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.

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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.

Beginnings and Endings

Things have been a little slow here lately, largely owing to the ongoing battle with my own head. A combination of stress and poor sleep has culminated in a rather ugly migraine, which is still doing its best to linger. I am winning however, and damn me if I don’t prevail!

Before my head started doing its best to beat me up, I managed to finish my little unexpected foray into the genre of Horror. It still needs a proper title, and a major editorial overhaul at a later stage, but it was jolly good fun to write. I’ve shown it to a couple of people – and even though horror isn’t their thing, either – they loved it. This one might have legs…

I will be reworking the story that is currently on its 8th life, as soon as the new printer cartridge arrives. This one needs editing on the page in order to be effectively rewritten. And of course, the play-list will need reviving too; I’ll be listening to a lot of Muse, later this week; I need to, to get the right feeling for the Main Character. She’s a whole year old, born of listening to Muse after seeing The Watchmen at the cinema, last February. And recently I changed her name, just a little. The prospect of revisiting her, and her first story, makes me rather happy.

What else? I finally finished reading The Pregnant Widow. I have to say that I quite liked it. Bits of it – chunks of it – I found quite puerile. But then to take the meaning literally, perhaps that is Amis’ intent? Of course, I have not the experience of having been a confused young man trying to get laid – and more – during the sexual revolution; given that this is sold as an autobiographical novel, then I pity the poor sod. I seriously doubt that to have been his intent however. And the rest of it? Once into the swing of it, I rather enjoyed the reading of it. Interesting, thought provoking, even at times, arresting. I can’t say that I’m inclined to rush out and read his back-list though; too many books, too little time! So what will it be next? China Miéville’s The City and The City? Or Marina Lewycka’s We Are All Made of Glue? Or perhaps a change of pace, another foray into historical biography? Decisions…

Another thing which makes me inordinately happy is that the apple tree is about to firework into blossom – gloriously heady scented white blossom, and then the aquilegias will be out, and the wisteria will acquire fatly swelling buds, and then it all rushes together, this lovely season we call Spring.