Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Few Days Away

Just got back from the very north of Scotland, visiting an aging uncle and sick brother-in-law, checking up on stressed out sister, so not quite as much fun as it might have been. Although Caithness is as ever, the most beautiful place on earth. A county not to everyone’s taste to be sure, but if you have a hankering for wide open spaces, that can change in a moment from hushed sunny stillness to blustery winds, a place of pounding surf on terrifying rocks, where grey/green horizons stop only when they reach mountains shaped like a maiden’s breast, it’s the place to visit.

Problem is, takes two days hard driving to get there in a car. Actually we were lucky to get out. The winds and rain came on so bad on Monday, that making it back down the A9 was a real adventure. Though leaving by plane must have been even more of a trial, with Inverness airport shut down for a while due to volcanic action in Iceland. Don’t let anyone tell you the ash cloud doesn’t exist. I phoned my sister to let her know I’m home safely and her car’s covered in a fine grey powder and her husband’s stuck in doors - advised to stay home with the windows closed - in case he breathes in the stuff.

It puts my moaning about a drought in the south into its true perspective.

(The pictures are of Lybster harbour)

Friday, 6 May 2011

Village Literary Life

I spent an entertaining few hours in a village bookshop last Thursday evening,
listening to Julia Crouch talk about her highly acclaimed debut novel, Cuckoo. The venue is so tiny, it was a bit of a squeeze to fit us all in, and such was the enthusiasm, and the crush, the owner had to run next door to borrow a couple of chairs. Well, it’s that sort of village.

To get her audience into the mood, Julia started off with a short reading from her book, an unsettling psychological thriller. Then, with our appetites duly roused, she went on to chat informally about what it feels like to have your first novel published, as part of a three book deal. (Pretty brilliant, I would say.)

Julia and I were once, very briefly, members of the same Brighton based writing group, so I was really pleased to hear of her good fortune. I came to that particular writing group as a complete newbie, my dabbles previously having been largely confined to writing blogs. I certainly had never been part of any sort of writing group before. She had already started what was later to become, Cuckoo. I’m glad to report, even on that early encounter, Julia’s novel seemed pretty damn good to me.

Not many weeks after my first session, that particular writing group folded - I swear neither of us were in the least bit implicated - it’s the nature of writing groups apparently. The keen remnants reformed, to make up the select few I now meet with once a month.

Julia appears to have given up the idea of writing groups after only one session, and went on to dizzy heights soon after, but from the four of us that formed the new group, one was quickly published, one is about to be published, one will be published as soon as her agent gets his finger out – and then there’s me – tapping away, getting impatient for my turn.

After the many casualties among bookshops in Southeast England, it’s a pleasure to see The Mint House in Hurstpierpoint flourishing under new and innovative ownership. Where else would you find a bookshop that, along with selling books in a real cross section of genres, houses regular book readings, signings and associated literary events, and is so far sighted as to organise not only a book group, but also a knitting group. A real community gem, long may it remain so.
(The Mint House, Hurstpierpoint, Nr Hassocks, BN6 9PX)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Come on Rain

Lately I find myself longing for rain. Not the discrete little sprinkles that have been
taking place so conveniently over the last few nights, but huge great downpours, enough to keep me trapped indoors during the day and make the house so gloomy I don’t even want to look out of the window. And round here we’ve had nothing but sunshine for what seems like weeks now. Days flash by and they are all fine, usually warm, often breezy, but sadly with very little rain.

My husband hates the stuff. It makes him grumpy and bad tempered, stops him from going out
on his bike or doing all the little jobs outside I’m just longing, and hinting, he should be getting on with. So why am I moaning about such perfect spring weather? Isn’t it great to loll around in the sunshine under trees bowed down with blossom?

Why on earth should I want the rain? Is it because I have an allotment and a garden that’s starting to dry out so badly I swear the cat’s likely to disappear down a canyon sized crack, unlikely ever to return? (If you read my recent post about what the little beast gets up to, you
might say that would be a good result, for the birds at least.)

Yes of course it would be nice for the flowers to last for more than a few days, and my seedlings are so parched, even if they bother to germinate at all, and many of them don’t, they hardly have the strength to grow unless I water, water, water.

But my need for rain runs deeper and it comes from guilt, sheer and utter guilt. When you are
trying to be a writer, with only a modicum of success so far, it’s very hard to justify all the time spent tap, tapping at a keyboard when all around there are jobs to be done. And it’s only when the rains bucketing away outside do I have a good reason for staying indoors.

What’s the latest weather forecast? Dry, sunny and with a brisk wind, the very best weather for being outdoors, and I can see through the window the hedge needs clipping. Bother!