Thursday, 6 March 2014

The oddness of good news.

Here is a very strange thing. It is the good news that undoes me.

There was no blog yesterday since I was rendered incapable of any meaningful activity. I mostly stared out of the window, incapable of coherent thought. It was as if I had run into a brick wall, and been felled.

I think it was a release of tension that I had not even known was there.

I battled so hard to get my book into shape that I had gone snow-blind. I had no idea if it was any good or not. Then, the agent got side-tracked and could not read it when she had hoped, so I had to wait and wait and wait.

She loathes it, I thought; she does not know how to break the news to me.

When the news came, late on Tuesday, it said, quite simply: ‘I love it’. That is when I collapsed in a heap. All the horrid imaginings must have built up and built up, the frets and self-reproaches piling on one another, until my existential cupboard of doom was full. Then the one line arrived, and the door opened and everything tumbled out. And I could only stare vacantly, thinking: that was in there all the time?

There is an awful long way to go yet. There shall be notes, and third drafts, and fourth and fifth and sixth. The state of publishing is parlous. It is a very eccentric book. If you were pitching it, you could not really say: it is like... It is not like. I just saddled up and thought what the hell and galloped off across the plains. It may never see a bookshop.

But this green light is a success of sorts. My agent has no sentiment in her; she has a steely sense of what works and what does not. I live to fight another day.

What it made me ponder is how oddly badly I deal with success. I remember a part of me getting absolutely furious when Backwards was doing well, and all sorts of people wanted to talk to me about it. I had to have meetings and things. I was livid. I thought, cantankerously: can’t they all bugger off and leave me alone? In my wilderness years, however, when I was sacked by everyone and the publishing world had decided I could not write fuck on a dusty blind, I was stalwart and stoical and strangely calm.

I keep thinking of that paradoxical idea of Jung’s. He said that in the shadow lay the gold. His notion was that it is the dark side of the human being that the brilliance lies. You have to walk through the dark wood to find the light.

There has been quite a lot of bad news in the last few months. There have been too many Dear Departeds, human and equine. Out in the world, the news is tragic and shattering. I think that seeps into the psyche. I think the sorrow and the pity wear on the spirit. But it brings out a sort of dogged sense of getting on with it. Life is earnest, life is real, and one must put one’s head down and crack on. I concentrate hard on the small, sweet things. Each morning, the authenticity and dearness and beauty of the red mare anchors me to the earth, and to the true.

When the thing I most hoped for happened, it left me unmoored for 24 hours. I still feel quite peculiar.

Ah well, I think, as I write this, I suppose if things were straightforward, I would expire from the dullness.


Today’s pictures:

6 March 1


6 March 2

They get capital letters because, along with the oystercatchers, they are the gold-plated heralds of spring:

6 March 3

It’s a bit blurry, because he was doing his lurcher velocity, but this Stan the Man action picture had to be included:

6 March 4

More very touching loveliness from the Dear Readers. The thing perhaps I love the most is the thought of people ALL OVER THE WORLD admiring Red the Mare and Stanley the Dog. There have been quite a few comments lately from thousands of miles away, and this makes me smile and smile.

There is a very odd thing about the animals and the internet. A dog show has never crossed my mind, and although I have contemplated competing Red, I know in my heart that we are far too moochy and scruffy for that. But I want them to have their virtual rosettes, their metaphorical silver cups. They are so beautiful and enchanting that I feel this must be marked. And here comes the internet to the rescue – the international panel of judges who are discerning enough to give top marks to the tremendous Stanley ears, and the sweet Red face. It’s unbelievably idiotic of me, but I find that this gives me the keenest pleasure of all.

Stern critical voice is shouting now: stop, stop. You don’t have to tell them everything.

Bizarrely, though, I do.


  1. I've had a few long-awaited big happy life events that left me terribly discombobulated afterwards for the best part of a week; having my daughter in 1981, getting engaged to my lovely second husband in 2001 and getting married to him in 2003. All three happenings had me rocking and reeling slightly and scratching my head, even though I'd been wishing and waiting and anticipating and planning for months and months. Writing a first draft for - what is it? A year? and getting a respected agent's big thumbs up must be so similar.

    Like getting the results of Finals and finding it's a class higher than you thought you'd managed. That happened to me as well!

    Not until the big push stop does one realise how tiring it has all been, all that surviving on adrenalin to do the extra SHOVING one has elected to do, as well as withstanding all the worry that it might all fall through or end in disaster. Phew, just thinking about it has me needing a nice lie down in a darkened room!

    I shan't congratulate you just yet, don't want to jinx you, but the Secret Project may be a good deal less secret before very long and to that I look forward.

  2. I can't wait to say 'I love it' too :)
    No jinxing here either, but a slightly hysterical YAY! xxx

  3. Very excited! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!!! And also glad that the break from the blog was not too long - can't live without my doses of Red, Stanley, and Scotland, ya know ya know!

  4. This is so exciting!!!!! You have sent me a wonderful jolt with this truth - and I see the same thing in myself! It feels to me like 'esteem lag', like jet lag - suddenly someone says something complimentary and I metaphorically look around to see who they could be talking to. My huge, shy Rhodesian ridgeback used to do the same thing! She'd suddenly come upon a tiny, terrified dog on the trail and would immediately look around, to find their common enemy....Anyway, for me danger and failure are so much easier to recognize and live with than success. But congratulations on these hugely important 'three little words' from a unsentimental source - because you have really done it, no matter how many drafts to come!

    Many congratulations from a foggy day in Berkeley!

  5. 'Couldn't write fuck on a dusty blind...; that made me HOOT! Please consider that line stolen henceforth...


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