Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters

It was a mild and motionless summer day, exactly right for washing carpets. Slow and sleepy swells came rolling in to help her with the rinsing, and around her red cap a few bumblebees were humming: they took her for a flower.

Don't you pretend, the Fillyjonk thought grimly. I know how things are. Everything's always peaceful like this just before a disaster...

Bob and I have been taking it in turns to read to each other. He's been reading me Tales From Moomin Valley; I've been reading him Enemy of God. His book is about strange creatures that live on the outskirts of the imagination; mine is full of bloodthirsty Christian saints and people getting bits of them chopped off in horrific ways. It seems fitting somehow, a mutual exchange of what we each crave a bit of.

Last night he read me The Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters. I cried at the end (quietly, into his jumper), partly because it's brilliant, and partly because it reminded me of, well, me. It's good when that happens - you can spend hours, weeks, years, driving yourself crazy trying to find the key to understanding something about yourself and your life. Then a little story comes along and you go That's it. There I am.

If you can, I think you should read this story by Tove Janssen; it's terribly clever and very beautiful. To crudely summarise: a fillyjonk (Mrs Fillyjonk) is seized with a nameless fear, a sense of approaching disaster she can do nothing about. Then, when a real calamity strikes, it has unexpected consequences...

Bob and I are moving in together. We are moving to a weird house in a weird place. It's called Bevendean. It sits on the side of a hill and is surrounded by badgers, foxes and men shouting at their dogs. Though I am nervous about such a move, I am not half as nervous as I've been for the last year, knowing that the move has to be made, but not knowing how or where or if. So I've clung to my flat like a lifeboat on a very windy sea, and weathered all its quirks (windows being blown out), eccentricities (rainwater cascading through roof) and overall quaintness (nutter in basement who nicked my Daniel Johnston cd). But now it's time to let go.

I can take my teacups with me. And my birdcages and spotty dresses too. Unlike the fillyjonk (fingers crossed), all my belongings do not have to go swirling up to heaven, carried up in a tornado. But you never know.

I'm not sure about the rubbish piled up in the backyard at this new place. I'm not sure about the 'funky' decor. I'm certainly not sure about Bob's new running joke ("You're Bev, I'm Dean!"). But I am sure I've absolutely made the right decision, and that we will be happy there. And that once a 'disaster' has finally arrived, sometimes it's a lot easier to deal with.

I'm tired of waiting for the next tornado to rip through my world, and of the beating in my chest that comes with it. Of never feeling like I can be happy because, if I let myself, something awful is sure to happen. I can clatter my teacups and buy a new teapot, but I know the storms outside that are pounding to get in. They're big, and, like you, I am very, very small.

But, fuck it, I'm not going to wait any longer for the winds to carry me off. I'm upping sticks and moving out, to a magnificent and weird place, to somewhere new. I am certain Mrs Fillyjonk will approve.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow! You're moving in with Bob! That's so exciting! Can't wait to hear all about it. I'm coming back tomorrow, well, I arrive on Tuesday... Let's meet up really soon my dearest Clare.

Also, William and I have been reading A Winter Book by Tove Janssen to each other. It's so amazing.

Barbara said...

I absolutely love this short story. It's both everyday and mythic, a combination that most writers can't pull off. You've quoted such an excellent part of the story to give readers an idea of the remarkable tone of this work -- dark and funny and all-too-human.

Have you read Moominvalley in November? The fillyjonk has a cathartic realization about cleaning in that one.