Monday, March 03, 2008

No Title

Ruth is thirty two years old and
doesn't know if she wants to be thirty three. She gives herself three months
to decide, and that is where her journey into the unknown begins...

Ruth's diary
is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in
its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Read the first entry below, and continue reading
tomorrow at


These hands are
ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller.
She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set
to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the
top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as
if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the
other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded
wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic
that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and
folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her
hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also
silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The
book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even
get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m
giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think
that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering
whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff
suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and
humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave,
reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the
dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve
heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me?
I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone
with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact,
I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m
sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every
so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a
city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives
with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother
finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first
diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve
minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the
picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting
wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in
both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me
my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got
really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours,
concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending
skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was
happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than
flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I
concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape
the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that
book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake
into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in
the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen
spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been
writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking
horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what
she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe
my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take
one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my
fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a
hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it
through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful
girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself
to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with
purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic
rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing
the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My
writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom
of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to
make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.