‘Oh, for God’s sake,’ says the critical voice. ‘Tell them you can’t do the bloody blog. Half of them probably hate it anyway. They have lives to be living. What can it matter?’
The critical voice gasps at her fag and orders another gin. I think she probably did not get enough love as a child.
I was on the verge of writing: no blog for a while. Everything is on fast forward. I did 1527 words and HorseBack and the horse and the dog and my family things and did not have time for the vital administrative tasks that have been hanging over my head for days or the picking of the ragwort, which is like painting the Forth Bridge. I am furious about the ragwort.
Stanley escapes and barks at the nice farmer bringing the good hay, and the farmer looks affronted and hurt. I am hurt on his behalf. How could Stanley bark at the farmer? I know he thinks he is protecting the old homestead, but even so. This unsettles the mare, who usually ignores Stanley, and then the Paint sees him creeping through the bushes and thinks he is a mountain lion. My green paradise is suddenly besieged and the peace that normally lives there is fled.
‘Bloody ragwort,’ I shout, seeing it sprouting evilly through the set-aside, no matter how hard I dig the bastard up. ‘It’s six o’clock and I have not yet finished my work and I have not finished the weed-digging and how can there be a blog?’
I was going to say no blog because of all these good reasons. Something has to give. Really though it was to do with a long day and exhaustion and one moment of idiot fury. It only takes fifteen minutes to write two hundred words. I know that it occupies much more mental time, because I do think about it a bit you will be astonished to hear, but even so, it’s not a three-hour slog. The sudden spasm is because I am not listening to my sensible voice of yesterday about perfection being the enemy of the good.
(Thank you so much to the intelligent Dear Reader who knew it was Voltaire.)
The reason I do this is because I like having postcards, which I can look back on. I like markers.
I like the strangers who come and read and say: me too.
I like the act of writing. I think of it as a good discipline, a practice, like doing your arpeggios in the morning.
If one person, one single human, reads this and raises a smile because of some idiot joke or a dancing stretch of prose or a needed thought, then my work is done.
Its ambitions are shatteringly small. How odd I think, that I started it to promote Backwards, with the absolute conviction that I could go viral, sell a million copies, and retire with fields full of ex-racehorses. Now, one smile, even a fleeting one, is enough.
I like that it is free. Paid work has a different aspect to it, slightly distanced by professionalism. I adore reading good journalism, even if it is by people with whom I radically disagree. There are columnists whose weekly articles I look forward to keenly. But I get a very different kind of pleasure from reading my sister blogger across the Atlantic, with her thoughts on love and heartbreak and family and food and the beauty of the canyon in which she lives, so far away. It is a sweeter pleasure, because she does it for love, and so her blog has a personal authenticity which no paid writing can match. It is a gleaming glimpse inside the soul of an ordinary human, struggling with all the ordinary challenges and ordinary griefs and ordinary joys of life. And it has a truth in it which makes it extraordinary.
The critical voice has now given up and gone to buy another bottle. She quite often does not stay long. She gets disgusted and moves on to wreck someone else’s party. The sensible voice has her sensible hat on and is enjoying her moment in the sun. She does not need gin, although she has been known to indulge in the occasional Negroni.
‘You can fit it in,’ she says. ‘Everyone has busy lives. It does not matter if it is only three lines. Don’t give it up because you are feeling a bit overwhelmed in one hour of one day. Just write it, word by word. Don’t fret if it is not the dazzling thing that exists in your head. You don’t need bouquets and cups; you just need to write.’
The sensible voice is awfully nice.
Stanley the Dog has now calmed down. The mare is settled for the night. The delicious new hay is in the shed. The sun is still shining. I have not finished my work, but I never finish my work. Like the ragwort, it is always with me.
I remember that the 1527 words were not bad, and that despite my endless panic about time, I did manage to take ten minutes to back a winner at Sandown, and that Red and I had one of our floating trots in the hayfield this morning, so light it was like dancing.
We wheeled in and out of the huge cotton-reel bales, shifting to left and right as easily as thought. When she first arrived, she believed that the bales were monsters which would eat her, and often leapt vertically in the air, all four feet off the ground, at the very sight of one. Now we slalom between them like cowgirls in a cutting competition.
The enemy of the good is quite strong at the moment. This is usually a sign that something is not quite right. I need to take a deep breath and see what it is. I’ll excavate. There is always a reason.
But the main thing is that there is good. I can still hear the old lady from yesterday singing, in my head. She sang a song to my red mare. Nothing can be too bad when a thing like that happens.
This one feels rather illustrative. The focus is all wrong, but it does not matter. You can still see the beauty of the little marjoram flowers:
And I got a friend in to help with the lawn-mowing:
While Stan the Man kept busy catching the bluebottles:
And then had a most deliriously joyful roll:
There. Better now.
I do like to think that perhaps, each day, there might be one tiny thing here that brings a smile to your face. The truth is, you bring a smile to mine, by listening. Once I have shared with the group, the gentle breeze of perspective blows.
Thank you for that.