Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Channelling Mrs Prothero


I am not one for fits of rage. If I am angry with you and you are not one of my children, I indulge in a little judicious slamming, some quiet muttering and a style of loud walking that I inherited from my mother and which has earned her the nickname of “Captain Footsteps”. At my angriest, I might give vent to cutting words. The same goes for my depressions. When I am down, I am not extreme. There is no breast-beating, I don’t go off my food or stop sleeping. I have very gentle declines, so mild as to be hardly noticeable.

Which is why it took me three days to realise I was having one this week. Vital clues to a decline are: engrossed reading (2000 pages in 2009), slightly increased chocolate intake, heightened need for sleep and an inability to leave the couch. So far, so enjoyable. What awoke me to the fact that I was having a decline was one afternoon, while the children were having a post-prandial game of Wii tennis, when my husband called up the stairs, “Where is the Queen? In her parlour, having another little lie-down?”. I thought God, I have been lying down for a week. Just like a Victorian lady, having a fit of the vapours.

I’ve just finished reading Mary McCarthy’s The Group (487 pages) and in it Mrs Prothero has to cancel everything on discovering that she once entertained a man to dinner who has since had a night in jail:

“A jailbird!” she repeated indignantly, with a wobble of her receding chin, so loud that Yvonne, coming down the stairs, could hear her. Clutching her wrapper around her and holding Yvonne’s arm, she retired upstairs to her bedroom and canceled the car, which was to take her to the hairdressers at eleven.

Clearly I have been channelling Mrs Prothero. Needing to lie down and cancel the car. On reflection, I think it is because December looked like this:


In a few short weeks, we had a 40th birthday party, a seventh birthday party, Christmas to plan, prepare and shop for, a New Year’s lunch for 12, multiple social engagements, adorable house-guests who were sleeping in our bed necessitating us to sleep in the cellar, parties and end-of-year engagements for the children to attend and a slew of disgusting ailments, including the flu (all four grown-ups, one child) and a stomach flu (all three children) that required frequent wiping of puke and poo. Apart from the illness bit, I love it all and throw myself into the planning, preparation and jollity that makes the season fun.

Then January came and I was tired. So I lay down and cancelled the car.

I’m glad to say I can feel my energy creeping back. I got off the sofa and took the kids to see Madagascar Two a couple of days ago, and yesterday we went toboganning. My creative juices are churning and I am looking forward to school starting on Monday so that I can attack the last quarter of my novel. I want to get back to my healthy eating and get back on the treadmill. I am thinking of ways to generate new editing work. I am full of resolve.

Mrs Prothero is no more.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

21 thoughts on “Channelling Mrs Prothero

  1. Me too. But I primarily blame it on the weather and the standard seasonal illnesses. Today marks the first week the kids will be back at kita after more than a month of illness. I need alone time. And I feel crappy now.

  2. Doesn’t sound like a decline to me, you just needed to recharge.

  3. I can identify! This festive season has truly been the silliest yet! Recharging oneself with a little “me” time is definately in order – even if it does require a bit more chocolate than usual! ; )

  4. I think I must have channeled Mrs. Prothero while in Maine, although like HPH, I viewed it more as re-charging than any sort of a decline.

  5. I think it sounds like your body and soul needed the respite! Glad to hear you are starting to feel more energetic now.

  6. I think those Victorian women were onto something. We should bring back the custom of “taking to one’s bed” when we’re overwhelmed and need to recharge.

  7. I completely agree with yogamum. The Victorians knew what they were doing. I’d have been exhausted with the social schedule without even beginning on the illnesses. Very glad to know that books are doing the healing thing. There’s no compulsion to attack life with verve – it won’t know the difference.

  8. I need to take to my bed and cancel the car! You needed rest and very sensibly got it. Now you are ready to start again.

  9. I too felt like cancelling the car this week, it has not been a good time to get back into the swing of things. I think you have done what we all should have done, read some books and waited for the mood to pass.

  10. May your resolve be strong and steadfast!

  11. Sorry you were feeling down. I’m glad it passed! Sometimes you just need to lie down and read thousands of pages of books. It’s healing. Especially after the December you just had!

    Happy New Year, Charlotte! 🙂

  12. I can relate! I feel like I am just getting back on my feet from the insanity that was December. Even if you’re having fun, exhaustion catches up and wants its due.

  13. Now that you have blogged about The Group. I can’t wait to read it, but will continue to muster thru The Post Birthday World first. After reading another 30 pages today, I think I am starting to like it. Thanks for the loan.

  14. oh crap – I haven’t left the house this weekend and visit the fridge every few hours for another spoonful of chocolate ice cream…I think you are spot on about this. Tomorrow, to the gym!

  15. I think each January you are entitled to some chocolate and a few lie-downs, after your Decembers! Onward and upward.

  16. Just popped in from reading your comment on Natalian’s blog. So. . . . this is you complaining, is it? You really, really need to work on your game. 😉

  17. After a birthday that read like an episode of Eastenders – read, one child with stomach flu and one child that disappeared for three hours necessitating door to door knocking to find out where he went and almost a call to the police, meaning a cancellation of the birthday lunch which had already been reduced to just the four of us (minus one who couldn’t eat) at home – I think I need a lie down too.

  18. “Taking to your bed” – a very civilised idea post-Christmas if you ask me! And I love your description of being angry – I also involve in some judicious slamming and stomping, often accompanies by a Xhosa-style tongue click to illustrate Extreme Irritation. My mom used to do the same and it used to infuriate my father because he was incapable of making the same sound 🙂

  19. And I meant to say we will be in St Francis for Easter, not a million miles from Plett! Will e-mail you and maybe we can arrange a meeting 🙂

  20. I think a little case of the vapours every so often is a necessary part of life.

  21. Pingback: Spare time « The Other Monkey

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