It was just short of three days, the visit of the older Daughter and Husband. Based 50 miles west of Chicago, the paraphernalia of busy lives makes visits to Glasgow infrequent. The garden knew. The cherry blossom hung on; the apple blossom tiptoed out; the camellia went bezerk and exploded into flower. Clemmie and Ben brought the spring with them.
Skype means there’s everything and nothing to catch up on. We know each other’s superficial news. We’ve seen each other’s faces. But we haven’t sat over pea and spinach soup, or said ‘want a cup of tea?’ or ‘the table’s booked for 8 o’clock’ or had a picnic day meandering through the tall mazy ruins of Linlithgow Palace and gazing over the Firth of Forth from a windy Blackness. Clemmie and I haven’t set off, with shopping purpose, into the city, only to stand amid the Hobbs finery for an hour talking about stuff that really matters before splurging in John Lewis and eating clams at Jamie’s.
Nor, over the skype, could Clemmie, with Ben at her side, bury the ashes of her little dog, Crumble, who was hers, though Crummie lived here always, and died here, aged 16, in February. We buried Crumble under the blooming camellia, and as we stepped back, I noticed for the first time that the camellia has grown into an almost perfect ‘C’. C for Crumble, C for Clemmie.
Clemmie and Ben left yesterday evening, and this morning I have a small vase of camellia blooms on my desk. They are perfect and poignant, a true reflection of the visit. They are also very pink, which isn’t a reflection of the visit but is nicely alliterative, and, for some reason, stops me sniffing into a handkerchief.
The Son arrived home for a few days. He is currently based in Boston, USA, so his homecoming is an event. It’s an irritating fact about ‘events’ that they tend not to go quite as perfectly as you hoped. As you get older, you factor this in. Just take it as it comes, you say to yourself. Be relaxed. Minor organisational hiccups don’t matter a jot. It’s how YOU are that makes the visit happy or less happy. I always want to pass this advice on to women in bridal shops. Why on earth fuss your wedding up with things to go wrong? Who cares what colour the napkins are? Who really cares what you wear? The happiest days of your life come unexpectedly. You can’t order them like cinema tickets.
Anyhow, we didn’t fuss the visit weekend up, and as a result it was lovely from arrival to all-too-soon departure. Nothing spectacular was done. We sat about over dinner. We nodded off in front of the Burrell Collection documentary video. We found our way to Chatelherault park (we find finding things difficult, so this was high risk). We had a picnic in the car – egg sandwiches, coffee from a flask, shortbread, chocolate – entertained by a girl trying to load a reluctant horse into a lorry. Our sense of direction being a bit squiff, we went for a rather longer walk than anticipated. The miracle of absolute enjoyment in the ordinary moment.
Now the Son is gone. Some mothers like the continued sense of a child’s presence in a tumbled room. I’m not one of those. When any of the children visit, once the awful goodbye is done I rush to strip and remake the bed so that as soon as humanely possible, the room is prepared for the next visit. Looking forward sees me through. In the Son’s room, I also find the things he’s left behind. Even before he’s touched back down in Boston, I’m humming, with apologies to the Proclaimers
‘When you go will I send your phone charger to America?
You can search through your luggage but you will not find it there.’
I was going to post up more Sedition music today, but this is so lively that I can’t resist. Haydn is perfect for a spring Saturday. I’m gavotting with the hoover. How I love living at a time when my housework partner is Alexander Kobrin, one of the world’s top pianists.
This simple, gentle tune inspired Sedition. How? I don’t know. All I know is that it’s a perfect piece of music, and Alathea knows it, and so does Annie. It links us together: the author and two of her creations. So – here at last, lovely aria.
For the last busy fortnight, I’ve been full of writing vim and vigour. Other deadlines, bureaucracies, commitments, some delightful and others dementing, have had to take precedence. Today, there’s nothing between me and the novel I’m trying to write. I know its theme. I know its form (I think). But today, my study filled with spring light, the little dog sweetly curled up and other distractions and deadlines perfectly happy to ‘pend’, I find myself appalled at the prospect of actually writing. So here I am, dithering. All I’ve got to do is pull the novel up from the bottom bar of my Mac, and I know – or at least I think I know – its world will lure me in. I’ve got notes. I’ve got thoughts. But not for nothing is a novel called a ‘novel’. A novel should be new, not so much in story – there are, as we all know, a limited number of plot arcs – but each succeeding novel should propel the writer into slightly (for the writer) unchartered waters. To forge through new water requires courage and today I have none. Today I’m a coward, and cowards don’t make good writers.
