An in-between Summer…

I haven’t blogged for ooh, ages. I know. I’ve been meaning to, but, you know how it is. And I absolutely have to make a conscious decision to be better organised. Although, in my defence, I had three weeks of rather nasty back pain that stopped me in my tracks. It’s frightening how something so simple can utterly derail everything: there is no getting away from back pain, it colours everything in jagged spines that slice right through the core of you. And then it just becomes so fucking boring, too. But never mind, it’s done with now. Hurrah.

So I’m in that in-between phase, in the no-man’s land between having been a bit useless, and gearing up to Do All The Things. And it’s the school holidays too: my daughter has finished primary school, and is doing the developmental groundwork before full rehearsals for the teenage years begin. And of course, getting ready for secondary school. We have begun buying the uniform etc. And I have remembered how to tie a tie, a thing I haven’t had to wear since 1988. So there’s that little tidbit of knowledge to impart. And once the new routine begins in September, and the new stationery has been bought, and the new pencils sharpened, perhaps new words will be transmitted from brain to paper, and screen.

So in the meantime, we play. We go to the cinema, (we’ve seen Ant-Man, and LOVED IT, and Inside Out, which we enjoyed), we go swimming, we’ll be going to London, and there’ll be other things to do too. In the meantime, I have to negotiate access to my desk, while my daughter constructs worlds in MineCraft.

In the meantime, there is the small matter of rehearsing some readings. I have been asked to participate in the Spoken Word event at this year’s Stroud Fringe Festival. I have been described, by someone whose professional opinion I value a great deal, as ‘an up and coming writer’. Oh, GULP. Someone has faith in me, and has publicly declared it. And I find that I am feeling a little daunted. I mustn’t disappoint. I mustn’t let them down. I absolutely HAVE to be better at what I do. Cue, getting organised. Etc.

In the meantime, here is something I’ve been listening to for ages, because I love it. I’m listening to it now, in fact. So plug in your headphones, close your eyes/ turn out the lights, and let it wash through you. It’s beautiful.

NB: As of yet, the Fringe website does not have performance details. But it will, soon.

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So that was November…

It’s been a long 30 days and nights. Some of them have been quiet, some of them have been odd. Some have been really rather wonderful, in unexpected ways. Some have been productive, and some have been sad. And then there have been nights in Paris, and nights of partying too.

NaNoWriMo I have had to let fall by the wayside this year. There has simply been too much going on, in my head and in my world, and too many nights have been taken up with other things, largely of a celebratory nature. I managed to scrape together more than 38000 words, which isn’t too shabby. Plenty of material to be mined at a later date for any small gems that might therein be lurking. Or not. We’ll see…

In the middle of the month I went to Paris, for the first time. It certainly will not be the last! This just happened to coincide with my 40th birthday, a coincidence charmingly contrived by my husband. Being 40 is actually ok (much less traumatic than 30!) and Paris… oh but I fell head over heels in love with Paris. In fact I should very much like to run away there, and sooner rather than later… The weekend after my Parisian adventure, there was a sort of gathering chez moi, involving much chat, laughter, and booze. Friends whom I had not seen in an age came and made merry with me, and things did get a bit silly. There was also much worshipping of shoes

But then there was the sad news that Anne McCaffrey had died. She was my gateway into Science Fiction, as Tolkien was my gateway into epic Fantasy. I first read Dragonsong when I was 8 or 9 years old, and that was it; I was in thrall to the idea of a world where love could bind people and dragons into a bond so deep that only death could sever it (the fire lizards were also particularly appealing). From Pern to her other novels – Restoree, and The Ship Who Sang in particular – these were a formative part of my reading experience, and my emotional development in the transition from little girl to early adolescence. I wrote to Anne when I was 14, I think, asking her all sorts of questions – I cannot remember them now – and she wrote back. We developed a small correspondence; she was incredibly generous in that way, and it is my lasting regret that her letters disappeared somewhere during the peregrinations of my early twenties. I cried, bitterly, over her death. She was a wise and warm human being, and she is missed.

And now it is December, and beyond knowing that for the first time in years I am not going to be called upon to provide a huge lunch on the 25th, I really haven’t begun to get organised yet. Time to start making lists then. And a Master List.

Autumn pleasures: a short list.

The smell of damp earth as heavy dew glistens in early morning sunlight.

Kicking through leaves in every shade of red and gold, finding conkers gleaming silkenly in fat split capsules of spiked green.

Colour slowly leaching from the sky, each day less blue than before.

Hedgerow harvesting, elderberries, blackberries, cob nuts and sloes.

Butter melting through hot toast, and the purple sweetness of damson jam.

Cox’s Orange Pippin sour on the tongue; tang of damp earth and woodsmoke.

