The last couple of years I haven’t really dreaded the coming of winter as such, having somehow managed to muddle through affording Christmas at the last moment. My main concerns have been dealing with the fallout from bereavement, and trying to keep up with as many friends as possible, for my wellbeing and career’s sake. I’ve managed to an extent, but there is still a question over whether/when I will get to see some, whom I still haven’t seen in person since before it happened. Since they sporadically prod and wit at me electronically but flap about when any specific attempts are made to pin them down, the answer to that question appears to be “Never“, and having accepted that I have to get on with my life either way, all sorts of things that didn’t register while I was entirely wrapped up in that have suddenly hit me again. Changing seasons is one.
Though summer is still very much in lovely action here, it can’t last much longer. Pretty soon I won’t be able to do what I’ve done for the past three months and pack myself off to London (where much of my social life, such as it is, is) and sit in parks and libraries with my laptop. For a big chunk of last winter I had an office space which I will no longer have this year. Cue sitting with crumpets and cats trying to work out what next and where next. Having taken up running, which will be easier when it’s not boiling hot, I will have that opportunity to look forward to. But all else is up-in-the-air uncertainty. As you’ll know if you’ve read or met me for all of thirty seconds, up-in-the-air uncertainty is there with scurvy on my list of enjoyables.
Summer has but one last hurrah yet, though. This time next week I’m off to a writing retreat in North Devon, a lovely present from my family/extended family for making the BBC Writers Room longlist. I first went there on impulse in autumn 2010 after a (relatively minor) rut, had one of the happiest weeks of my adult life and felt rejuvenated until things came crashing back down in summer 2011 due to aforesaid events and more. The premise is wonderfully simple: Guests write in their rooms during the day and in the evening, after a delicious three-course dinner they sit by the fire with wine, chat and, if brave enough, read out segments of whatever they’re working on to everyone else. I took the plunge last time and read some of my novel (a very primitive version of the one I’m currently working on with similar characters and some similar settings but a very different hook) to a group of women 20 or more years older. It was the first time I’d had feedback on a piece of fiction from an objective outsider since school and they seemed overwhelmingly, genuinely impressed. To anyone who feels too insecure to do it (which, let’s face it is all writers, unless you’re one of those who thinks you’re the best commodities broker in town so you can bash out a bestseller in a weekend no probbo…) I’d recommend getting this kind of feedback if you can. You won’t regret it.
I’ve wanted to return since the moment I left, had almost given up hope that I would, and am hoping for more of the same again (with less of the panicky “I am a total spanner and don’t deserve this” immediately beforehand, please, thank you, Brain). As well as guilt-free writing time, home-cooked food, wine in the evenings and a visiting massage therapist, the village has Instagram-heavenly scenery (and, I’m told, great running routes if I can haul myself out of bed early enough to go with Deb – owner of the retreat, hence a good running-buddy for the purposes of not getting lost…). All this comes in at a very reasonable price (and speaking emphatically as not one of the ‘successful 10 per cent’, if I say that, it really is…). So conditioned am I into arrangements falling through at the last moment that I can’t believe I’m really going, but I’m childishly excited…