Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Slight incoherence; or, the oil bill arrives

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Feeling a little crazy in the head after doing exactly one thousand words. I was grumpy this morning because my fuel bill arrived, with a number on it that looked like the GDP of Kyrgyzstan. Instead of staunchly comprehending that it has been a very cold winter, and I work at home, and so must stay warm to write, I went at once to profligate and spoilt. I should wear more jumpers. I could use fingerless gloves when I type. There could be the judicious employment of a hat. Instead of just turning up the thermostat, I could do star jumps to increase my circulation. Instead, I have spent the cold months like an aristocrat before the French Revolution, eating metaphorical cake. Bad, bad, bad.

Work, I decided, that must always be the answer. So I switched on my head and did the thousand words and tried not to think about my boiler drinking oil like a 1950s playwright on a spree. Once the day's job was done, I fell into my usual post-writing glaze.

As you know, I think quite a lot about the pulling tension between creative thought and the plain life task of Getting Things Done. Everyone, no matter what their job, has to get things done: pay the bills, fill in the tax return, hoover the house, buy the food, cook the food, eat the food. There are days when I relish the small daily requirements of life: there can be something quite soothing about the mechanical act of doing the washing up, when you have been wrangling all afternoon with some knotty ontological problem.

But there is something peculiarly draining about writing, which I shall never quite understand. I do not complain, you understand, I love and adore this job and never take it for granted; it is just an observation. The point is: I am not working down a mine, or putting in rivets all day in a production line. I am doing something I really, really like, and that I would do even if I were not paid for it. So my irrational thought is that there should be nothing tiring about it at all. Yet, it often feels as if my mind has been emptied, like a chaotic attic; so by the time I am finished, I am good for nothing. It is then that the practical tasks take on a daunting, climb to the top of Everest without oxygen aspect. It is then that I absolutely cannot deal with the oil bill.

Well, it's a little life tension. I suspect that I should get more iron in my diet. Oxtail is at the bargain basement price of £5.90 at my butcher. There shall be no more cake, but good, red meat.

Luckily, there is the reassuring simplicity of the pictures of the day. It was a drab, cross old day, with a glaring white sky and nothing frivolous about it. Even the views looked dull, so I went for texture instead.

It's all trees and bark and moss:

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You see I am quite fascinated by bark, and tree trunks in general. I think this one looks like an old elephant's foot:

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The massed ranks, with the beech hedge beyond:

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Lichen and stumps:

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The great girth of a Wellingtonia:

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Fallen branch:

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Thrilling gnarliness:

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More trunks. It amazes me how different they all are. From a distance, they are just trees, in the generic. Up close, they are as individual as fingerprints. :

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And a texture day would not be complete without mossy stone:

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The ladyships found a nice bed of leaves on which to take their ease:

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(Look at the Duchess pretending she is Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago.)

Always time for a little lie-down:

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(You would have thought that these beech leaves, which fell in the autumn, would have been reduced to a hideous black slush, after all the snow and frost, and yet there they are, as fresh and crisp and delightful as the day they left the tree.)

Ready for my close-up, Mr De Mille:

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(They really are getting the hang of this posing business. It's quite shameless.)

And today's hill, enigmatic against the flat sky:

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  1. Only blog post I read all day that made me laugh out loud. Not at your oil bill - have just ordered my second tanker of oil to be delivered and it's only January = not good. I laughed at the dogs and their poses. They are...without doubt...the best dogs in the blog world. Lou x

  2. Ah Lou - you do know the way to my heart. Do you think there ought to be a special Best Blog Dog award at the Bloggies? :)

  3. Please don't mention oil again. My Aga thinks it is in competition to see if it can drink more oil than all the other Agas in the village. And in three months the price here has doubled, if you can actually lay your hands on some.
    I know it cooks and warms and dries clothes and comforts, but it is an extravagence (but came with the cottage).

  4. On the subject of getting things done, I always think of Robert Benchley's How To Get Things Done ( The style is somewhat dated (I came across it as an undergraduate studying the Algonquin circle), but still wise words.

  5. "But there is something peculiarly draining about writing, which I shall never quite understand. I do not complain, you understand, I love and adore this job and never take it for granted; it is just an observation. The point is: I am not working down a mine, or putting in rivets all day in a production line."

    I'd venture the suggestion that you find it draining because you are good at what you do, and being good in this line of work rarely equates with having it easy. You'll tie yourself up in mental knots to get it right, and will feel terribly disappointed should they unravel. I can only nod and draw comparisons with my life as a translator – there are some evenings when all I can bear is crashing in front of the TV, watching the snooker. I don't understand snooker; have no affinity with it whatsoever, but the little coloured balls popping around and the hushed tones are soooo soothing. Those are the evenings when I simply cannot follow dialogue, be it current affairs or drama or anything vaguely intellectually challenging.

    The oil bill – we share a 5000 litre tank with the neighbours, so don't have to fill up often. When we do, however... ~shudders

  6. Last photo of the Duchess - definitely in the role of Lady Catherine de Burgh. Yes, there should be a Best Blog Dog award. Posing is so terribly taxing, they NEED more biscuits. I can tell.

  7. My dog trainer tells me that if you don't have time for a long walk, just train your dog for a half hour and they will be EXHAUSTED! And it's really true - so perhaps physical exercise, or directing a battleship, or being a short-order cook - maybe what's exhausting is all the THINKING. And then think about writing - it's not just reacting to what's coming in over the transom, but creating the whole world, holding it all at once in your head while you describe it, certainly a Herculean task! Tenn. Wms. said that writing a play is building an entire imaginary play and getting out just as it explodes with the effort of imagining it - something like that - and I really think that's true! 4 hours of writing and - like my dog after a half hour - I'm COMPLETELY drained, I might as well have hiked 20 miles. Maybe hiking 20 miles in your mind is just as exhausting because what is tiring is processing all the 'views', and when you have to CREATE them on top of that - no wonder! Williams also said that he felt he lost years of his life for every play, with the effort. This is my first comment - but what a WONDERFUL blog you have !!! writing from California...

  8. Any field in which you have to give pieces of yourself as in writing or art is emotionally/mentally exhausting. Then you have to be judged on what you have done by strangers.


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