Just to reassure you that I didn't have a summer of complete idleness spent lazing in the deckchair, because I can report that I had to get my brain into gear for a re-read of The Squire by Enid Bagnold. The novel was first published in 1938 and a brave book for its time, childbirth still very much a taboo subject especially where the detail was concerned.
The Squire is a book I have written about here in the past, so I was delighted to be commissioned to write a piece on it for Persephone Books, to be published in the forthcoming edition of the Biannually, and coinciding with their re-publication of Enid Bagnold's novel on October 14th.
I had been reading Rebecca Goss's Her Birth which had certainly put me in the zone, so I timed the re-read of The Squire and the writing of the piece (EWD ... Estimated Writing Date) to happen around the time of the Royal Birth. I couldn't have planned it any better : childbirth was dominating the headlines and everyone was rushing in with sage words of wisdom as if, in 2013, we had just invented the whole notion of good post-natal care. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to write what I thought about the 'then' and 'now' of it all without the professional inhibitions and evidence-based correctness of my Nursing & Midwifery Council registration.
I hadn't forgotten what a good book The Squire was either, one that really surprised me when I first read it though Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville- West didn't like it one bit, but it came to me as a salutory reminder that for all the progress there are most certainly fundamental elements surrounding the birth of a baby that have been lost.
I'd bring back a variation on the six week Lying In period for starters. Maybe not complete bedrest, but rest and calm and peace and quiet for as long as a new mother wanted it. I used to spend an age explaining to new parents that if they could give themselves that first six weeks to recover physically and emotionally the next bit would fall into place.
Did you notice that Kate and William did just that??
Off to be looked after by her family...
No public engagements or appearances..
No official photos as yet beyond one lovely family shot that included the dog...
Now I know it's not possible for everyone, and all much easier if you live in such comfortable circumstances, but I have known women take the advice and manage it in far more straightened circumstances and still reap the rewards later on....and I have known others...barristers, surgeons who are terrifyingly back at work within days.
So here's a heads up for you...
If you want to read the piece when it is published next week you can order your free copy of the Persephone Biannually and the catalogue of all their books ( a work of art in itself) by signing up here.
And a date for the diary for those living in or near London...
.... to mark the Persephone publication of The Squire by Enid Bagnold, the Ninth Persephone Lecture will be given by the noted biographer Anne Sebba on Thursday November 28th at the October Gallery off Queen Square WC1 at 6.30. Her lecture will be called ‘The Pram in the Hall: Enid Bagnold, Writer and Mother’.
I don't think I can get there this year but these lectures are always interesting, and if you haven't read Anne Sebba's biography of Enid Bagnold it is well worth finding a copy. Anne has written the foreword to The Squire and I have just finished reading her recently re-published biography of Laura Ashley, (though I did find a copy of the original hardback edition on You-Know-Where) another excellent read and more of which soon.