5 days in the life of Victoria Glendinning

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The Independent Online
Monday: I "started the week" with Melvyn Bragg on Radio 4 - along with Peter Brook, Scott Turow and Fritjof Capra. There we all sat round the table in that basement studio, nursing our anxieties and cups of mineral water, with Melvyn a drily benign schoolmaster looking at us over the top of his half-glasses, and us like pupils keen to do well, each with a book to sell. We all had different-coloured muffs on our microphones. Mine was bright green.

When I got home there was a message from Virago to say that Matthew and I had been asked to go on the Richard and Judy show. Rather grandly, we agreed we'd say yes. Then there was another message to say that Richard and Judy, or their handlers, had changed their minds and didn't want us. Oh! Relief and humiliation in equal parts.

I'm leading a disjointed life, eternally plying between my own house, which is gradually being dismantled, and K's, carrying the (wrong) clothes in plastic bags. I'm at K's house now. He has new snow-white pyjamas which he bought at Brooks Brothers in New York. Smart.

TUESDAY: Had two long baths today. A sign of unease. A lot of public and private argument raging about the boundaries between public and private - apropos of Jon Snow's contribution to our Sons and Mothers. Luckily for him he's in the US reporting the election.

At a party in Daunt's Bookshop I tried to get a copy to give to someone, but they were sold out. Brett on the till said people who came in for it asked for "Jon Snow's book". Well, really. The party was for Thomas Packenham's book about trees. His publisher Michael Dover said in his speech that if only Thomas was a tree he would hug him. There were lots of jokes about Thomas's arboreal obsession. While Thomas was speaking, Lord Longford munched his way through a whole plate of Pringles. I left early as I was worried about the three red mullet festering in the back of my car.

WEDNESDAY: This afternoon Matt and I were interviewed for the Evening Standard. You need to keep your wits about you, however sympathetic the interviewer and however many times you've been done over before. Anything said lightly or ironically comes out in print with thumping literalness. I'm having a bit of difficulty with public and private myself. I'm secretive. But bits of my diary are going into the paper. K is a firm believer in a decent reticence, although he doesn't mind my leaving in about the white pyjamas. I asked him.

THURSDAY: Forgot to say that last night we watched the first instalment of the new Channel 4 serial The Fragile Heart. It's going to be good. There's about the right amount of blood. The heart-surgeon's heart is permafrosted. His wife is warm and wonderful. Today I had two outraged letters from strangers (male) about my defence of Jon Snow in the Telegraph. I think it's only men who mind other men talking or writing about their feelings. Cracks in the permafrost. Dangerous.

Then I went out to buy a bathroom cabinet and came back with a Jean Muir dress. It is astonishingly like one I have from British Home Stores, but cost more than ten times as much. If I wear it every time I go out between now and next April, will it have earned its keep?

FRIDAY: Today is the journalist Martha Gellhorn's birthday. Her eyes are so bad now that she cannot read the papers, so I can write that she is the woman I most admire in the world without calling her mocking censure down on my head. She has been reporting virtually every war and conflict in the world since she went to the Spanish Civil War in 1937.

Her collected journalism is the most inspired anti-war propaganda I know. She is 88 today, and hasn't given up. No one is so shrewd, candid, fearless and formidable as Martha. Not that she was formidable this evening. We took her some white freesias. But the flat was already full of flowers. She doesn't come across as an old woman. K says she is like a girl.

Victoria Glendinning is a novelist and biographer. `Sons and Mothers', a collection of essays edited with her son Matthew and featuring a forthright maternal reminiscence by the broadcaster Jon Snow, was published by Virago last week.

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