GUIDANCE, or, READER’S NOTES:
Reader fills in for the writer who is filling in for Janet Frame, the author.
Sections beginning ‘\’ are transcribed from an audio recording made on a visit to 39 Grove Hill Road, where Frame spent three of the noisiest years of her London life.
The ‘she’, that other in this game can be considered Janet, if you like.
So you realise, don’t you, the farce of trying to catch her truth? But hey, you’re here to do a job, so (you) swallow the directions and begin.
You look at a map, and see the pleasant shape of St. Francis Park. By the pleasantness of its shape, and by its proximity to Grove Hill Road, you decide that Janet would have come here, and that’s where you’ll begin.
unsirened by the map, the arrival is essentially glum.
The arrival is grimmed by a giant Sainsbury’s breeding up a tangle of roads. Already your self is getting in the way of this thinking game. A lorry lets you cross, one road, and then another. The edges of your map prove easy to pass over.
Thanks, you think, thanks a lot.
You enter the park. You scan the marks that made up your map, that made the so-pleasant abstract. But the marks didn’t sound the noises, didn’t scratch the smells that occupy you now, didn’t make the dogs with their children, or the wasps with their quarrels (all keeping you at the very edge of yourself) and all such busyness make a life of those lines and markings and edges.
A woman beams at you all-too-knowingly, and your memory replaces her face with Janet’s, and you remember her story, Prizes, and think, just what do you think you know about me? You think, also, about the other author you heard reading her, how that other author also felt, sometimes, to be playing at Janet’s edges.
Where would she sit? you think, and you try to choose somewhere quiet, but flinch at the impulse – was that me or Janet? It’s starting to take.
\children the steely screams of children scythed down to bubbling yells of play at the roundabout. no cause for alarm, but she feels it anyway.
Those salad leaves, you know, the ones from your garden, are tough in their packed sandwich. You pull with your teeth, and they pull with their toughness, and all other fillings fall to your lap. You bet they survived all winter those leaves, out there under the mild city winter, covered with slush. You hope you washed them well enough. You hope it’s safe to eat from city soil.
You think of Janet, her Snowman, Snowman, the story that found its feet in this park. You wonder (with difficulty, below showers of eye-watering birch blossom – but Janet never mentioned allergies!) – you wonder about the stray cat from her letters, knowing it was a real cat, and whether its progeny populate the area. You decide to keep an eye out for cats.
\cars whip the air in the background, she chews in the foreground
Janet reminds you of your middle sister when she was shy, or, of all you sisters really, grinning your way through all that awkwardness. You think the student you met lately, who’s words you could hardly listen to because of her striking resemblance to your Janet. That absorbing mix of clumsy shyness that contrasts with a self-same acuity, wit, and assertiveness. What can a person know of a person anyway? People talk of love, but I think it’s a mistake.
You find, on this day especially, that there’s a reminding of Janet in everything. You’ve soaked yourself in her words, her thoughts.
\she opens her flask, and laps, the coffee has cooled enough not to make a smooth tongue rough. under direction from the wind, or the pollen, she takes a long and encompassing sniff
You feel the feeling of having cycled far, of having sat down to rest in a sunny space, a bit too noisy, but in your own making, quiet. Along the coasts, and further abroad (you roll your ‘r’ here, a little affectedly) you find yourself seeking something out. A feeling of capacity, of being the master of your gate, of
\GROSS a RAT!
[You are yourself again for a moment, as is the writer, and I’m sure, as is Janet.]
This is all very noisy, you think. And dirty. And I’m eating my lunch and a rat came below me. Oh gross! What if it bites me [your voice cracking] I’ll die! You gather up your sandwich and snacks to shrink the rat’s map of luck.
\scrumble of material, crunching and munching and more sniffing
\muching, chewing – salad leaves are hard to bite through so the whole sandwich is extroverted and eaten inside-out
definitely don’t stick your fingers in your mouth.
\brushes hands off, scuffles feet on the tarmac
You make noises with your feet so the rats don’t come back. Smart guys though. They’ll know we are no threat.
So this is Janet’s turf, you think. This is what she saw; what she walked through en and off route to writing, to the Maudsley.
\continued lunch noises, increasing. a crescendo joined by microphone blasting up a breeze
She wouldn’t have had these songs in her head, silence being her thing, or boys far away in Montserrat that made her heart ache. Or maybe – that one in Ibiza? In lives without much contact, small interactions get louder.
\wind ravages microphone
Janet talked a lot about noises, of radios and television sets slowly populating her residence, her street. They made it difficult to work. That huge Sainsbury’s wouldn’t have been there, you think. You wonder if people yelled as much as they do now. You think guiltily of this morning, on the road – you were yelling too.
\interrupting with a mouth full of food, she says - but only when someone endangers my life!
You begin to dislike this imposter.
Your mind is doing something interesting, naturally. Because you came here to do something with Janet, to think something with Janet, you’re doing just that. But then, this place doesn’t really contain any Janet. And the more you’ve studied her, the further you see yourself from the reality of her. The student, yesterday, told you about something R.D Laing wrote – that humans should be able to feel separate, separately thinking, and still to care about each other. The further the distance between personalities, the further the leap of imagination, of humanity. The leap becomes more significant. The experience of schizophrenia, as described by Laing, is as valid an experience of reality as any other.
\chewing gets really irritating, is affected