There are always choices to be made in writing. One of them is ‘topic’. What do you choose to write about?
I have a couple of options. The first would be the fact that I am, at present, eating my way through the most delicious raw cauliflower that I have ever tasted. I bought it in Aldi, mainly I have to admit, because it was small and would therefore be consumed before I left for the UK on Wednesday. I brought it home, cut off the stalks and broke the head down into bite-sized florets. And I ate one. A revelation! I have always liked raw vegetables, but this lowly cauliflower took crudité to new levels of lusciousness. And the cauliflower was something that I wouldn’t even consider eating when I was young. Though that was always when it was cooked, after suffering the disgusting smell that accompanied its production. And, though I don’t hold it against her (why should I, I never ate any of it) my mother boiled cauliflower until it was soft and always added a pinch of bicarb. to do . . . what? Precisely? Take away all of the vitamin content! But even then, I loved to eat cauliflower raw. For me, cooking al dente was perfection: an amalgam of the rawness that I loved with the fact that it was technically ‘cooked’! Perfect. Even my mum began to cook things al dente. Who could ask for more?
Or I could talk about the article that I read in the digital edition of the Guardian that allowed survivors of religious extreme cults who had lost their faith to tell we readers how they now viewed the world – and the world that they had lost. And that got me thinking about my own lost faith.
I don’t think, to be fair that ‘lapsed Anglican’ is ever going to raise enough interest to get the Guardian to open its pages to the searing stories of how, having lost their faith, the ex-Anglican were treated so very . . . um . . . reasonably by those who kept theirs!
Lapsed Anglicans do not write revealing fiction about how they trail guilt feelings instilled in them by fanatical Church in Wales preachers who . . . it simply isn’t like that.
One Anglican bishop to whom I explained that I was an “Anglican atheist” said, “Yes, well, there are a lot of you around!” Not really the stuff that produces hard-hitting revelations about how the ingrained guilt of Anglicanism haunted me throughout my non-Anglican life!
Through Holy Week this year, I used the period as a time to write a poem for each day. Not necessarily an overtly religious poem, but a poem, nevertheless, influenced in some ways by the week that I was in. I did the same thing last year and I found the process strangely rewarding.
I have now published a very slim volume of nine poems: I count Holy Week as starting on Palm Sunday and I wrote two poems for Easter Sunday, hence the number. The titles are: Assumption, Dress, Anticipation, Daddy Agonistes, Penultimate, Locked, Waiting, Set up and Offer. There is a sort of poem in the succession of titles, but let it pass – I’ve ‘written’ two ‘found’ poems recently and that is more than enough!
My point, which I haven’t made, is that I get a great deal of satisfaction out of writing poems at such a time. Whether there is the same satisfaction in reading them only time and an audience will tell! But there is something produced and that gives me pleasure.
But there is an internal on-going conversation with myself about why I should find this week significant and why I should bother writing poetry during it. The poems themselves, only go so far in getting towards an explanation.
There is a simple explanation of course, and that is that I am still basically an Anglican at heart, and the loose chains of a liberal faith are, in their way, even more difficult to break than those of a much more authoritarian one. And that one day I will ‘return to the faith’ – indeed one of my friends tells me this with that voice of weary resignation that suggests that it is so obvious that it need not be stressed. I think he’s wrong, but, time will tell.
So, on balance, I don’t think that I will write about cauliflower or faith – I will write about the Open University.
Today, I finished writing the last Tutor Marked Assignment that I needed to do in the last course of my degree. Admittedly I now have to complete the long essay that accounts for 50% of the marks, but my last TMA has been written.
And perhaps I am still writing about cauliflowers and faith, because the Open University is an addictive sort of institution, with zealous (I use the word advisedly) adherents who suck knowledge out of courses with the same fanaticism with which I ate the vegetable. Two people have already said to me, when I told them that I was getting towards the final end of my degree, “Of course, you’ll do another, won’t you?”
And, do you know, I just might!