Today I saw a superhero walking down the street

It’s one of those days, a good day that feels ever so slightly at an angle to so called ‘normal’ days. Real things feel more real somehow, and unreal things feel slightly surreal. Superman walked down the High Street, his muscle suit bulging, although the cape action was hampered by the insufficient breeze. All the people sitting outside Costa stopped talking to watch him as he passed. You see? One of those days.

So. April has been, and gone; the appleblossom is done with, the lilac is almost over. I had bunches of it scenting the whole house for days; heavenly! There are still some Easter eggs yet to be consumed; we’re working our way through those… and my daughter has at last gone back to school  – she had a very long Easter holiday, which explains why my self-imposed deadline has  been missed. Yes, the WIP is still in its formative first draft stage. BUT there are only three chapters left to write, including the one I’m writing at the moment. ALSO, I have had several moments of clarity, epiphanies if you will, those bolts of open-jawed whydidn’tIseethatbefore inspiration so invaluable to seat-of-the-pants plotters like me. So not only do I now know how it will end, but also when it will end. And I have an additional plot device to enrich the narrative detail with when it comes to the Second Draft. So you have before you a basically happy neophyte novelist.

There have been other matters that have contributed to the curtailment of writerly effort, family matters on a par with the Life stuff that scuppered writing last July. But these are now mercifully in abeyance, and that’s all that needs to be said about that. And while I’ve been writing this I have come upon a happy secret – somebody let something slip – but it isn’t mine to tell, and I promised to be discreet, but it is a truly happy secret, and just goes to show that today really is one of those days.

While I haven’t been writing, I have been reading; Lionel Shriver’s So Much For That, and now David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  If you’re looking for something new to read you could do a great deal worse than to pick up either of these titles. Both are tremendously good writers, and I have loved and am loving reading them. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Summer is rushing upon us for lack of rain and a surfeit of sunshine. And next weekend we’re off to glorious Devon again. Life is good.

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And now, the end is near… possibly, we’ll see how it goes…

It’s a beautiful day here. The sun is brilliging – even though it is not yet the time for broiling things – everyone is in a mostly good mood, apart from a friend I bumped into who is seriously peeved with her garden contractor. I have seen bees, and ladybirds, the azalea is unfolding itself, and the apple tree is so imminently ready to fling open its blossom that it almost hurts. The smell will be amazing… and the magnolias along the front gardens of Slad Road are waiting for their cue. I do wish that our garden was big enough for a magnolia tree, but we have to make do with a small magnolia stellata: it is very pretty though, or will be when its small white stars come out to glimmer in the sunlight. In short, spring is springing about like anything in my part of the Cotswolds.

It is always easier to feel hopeful when the sun shines, but I really do have cause, as far as the WIP goes. There has been much progress made on the Big Battle chapter – I managed over a thousand words on Tuesday, and look to be repeating that small feat tomorrow. The end of the first draft is so very near – and about time too! But I still don’t know how it will end… oh! The joys of making it up as one goes along! And only a month until Easter… we shall see.

I cannot seem to stop eating almonds today – although obviously I will have to once this little box is empty. I wonder if I’ll  see any toves, later…?

(Clearly, Lewis Carroll has a lot to answer for.)

Why writing about love is not always easy.

Valentine’s Day. A named date to conjure with. A day that used, in my adolescent years, to fill me with a heightened sense of the drama of my loneliness (yes, I know…). When I was growing up it wasn’t remotely cool to admit to liking a girl who wore glasses, so if anyone did like me, I remained unaware of it. Not even a mystery Valentine to show for it; suppose someone found out and laughed at them? Or suppose <dramatic pause> no one liked me, and I was doomed to live out my lonely days, forever alone? Oh the pathos. Quelle dommage. I got a boyfriend when I was 17. I got contact lenses briefly when I was 19. It didn’t take many years to learn that Valentine’s Day was an anticlimactic damp squib. I blame the boy that I was with. Yes, that’s it; it’s all his fault that my expectations of the hope of high romance were dashed. Our first year together he gave me a single red rose. It was beautiful, and I treasured it until it disintegrated. The following year, he gave me a plastic one with the suggestion that I should get this out to display each and every February. I didn’t show it – though I really should have – but my heart began to break in earnest from that day onwards. But that’s enough of that. It was a lifetime ago, and everything is quite different now, including me – although I do still wear glasses.

