I must apologize, dear readers, for not having done terribly interesting city-based things this week. Having booked the week off work I am now faced with nothing but a pile of typed research with little clue how to process it. And still the Dissertation deadline looms in five weeks, with monstrous awfulness, filled with all my academic promise (apparently). I keep the deadline hidden from conscious view, and it only rears its head when I deem it suitable – which is when I have actually put the nail varnish down and done some actual work that day. A good 2,000 word day should do it – anything less I get antsy. But then people ask you out of the blue how it is going, and you have to face the fact you haven’t made any progress since last Thursday and a horrid chill that feels a bit like a touch of flu whacks you in the frontal lobe. The monster is growing. And you sort of wish you never mentioned it to anyone in the first place, in order to not have to deal with the inevitable “how’s it going?”. Novel writers have often advised : never, never say when you are researching or working a novel. Don’t even think of mentioning it – no, no, no. Never mention it in its embryonic stages as nothing good can possibly come of it. The “how’s it going?” will always be answered with a tranced shake of the head, as if the writer has descended into an abyss of staring at library walls while nursing hangovers (which he probably has by the way) and the questioner begins to question – well, whether you’ve got it in you, frankly. Jeez. Only when your book is written up, only when the dustjacket is folded and the the Waterstones delivery vans are waiting with baited breath should you even MENTION that you write anything. Do yourself a favour. Just pretend to your friends or family that you are an oncologist or something in the meantime.
But this Dissertation has given me irritable bowel syndrome, which I resent. Everyone knows I am doing it because I blabbed it out about two years ago. Every moment when I ought to be resting, I cannot resist the scratching of my MA itch. I changed the colour of my pen cartridge six times. I use a calligraphy pen; I fight the boredom by focusing on the style rather than the content. I wonder if I should dye my hair, and did one of those fiddly colour tests when you dab a load of chemicals behind your ear to see if the hair dye is going to melt your brain. I fiddle with the tweezers. I open the window and scream, hurling the paperwork down into the path of the 460 bus route. Okay, I don’t do that last one – but I never thought history would be quite this dull, dear readers. When I was a girl I often set fire to my homework by misplacing my lit cigarettes (I had a wonderful childhood) and nearly burned down a good friend’s car by flicking my pre-breakfast Marlboro Light absently into the back seat when I thought I had hurled it out of the window. I still fear setting fire to it now and losing the deadly crappo writing I have done. My USB has been in and out of my laptop several times daily, and everything is emailed to me. Twice. So I can see how bad it is. And still I wonder whether someone might sneak in at night and rob me of my research of London Transport in the 1890s and I will wake up screaming “GAAH! The Central Line!!” (Who would do this – TFL?)
In this dearth of academic activity, thank God for “Mistresses”. This parade of utter silliness comes to a close on BBC1 tonight, following a four week lunatic melodrama. So far there is one unplanned pregnancy, double infidelity, a terrifyingly fierce Joanna Lumley, a marriage that only started in Episode 2 under threat by the end of Episode 3 and a dead body. Presumably the dead body is that of the commissioning editor of the series, which started out as funny and peppy , jumping along from sexual crisis to romantic shenanigans at a fast rate for the first two series, but became over-serious and a bit like “Dynasty” set somewhere near Reading in the third series. It’s like filling your brain with marshmallows, which is precisely the antidote to days spent ruminating on discourses of historiography. This explains why I fell oh so happily into those Designers-at-Debenhams draped Mistresses. It isn’t clear what kind of town it is that they live in, though. It’s simultaneously suburban, rural, filled with snazzy locations to have affairs and bizarrely has a cake factory in the middle of it. This Mistresses Town also has extremely chic wine bars where four very busy people manage to meet several times a week to not talk about how they might be sleeping with each other’s husbands and a series of modern gastro pubs where they can get mullered after a spot of designer shopping. Siobhan seems to live in a hellish cottage in the middle of nowhere, where she keeps crooking her neck to avoid both the sixteenth century beams and her ex-lover’s new wife, and where everything is painted a ghoulish dentist-room-green. The funny Scottish one with the goggly eyes lives in an Edwardian townhouse with the bloke from The Office and Sarah Parish lives in a glass-fronted uber-home in what appears to be the Lake District. Their make-up and hairstyles are high-maintenance and smack of the town; Trudi’s marriage may be disintegrating before her eyes but by God those eyes have four shades of Clarins eye make-up on them, thank you. For reasons that are not entirely apparent, Joanna Lumley is installed on Sarah Parish’s sofa struggling with an underwritten role and an unmoving lipline. Every question is answered with a question, as if to hammer home the plot points, whilst simultaneously removing any semblance of characterization:
Joanna Lumley : Are you sleeping with Richard?
Sarah Parish : Who? What series are we in? Who’s Richard?
Joanna Lumley : The one from ‘The Office’. Are you sleeping with the one from ‘The Office’?
Sarah Parish : Oh, do you mean you saw me on Thursday when I made that shopping trip in Episode 3 after I’d spent that hour with him in the motel room that nobody knows about? How could you, mother! Of course I’m not sleeping with him. You haven’t told Siobhan have you?
Joanna Lumley : [through perfect lipline] No. Does Trudy know?
Sarah Parish: Of course not! But she saw that furtive gaze we had during the woodland walk in Episode 2. Shall we tell her? [lengthy pause. The Parish eyebrows furrow]. Have you been using my Clarins eye shadow, Joanna?
All is not quite as it should be. “Mistresses” is required at the moment. There is a Dissertation that will be written, but not today. Meanwhile, here’s hoping normal service will be resumed next week.
Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this. This blog is updated every Thursday.