Christmas, frankly, has been a bit rubbish so far. Starting Christmas Eve on a sleep deficit that would run into the small hours of Christmas morning (44 hours in total before my body and mind gave up fighting), before retiring early to bed after Christmas dinner – which I cooked (it was delicious, of course). Nearly three days later, somewhat less germ ridden, and bored with being in bed, I got up, and sping! My back went.
Marvellous, isn’t it?
Still, I have managed to cook and eat some bubble and squeak, so Christmas IS now properly happening. (Finally!) It will probably be another two days before I need to eat again, so that’s a mercy. In the meantime, as painkillers aren’t really doing much of anything, I am cheerfully taking gin. We’ll see what happens when I try to get out of this chair.
It would be nice to start the New Year with some seasonal magic, so fingers crossed…
You may have noticed – or you may not, and indeed, why should you? – that it’s been a while since I posted anything here. And there have been good reasons for that. Perhaps too many. But the summer was hot, and I was quiet. Books were read, stories drafted, thoughts were thought, and mostly not acted upon. Autumn was harder, but with more of the same. And I got older. And I cut my hair. That last thing is a thing I am incredibly happy about. I know it’s only hair, but still… it’s been more than a decade since I last had such short hair, and it makes me feel sassy, and sophisticated, and possibly other things beginning with s (stylish? silly? saucy? serene?).
Around the same time I discovered a little snippet in the wilds of the internet – oh all right, it was Facebook – a quotation from Carl Gustav Jung:
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
It isn’t a cure, it isn’t even a complete answer – to a question that is both unaskable and unanswerable – but it HELPS. So I’m choosing. I don’t pretend to have reached any particular destination on my personal voyage in order to begin the return journey. This is just a way station.
In the meantime, there is Christmas to prepare for, and satsumas to eat (the one I’m eating right now is a bit of a disappointment; too watery and not sharp enough. Perhaps the next one will be better), and words to write and edit, and I still haven’t written the Christmas cards. But my hair looks fabulous.
So, yes, it’s been a little while since the last post. This last month has been particularly mishmashy for all sorts of reasons. And I’ve been ill, which was rather trying. Then there was a brief jolly to London, and just now the school holidays for Easter. So the whole what-passes-for-normal routine has been well and truly skewed. Things don’t feel connected to other things. Perhaps they shouldn’t be. But certain things – very small things really – happened, or were thought, and seem to have some significance in my head.
For example, the purchase of a rather lovely sparkly face powder, Guerlain’s Meteorites (teinte rose, if you’re curious) led to the analogy that good short fiction should be like a meteorite. It’s not about the twist in the tale, although a twist can add to it: the best short stories – and especially flash fiction – should, like a meteorite, have an impact disproportionate to its size. It should pack a punch like a ten mile wide crater. That’s what I think. Find some excellent flash fiction and tell me I’m wrong. The face powder too has an impact disproportionate etc… rendering even my tired visage fresh-faced and springlike. (Two people said this. It happened. Ergo, Meteorites = miracle workers.)
The second thing I was going to mention has now slipped my mind – the perils of blogging with a glass of something convivial for company. It may or may not return. I suspect it doesn’t matter.
The third thing was going to be the crux of this post when I started thinking about it. About art, and people watching, and how people behave whilst looking at art, and does the art look back? But the more I thought about it, the better it seemed to fit into a sort of story. So I’m doing that with it instead.
And I think I’ll stop here.
It’s Wednesday. Not only is it Wednesday, but it is the second day of November (All Souls’) which means that NaNoWriMo is once more under way. Yes, I am in its caffeine-kicked, sleep depriving thrall. And loving it, as always.
The other significance of this particular Wednesday, is that it means there are only sixteen days to go until I go to Paris. Having never been before, I must confess to being beyond excited. I’ve been planning what to do, where to go, what to see. I’ve been trying to remember the little French still left in my brain – which considering I haven’t had to speak the language since I was 16, isn’t very much. At all. (Don’t worry, I have a cd and book to remind me.) I have a fabulously dramatic pair of new shoes, new clothes, and a new haircut. The new haircut feels particularly good, because I hadn’t got around to having it done for 2 years. In fact the last time I felt so sleekly chic was for a wedding (my husband’s cousin’s) at Bovey Castle. It was an entirely splendid affair, where the champagne did not stop flowing. Every time I turned around, there was an attentive sommelier refilling my glass. Consequently I have no idea how much I drank. Then of course, there was a fine Barolo with dinner, then more champagne for the toasts. And then, during the lull between dinner and the dancing, I made my way to the bar and asked for a Cosmopolitan, and a cigar. The Cosmo was delicious, the cigar was decadent fun, and I loved every minute of it.The next morning I had acquired a vicious bitch of a hangover (vodka cocktails are very heaven; vodka hangovers are vile) and a series of bruises at mid-thigh level – at occasional table height. Clearly, I had been caroming into furniture. Suffice to say, I shall (mostly) be behaving myself in Paris …
Jam every other day, that was the rule, as the White Queen told Alice; jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but never jam today. In the last six weeks or so since I finished the First Draft, I must to confess to feeling as though jam today was an unobtainable pleasure.
