Reading. One of life's pleasures. I refer you to the conveniently-relevant Groucho Marx, who said: "Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read."
Actually, Groucho is one of the very few (two) impressions that I can do with any conviction*, and honing it may have to become my new free-time hobby, now that I have an aversion to reading, and more free time than ever before in which to not read.
(Ladies and gentleman, an emblem for our times – the unemployed graduate! Watch in amazement as she spends an entire afternoon peeling every single bit of white off a tangerine, without ever getting out of bed! Gaze in astonishment as she works her way through every episode of The Wire, while using her council tax bill as a coaster! Step away from the bars, little Jimmy, you're too young to see this..).
Yes, I'm now allergic to books. Like the proverbial busman and his holiday (a sentiment that one can't help feeling died a little with the introduction of air travel), my English degree has succeeded in turning me off literature.
I'm miffed at this, because one of the only things that kept me going through my exams was the promise that when it was all over, I could settle down to work my way through every book I hadn't yet read. Which is rather a lot of them, truth be told, and could probably keep me occupied as I hibernated through this, and several more recessions.
What's more, it would be reading for pleasure. No analysis, no annotation, no pipe-smoking prof at the end of it setting me questions like, "If Eliot's brand of modernism is a reaction against modernity, then how does Chaucer's Knight influence Pope's attitude to sugar tongs?".
I would rediscover the joy of narrative twists that you didn't already know from sparknotes.com, of characters that you can fall in love with because nobody has told you they're actually a comment on fascism. I could read poems without my exam-brain-filter on, the one that screams, "Alliteration! Imagery! Trochaic metre! Alliteraaaaation!" at every line and then makes me eat a biscuit.
But, alas, I can't do it. On my first day of freedom, I picked up Virginia Woolf's classic To The Lighthouse. I read a page. Then I re-read the page, because all I had taken in was "Family... beach... lighthouse... blargh... gaagugh... dbafaujshEHFG... gdcbdchdsgcsjhg" then started thinking about a big cheese and pickle sandwich.
After three attempts, I had to admit defeat and buy New! magazine, spend an hour catching up with Cheryl, Jordan, Peter, Britters, Kerry and the gang, and eat the sandwich.
But I should say that I did read all the big words in New! – ok, so perhaps that's my solution. I shall start there, maybe work my way up to Heat, the Grazia when I'm ready, and before I know it I shall be devouring Proust in single sittings and my degree will not have been completely wasted.
In the meantime, when I need some culture, there's always that Groucho routine.
*The other is Miss Piggy, and that's largely in the hair.
I'm getting home from Paris tomorrow, to find a newbie in my house.
He will be the 13th person (and second Australian) to reside in the place since we moved in two years ago, and now I'm the only original housemate left – a situation that I suspect might soon turn me into a shorter, less hairy Basil Fawlty, in my student hotel.
Of course, New Bloke may well be a domestic whizz, a social superman and an all-round, life-enriching pleasure to know, and let's hope he is.But there's a part of me that can't help thinking, after all the good luck we've had with the other move-ins, we're just about due a psychopath who will steal our salmon, dry his pants in the microwave and murder us all in our beds. Fingers crossed, eh?
But to take a tip from Fawlty in dealing with the new addition – just don't mention Crocodile Dundee.
What's a holiday without a trip to a cemetery? Yesterday, I braved torrential rain in a sundress to walk around Père Lachaise, the biggest graveyard in Paris.
While Jim Morrison's headstone elicited the appropriate reaction (to sing The End in my best growly voice to passing mourners all afternoon), Oscar Wilde's tomb was by far the best of the day. Following the example of hundreds of other visitors, I put on my best red lipstick to kiss the monument in tribute to the dandy. It was only afterwards I realised I may have given Mr Wilde an unintentional cold sore.
If you can get Zovirax in the afterlife, Oscar, I will foot the bill.