I’ve been reading a lot. The usual stuff- crime fiction alternating with women finding themselves and love (the tall/ dark/ handsome or mean/moody types prevail) in the countryside, remote island, or bookshop. There’s always a smattering of worthy books, because there’s only so much I can read about fluffy or victimised women, and I even branched into non fiction.
Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters is magical realism, Belfast style, and recently won the EU prize for literature. Read all of Jan’s work, you will enjoy it.
Emilie Pine (Notes to Self) and Sinead Gleeson (Constellations) have produced essays and memoir, both deeply personal, honest and moving. I read each in short bursts, pausing to deal with the ‘oomph’, the force of truth. Each deal with health issues. Others deal try to heal the healthcare system, and some of those are interviewed by David Gilbert in The Patient Revolution. The effort involved in working with the system to drive improvements, and the cost of so doing is enormous. This is something I know and recognise even from my limited involvement in similar types of activity.
My new volunteering, as a Boardroom Apprentice, brings its own challenges. Learning days, attachment to the board of a public body- including all relevant training and meetings, a group task, clothes that aren’t pyjamas, the whole grown up thing. Unexpectedly, none of those are the problem for me. Even more unexpectedly, my problem is the reading.
How can that be?
Included in the course materials are documents on the relationship between government departments and non-departmental public bodies, codes of conduct, rules of governance and managing money. The language is English, but not as I know it. It’s a particular form of the written word known as civil service speak/ Mandarin. It’s used by civil servants to communicate with each other, keeping formalities and rules to the forefront. It’s not written for the public to read and understand. There are attempts to improve the clarity of such things for us mere mortals, but that’s of limited use to me, struggling through a 10 year old paper on money.
Some of you know and understand these things. Practise will mean that I learn to read a sentence and move on to the next one, without needing five attempts and a dictionary. I’ll figure out what I need to know and what I just need to know exists. I may never read the 1932 Concordat (I haven’t found annex 2.1 yet) but I probably should know the legal powers my organisation has to actually do its work.
For the first time, I’ve been wondering if I should have tried law. Surely that would have trained my mind to read gobbledygook? My brain fog and difficulties with concentration mean that I could do with all the help. But since I don’t have a job, I do have time. I’ll be fluent soon, and if not, there are plenty of lovelorn 30 somethings in picturesque book shops or cafes to entertain me.