Here is a listening version of this blog post.

Reading cheerful books

Increasingly I find I make a virtue of reading cheerful books. I have read a lot of chic lit – that brand of rather uniquely sexist literature that fashionistas decry because they say it appeals to the lazy instincts of womankind. Woman meets man, loses man, finds him again; or woman loses man, finds herself, finds a better man. We are prone to scoffing at such easy, soft options for reading, as if by not reading Proust, or the latest discoveries unearthed within the pages of ‘Archaeology Now’, we are letting down the side, betraying the freedoms for which our older sisters and mothers fought so hard.

But what if the lot of women is already hard? What if the first thing woman does when she rises at seven, is to put away the laundry, open the curtains and make the beds? What if, when she reaches the kitchen and is within hailing distance of her breakfast, the first thing she sees is the pile of unwashed dishes at the sink? There is not much room there, for escapism, and precious little to look forward to, unless, of course, she is that delightful fiction of mankind, the woman who enjoys cleaning and clearing, and finds daily menus a delightful challenge.

As it is, I manage several loads of laundry a week, half a dozen cooked meals and an assortment of domestic duties, usually with considerable aplomb. On the occasional occasion when I mention my dislike, my husband, who rarely does laundry, says I make too much of my dislike. A few years back, his incomprehension would have been my cue for an argument and a bout of despair. Now, at least, I can think of a calm reply with a hint of humour, “Spoken like a true officionado” or some such… It’s just a pity that it takes me a week to formulate it, by which time the moment has passed.

There are times when the sheer loneliness of domestic isolation can become a bit overpowering. Held down by such feelings, happy stories and humour are a vital escape, allowing the mind to lift, and then find solutions, strength and new resolve. If Alice in her cupcake shop can tell the CEO of a large multi-national corporation that she is not interested in promotion, then I can find the steely resolve I need, to withstand long periods of fatigue, failures in communication and the demands that everyone makes on my time.

Thanks so much for reading.

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