In Two Minds

Today, I am missing working in the prison very much. I wonder about lots of my borrowers and hope they are getting on okay. There are also projects and missions in the prison that I worked really hard on, and I want to know they are getting on okay without me. There are jobs in the library that I really liked doing, like helping the men taking Open University courses get the right books and periodicals for their essays, and showing them the right way to do references, and making cups of tea for the creative writing group, and overhearing the odd mucky joke on the landings…

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my friend Jane who still works in the prison, teaching the prisoners creative writing and helping to edit the prison magazine. We worked together closely because there was a bit of overlap in our jobs, and because I was nosey and liked to know what all the prisoners were writing. She reminded me of some of the things I didn’t like about working in the prison, but it didn’t help. I am remembering, like I always do, with rose-coloured lenses – whatever that means.

It would be good if there were two Jenns. One could be a writer, and sit on her own all day and write Cold Light and the Next One (the Ravensglass one) and the one after that. And one could be the Out In The World Jenn and do the Word Soups and the Interviews and the Literary Festivals. And one could be the lazy Jenn and stay in bed and sulk and tremble and dream. One could do the mothering and the standing outside the school gates nodding and the selection of suitable outfits for PTFA and the ironing in of school labels and the not putting petrol in the diesel car. And one Jenn to stay in bed with tea and oranges and read solidly, forever. And one Jenn would definitely work in the prison, talking to the men there about books and reading and writing and working hard, and pretending not to understand the occasional off-colour joke that I might have heard…

That’s more than one Jenn. A whole army of deputy Jenns then, all with 24 hours of their own and no need to eat and sleep. Some of them, like the writing Jenn, would just be hard-drives and typing fingers and that would be ace. Some of them, like the PTFA and the sewing-in-name-labels Jenn would be brainless Jenns, so they could go half and half I suppose, and reduce the total.

I am going to have to stay alive until I am a hundred and fifty years old. 

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