Much to my astonishment, ‘Tulip Fever’ is apparently coming to cinemas on 7 December. This whole twenty-year-old saga (see previous postings) might be coming to an end at last. It has been both bizarre and gruelling, to say the least, but now you might actually be able to see the film, which really is rather great, and with the most amazing cast – Judi Dench, Alicia Vikander, Cara Delevigne, Tom Hollander, Christoph Walz and even me, playing my favourite part, an old crone drinking beer and smoking a clay pipe. So do go, if it comes to a cinema near you. The ghastly Weinstein scandal nearly scuppered it, but it’s actually very beautiful, and takes us right into 17th century Amsterdam, as if we’re walking into a Vermeer painting.
It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, but I’ve been adapting ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ into a stage play, for Chichester Theatre, and also writing another novel. It’s called ‘The Carer’.
Old age is not for cissies. Being a carer’s not for cissies either. Most of us can’t cope with it and employ somebody else to do the dirty work. This is what I did, when my mother developed dementia. Three cheerful Irish women took over, in rotation, and left me free to carry on with my life. And what a rollercoaster of emotions this released! I adored them, they were life-savers, and we had some surprisingly larky times together. I was deeply grateful to them, whilst also, ridiculously, resenting their increasing intimacy with someone who was withdrawing from me into her final illness. I disapproved of the way they infantilized her, even the way they dressed her, whilst realizing that I had no right to criticize, no right at all. Needless to say, I felt chronically guilty. And sometimes I even felt jealous that she seemed fonder of them than of me, rather like a child loving its nanny more than its parents. Because they were earning her love, even as she was subtly changing and becoming – well, theirs.
In other words, I was locked into a relationship that’s becoming increasingly common as the elderly population explodes. But few people talk about it. We rely more and more on these strangers who enter into the heart of our families and get to know our secrets.
So I decided to write a novel about it. Mandy from Solihull is the bouncy, chatty godsend who rescues a middle-class brother and sister from the burden of looking after their old Dad. She quickly becomes indispensible and is almost eerily good at her job, anticipating the old boy’s needs and reorganizing his life. Under her care he starts subtly changing, to his children’s mystification, and then something happens which detonates a crisis and throws the family into confusion.
Do we really know our nearest and dearest? ‘The Carer’ explores this unsettling question. I’ve moved publishers and it’s coming out next summer under the Tinder Press imprint.
Otherwise I’m appearing at the Mumbai LitFest, in November, if any of you happen to be there. Well, why not? It’ll be nice and sunny and nobody will be talking about Brexit.
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