Helen Simpson makes me cry!

Yesterday was a busy blur of a day. I had to get up as if it were a school day despite it being the first day of the Christmas holidays. We stuck to our routine and were out of the house by 8.30 to catch the one bus an hour to take us to hospital. The bus jolted and bumped us around several villages, turning what can be a 15 minute car trip into an hour and 10 minutes. I dropped the boys off at their O/T arts and crafts group and went into town. It was a freezing day, and I felt ill. I am on antibiotics for a chest infection, and have other tedious health issues too. There was no point going home, it’d have taken too long, so I pottered around the shops. I tried on various unflattering garments, bought some last minute Christmas bits and bobs and generally tried to waste time not money.

In Boots my vision became blurred and gold ribbons seemed to streak across my eyes. When I looked at the words on products I lost the first half of them. This has happened before, I think it’s an eye migraine or something. I felt sick and exhausted. I went into a cafe and ordered some toast and a bottle of water so that I could swallow my tablets. It was noisy in there, and smelly. Fried food lingering in the air made me feel queasy. I sat at the only available table, squished into the wall with a branch from an artificial Christmas tree prickling my head. I pulled out my book; Helen Simpson “Constitutional”. I have read the stories before at work as I couldn’t wait. Now my friend has sent me the paperback for Christmas and I slung it into my bag because it is lighter to carry around than the hardback I am currently reading. I opened it to a story called “Early in the morning.” and read. It is a small tale about the car journey to and from school that a mother makes with her son and yet it encompasses so much; marriage, love, mothering, what it is to be a woman, disappointments and desires, and it opens up and out and becomes enormous. Sitting in the stuffy cafe, chomping on food that I didn’t want, I blocked out the world, and really immersed myself in her words. I even got tears in my eyes at the end of the story.

She is an amazing writer who translates the passion, needs and hope beneath the mundane. These are stories of life and death and much of the in between bits too!


The only negative I have to say is that I don’t think these stories blew me away in quite the same way that “Hey yeah right get a life” did. If you are coming to her work fresh I have to recommend them over this latest collection.


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