Digested week: Drought until October? It all feels so very 2022

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The Guardian

Monday

Ah, OK. I see. So now, not only is there no electricity, gas or petrol (by any reasonable affordable standards), no farm workers, no wheat, no viable prime minister or functioning government, no NHS beds, no rape convictions, no opposition (though Britain thanks you for your work, Martin Lewis and Mick Lynch, and hopes to see the day you stage a joint coup), there is also no water. Which has the merit of consistency at least. Drought – which we are told could persist into October – is very 2022, you know?

As is the fact that there are still virtually no hosepipe bans. Because it would cut into water companies’ profits and because the only remaining damp patches in the country are the nutsacks and spines of the ministers who should be requiring them to prevent the squandering of what we might fairly call the most precious resource on Earth.

Ah well. At least I’ve managed to form an almost closed system within this household. Washing up water straight on to the garden (I think there’s some way I can use it in the toilets but I haven’t YouTubed it thoroughly yet), no baths, plastic collecting crates, and butts up the wazoo in case precipitation ever resumes. It’s almost fun once you’ve got the right mindset. But of course we’re not working for shareholders here.

Tuesday

I went for my first ever yoga class today. I have been profoundly against the practice ever since I was vouchsafed the insight at 30 that women didn’t look like that in leggings because they went to yoga – they went to yoga because they looked like that in leggings. It was very liberating. But now all my perimenopausal friends are swearing by it and I have given in.

“I haven’t moved for 45 years,” I say to my teacher. She laughs. I don’t know why.

We begin. She looks perturbed. “No, bend,” she says. “Here.”

“I don’t bend there,” I say.

“Everybody does,” she says.

“Nuh-uh,” I says.

She manoeuvres me into the gentlest position in her bendy playbook. The air fills with grinding sounds and bone dust. She steps back to take stock of her handiwork and I fall over like Del Boy falling through the bar.

We agree that I will come back after six months of swimming has loosened my joints. We both know that I am lying.

‘Truth serum, Liz? Imagine!’ Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Wednesday

Dad’s birthday. We were going to go out but a) it’s too hot and b) he’s not quite steady enough on the leg he recently had taken off and reattached with a new hip to be trusted. So the grandson and I are going round to Mum and Dad’s for the day.

“I love it at Grandma and Grandad’s,” my son says dreamily. “It’s so peaceful there.”

“Peaceful?” I say, thinking of my mother, who hasn’t sat down since 1977 and is customarily known as the Noisemaker 2000.

“Yes,” he says. “Grandma’s always busy but you can just join in or leave her to it. And Grandad’s always quiet and will cook me sausages.”

“I see,” I say, though my experience of Grandma’s busyness is slightly different. I was formed in the crucible of shouted commands to bring hammers, spirit levels, two-by-fours, light armoured divisions or whatever else she urgently needed to complete an unexpectedly recalcitrant DIY project/annexation. He has known her only since her mid-70s, when she has had only the energy and ambition of a 30-year-old.

“And the house is tidy, and you know when mealtimes are, and they never have a writing deadline, and I get pudding,” he says.

“And that’s enough from you,” I say.

Thursday

I’ve met someone. Someone new. We haven’t had much to do with each other yet but there’s just something between us, you know? She makes me laugh, she makes the day better whenever our paths cross – there’s just something between us. Yes. I want to make a move. I would like us to become friends.

How, I wonder, is this done? I’ve never actively made a friend before. Set out with purpose, I mean, to befriend someone. Until now, it’s always been the semi-forcible result of circumstance. At school you just pal around with whoever doesn’t beat you up too often. University – whoever’s bookshelf contents and drinking habits most closely match your own. At work you bond with whoever you find crying in the loo and vice versa. And if you have children all local mothers become if not friends, your comrades in adversity. I’ll see your war buddies and raise you two women with fourth degree tears any day of the week.

But now I want to make this new woman, with whom I have none of these connections, my friend. What do I do? Ask her round for coffee? I don’t know if we’ll get on well enough one-on-one for it to be worth cleaning the house. Suggest a cinema or theatre trip? If she agrees, I’ll know we’re not meant to be. Just keep enjoying our occasional crossed paths and hope she suggests something? That seems, on balance, the best way.

‘How am I – how am I, the POPE – already in hell?’ Photograph: Vatican Media/Ansa/ZumaPress/Rex/Shutterstock

Friday

Finally got round to listening to The Silent Mind, presented by psychologist and author Charles Fernyhough on Radio 4, which was inspired by a recent viral tweet that ran: “Today I found out not everyone has an interior monologue and it’s ruined my day.”

I discovered this phenomenon at university. There were a load of us lining a corridor outside the bar late one night, quite tired, gently drunk, and one of our number sighed and said: “Don’t you wish the voice in your head would just shut up for one solitary minute?” Half the assembly murmured heartfelt agreement. The other half stared in utter bafflement. I’ve never seen an abyss of understanding cleave a group in twain so quickly or so thoroughly.

Probably obviously, I was in the group that is incessantly badgered by an inner voice. My best friend was in the other. When he was not talking or deliberately thinking (“Deliberating, put deliberating, you goddamn idiot! You’re meant to be a writer. Do better! Why are you like this? No, I won’t shut up. Who are you to tell me what to do?”) – silence reigned.

We thought “They” were rough, primitive beings doomed to a life of mindless, comfortless toil. In fact, they became successful, well-balanced and even better remunerated individuals while “We” descended into depression, neuroses and freelancing. Truly, the unexamined life is much more worth living.

August 12, 2022 at 04:53PM Lucy Mangan

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