But jam today is steadily becoming something tangible – and without being sticky. Although the prospect of redrafting the WIP still fills my soul with a sort of apprehensive horror, other ideas are beginning to filter through to the front of my brain. So far I have two ideas for short stories, one tentative and one strong; and the other morning in the bath I had a blast of inspiration for the next big project after the WIP. It’s a long way off being ready to begin in earnest, but a keystone in one of the supporting arches to its world foundations has magically slotted into place; it will work, its internal logic will be – reasonably – logical. It may even – gasp! – be able to slip into the interstice between hard SF and space opera.
It ocurrs to me to wonder why it is that inspiration seems to strike so often when I’m wallowing in hot lavender or geranium scented water. It almost never happens in the shower. Perhaps I should indulge in baths more often? If only to wash off the stickiness when it is at last jam today.
NB. By stickiness I suppose that I mean the ache of sitting hunched over the keyboard, heedless of the passage of the hours. Either way, writing will soon be taking place. The Muse is returning.
I’m not one of Nature’s natural early birds. Mornings, early mornings, though beautiful, are not my preferred diurnal habitat. Hitherto in the normal way of things, I only saw early mornings if I’d stayed up through the night – a not unusual occurrance if I had an essay deadline, or when muse-ridden. But now twice a week (at least during term-time) I’m at work by 8 in the a.m. Big deal you might think. But the Bookshop doesn’t open until 9.30. So it’s a big deal to me. There is a certain glow of virtuous satisfaction to be had, and it’s certainly useful to be able to get ahead of the working day before the doors open to the general public. But the night owl , dominant for so long since my daughter stopped requiring my presence before a reasonable hour, is suffering. The more so since my recent bout of unwellness which has made coffee anathema to my body – though not my mind. Caffeine is still available to prop me up, in the oh so retro form of ProPlus tablets (staple of my student days during A’Levels), but they just don’t compare to the leisurely, hand warming comfort of sipping a latte, contemplating the waking world through its aromatic fumes. The lattes will return soon (a week without them and counting), but this early morning malarkey is here to stay.
Alan Alexander Milne was a very wise man. I’ll go further; he was a Very Wise Man indeed. You might choose to agree, or not, but I stand by my assessment. Having recently had the pleasure of rereading both Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner with my daughter, it ocurred to me to wonder whether – in terms of writing, or I suppose, in the run of things generally – I am more of a Rabbit, or a Pooh. I know – despite my unwelcome perennial capacity for depression – that I am NOT an Eeyore. Pooh is a placid, calm sort; he waits for things – especially hums and singy-ness, and ideas – to come to him. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t – you never can tell – and he is happily humble in what he is pleased to call his lack of brain. Rabbit on the other hand is very captainish; he likes to be organised – or rather, he likes to organise other people – and never waits for anything if he can go and fetch it. He has brain, but he doesn’t really understand things, or not in the way that Pooh does. Truthfully, I am inclined towards a state of being Pooh, although I know that being a bit more like Rabbit would be beneficial in terms of actually getting things done. But then other people who are terribly Rabbit-ish tend to drive me up the wall – there is a vast amount of control freakery in people who always want to organise other people just so that they (Rabbit) can feel important. That is not who I am.
Still, in my own meandering dilettantish way, I have at least learned not to be a hostage to my muse; there’s always to something to write, or to write about, even if it isn’t what I might have originally planned, or thought it would be. And thankfully that bastard Writer’s Block hasn’t muscled its way through my brain to sit at the front, flick popcorn at my inner cinema screen and make loud and unhelpful remarks. (Although my Inner Editor has just drawn in a sharp breath at the previous sentence and is now sucking its teeth.) Paul Simon summed it up so perfectly: ‘You want to be a writer? Don’t know how, or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble pen.’ (From the album You’re The One… I think the track was called Hurricane Eye.)
Today is one of those days where I’d really like to not have to DO anything, but instead be in London wandering around the museums, waiting to be ambushed by new insights, new ideas, and learn random new things that I never thought I might need to know.
On second thoughts, perhaps I’m Owl, instead…