Take my Life (and money back.)

So excited by 1947 bw English B movie. Can’t imagine sleeping tonight. Take My Life. Marius Goring, Greta Gynt. Justice prevails. As it should. Though if arguments prevail, I’m afraid that this hasn’t got a hope in hell. What kept audiences glued to their seats can only have been the prospect of the main movie. He would have swung, for sure, on he basis of her evidence. It’s the love of a good woman that keeps the knot from breaking this innocent man’s life. It’s like having slightly warm hot chocolate poured over u=u=you as the rain drained from the brim of the men’s hats. Question: what kept the audience in their seats?  Why didn’t they demand their money back? Could they really have been so hypnotised by static acting and speech that they just sat bolt upright and waited for something better to come alone? Are we better educated new? More education couldn’t account for that. Were cinemas really dark warm places to snog on the back seats? And how could you have a cinema with only back seats? I’m baffled. Let the withered arm rest where it lays, nothing can account for it.  Sweet dreams. Take my life, just leave one cell for a single daydream.

Response from Guardian who are upset that I went public with my complaint. About not paying speakers

Dear Michael

I’ve got no interest in publicity cycles, I am not an employee of publishers. And your mixed bag of fascinating speakers and others who are trying to promote books instead of publishers paying for what they are supposed to be doing leaves me cold. You can call payment a fee, an expense or a gift from the Almighty, but it is actually a payment to one person who will use up a day.or a week working to your remit. If it was such a good idea why would Gemma use the word unfortunately so prominently in her letter. I imagine that are on a salary. The response from writers to my tweet suggests that we are not at all moved by the agony of your choices who to pay and who not.

I suggest we return to the regular quaint way of paying people for the work they do whether or not publishers choose to rename cheese as choice.

Best wishes

Jenny Diski

On Thursday, 23 April 2015, Michael Harris <michael.harris@theguardian.com> wrote:
Dear Jenny,

more than happy to email. So, first things first, nice to meet you. I wanted to respond to the twitter comments and the blog/response to Gemma – I was going to give you a call just because email sometimes seems so removed and electronic that it’s easy to forget you are talking to another human being. However, needs must so email it is…

In terms of us not paying contributors that’s not actually true, nor was that what Gemma said. We only started doing this (Guardian Live) around 7 months ago and we run lots of different talks and events, from book launches to debates on democracy at Sheffield Hallam Uni (I say that specifically as I’m on a train to do that now). The reason I’m explaining this is because that means we end up with a very mixed bag of speakers and guests. Sometimes we are beholden to the publicity cycle of certain guests being available because they have something to sell or promote and sometimes we just reach out to try and get people involved because they would be great on a subject and are brilliant (that was you). We don’t call it a fee, nor do we set a figure because if it’s a publisher providing a speaker while also getting a load of publicity for a book they are promoting then we’d rather not pay!

If it’s someone giving up their time to take part in something (Like our Happiness event) then we would absolutely pay. We refer to it as expenses and depending on what someone is doing (ie. how long, how much prep, chairing?) it’s normally between £150 and £300. I admit none of us will ever be millionaires at that rate but it should cover an hours worth of chat of an evening.

I suppose I’m writing to you really because I wish you’d given Gemma a chance to respond before going on the offensive so publicly! But on the other hand I can completely understand the frustration/feeling that people are taking the p*ss. I worked for a long time with writers, comedians, actors, speakers who are constantly asked to do things for free while others sell tickets and as a result have always tried to make sure to try and treat everyone fairly and not do that.

Although I’m upset that you were so publicly cross, I’m also sorry if you thought we were trying to take advantage – we weren’t. From now on we’ll try and be clearer in the invite emails too so no one else feels the way you did.

It might seem like a big faceless business ( it’s not) but from one human being to another, sorry, it really wasn’t intended.

Mx

Ps. Just fyi I don’t have a rich husband/wife/allowance either – I grew up in Woolwich!

On 23 April 2015 at 15:36, Jenny Diski <jennydiski@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Michael
I’m in a hoapice at the moment so no phone in a general way, You’re welcome to email me.

Jenny
_________________

http://www.jennydiski.co.uk

On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 3:24 PM, Michael Harris <michael.harris@theguardian.com> wrote:
Hello Jenny,

I just spotted some of your comments on twitter and asked Gemma to send me over the correspondence below ( look after our live programme).

