I am back. The blog has a new name. The thing itself is not new and improved, because I’m not twenty-two and can’t be reinventing myself all the time, but all the same, it feels a little like a new start.
I went away for ten different reasons. I was writing two books at once and I had taken on a new challenge with my mare, to train for a one-day-event for charity, so I had to think about getting fit and teaching her to jump. I was dealing with a certain amount of convoluted emotional stuff. Something had to give, and it was this.
It was oddly hard to come back. What is the point? I wondered. Does the world really need a blog by me in it? No, is the glorious answer, but writing is never to do with the world. It is to do with the mazy spaces of the frontal cortex. And the human heart, of course.
Sitting and thinking about things, one of my favourite hobbies, can be fatal. I thought of the sick in the bucket person. I thought: it really is not my aim in life to make people want to vomit. One of the things I try to teach myself is everyone must say what they say and think what they think and it has nothing to do with me. When someone comes in, all guns blazing, the trick is to let them. Ah yes, you tell yourself, there they are, and there they go, and now I’m off to look at a tree. Not getting bashed up by the opinions of critics is one of the marks of being a grown up. The not minding is easy if you are having a butch day. If you are having a vulnerable day, it’s not so easy.
Did I really want to open myself up to all that again? Why not simply shut up shop and let the armchair jockeys go and pick apart another race?
In the end, I came back because of a waitress. I was listening to the Today programme this morning and there was a story about a very old lady who used to go into her local café every day. Suddenly, she stopped. The waitress got worried and called the police. The coppers went to the old lady’s house and found that she was stuck in the bath. She had been stuck for four days. Apparently, and this is where all my hats come off, she told herself to stay calm and be patient and not to panic. She kept the hot tap going to keep warm and drank from the cold tap to stay hydrated. I can’t remember exactly how old she was, but I think they said eighty-seven. She is one of the ones who would remember the Blitz, and rationing, and the nuclear panic, and the Cold War, and the three-day-week. That generation never fails to fill me with wonder and awe. If I could be a quarter as stoical as they are, I should think I had achieved something in life.
The waitress was interviewed about how she had saved this incredible lady’s life. She told her story without any showboat or swagger. ‘I was very pleased to see her again,’ she said. ‘I’m happy,’ she said, ‘that she is alive.’ Sarah Montague was practically in tears. She’d been doing stories about Mosul and ISIS all morning, and now she had the wonderful waitress and the doughty, courageous lady and it was almost too much for her. It was almost too much for me.
That, I thought, is the point of it all. That’s why the voices in my head say: write it down, write it down. In six weeks, or six months, or a year, when I have quite forgotten that shooting star of a story, that dazzling gleam of humanity, I shall be able to look back and remember. When the rain is falling, I shall have sunshine, in words.
The small things are what I cherish now. I used to run, full bore, into the big things. I thought that was what all my education was for. I must disentangle the Four Last Things, and the Four Noble Truths, and the meaning of life if it kills me. Now I think: I have absolutely no clue about the big things. They are my Gordian knot, and my sword is not sharp enough. But oh, oh, the small things. I know the small things and love the small things and take comfort from the small things. I am the small things.
This blog is, to my sudden, flinging delight, going to get smaller and smaller. Eventually it will be so tiny that only bats can hear it. If you want the big things, there is always The Economist or the works of Aristotle. If you want the small things, this is your place.