Here’s a piece from The Sunday Times newspaper, giving an account of “MY WEEK”. Hard to capture – between the election of a clown as sad as Trump and the loss of a king as fine as Cohen – but here goes!
“The author enjoys ‘high mirth and low bitching’ over a US election
that makes her question if autumn is the only sign the clocks have turned back.”
Never liked it, autumn. And never more so than the day the clocks go back. Mostly, I resist accepting it until the last moment possible. It finally has to be let in, with its crisp, chill mornings, afternoon-nights and grounded leaves. All supposedly natural signs of death before rebirth. I’m not usually such a pessimist, but, for me, this morning is a shady whisper of darkness on the way.
Starting out after a long weekend can be a challenge, but Tuesday morning is a veritable Bridget Jones affair. I grab a cylinder from the bathroom shelf thinking it hairspray, only it turns out to be extreme-scent room freshener. I spray perfume on as camouflage, then fear I’ve turned into some perfume-department bimbo. This will not suit my interview with a prospective client whose book cover I’m to design.
Later, however, I forgive my inner Bridget, who variously tears up and bristles in quiet anger as she watches Louise O’Neill’s stunning documentary about Ireland’s rape culture. Asking For It is moving, disturbing and important. Four in ten is the number to remember. How many wounded Bridgets do you know?
Today I see footage of the Calais jungle being razed. I spent nearly a decade as a press officer for the UN and I’ve seen refugee camps, but it’s still shocking to watch, even on a screen. Then I see a photo of four women bundled up in the fine white cotton shawls edged with bright embroidery that you see everywhere in Eritrea and Ethiopia. They are walking under a clouded sky along a track pocked with puddles and muck. Their sandals are dirty. Their shawls are much too flimsy for October in northern France. I resolve to phone my friend Mariam, who is waiting for her European papers in a women’s hostel in the 19th arrondissement in Paris.
Wednesday is my morning with Caren Kennedy for the week’s writerly breakfast. We try to stick to serious discussion of her screenplay and the novel I’m working on, but it soon morphs into high mirth and low bitching. It’s hard this morning because Donald Trump has figuratively barged over to our cafe table uninvited, and the conversation has turned vicious. We are now, as Trump described Hillary Clinton, “nasty women”: full of fierce political invective, reading out the day’s worst tweets, spitting fury at Trump’s vile description of his infant daughter’s breasts, and laughing at black humoured posts by commentators. I like it. I want to be a nasty woman, especially this week.
I reach Mariam that evening. It’s cold where she is too, but her room in the hostel is small and warms up fast when she gets in from work. She has crossed two deserts and Mediterranean storms to come to Europe. The majority of her family members at home are in the military, and some friends didn’t survive the journey out.
We chat about her family and then of old times and she asks me the name of my book. When I say Ferenji, she squeals with laughter. It’s from ancient Arabic, but today it roughly translates as “bloody foreigners” from Eritrea to Syria to Vietnam. “I love it,” she says.
THE FUTURE IS BANANAS
For my mother, Helen’s 80th birthday, we head for Enniskerry, to see the colours of the season I so dislike. She tells me how she loves this cleansing blaze of colour — preparation for the sleepy season of glowing hearths and Christmas lights. She recalls an evening in late 1945 when her brother Desmond brought home a delicious foreign fruit, how he got her to close her eyes and guess what it was. “It was only a banana,” she says, “but we didn’t have them all through the war, and so it was a new treat.”
As we drive home, she points out sweeps of woodlands that dapple the landscape and I understand that despite the encroaching darkness, these autumn days are indeed gorgeous. The oaks and beeches are like dowager aunts, in lacy ochre and chocolate. Younger trees bear lime and gold jewels on their branches and overhead is a pristine sky.
“Mam,” I say, with a sense of foreboding, “your birthday could be the last day of the world as we now know it. They might elect Donald Trump tomorrow.”
“Oh, yes, that monster,” she says, after a moment. And then: “Aren’t we lucky, all the same, to have Michael D?”
Helena Mulkerns is a writer who runs book design service, Cyberscribe and an independent publishing imprint, 451 Editions. Her short story collection Ferenji and Other Stories is published by Doire Press