Posted by Tania Kindersley
I am now officially in a work storm. I am filled with wild regret that I have not gone harder, faster, sterner, over the last year. I know this always happens; it is part of the usual psychology of smashing up against deadline. All the same, the irrational part of my mind quite believes it. It does not matter that there are 93,000 words where there were none. There should have been more words, better words, sharper thoughts, cleverer arguments, more vivid vocabulary, more original ideas. Bugger, bugger, bugger, yell the voices in my head; what were you doing?
Even though I like to think that I resist magical thinking and irrational notions, this one sticks like glue and Velcro and burrs on the sleeve and all other most sticky things. The problem is that there is a grain of truth in it. It’s like those conspiracy theories which contain one tiny fact, and so therefore are considered verified.
There have been weeks when I could have worked harder. I went to visit the Beloved Cousin; I took four days off to watch Cheltenham; I gazed out of the window and thought unimportant thoughts. What was I doing, watching box sets of Downton Abbey when I could have been reading improving literature?
This book has suffered, from the beginning, from difficult second album syndrome. It is not my second book, but it is the second non-fiction, the second with this publisher and this agent, the second since I had a tiny sniff of success. There are expectations. So I allowed myself some latitude. I thought there should be space. I did not focus like a laser on my researches, but read widely, and sometimes, uselessly. I started at least three chapters that went nowhere, and had to be cancelled. If only, I think now, in my orgy of recrimination, I had sharpened my wits and concentrated.
So now, with 35 days to go, I am on a mad regime of nothing but work, to make up for the laxity. There will be no weekends, no television, no social life, no drinking. The claret will be locked away for the duration. There will be a strict diet of fish for the brain and watercress soup for the muscles. I have written out a schedule. I have worked out that I have four hundred hours.
I need, mostly, more reading. The thing lacks depth. I want hinterland. These are troubled times, and I cannot just skim the surface. I am writing about a subject which is considered superficial, ephemeral, although I do not think it so. But I am going to give it ballast, if it kills me. The librarians will be run off their feet.
Since I am now in stern, puritan mode, I started the day as I mean to go on. I went to the flower shop. You can see the New Plan is working exceptionally well. I was supposed to have done at least two hours of work by 9.30am, and instead, I found myself discussing hydrangeas with the kind flower lady. Still, the dear Stepfather is back from Canada, where he has been, and I decided that he must be bunched. Then the Younger Niece got an A STAR in her exams, and she must too be rewarded. And there were some pretty ivies and heathers which were crying out to go in the wild part of the garden. So that was a little bit off-piste, although I did have the most lovely time, and I wonder if it were not the universe telling me I cannot live on bread alone.
No time to go out and photograph garden, but I did take some snaps of the flowers, so overcome was I by the delight of my chosen arrangements. I always take quite a lot in moments like this, because I am never sure how they will come out, and must allow for the weeding out of the duds. What amazes me about these pictures is that they are all quite different. I know I took them from various angles and in contrasting lights, but even so, it feels rather miraculous to me. The hydrangeas were for the Stepfather, the roses for the Younger Niece. And usually I do not love orange, as a colour, but these little beauties, in burnt umber, seemed exactly what one should give to a Young Person, especially one who has just got an A STAR:
So sorry, this may really be a surfeit. But considering how alarming all the News is at the moment, I thought perhaps one could not have too much beauty.
Talking of which:
I mean, really. There are no words for a face like that.
And the dear old hill:
Thank you so much for wonderful practical suggestions from yesterday. I think perhaps we should do that every week. We can do a brilliant, bloggy, Dear Reader version of Enquire Within of our very own.