Jeanette and me

This week I ordered a copy of Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why be happy when you can be normal? on a recommendation from another favourite blogger. I’m surprised I missed this one. For starters, the title is brilliant, and secondly, I have always felt an affinity for dear Jeanette. Her first novel was semi-autobiographical but heavily fictionalised. Her memoir is described as its “silent twin”, written much, much later. Our common ground is some pretty extreme religious fervour in our youth. She (apparently) was raised as a pentecostal, was writing sermons at six and had her heart set on being a missionary.

I was a late starter, taking up the evangelical banner in my early teens. I preached in the town centre and was all set for a life as a minister. I patiently informed all my relatives and friends that they were going to burn in hell. I was a riot at parties.

For both Jeanette and me, that all changed. Quite drastically. We both seem to like non-linear narrative.

Oh, and we are both lesbians.

(OK I made that last one up, but we are attracted to the same gender at least).

At school, as the resident religious nutter, I was asked to do a five minute inspirational turn at our Sixth Form Assemblies, every Wednesday, for two excruciatingly long years. To begin with I was enthusiastic. In a short period of time I found that I dried up. Struggled to come up with anything remotely suitable to say on such a tedious repetitive basis. It was torture, but thankfully I don’t think anyone was really listening anyway.

One of the lessons I (mostly) learned from this was not to commit to things so damn draining unless I am convinced my heart is truly in it, otherwise it will come back and bite me on the arse. Indeed, one of my reservations about blogging was this rooted fear that it would become a burden rather than a pleasure. I am pleased that this has not been the case. What it has made me realise is that as a naive teenager, my religious ardour was only skin-deep, and to an extent delusional. It was not really me, hence my painful inability to maintain my passion for spouting off about it.

This is different. Here I just open and say whatever goes through my head. The result is pretty incoherent (I’ve started wittering on about food for pity’s sake, if the content were not already so desperately random) but at least it is well-aligned. Resonance over dissonance.

Jeanette-Winterson

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