Discover more from Trying with Emma Barnett
There’s a great Christmas Day anecdote about the actor Andrea Riseborough’s grandmother, “Nana”, who pretty much raised the star and used to rise at 5am and hit the sack at 11pm.
“She started work at 13 years old pushing a bread cart up a really steep hill and worked as a cleaner until late into her 80s,” Andrea told The Guardian. “I cannot remember her sitting down – to the point where we were once having Christmas dinner and she was ironing. If she could hear me now, she’d say: ‘Well, it needed to be done.’”
What a woman eh?
I read this as part of preparation for interviewing Andrea this week on Woman’s Hour - ahead of her latest film, Matilda, opening, in which she plays the protagonists’s brilliantly ghastly mother, Mrs Wormwood.
Our on-air conversation was a joy and covered all manner of stories - including our shared habit of taking our own teabags wherever we go and that time Beyoncé asked her to dance, and she froze, failed to move and just stared at Queen Bey’s midriff instead.
But it was this vivid portrait of ‘Nana’ and her work ethic, which I asked her about, that really struck a chord and stayed with me.
So much of how we live is about carrying on, carrying on; one foot in front of another. Joy often comes through the mundane - without us realising it. Like a quote I spied on Instagram this week which read: “One of the weirdest things about being an adult is having a favourite hob, yet no one talks about it.” Right? I haven’t been able to stop quietly chuckling ever since. (Top left, in case you are wondering. If you know, you know).
Our thoughts and feelings may rage and swirl, but on we go and go. No feeling is thankfully final -something to always remember - and brilliantly we still learn even as we age.
Personally I am still learning so many of the basics - the most recent being that apparently people think about which way they put a new loo roll on the holder. Because you either prefer the paper to come either under or over. What the? Who even cares? But I’ve been told it most definitely is a THING.
Hell I even wrote a whole column earlier this year about all the things I’ve been allegedly getting wrong all of my life - but I still won’t concede that it’s ok NOT to wear knickers under pyjamas. Gussets are needed during a sleep shift.
My bigger point is that sometimes the only way is to put your head down and just keep on going, taking joy in the small pleasures in life, where you can get them.
But also accepting that a mixture of duty and a need to work and earn, doesn’t always fit with this modern day obsession with being fulfilled or constantly content. It is sometimes enough just to be and admire the mundane.
Being purposeful, whether that’s ironing on Christmas Day or changing the loo roll (however you damn well like), has got me through a hell of a lot, often without me realising.
I am about, I hope, to go into another chapter of my life, as I reach the eighth month of my pregnancy.
One swollen foot in front of another - is a mantra I am once again living by and I hope will continue to do so early next year when, all being well, I stagger into that delivery suite.
Who knows what lies ahead? Regular readers of this newsletter will know that I don’t take anything for granted or think too far into the future.
But I am now, with your blessing I hope, going to press the pause button on this newsletter - which I love writing and want to grow in new ways. More of which anon.
So please do stay with me. I hope you will and I shall return in 2023 with a plan and more from me. In the meantime - I can assure you that I won’t be ironing on Christmas Day - but I will be wearing pants under PJs.
Thank you for trying with me for the last six months, whatever that means in your life and here’s to carrying on carrying on.
(And just to make two things very clear indeed: if you stay subscribed as a free subscriber, I promise there will be no downside - no clutter will enter your crowded inboxes. It will just be silent until I return - so I hope you can stay and do no unsubscribe. Secondly - if you have been kind enough to support my writing and this newsletter through a paid subscription, I have paused billing for now until I am back up and running. Go and have a lovely few extra cups of tea instead and know I am raising mine back at you).