Posted by Tania Kindersley.
It was minus fourteen last night. This morning, even with a glorious winter sun gleaming out of a cerulean sky, it is still minus ten. It is that kind of cold that I can only walk in for about fifteen minutes; after that, my face starts to hurt. The tremendous freeze has scattered little crystals all over the snow, so that it glitters and shimmers in the light. The trees look as if some creative giant came in the night and carved them all into ice sculptures. (You see that this kind of beauty brings out the whimsy in me.)
Meanwhile, I defy the weather and put on another nine hundred words, and have a low, humming sense of achievement. I know that many of those words will get cut in the second and third (and fourth and fifth) drafts; I know too that they are nothing like as good as they should be, because they never are, at the beginning. But something is coming out of nothing, and there is a keen pleasure in that.
The other lovely thing is that I do not have to do this alone. I have my partner, who calls up three times a day. Sarah rang today at eleven.
'I am having my elevenses,' I said.
'That's nice,' she said.
'I am having fried cod's roe,' I said.
There was a pause. 'That is quite odd, even for you,' she said.
'Need the protein,' I said, with my mouth full.
Then we talked about Dante, St Augustine, the art of the Renaissance, closed orders, Camus, Balzac, Madame Bovary, the depiction of women in fairy tales, and religion in general. I would love to say that this is just what we talk about every day, because we're those kind of girls, but this was work talk, for the book. This is what we do: we discuss every single thing that might be at all relevant to what we are writing about, we shoot off on tangents, we test out ideas. I wander off into the endless prairies of abstract thought, and Sarah brings me gently back down to earth. We get slightly over-excited and shout at each other. (Actually, that is mostly me; I have a fatal tendency to yell when I am over-stimulated.) Then I rush to my desk and make notes of everything we just spoke about. The heaven of it is, I do not have to do my thinking alone. I had never worked with anyone else before Backwards, and the joy of having a sounding board is like getting an unexpected present in the post. Because she is so clever and professional, Sarah makes me better; it's like raising your game when you play against a chess master. And there is also a whole Jack and Mrs Sprat thing going on. I know a bit about 20th century literature, feminist theory, and Jungian psychology; Sarah is an expert on the Italian poets (Dante is absolutely her boy), the Renaissance, and French novels, where I am horribly ignorant. Also, she makes me laugh.
And just in case you think we really are too poncy for our shirts, I would like to state that we also discussed the wonders of the John Lewis haberdashery department.
Now for the picture of the day. I did have a thought that I should be tremendously disciplined and do only one each day; there is a purity about that which appealed to me, in this new mapping the year in photographs idea. But it was so magnificently glorious outside today that I feel profligate; I want you to be able to see every single one of the ice trees. Forgive the indulgence.
Little ice bush:
My favourite stand of Scots Pines, turned quite white by the weather:
Frozen avenue, with dogs:
My garden, looking due south:
Look at that sky. I'm not sure there are even words for that colour:
More avenue and dogs:
There is no excuse for this last one at all. It's not as if you don't know what my dogs look like, by now. But did you ever see anyone more ready for her close-up?
I'm stopping now. Really.