…the confines of the mediocre

“… At that time I was sharing two rooms and a hip bath with the actress Vicky Licorish. She had no money, I had no money, we could not afford the luxury of a separate whites wash and so were thankful of the fashion of coloured knickers which allowed those garments most closely associated with our self-esteem, not to be grey. Dinginess is death to a writer. Filth, discomfort, hunger, cold, trauma and drama, don’t matter a bit. I have had plenty of each and they have only encouraged me, but dinginess, the damp small confines of the mediocre and the gradual corrosion of beauty and light, the compromising and the settling; these things make good work impossible. When Keats was depressed he put on a clean shirt. When Radclyffe Hall was oppressed she ordered new sets of silk underwear from Jermyn Street. Byron, as we all know, allowed only the softest, purest and whitest next to his heroic skin, and I am a great admirer of Byron. So it seemed to me in those days of no money, no job, no prospects and a determined dinginess creeping up from the lower floors of our rooming house, that there had to a be a centre, a talisman, a fetish even, that secured order where there seemed to be none; dressing for dinner every night in the jungle, or the men who polished their boots to a hard shine before wading the waters of Gallipoli. To do something large and to do it well demands such observances, personal and peculiar, laughable as they often are, because they stave off that dinginess of soul that says that everything is small and grubby and nothing is really wroth the effort.”  —from the Introduction to Oranges are not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson.

meet anton

 
“You may have heard of Rapunzel.

“Against the wishes of her family, who can best be described by their passion for collecting miniature dolls, she went to live in a tower with an older woman.

“Her family were so incensed by her refusal to marry the prince next door that they vilified the couple, calling one a witch and the other a little girl. Not content with names, they ceaselessly tried to break into the tower, so much so that the happy pair had to seal up any entrance that was not on a level with the sky. The lover got in by climbing up Rapunzel’s hair, and Rapunzel got in by nailing a wig to the floor and shinning up the tresses flung out of the window. Both of them could have used a ladder, but they were in love.

“One day the prince, who had always liked to borrow his mother’s frocks, dressed up as Rapunzel’s lover and dragged himself into the tower. Once inside he tied her up and waited for the wicked witch to arrive. The moment she leaped through the window, bringing their dinner for the evening, the prince hit her over the head and threw her out again. Then he carried Rapunzel down the rope he had brought with him and forced her to watch while he blinded her broken lover in a field of thorns.

“After that they lived happily every after, of course.

“As for me, my body healed, though my eyes never did, and eventually I was found by my sisters, who had come in their various ways to live on this estate.

“My own husband?

“Oh well, the first time I kissed him he turned into a frog.

“There he is, just by your foot. His name’s Anton.”

(from—Sexing the Cherry,  by Jeanette Winterson)