Thursday, November 21, 2013

Money, room and a car

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.  Oh, and a reliable mode of transport.

There are certain patterns I've established to make the week flow more efficiently.  The Little One goes to nursery on Tuesday and Friday mornings.  We attend music classes on Monday mornings and do a big food shop on Wednesdays.  If it's raining we go to the library before picking up the Big One, if it's sunny we go to the playground.

One pattern that I am enjoying less and less is what I call 'the Halford's run'.  This is how it works.  After the children go to sleep, I try to get some work done.  About an hour or so into it, I start to get sleepy.  I debate the options; either I keep on working through my tiredness or I go to bed and resolve to work in the morning when I have more energy.  On Monday and Thursday nights I usually choose the latter option, knowing that the Little One will be occupied at nursery.

The next morning is almost always when the car decides to mutiny, like sailors taking advantage of an upcoming storm to prey on the captain's vulnerability.  First it was the cooler leaking, then it was the spark plugs, a few days later the engine light blared yellow which I was told 'could mean anything'.  Turns out it was just toying with me but the car spent most of the day hanging out at Halford's when it could have taken us places.  The car may be able to get Big One to her bus stop and Little One to her nursery, but each morning it becomes less and less certain.  Sometimes the yellow van will have to come to start the car, other times I can nudge it along to Halford's.  The car remains there until it is diagnosed and cured and I have decide what combination of train, bus and foot I will have to use to retrieve the children and get us home.

'Stop whinging and buy a new one.'  A brilliant plan, but buying an automobile is not like grabbing a bottle of wine at Sainsbury's.  Although my husband would likely look askance at my choice of both wine and car, I've only spent about £7 on the Cote du Rhone.  And the bottle is perfectly legitimate as a solitary purchase whilst buying a car involves some thought and bargaining.  It will have to wait until term ends to fill our driveway with something more productive. 

This past week both the car and washing machine went on a tandem strike.  The machine became very possessive of the precious soapy water it was filled with and would not release it.  The car, perhaps feeling neglected and seeking attention like an ignored pet, muttered, 'I can top that.'  It decided on Tuesday morning that the engine light would shine again.  The washing machine repairman was supposed to arrive between 8 and 1 on that very day.  He did not.  Meanwhile the pile of laundry had grown so high that I observed some Sherpas setting up camp at the base, with small binoculars pointing toward the summit, a lone pink sock.   

The answer may be to stop working on the book.  Then these breakdowns would not lead me to lose writing time.  'I'm not working on a book' is how I could respond to people who asked what I did for a living.  But I have a perverse need to finish it, to have something to show for the year.  So I must find other ways to outwit the car.  And the washing machine.  Perhaps the dryer and teakettle too.  But please, please, not the boiler.

I have some money before car repairs and taxi fares devour it all.  I have a room; my husband kindly gave me the study as he has an office at work.  Now all I need is a car that will start consistently.  I don't know if Leonard and Virginia Woolf had a car.  Mrs Dalloway did not have to rely on a Ford Mondeo to get the flowers for her party.  If she had, that novel would read very differently.  The ending would no longer be, 'For there she was.'  Instead, 'Clarissa had not arrived at her party as she was waiting on the taxi queue outside Lancing Station.'


  1. You would think after spending childhood travel in tow trucks, garages and on the Mass Turnpike you would halt all activity and crawl to the nearest dealership to get a reliable vehicle. Are you trying to create the same childhood experiences for your daughters? Because you will need John to develop a complex relationship with law enforcement officers and the Bruckner Expressway.

    1. In my defence, we bought the car from a dealer, not some guy lurking under the FDR overpass. Perhaps, like Den, I am trying to find my Angelo. We might go next Saturday to get a Toyota or a Nissan.