Got out of bed and went out into the back garden in my pyjamas, thinking vaguely about going for a walk around the village. The wind is like ice and clouds are massing to the north. More rain.
Back indoors, put on coffee and began a biography of the poet Stephen Spender. Our local library is a little short on new books. The church ladies read voraciously and then scribble ‘Rubbish!’ or ‘UnChristian!’ in the margins with blue biro pens, along with crossing out all the ‘swear words’. They would shocked to hear that some might think they are defacing public literature. On the last page of Penelope Fitzgerald’s Gate of Angels, somebody had scribbled ‘Tripe’ and signed her name, illegibly. A volume of Jilly Cooper has the recommendation ‘Full of filthy sex’ written on the frontispiece and underneath a disappointed reader has replied ‘But repetitious!’
It is a relatively quiet weekend in the village, neighbours walking dogs, the African Zionists up on the hill drumming from dawn to dusk, schoolboys playing cricket on the playing fields across the road and Una keen that I accompany her to the Anglican church tomorrow. The old Victorian stone church was thatched for many years and burned down by vandals two years ago. Now it has been rebuilt but has long kikuyu grass growing all around the building so there are fleas everywhere and a very restless congregation.
Before getting up this morning I lay in the darkness, snuggled under quilts and listening to birdsong as I made up another chapter of the fiction I am working on. The moment I begin writing the chapter down it will go wrong and have to be changed and the possibilities will all dry up. That is the reality of writing. But it was such a pleasure lying there telling myself stories as I did when I was a child, the comfort and wishfulness untempered by the need to write it down. It felt as though I was dreaming myself awake.
And back to work again –