Yet I don’t want to waste the day, so my lack of courage and my horror of waste are currently battling it out. Bang, wallop, bang. And crash! It’s battle over. I am going to write. This isn’t because courage has suddenly returned. I’m going to write because staring right up at me is that lovely thing known as the delete button. I can write and not write. A perfectly cowardly solution for the perfectly cowardly coward.
Blood Red Horse will be included in the March Big Deal Kindle promotion from the 14th-30th March. During this time, the e-book will be priced at $1.99. Grab it quick and meet Hosanna, the blood red horse of the title. First books and first characters are like first loves: they have a special place in your heart. That’s Blood Red Horse and Hosanna for me. Hey, Hosanna. I think of you so often.
A little snippet from a splendid long review in Booklist:
“A thumping debut filled with sex, manipulation and a dash of romance. Wickedly dark and provocative, Sedition is a bold reminder that the thirst for power and status remains unquenched over the ages.”
Sedition’s also a Top-10 pick for April, and will be included in the Top-10 e-newsletter.
Thank you, Booklist.
My girls and I are dancing this morning, perhaps to the speedy ones of these, with which Everina tries to impress Monsieur.
It turns out that I love talking about Sedition. Who knew! But I also like listening to what others make of my girls, and of course their fathers, mothers and Monsieur. At a Glasgow book salon on Wednesday, there was much quizzing about the genesis of the book and the ending. In truth, I don’t know where the darkness comes from, except that in the recesses of my mind there lurks all manner of stuff. All imagined. There’s nothing whatsoever autobiographical about Sedition. Imagination can often lead to much weirder places than experience, and following your imagination is what gives novel writing its particular pleasure (and pain, too – writing is a painful business). So, my imagination led and I followed. Readers, naturally, are curious. They want to see backwards, as it were, to before the book. I try not to be evasive, but sometimes evasiveness is nearer the truth than a straight answer.
Anna Burnside runs her salons in true Glasgow spirit: thought for her salonistas (hot soup of a brilliant purple hue – ’twas beetroot, a startling vegetable); thought for others (the Maryhill food bank); and thought for the book. She sets the tone of the conversation. No holds barred. Wonderful meaty stuff. At the end of the evening, you don’t simply leave, you emerge. My girls and I felt properly ‘saloned’. Thank you, Anna. Thank you, fellow salonistas. It was an honour.
This piece of music, Les Barricades Mysterieuse composed by Francois Couperin (1668-1773)will be familiar to many – or perhaps more accurately to few, since few people now go to church, and fewer still to a church with music. Anyhow, Les Barricades will be familiar to many of the few who DO go to church since it’s a favourite to fill the moments when people are shuffling up to communion. My favourite recording is by Angela Hewitt, but that recording is under copyright. So here’s a free offering, played on the harpsichord, and why not! http://www.last.fm/music/Fran%C3%A7ois+Couperin/_/Les+Barricades+Mysterieuses
There is no photographic evidence, thank goodness. I’m not a fan of the camera. Without a camera, I can pretend I really did look as I imagined I looked. So – at a large Sedition gathering on Saturday evening (a book event no less) in a capacious North Yorkshire barn, I wore black velvet and lace and looked, I hope, the picture of metropolitan authordom. Whatever – since the audience was huddled in sheepskin and goosedown (boiler breakdown meant the temp was lower than expected) I certainly stood out. I read; people questioned; we discussed; we agreed; we disagreed; I read some more. There was wine. I enjoyed myself. My girls enjoyed themselves. Thank you, North Yorkshire, for true Yorkshire hospitality. And to the very nice lady who thought the sex scenes should have been longer, I say only this: when you summon a man to tune your piano, you don’t, unless you’re really really lucky, get a concert.