Would you be happy for me to give you a quick call and if so is there a number I can get you on?

Michael

> ———- Forwarded message ———-
> From: Jenny Diski <jennydiski@gmail.com>
> Date: Wednesday, 22 April 2015
> Subject: Re: Contact Jenny Diski [#213]
> To:  Katharine Viner <katharine.viner@guardian.co.uk>
>
>
> Dear Gemma
>
> When you say you don’t pay fees unfortunately, I suppose you must mean unforturnately for me. I have bills to pay and I don’t have a wealthy husband or wife. Why on earth would The Guardian be unable to pay me? Because everyone is a freelance now, with the emphasis on free? Because everyone else but me has an allowance from their parents? Because you just don’t give a shit about your ‘content providers’? Give me break, guys. You want an interesting debate on happiness? Try starting by paying contributers. And making them happy, or at least not needing to glance at gutters for the price of one of your papers.
>
> Yours freely
>
> Jenny Diski
>
>
> _________________
>
> http://www.jennydiski.co.uk
>
> On Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 11:40 AM, Jenny Diski <no-reply@wufoo.com> wrote:
>>
>> Name
>>
>> Email
>
>> Message
>>
>> Dear Jenny,
>>
>> I’m writing to invite you to take part in a talk at the Guardian on the 18th May. The description is here:
>>
>> Richard Layard will also be attending and Oliver Burkeman suggested you would be a great addition. I read your diary piece in the LRB on Gretchen Rubin’s happiness book which seems very pertinent to the discussion. It would be great to have another more speptical voice on the panel, alongside William Davies although the intention is not to ‘debate’ but to genuinley discuss.
>>
>> William Davies has written a book for Verso that sounds really interesting on the way ‘happiness’ has become a major topic for discussion at places like Davos, Facebook increasing happiness by altering people’s feeds and so on. His point is that in the way people say depression is anger turned inwards he says that positive psychology and happiness economics are ‘critique turned inwards’. i.e. there are social causes of depression and unhappiness that are ignored by focusing on the individual.
>>
>> Philippa Perry, Oliver BUrkeman, Andrew Oswald and Richard Layard are all confirmed and it would be wonderful to include your participation too.
>>
>> We don’t pay fees unfortunately but can cover expenses. I can give you more practical details if you’re interested in taking part.
>>
>> I very much look forward to hearing from you,
>>
>> Gemma
>
>
>
>
>
>
> —
> Gemma Tortella
> Producer, Guardian Live
> https://membership.theguardian.com/events
> 07803 293765
>

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This e-mail and all attachments are confidential and may also be privileged. If you are not the named recipient, please notify the sender and delete the e-mail and all attachments immediately. Do not disclose the contents to another person. You may not use the information for any purpose, or store, or copy, it in any way. Guardian News & Media Limited is not liable for any computer viruses or other material transmitted with or as part of this e-mail. You should employ virus checking software.

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My Reply to the Guardian

Dear Gemma
When you say you don’t pay fees unfortunately, I suppose you must mean unforturnately for me. I have bills to pay and I don’t have a wealthy husband or wife. Why on earth would The Guardian be unable to pay me? Because everyone is a freelance now, with the emphasis on free? Because everyone else but me has an allowance from their parents? Because you just don’t give a shit about your ‘content providers’? Give me break, guys. You want an interesting debate on happiness? Try starting by paying contributers. And making them happy, or at least not needing to glance at gutters for the price of one of your papers.

Sidebar to LRB memoir: Fish, there are fish!

I took my broken wrist, along with my pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer, for a review at Addenbrookes. Not a good review. The fracture in my radius has dilated and shifted, like tiny tectonic plates, maybe, so it’s now a complex break. I could have an op to shore up the structure with a metal plate, or I could let it mend in my smart new goth black cast and have restricted movement and a degree of deformity. Question, will I be able to type with this deformity? Yes, the side to side movement would be a problem but I’ll be able to type properly with both hands. Solved. I don’t want an operation to fix it back to new. I’ve got cancer, fibrosis – I don’t care to have the most elegant wrist in the graveyard.

