As autumn ended I lost reading.

My energies, turning like the seasons, faded. I needed a little more rest, took a little longer to do things, but this is normal for me and is often a time to disappear into books, a cup of tea and a few biscuits to keep me going.

This year books eluded me. I struggled with a favourite author, unable to understand the words on the page. I have adored almost everything she has written, yet this new novel felt heavy and clinging as I tried to wade through the pages and make any sense of it all. I struggled for weeks until I gave up, the words swimming on the page.

And of course, there was the Christmas sock knitting – 10 pairs of socks in 12 weeks. I hated the pattern by the end. Every spare moment was taken up with needles, the yarn slipping rhythmically against my fingers. I listened to a few talking books and listened to rubbish on TV but mostly I knitted until I dropped.

My lack of reading troubled me. Reading is so much a part of who I am that without it I felt untethered, as if I had misplaced a part of myself and was wandering around the house looking in random places where I might have left me.  I tried other books – a magnificent book on way-finding – the neuroscience of getting lost and how we use maps – almost saved me but the words still swam on the page. My eyes, fatigued by all the knitting, teared up as my mind struggled to make sense of the words.

Panic began to rise as I feared a return to years ago when my eyes, struck with such fatigue, no longer worked in tandem and for a while I lost my vision and then for much longer, the ability to read. Darkness loomed. I returned all of my library books,  sat reproachfully on my bedside table, wondering at their neglect. I was lost to them, lost to myself.

And then,

Then I went to the opticians and realised I needed glasses.

And not just little glasses – like I am properly blind without them. I’d had a prescription for driving glasses for a year now but it seems, without me noticing, I needed them to read as well.

Suddenly everything is bigger, everything is brighter. Everything is just a little bit sharper. I thought my friends and I were ageing terribly well, everything in my world a little soft focus, the lines softly blurred. With my glasses on I can see that we are ageing, let’s just leave it there.

And once again I can see words. Books, my long-loved refuge, have welcomed me back with open arms. Often a guilty pleasure, always feeling I should be doing something more important instead, I remind myself that as a I writer I need to read – it’s in my job description – so mornings are now dedicated to the sofa and a book. Look, see me at work.

The drought broken, the words no longer swim and turn, well they do – dyslexia notwithstanding, but at least now I can see their dance clearly.  I have my glasses and my tea and a few biscuits to keep me company- with books I find I have come back to myself.

My New Year Reading.

Michael Bond, Wayfinding; The art and science of how we find and lose our way.  –  a history of how humans have found our way, the neuroscience of getting lost and what that means to us all. A jaw-dropping read made accessible for Luddites like me.

Kate Atkinson, Shrines of Gaiety. 1920’s glamorous nightclubs and their sordid underbelly. Lots to love as the story explores missing you women ‘ the kind no one would miss,’ With multiple points of view, we are seamlessly pulled into a world of corruption, undercover, investigation and worn weary police officers. Not read much yet but loving it, nonetheless.

Victoria Bennet, All my Wild Mothers. Oh, my days, you are going to love this. I plan to give a copy to everyone I know. Released on the 2nd of February this is a memoir of grief and loss, of motherhood and caring and the creation of a garden. I cannot tell you how much I love the writing. The plaintive voice sings with loss but in such a way as to fill us with hope and tenderness. Mostly I want to give the writer and big hug, make her a cuppa and have her tell me more. Beautiful, magical storytelling. You will love this, I promise.

All My Wild Mothers by Victoria Bennett | Hachette UK

2 thoughts on “Losing the words

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