Hemingway, Martha and me

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I watched a movie about Ernest Hemingway and his third wife Martha Gellhorn last night. Nicole Kidman was in it. She was actually quite good. She smoked and drank at dangerous levels the whole way through the movie and swore like a trooper to boot. What’s not to love? But I digress.

This movie, actually this woman who was called Martha Gellhorn, resonated with me so much that I couldn’t sleep. She was one of the world’s first female war correspondents, but she was also the only one of Hemingway’s four wives to tell him to get fucked (or more politely to ask him for a divorce) because he was a misogynistic prick who also rather annoyingly happened to be a literary genius.

Sure her “smoking, drinking, writing from horribly dangerous locales” lifestyle kind of appealed to me on a purely hedonistic level, but it was more her character, her joie de vivre, and her single-minded commitment to her craft that really piqued my interest. Her birthday was also the day after mine.

It appears Martha did what she wanted, when she wanted, and even a man with Hemingway’s chutzpah, could not keep her from her love of writing and from hearing other people’s stories – which often also happened to be in the middle of a war-zone. She was one of the first correspondents at the Normandy landing after pretending to be a stretcher-bearer on a hospital ship so she could report from the World War II front-line. The lady had bloody big balls there is no doubt.

Now Martha’s story has not made me want to pull up stumps to go and report from Afghanistan. Fuck no. Indeed, in the 21st Century, war does not have the romantic notions attached to it that soldiers, and indeed writers, may have been attracted to 80 years ago when the world seemed like a much bigger place.

No, her story happened to come at a time when my own life feels like it is in need of a refresher. A realignment of sorts on what is important and what is not. A host of bad news of late – including some in my own family – has made me re-analyse this life I have created for myself. Am I happy? Well, I think the answer to that would be yes but I’m a fairly happy individual most of the time anyway.

Am I doing what I really want to do with my life? Well, yes, I am a writer for a living. Perhaps not quite in the way I would like – especially since no bastard seems to want to publish my book so how am I supposed to support a liquid lifestyle in Cuba (bloody Hemingway beat me to that too)  but I guess you can’t win them all.

And if tomorrow never came, or indeed if all of my tomorrows were nothing like what I had imagined, would I be satisfied with this life I am leading? Hmm, yes and no. There will always be part of me that longs to be back in the days when I didn’t have two dollars to rub together but still managed to flit around the world getting into adventures and a host of wanton love affairs. I suppose we all have to grow up sometime. Seemingly.

Not being married, and having no kids, means my options are more plentiful than most but yet I lay awake last night and pondered whether I had the balls, balls like Martha did, to truly do what makes me happy and not be beholden to mortgages, to management or to men. I don’t yet know the answer, but at least I am starting to consider the question.

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