Anyone else tempted by the thought of a year in bed?
The title of Sue Townsend’s final novel, The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, caught my eye just as I was about to leave Waterstones. The words screamed rebellion to me, and I bought the book. Every day I think how bonkers the lives of most 21st century Western women are – a mad rush to get through the myriad of jobs and decisions and deadlines our ‘chosen’ lifestyles impose on us. A year in bed sounded wonderfully appealing…
And sure enough, the main character of the novel is Eva, a 50 year old woman, who has had enough of her ridiculous existence, and takes herself to bed for a year to think things through. She says she is not having a breakdown, she is “pupating.” Taking time to work things out. Although I wouldn’t particularly recommend the book, there are some amusing, vintage Townsend passages. This was my favourite. You will enjoy it if you have ever felt overwhelmed by domestic duties …
“On the second day, Eva woke up and threw the duvet back and sat on the side of the bed.
Then she remembered that she didn’t have to get up and make breakfast for anyone, yell at anyone else to get up, empty the dishwasher or fill the washing machine, iron a pile of laundry, drag a vacuum cleaner up the stairs or sort cupboards and drawers, clean the oven or wipe various surfaces, including the necks of the brown and the red sauce bottles, polish the wooden furniture, clean the windows or mop the floors, straighten rugs or cushions, shove a brush down various shitty toilets or pick up soiled clothing and place it in a laundry basket, replace light bulbs and toilet rolls, pick up things from downstairs that were upstairs and bring them down or pick up things from upstairs that were downstairs, fetch dry-cleaning, weed the borders, visit garden centres to buy bulbs and annuals, polish shoes or take them to the key cutter, return library books, sort recycling, pay paper bills, visit one mother and worry about not visiting one mother-in-law, feed the fish and clean out the filter, answer the phone for two teenagers and pass on messages, shave legs or pluck eyebrows, give self –manicure, change the sheets and pillow cases on three beds (if it was Saturday), hand wash woollen jumpers and dry flat on a bath towel, pay bills, shop for food she wouldn’t eat herself, wheel it to the car, unload it into the boot, drive home, put the food away in the fridge and the cupboards, and, on tiptoe, place tins and dried goods on a shelf that exceeded her reach but was perfectly comfortable for Brian.
She would not be chopping vegetables and browning meat for a casserole. She would not be baking bread and cakes because Brian preferred the home-made to the shop bought. She would not be cutting grass, weeding, planting and sweeping paths or collecting leaves in the garden. She would not be painting the new fence with creosote. She would not be chopping wood to light the real log fire that Brian sat next to after he came home from work in the winter months. She would not be brushing her hair, showering or hurriedly applying make-up.
Today she would not be doing any of those things.”
I remember speaking to a frazzled working mother of two children, one at school and one at part-time nursery. She said to me that she’d worked out that she had 17 deadlines in her week, just to get her children to school and nursery on time. That’s before her job or domestic duties even started.
This going to bed for a year could catch on. Thanks Sue. I think you’ve started something.