Introduced a sudden death into my floundering Nanowrimo novel and none of the characters wanted anything to do with it. My word count has declined to 500 words a day and I have abandoned my plot outlines in despair.
My tiny puppies have a new game in which they dash between my legs as I walk and try to overtake one of my feet. I am terrifid of tripping and falling on them. When my lovely older friend Aletta was dying, one of her granddaughters asked:
“What important thing have you learned from living so long? Like, spiritual, you know.’
“Never step over a sleeping dog, not even a small one,’ she said, with feeling.
The day began cold and misty but has suddenly turned into a scorcher. Too hot to sit outdoors and read in the shade, so I am stying in the study with a long cool glass of homemade gingerbeer. My old-fashioned Salvia leucantha is flowering in velvety purple and white. A wild sweet pea is rambling through the white marguerites and throwing up lilac and mauve blooms. A cutworm has killed my surviving basil plants.
The old rambling roses, shamefully neglected are flowering profusely. This weekend the house will be filled with blue and silver bowls of crimson and pale yellow roses, the fragrance sweetening the rooms. My housemate will be working, so I shall be alone with the puppies, my books and music. I am going to listen to Schubert and browse through gardening manuals to plan out autumn planting, stretched out on the sofa with puppies tumbling around me. And I shall endeavour to get on with the writing, but will be lucky to make 30 000 words by the end of the month. Some sections of the text are not bad and I may be able to work with them. But the whole scheme needs a rethink.
Stuckness doesn’t feel like a learning curve but in retrospect it is always valuable. So long as I can push on through.
A plump blonde woman with a ruined left eye arrived on the doorstep last night to invite us to a boat outing on the dam as part of the local amateur musical society. We would climb onto a raddled pleasure steamer, an old unstable catamaran and sail around the smll dam listening to Bacharach while eating a shipboard brunch in the blazing sun.
‘Please do come,’ she coaxed. ‘It will be just like a booze cruise.’
I inwardly winced and tried not to sound too Scroogelike or abrupt when I declined. Drinking liquor at 9am on an unsafe boat on a small reed-bound dam, all of us sitting there in the heat with no shelter from the sun and listening to Burt Bacharach on an empty stomach as we wait for the defrosted and stale toasted sandwiches to be passed around… heat stroke, alcohol poisoning, death by accidental drowning, musical overkill.
Instead of going along and risking boat-rage or worse, I shall get up in the cool of dawn to garden and then make a peach sorbet with fresh mint leaves. It has always interested me that at the end of his satirical novel Candide, Voltaire offers this advice to those who have survived plagues and earthquakes and revolutions and the auto-da-fe in Lisbon: ‘Cultivez votre jardin.’
Stay at home far from the madness of war and the courts of princes and tend your garden. Mind your own business, take care of your small acre of earth, watch things grow and recover your sanity. Find happiness and contentment where you are, be satisfied with what comes your way. Candide is a wonderful novel and I wish I had a copy in the house.