recognised the impending meltdown and shut myself down before any lasting damage could occur and ruin my day. A day spent absorbed in a book is something I haven’t done in quite a long time and was a much-needed respite from the daily grind.
If I had a shrink, she might call that progress. Or she might say, “See you next Wednesday…and for many more after that.”