I was accompanied by my new friend Giles, who is trailing me this week for a profile in the New York Times Magazine (it’s like a prize you get with cancer). Giles wanted to see the oncology waiting room I’d written about in my last instalment of my diary/memoir in the LRB.( http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n03/jenny-diski/was-that-when-it-was-beaming-me ). So off we shuffled to the circle of doom, with its brightly coloured but fishless aquarium I ‘d spent some time worrying about. And lo, there were fish. Spritely minnows, little clown fish, a yellow one, a blue one, as perky as you please, racing around each other where none had been before. It takes very little for me to lose faith in myself. Surely there weren’t any fish in it when I passed every day for a month? Had I made it up? I’m a novelist, I do make things up, but I’m supposed to know when I do it.

I flushed with shame as Giles stood and observed the fish. Really, there weren’t any. Really. Was this going to be another writer scandal. Nonfiction piece by J. Diski contained fishy untruths. Or, said Giles, maybe they read your piece and rushed out to fill the tank. Which would mean that I’d had an effect in the world. Giles and I looked at each other for a second at this monumental thought, and then we shook our heads. Probably not. They’d probably been swimming around like torpedoes while my radioactivated eyes just failed to notice.

Also my broken wrist hurts. A lot.

A Sidebar: How’s It going?

In the London Review of Books (starting with A Diagnosis in September) I’ve been writing a more or less monthly memoir of my life in the sixties and seventies when I lived with Doris Lessing, and my continuing relationship with her until her death last year at 94. It is also an ongoing portrait of my incurable cancer. The 7th instalment will be in the next issue of the LRB. They are broodings, considerations, questions about my life then and now. But they are long pieces taking a long view. In the meantime, stuff is going on that hasn’t got a place in the LRB essays. Everydaynesses. I’m going to try to use this blog as if it were a running sidebar to the longer pieces, and see if it’s useful. Things that crop up in my cancer and memory world that don’t fit into the format of the essays I’m writing.

I’m writing a kind of partwork which will, with rethinking and editing, perhaps become a book, a patchwork of the partwork. These more immediate ‘diaries’ on this blog will be included when and if the whole thing comes together as a single text.

What’s made me want to do this is the past week of my medical life.  You can catch up on the merry tale, as well as my arrival at Doris Lessing’s house aged fifteen, in the LRB online. Their website has several of my pieces available to read for free as well as some that need you to be a subscriber to read.

*

I have finished the initial treatment (or the only treatment) for my lung tumour and its travels around my lymph nodes. Little sidebars themselves? I’ve had the chemo and the radiotherapy, and next week will be scanned to see what the results are. I already had mild pulmonary fibrosis before the cancer arrived. That is as incurable as the lung cancer I have, but it depends on how fast it progresses, and it was still mild at the time of my annual scan that showed up the small tumour. There was a known risk that radiotherapy would inflame the fibrosis, and it has, in spades. Last week I found myself so breathless after very little movement that it brought on the first panic attack of my life. Or so I realised that’s what it was when the terror died down. A coughing fit caused by me walking a few feet into the bathroom left me gasping for air, unable to take in enough to live through the next moment. I did, and it has happened twice more. So now I know I won’t die of the attack and have been given some ways to deal with it(a hand-held fan, a small dose of oral morphine before I prepare to move, and a special kind of breathing.) Now I’m simply terrified of going through that terror again, even if it won’t kill me. I am reluctant to get out of bed, move snailwise very small distances, have lost all courage.

Just before that happened, I fell down a couple of steps to the bathroom at four o’clock on Friday morning, and broke my right wrist. Now it’s in plaster and won’t mend they say for 8 weeks. really not helpful and is a new kind of ongoing pain. My left hand is OK, and I’m left-handed, but it’s a slow and wearying effort to type one-handed. One other thing in what my wonderful palliative care ‘key worker’, S, calls ‘my awful week’, is that the fibrosis flaring up is now more likely to kill me through an infection, than the lung cancer. What started out as 2-3 years if I had the treatment is now an unknown quantity. I’m a miserablist, so it’s not surprising I’m feeling that death is rather imminent. My feelings and thoughts about that are for an instalment of its own in the LRB.

So I’m not cheery or brave or serene at the moment, whatever the tone of my memoir writing. I’ve got a broken wrist which has nothing to do with my condition(s), but which gnaws away as if it had the priority of a wrist of someone who was otherwise healthy. it hasn’t been a good week, and I’m fucking fed-up. And sorry for myself. What, should I keep a stiff upper lip?