Rain, or How I’ve Always Loved English Summers

You can’t talk about the weather in England at this time of year without someone complaining about the rain. (As a matter of fact it is a truth universally accepted that you can’t talk about the weather in England at any time of year without someone complaining about it being too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too anything, even when seasonal: it’s supposed to snow in winter for fucks sake.) But rain, summer rain, can be a fine thing. Yes all right, the rain in 2007 was a little excessive in these parts, but I am getting to my point. Who has not felt the gently smug animal comfort of lying in bed, drowsing on the edge of deeper sleep, and listening to the thrumming of cloudfall on roof and window? A night-pleasure for every season, intensified in summer when lying there with the window open. Then the circle of sensory pleasure is completed by being able to smell the rain on the warm earth, with the ever-present top notes of honeysuckle, roses, cut grass, and in earlier summer, philadelphus. Only in the licentious heat of summer is the scent of rain truly intoxicating. For of course, warmth is the key. Who would want to splash barefoot across a rain soaked lawn in any other season? Too cold, too cold! Who would willingly forego the protection of coat or umbrella to stand or dance in a heavy rainfall in spring, or autumn, or winter? But when the skies burst, and cool the humid fug of sticky heat with heavy drops like freshwater pearls, that drench the air, my skin, my hair, and cleanse away the drier scents of dust and faded greenery, then is summer magic indeed, the obverse of the coin of long hours of heat, and light, and blue blue skies. There is romance in summer rain, and lust, and the perfect pleasure of simple sensuality, sun-warmed skin and sweat, rain-slicked and refreshed.

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There Just Aren’t Enough Hours In The Day, or Why I Don’t Want To Be A Zombie…

Once upon a time, I was able to do it all. Once upon a time, I didn’t need as much sleep. Now I find myself pulled in so many directions – too many directions. I can’t do it all. Last night for instance; I got into a good flow of writing, and I would dearly have loved to have just carried on. But no. I had to be up very early again this morning (Very Early), so I had to give in to my body’s unreasonable need for sleep. Once upon a time, I could race through my reading list, gallop and cavort through several volumes at a time. Now, I have to juggle my reading time with writing, and sleeping (never mind everything else, the non-negotiables that come with being a mother and a wife). Maybe it’s an age thing; that has a ring of inevitability about it. I can no longer burn the candle at both ends; not if I want to be taken seriously as a decent-looking, well behaved human being. Zombiedom does not appeal!

But the main reason my brain has wandered down this particular path is the issue of reading. I’m still ploughing through – and digesting – The Seven Basic Plots (Booker, 2005), and I’m still dipping into and loving The Legacy (Bedford, 2005). But the waiting to be consumed pile never seems to go down, and already I have more to add to it. Under Heaven (Kay, 2010) is the hardback treat I have promised to myself for when  the First Draft is completed – so a sort of non-chocolate easter egg. Then there are two new paperbacks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Mitchell, 2011), and So Much For That (Shriver, 2011). I won’t go on, because if I do, I won’t know where to stop; working in a bookshop is a tremendous source of pleasure, but also frustration! And if I had a penny for every customer who has looked round at the laden shelves and told me that they suppose I spend all my time reading… I gave up trying to read at work when Cold Mountain was published, back in 1997. There are only so many times I can cope with rereading the same page and then being interrupted. I’m not there to read, but to assist, to sort out, to make presentable. The shop can be quieter than a really quiet thing, and I promise you, the moment I think about picking up a book, someone will ask me something. I never did finish Cold Mountain, either… so many books, and not enough hours in the day.

But the sun shines more and more, with increasing strength. I’ve seen celandines, little golden glossy stars that twinkle in the verge. And the washing line once more billows with laundry, while the apple tree promises to unfurl its blossom in a few more weeks. Spring is bouncing around like a bouncy thing in spring, and the WIP is gathering pace. So I’m not complaining, not really.

Day 18

Not so much of a NaNo post today – although I am slightly ahead of target and currently happily sitting at just over 30.5k. There were a few days where not many words would come, but those hemming walls of blankness have been kicked over, and there has been some jumping up and down on the ensuing rubble. Carnage is always good for wordage.

The words to sleep ratio has been increasing in favour of the words. I do a fairly passable impression of a human being when doing necessary things like the school run, and going to work. My family seem to still recognise me, although there have been a few Kubla Khan moments of the flashing eyes/floating hair variety. Thank goodness for Frizzease!

So it’s a Thursday, and I’m older today than I was yesterday, and reflecting on what I have done, and what I hope to do in the coming days and years, both in my writing life and my life day to day. Camel racing still features heavily, as does getting a novel finished and putting it ‘out there’. Both are a tremendous challenge, although only one offers the possibility of broken bones. But the exhilaration! I’ve been feeling some of that while writing this month – not exactly flying, but certainly gliding – or at least falling in style. Hmm; so much for this not being so much of a NaNo post!

Strange to think that after next weekend, normal life will have to resume once more, at least for the run up to Yule…

And we’re still foozling

The dilemma is beginning to resolve itself – the threads of the story that must be woven into the existing fabric are slowly unravelling into something ribbon like. They have yet to be written, but they are becoming clearer. Motives and reasons that were hidden – invisible, even – a year ago, now are coming to the fore, making the internal logic of the piece stronger. At least, I hope they will prove to do so. It would seem that for me, the process of ‘story’ never really ends. If this is the case, then I foresee the next few years will be rather fraught as new ideas demand to mesh with old words. Perhaps I may have to become strict, limiting the number of additions clamouring for inclusion – in the manner of Humpty Dumpty on a Saturday night, when the portmanteau words come crowding for to be paid…

I love that so much that feels as if it should be nonsensical, but isn’t (all a matter of personal taste/definition of personal sanity, etc, of course) can be brought back to the measured wonderment of Lewis Carroll. He’s a sort of touchstone of my creativity. In part because I read him as a child, because I still reread him when ill – such a comfort! – and because of the pleasure in sharing him with my own daughter. His Wonderland has become part of our shared language, at home, as well as underpinning a large corner of the wider culture of the English language. I recently went to see Tim Burton’s film, and enjoyed his realisation of Wonderland in despair, immensely. To be honest I didn’t see the point of the 3D effects – pretty enough, but I didn’t feel they particularly enhanced the telling of the tale. But the characterisations were vastly entertaining – especially, to my mind, the Cheshire Cat, a personal favourite of long standing. Yes, on the whole, it is safe to say that I liked it. I did like the Mad Hatter too; combining strangeness and pathos in an equation that balanced nicely in the details. And that strangely chilling frisson as the White Queen told her prisoner that she did not owe him a kindness – such implacability in mercy, tempered with justice; an interesting effect I should like to use in La Nouvelle Cendrillon – another of those threads to be rewoven.

But the main obstacle to the matter of writing, and the primary contributory factor to what I like to call foozling – sort of like pootling, but less focused – is my current inability to sleep well. Some nights indeed I have barely slept at all. There is a crash coming, I can feel it. Perhaps I need it, in order to reboot my system. And the ridiculous thing is, that I love sleep, I crave it. Yet I crawl into bed, and it evades me. Still, there’s always tonight…