Swarming starlings sky-dancing at evening.

That Monday feeling…

The holiday is over, normal life will resume shortly. Until then, I have been in a holding pattern of alternating tiredness and complete absence of brain. But the post-holiday laundry mountain has been conquered, the fridge restocked, so eveything else must fall into place shortly.

Two weeks ago today, we were taking the scenic route to Sofia after some sort of technical glitch brought Gatwick (catflap to the world) to a standstill, which meant that we missed our connecting flight from Budapest. We ended up being rerouted via Munich, arriving at Sofia nearly eight hours late. Our luggage caught up with us two days later, coincidentally when the weather improved from sullenly thundery, to clear blazing heat. The rest of the holiday went swimmingly, with good food, good company, too many mosquitoes, and plenty of good Bulgarian red wine. Dipping into Twitter occasionally via my phone, I learned that the UK was taking the fast track to Hell-in-a-Handbasket, and the Home Secretary throwing her weight about declaring all police leave cancelled. (A decision that was not hers to make, but rather the Chief Constables’, and not a decision that they backed; this amuses me.)

Apart from the food and drink thing, what did we do on our holidays? My husband spent a great deal of his time heaving the mower about the hayfield that is the garden at the house where we stay: by the time we left, there was even the suspicion of stripes. My daughter flitted about with her little cousin, or playing in her inner world of fairies, rabbits and The Hobbit; and I slept a lot, drank a lot, read a lot, and scribbled a bit. We went up the mountain, (and came down again), we caught the sun, watched the moon and stars, listened to the cicadas. In short, we relaxed. Bliss.

Next week my daughter goes back to school, and the routines will change again. My hours per week at the Bookshop will be increasing – hurrah! – and who knows, I may even begin the <whispers it> Second Draft?

The holiday starts here

It’s 1.30 in the morning, and I’ve almost finished the packing. In half an hour I must wake up my husband and daughter; we’ll be out of the door by 3am. My ipod has dropped its charge, so will be out of action for a few days, which is INFURIATING (it does it every few months or so, and then works perfectly; but it’s bloody typical it would happen NOW). There are jelly beans waiting to be enjoyed once we’re on the plane. Everything is under control, or as much as is reasonable, and I’m really looking forward to the heat, the food and the wine. Oh yes, and I’ve finished the First Draft.

170,461 words that all add up to one baggy behemoth of a narrative monster. I can’t wait to pull it all to bits. See you in 10 days!

(The reading list was whittled down to A Game of Thrones, Green, The Tiger’s Wife, and The Hobbit and Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, both of the latter to read with my daughter.)

The obligatory procrastination post…

The obligatory procrastination post is what this was going to be, but then I found myself procrastinating rather than actually writing this post; procrastinating on and off, for most of the past week. I cleaned, I rearranged, I read, I titivated, I baked lavender cupcakes (but I was going to make those anyway, and they were delicious, so I must make more before the lavender finishes), and then, this week, I wrote. The penultimate chapter is meandering along nicely with not too much of a mazy motion, the perfect excuse for not doing the ironing…

No, it’s still not finished…

Things have been busy, and strange, and sometimes, strangely busy. Perhaps I am making excuses? Either way, the WIP is still awaiting the first stage of completion. Soon, I promise myself; it is coming together.

In the meantime, we’ve been to Devon, and had a lovely weekend of doing not very much apart from lolling in a hot tub with a glass of red while watching the swallows weave across the sky. I like to think that if we didn’t live in Gloucestershire, we’d live somewhere in Devon; two very different rural idylls. We did also watch the amusing culture-kitsch that is Eurovision; I have to confess to being one who doesn’t take it remotely seriously; I would rather have liked Moldova’s two-tone rapping gnomes to win.

Along with the glass-in-hand type of lolling, goes losing-oneself-in-reading, and I did. I got well and truly lost in the late 18th Century world of Dejima and Nagasaki as evoked in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and since emerging, have been wondering what on earth I might read read next. To immerse myself immediately in everything else David Mitchell has written, would I fear be a distraction too far… indeed, since writing that last sentence, life itself has been a distraction too far – I’m completing this post over a week after I started it <hangs head in shame>. Well, I say ‘life’, what I mean is someone else’s life, 8 years or so of Stephen Fry’s, to be precise. Having read The Fry Chronicles – out now in paperback in a bookshop near you! – I have since stepped back in time with Colette’s Cheri… but I will be girding the metaphorical loins, and writingwritingwriting. I bloody well must.

In the meantime, the inestimably lovely Claire King has posted a wonderful cheerleading post that has filled me – and a GREAT many others –  with heart and hope and other helpful words beginning with H.

I’ll be in London for a few days over half term, with my daughter; another thing to look forward to, another thing to take me away from writing…

That’ll do.