Friday, 28 May 2010

Leaving the writer at home ( Not another Bloody Fountain! )

Elizabeth Gill has ruled my life since I was a child.  I remember being very small and wanting to do real writing and scrawling in notebooks when I couldn't do joined up writing but only printing. I remember the essays I did at school and the devastating time when I got more marks than anybody else but the teacher preferred somebody else's work. Ah, the dawning of the competitive person.
I was no good at sport at school. Actually that's not quite true. I could run very fast over short distances and I have good hand and eye coordination and played squash and badminton very creditably when I got older. I think it was the team thing that got me, I hate working with other people and as for gym. Oh horrors.  Even now the sports I love are tennis and snooker, one person's ability against the rest.
Everywhere I go there goes Elizabeth Gill.  She is not me and I have tried as I got older to divide the writer and the person so that she isn't always trudging along beside me like those dreadful intrusive spirits in Hilary Mantel's book, Beyond Black. It haunts me, this idea of not being left alone.

Every time I go on holiday I carry a notebook and they say the writer is always on duty, always thinking, always taking notes and I could see myself when I went to Rome with my daughter which I did recently, sitting outside cafes writing but I didn't want to. I don't spend that much time with her, I wanted to leave Elizabeth Gill in the office at home, stranded, waiting to be picked up again.
The trip to Rome was inspired by a family wedding. It rained the whole day and at one o'clock in the morning there we were plodging along cobbled streets to see various fountains. I have never been so wet. We saw the colosseum about fifteen times, we saw the ruins, my daughter studied classics and was able to enlighten me about the columns and the pieces of old stone which dominate Rome. We ate in lovely restaurants, stayed in a glorious hotel and I had my kid all to myself.

I have pandered to Elizabeth Gill's moods, needs and ambitions all my life and sometimes I just wish she would take herself off so that I can enjoy being me. This time I succeeded.  I didn't write a single word until I was on the aeroplane coming home and the holiday was over.


  1. Having a writing name does help though, not your everyday bog standard one that does the washing and ironing. I know a Liz Gill who gets doodied up in her heels and suits and has a ball when she's on show. Give her an inch though...

  2. I recognise both the writer and the person and identify with the split personality thing. With the best of intentions it's not always easy to leave her at home. Great post wx