‘APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.’
I never used to agree with old TS Eliot. As a young woman, I never thought April cruel. I was largely an optimist, given to romantic melancholy but nothing worse. As an older woman and a writer, I would concede that all that bursting and budding could leave a writer feeling uncreative and inadequate. But then pretty well anything can make a writer feel uncreative and inadequate in my experience.
This year though, as March fades and Brexit is triggered, the prospect of April is disturbing; I can see cruelty in its false promise. With Trump in the White House, sunshine and daffodils reminds me of the opening shots of a disaster movie, the beautiful before. I can almost hear the elegaic music, the lingering, loving camera shots before a tidal wave, or a nuclear winter destroys the lot. I should come clean and confess that I am still editing an old post apocalyptic, climate change novel of mine, but, with the newspapers full of Trump's decision to abandon Obama’s climate legislation and our own country likely to abandon our commitment to European environmental standards, it is not just the novel that is stimulating my millenarian tendencies.
As April springs into view, I am reminded of a writing exercise I sometimes set students. They are required to imagine a scene and to describe it first from the point of view of someone excited to meet a lover there, then to describe the same scene from the point of view of someone bereaved. We humans rarely see anything objectively. Today the world feels a little like a scene from a film, set in 1913, every shot infused with nostalgia for the last days of a particular type of innocence.
I know that I am not the only one, watching events unfold through the lens of future history, fearful that fact will deliver the kind of disaster usually confined to fiction. Perhaps this is nothing more than common or garden political disquiet, a writer’s tendency towards drama, a momentary mood. Let's all hope it is nothing other than middle aged anxiety and a harbinger of nothing more than a glorious summer. Meanwhile, I am in the perfect state of mind to finish my post apocalyptic novel. Who said I wasn't an optimist?