My point – if I have one – is that writing about love is potentially tricky. How to draw the line between fervent feelings and hyperbole, without tumbling over the tipping point from the sublime to the ridiculous? I take my hat off to those novelists – romantic or otherwise – who have so succesfully anatomised the experience of falling in love, being in love, and loving; those moments of identification, simple, yet oddly profound, because of the resonance of recognition, ‘I too have felt this way‘. Because writing about love is a delicate thing. Love is like a butterfly, the song that accompanied Rhea’s tribulations in her Cheltenham suburb, is spot on in its lilting bitter poignance. But beware, over do it and the poignant becomes the merely maudlin.

Sometimes, I think I can do it. Sometimes I know that I can’t.  Sometimes, when the word mist descends, and my fingers fly over the keyboard while my muse is soaring and diving in my head, I’m fooled into thinking that I’m getting away with it.

And then the rereading, of words that sometimes point in the right direction, but mostly of words that trip down the path of the saccharine, the outright embarrassing, the laughter-inducing cringe, and the harmlessly anodyne. Thank goodness I know enough of myself to appreciate that the romance novel is not my genre, but mostly, thank goodness for editing!

So I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day, whether in love or out of it; that strange celebration of affection that grew out of a poem for a young king’s betrothal. Chaucer, and the court he occasionally served, cannot have foreseen the panoply of ribbons and flowers and chocolates and cardboard that are supposedly necessary to gild those favoured in love. Tragically (indulging in a little harmless hyperbole) I have already given up chocolate until Easter, well in advance of Lent. And right now I’d cheerfully commit a small misdemeanor for a large bag of Maltesers…

NB: My husband is quite lovely, and so Valentine’s Day has been reclaimed as something quietly special, between the two of us.

Bank Holiday Blues

Easter; when my personal consumption of chocolate doubles, or even triples, for the space of three days. Seratonin kick aside, all this brown sweet stuff this year has made me feel quite tired. I must confess to looking forward to a few days free of the stuff; maybe even a week? Hmmm. We’ll see.

My daughter on the other hand, has been loving it all. Well, she’s six; it goes without saying. Amongst the egg shaped bounty that  Eostre’s hare has brought her, are two Smarties eggs. It wasn’t that long ago that Nestlé finally ditched the artificial colours/flavours rubbish that they used to overload their product with, so in the spirit of enquiry I screwed up my eyes to have a peer at the ingredients list. Safflower, lemon and hibiscus, ok. Radish, black carrot and red cabbage – seriously?! Sorry, but that just sounds wrong. Another thing that feels wrong, to me at least, is that easter eggs no longer have things inside them. Sterile chocolate eggs, robbed of even the pretence of a semantic link with the festival of rebirth to which they are commercially linked. Bah, humbug.

I used to enjoy bank holidays, once upon a time, when I had a more or less full-time job. But that was before my daughter arrived. Now they’re just days not quite like any other, when I generally have less time to myself. If my husband were not on the career-path he has chosen, and worked ‘normal’ days like most people, then we might be able to do the family day thing. On the other hand, because he has to work shifts serving and protecting, we get our family days when the majority are having ‘normal’ days, so there is less pressure to conform to the idea that We-All-Must-Enjoy-Ourselves-Because… mentality.  My daughter and I did have a jolly walk up to the Co-Op, to get milk, playing the naughty gnome game, hopping, and looking out for new signs of spring. (The naughty gnome game involves looking for  – obviously imaginary – naughty gnomes, hiding under parked cars, running up garden paths, climbing trees, etc. They always have mismatched hoods and cloaks, and are always about to do something bad, like steal milk bottles, break windows, kidnap dogs, flood drains. Once we spot them, the King of the Good Gnomes- who always have matching hoods and cloaks – comes after them, puts them in a cardboard box, and then throws them in prison.) On the way home I twisted my ankle, which alarmed my daughter. How did I do it? No idea. It just happened. It’s strapped up now in a tubi-grip bandage; the swelling is beginning to go down. Isn’t it remarkable how efficacious red wine and chocolate can be, when applied medicinally?

And the celandines are out at last, golden flowers starring the uncut grass of parks and verges.

There’ll hopefully be some progress on the writing front, next time.  Right now I’m too stuffed with chocolate to think.