From my soapbox, ( and if I could have used this picture legally I would) a place I rarely stand on here and I definitely don't do politics and I'm not doing that now either, but I do have to report a first and I make no apology for it.
I have never heard a politician stand up and announce at a conference that the nation needs MORE health visitors and must have them, but I was indeed startled to hear David Cameron (leader of the Opposition) say exactly that on Sky News yesterday, and with an understanding in just a few sentences of what we are trained to do and do well, and what families say loudly and clearly that they really want us to do.
I think he really meant it too and today I feel slightly less of an unwanted old community-nurse-in-her-spare-time dinosaur than I did yesterday.
A universal, trusted, non-stigmatised service available to everyone whenever needed and for all the right reasons, best and safest practice always in place, not diluted, not targeted and not crisis-led.
Better be very quick indeed, because the baby's nearly gone out with the bathwater and, like the dodo, we are a species on the brink of extinction, within the next five years a high percentage of us will have
been put out to grass retired and taken our lifetime of professional expertise with us.
One of the most useful and reassuring (apparently) bits of advice I offer anyone who is struggling to negotiate with the terrorist tendencies of their tiny children is, if what you are doing isn't working try doing the opposite. It's all about containing and reducing anxieties and guilt and can be breathtakingly simple but stunningly effective. If you are shouting at them start whispering, if you are having a nervous breakdown because they won't eat five portions of fruit and veg a day and therefore won't be intelligent, (how in heaven's name have we led people to worry so much about this?) start to take no notice whatsoever.
If nothing else it all relieves the pressure and everyone can retreat from the frontlines of the battle without losing face and have a rest and a reconfigure.
Well it occurs to me that the same thing applies to my reading pile at the moment.
If what I'm reading isn't working I must do the opposite, relieve the pressure of a pile of books that are not obeying my need to enjoy, not beckoning me to devour them five times a day, I must reshelve and reconfigure, choose some more. Heavens to betsy something's rotten in the county of Devon when I tidy, dust and hoover the sitting room rather than curl up in the detritus and read a book.
I regularly have several books on the go at once and every so often I get it completely wrong. Wrong book for the moment, the mood, the weather whatever. So casting no aspersions whatsoever towards the lyrical writing of John McGahern and That They May Face the Rising Sun, it must return to the shelves after eighty pages. It's beautiful, mellow and paced but I've overdosed on beautiful, mellow, paced Irish of late, I'm sated to the brim with it and this book is not having the profound effect I know it can.
Likewise The Map of Love by Adhaf Soueif is a book I know will knock me for six at the right moment but it's not this moment, that's going back on the shelf after 120 pages.
Annie Dillard, well I was full of enthusiasm last week and The Writing Life was an excellent read and yes I'm enjoying Pilgrim at Tinker Creek but I'm not enjoying it enough. It overflows with the bounty of nature and closely observed natural imagery, that after all is the object of the book, but I'm not in the mood for reading about that either and I know I'm not appreciating it in the way Annie Dillard intended, so I'm swiping those off the Now Reading List this morning and replacing.
I seem to be in the mood for books that delineate families, spotting the similarities between parent-child relationships that may be in settings as diverse as it's possible to be. I've read Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje this week and my thoughts on that on here tomorrow, to be followed by a book that will be in my top ten reads of the year without a doubt, The Changeling by Robin Jenkins. If that cover doesn't strike a chord then the first few pages of this amazing book most certainly will, and me and Andrew Marr ( his Introduction that Stewart cleverly spotted is actually an Afterword) are both in snivelling uncontrollable 1950's (me 1953, he 1959) children's tears over it all, our hankies are wringing.
So I've inadvertently slipped into family therapy reading and that's where I want to stay because suddenly the synapses start to crackle and spark, arcing across completely disparate books as I spot the connections, from California to Glasgow and now to Winnipeg as I add in Holding My Breath by Sidura Ludwig and thence Rome as I draw Death In Rome by Wolgang Koeppen into the scheme of things.John Self lauded this over in his Asylum this week.I'll report back to the Salon later.