January 31 1999
3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH
I have been trying to get used to being back home. It has helped to recover Ferris. When I collected him from my neighbour’s – and after such a long time apart – he was ecstatic: jumping up, rolling over, and half-enveloping my face with his long, exuberant, tongue. He is sitting by me now, with most of his head at rest on my foot.
Yesterday morning, I sat at my dressing table and gazed at all the accoutrements of making myself up (in so many ways) and which have gathered dust in my absence. It is an old-fashioned, almost ornate, table and its principal glass mirror also has leaves. And then I set to, smoothing and soothing my skin with foundation and little puffs of powder. There is something intimate about the scent of powder from a compact; perhaps it’s the minuteness of the particles which must saturate the air. And then I applied aquamarine eyeliner and mascara to outline my – still beautiful – green eyes. I laid these implements down, before turning to the applicator of lipstick. I like the way its metal gleams in the light and the tint of pastel, and brown, which highlights my lips. When I added the turquoise of a necklace, to the black of a blouse, I thought, ‘I must be complete now. A woman whole enough to construct her own style.’
And in the background I had playing – in an endless loop of sorrow and joy – the music of the ‘Sicilian Clan’ by Ennio Morricone. Its two musical themes run simultaneously. Strings play out a dark melody of grief which run like a thread through a counterpoint which bounces out its irrepressible life. ‘BOING BOING BOING’ go what seem to be springs in the background. As I played it, over and over again, it was the grief in the music that I heard first. It went down and down inside my head, until I knelt on the floor, weeping. I wept for all I had thought I had lost – in Austen – but is not at all a loss. It is a gain. And then I heard again the unstoppable joy and, do you know Mum, I think a set of springs may just be commencing to bounce in my own life.
The telephone rang later on and it was Ian. My son. Our voices metaphorically leaped all over each other. I think, for such a long time, I feared that he would turn out like Austen, his father, or Charmer, his grandfather before him. But thinking about it more rationally, there were indicators that this would never be so. When he was only six years old, I recall that his pet hamster somehow broke its neck and came flip-flopping down the stairs as I stood at the bottom. Ian was hysterical and as I tried to console him – looking into his own shining and aquamarine eyes – I realized, at that moment, that he was capable of love. My child, oh God, has developed the soul of an angel. And although I don’t know how this has happened, I am as grateful as it is possible to be.
On the phone however, all Ian could talk about was flyover construction (I have mentioned his course in civil engineering, haven’t I?) I must say I found it all quite hard to follow and it was only when he mentioned ‘heating cables’ that I thought of something sensible to say. I said, “But darling. Won’t it be expensive to heat a flyover’s cables all winter long. Are you sure the council won’t mind it?” But Ian flew on, with more esoteric details that I cannot remember.
Bye for now Mum
All love Harriet
P.S. Austen has not replied to my petition for a decree nisi; the 21 days have passed now. So the divorce will go through uncontested. It will be absolute.