There was so much joy in the south, and so much love and laughter, and that glorious thing of a friendship which goes back almost thirty years, and children I have known since they were born. There is nothing quite like it. After a week with my best beloveds, I feel like a better human being.
But as always, I am delirious to be home. Even in the dreich and the mud and the murk, I sing songs as I mix the morning feeds and stuff the haynets and potter about in the shed. Outside, the red mare is grazing at liberty in the set-aside, where there is still something that might be called grass. This is our morning ritual. I let her out of the field to wander at liberty. She could gallop off to see the cows, but she doesn’t. She just mooches about in the open spaces and then comes and sticks her dear white face through the door of the shed, looking at me enquiringly, as if to say: ‘Are you doing that properly?’
Stan the Man is antic with delight. He has a lovely time always with the dog-sitter, but is gratifyingly pleased to see me. There is the tremendous lurcher thing he does, gathering all his energy into his athletic body and twisting and turning and leaping, so that he looks like an animated apostrophe. He is also very happy to be back to my mother’s house for breakfast, where he can see her and my stepfather and his special friend Edward the Terrier. They are a most unlikely couple and they adore each other. They dance around, Little and Large, playing special games of their own and panting at each other with love.
I whack back into work. I have returned to the second of the secret projects, neither of which are really secret any longer, but both of which started on spec. This is a fiction, and it’s a long time since I told a story. I have to remember the rhythms of it, how to keep the narrative taut, what to tell, what to leave out. I like this story and am pleased to go back to it. We are in serious Dead Darlings territory now, because there are 154,000 words, and that is far too many. Great cadres of them must die. I wield the bloody axe, ruthlessly. There are also additions, and decisions about the characters. This one must be put into the background, this one must be beefed up. Writing a novel takes ages because you have to live with your characters for a while to get to know them. Each morning now, I wake up and think: oh yes, that’s why that person did that. Slow revelations come and make sense of the thing. You can’t hurry it, although it drives me mad that you can’t. I’d love to be able to invent them on a dime, write a nice shopping list of traits, and be done with it. But they reveal themselves like onions, the layers peeling off to reveal the heart within, and the process can’t be rushed.
Dear old Scotland is drenched and melancholy, but I love her so much I don’t care. One day the sun will shine again. In the meantime, there is only sunshine in my heart.
Far too gloomy to get the camera out, so here are a few snaps from my week away.
The Beloved Cousin sent these from her telephone – me with my sweet homebred friend Cocky Locky, and the three small cousins by a dam they built:
And a couple of the dear herd. I always stupidly took the camera out late in the day, as the gloaming was coming in, so that the light was gone and the quality of the pictures is not that good. But you can still see the sweetness:
Even though this one is terribly blurred, I rather love it:
Another blurry one, but worth it for the dearness:
Almost in focus:
Well, being pin-sharp is not everything:
Even though I have absolutely no technical knowledge, I do sometimes have a bit of secret pride when I manage to take a decent picture. But I rather love that these ones are not very good. It reminds me that the search for perfection is, along with high expectations, the absolute enemy of happiness. It reminds me that it is all right to be a bit scruffy and goofy and not the best at everything. My horrid competitive streak, which always wanted to be the top of the class, has to be smacked down every so often. So I think of putting these pictures up as a sort of salutary lesson. Good enough, my darlings; good enough.