Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Sometimes I write five or six blogs all in one day. These exist inside my head, and are quite, quite coruscatingly brilliant. I cannot tell you how amused and dazzled you would be.
Then I sit down to write.
Or, actually no, not quite nothing. A sensation worse than nothing. Lots of useless, half-somethings. And so, the internal dialogue starts.
What was it, that thing when you were brushing your teeth? The one that was so whip-smart it almost hurt?
No memory of it at all.
And the one on the walk, that you knew the Dear Readers would love?
It had something, tangentially, to do with Christy Moore, Lisdoonvarna, Van Morrison, happiness, and never meeting your heroes. Can’t link all those things together now, though.
Then there is more inner chat. Oh, for God’s sake, you can’t tell them that. That’s too boring, you said that only last week, not that again, no no no. Inappropriate, bit self-righteous, too long, too short, too parochial, too grandiose.
Then I consider just putting up some pictures.
But the point is that I am all about words. Words are my thing. If I can’t give you words, then I’m not up to much.
So, sometimes, like today, I end up giving you a process story. Process story is the pejorative term that political commentators give to reports and articles which are a little geeky and specific and to do with the machinations of the corridors of power. It’s what the Americans, in an expression I love, call ‘inside baseball’.
It’s when the story is not about the policy, or the real people it might affect, but the horse-trading and the raw politics and the considerations of how the public will perceive the thing, rather than the thing itself. Again, the Americans have the best phrase for that last one: how will it play in Peoria? (Although that is a very old idiom, and I’m not sure is even used any more.) We have no equivalent. How will it play in Milton Keynes does not quite have the same euphony.
I love process stories. I like them in politics, I like them in life, I like them in writing. I am much more fascinated by a writer telling me her own private displacement activities, than by a serious discussion of lofty influences, of metre and syntax, of technique and literary devices.
I like the more banal human process: Flaubert keeping a bowl of rotting apples on his desk, Don DeLillo starting each new paragraph on a blank page, so he has lots of white space in which to see his sentences, Nabokov scribbling in pencil on index cards.
There is a rumour I read somewhere that Eliot used to work in a secret office in the Charing Cross Road, and called himself Captain Eliot, so that anyone knocking at the door had to ask for The Captain. I can’t quite believe that’s true, but then TS was strange enough for anything. And quite frankly, if you write Prufrock, you can call yourself the Grand Vizier of the Cinque Ports for all I care.
The process here sometimes is easy. There is one headline story, either in the privacy of my head, or out in the world, and so there is no question of what must be addressed. Those are good imperative days.
Sometimes a mood is on me so strongly that I can only obey it, and that is why you may get whimsy, or a blast of sadness, or a determined celebration of the small things. And then there are the muddly, confused days, when I’m exhausted from work or battered about about by a storm of petty emotion or not feeling physically marvellous or suffering from insomnia or just a bit listless and cross.
Come on, say the voices, on those days; come along, sharpen up. Got to give them something good. It’s like a mad blogging equivalent of England Expects. And then I scrabble about in my mind, searching for something, anything, displeased and rueful at the lack of fascination.
It’s like that thing when you’ve forgotten to do the shopping, and you end up burrowing about in the back of your storecupboard and thinking: what the hell can I make with half a bag of couscous, which is well beyond its sell-by date, some smoked mackerel fillets, and a can of hearts of palm? (Answer: nothing good.) And then I wonder about those marvellous, resourceful women who can whip up a feast from only some dried mushrooms and a tin of anchovies.
And then, at the end of it all, I have no idea how to stop. If it’s a coherent argument day, then there is always the ringing, declarative final sentence. The teacher I loved the most, Mr Woodhouse, always taught me to round off my essays with a strong sentence, that brought the argument back to the beginning, and tied it up with a nice, strong, rhetorical bow. Because of this, I used to think of constructing essays like wrapping up a parcel in brown paper and securing it with string. I still slightly wish people did send parcels with string. I miss string.
No neatness here today. No good, firm full stop. A bit of a sigh, and a frown, and a thought that I shall just have to stop my fingers typing and go and make some chicken soup for my supper.
At least, however, I did go out into the rather gloomy Scottish evening and take some new pictures for you:
All which is a salutary reminder that even though I am a bit storm-tossed at the moment, I have all these wonderful things still growing in my little garden, as the autumn comes on. AND THAT IS NOT NOTHING. (So sorry, no idea where those caps suddenly came from.)
The Brother dropped in on his way back from cooking lunch for our mother, and threw the ball for The Pigeon, which made her look like this:
Then she grew demure, and put her Grace Kelly face on:
Then I got rather over-excited about the photography, and started looking for interesting angles, and got down on my stomach in the earth (jeans are now covered in mud), and at one point I looked up from my prone position to see her regarding me with a curious expression, as if to say ‘What are you doing down there?’:
And then I took a slightly blurred and misty photograph of the hill:
And that was that.