Wednesday 28 July 2021
I often wonder, as I listen to Desert Island Discs, how people would really cope with isolation.
We've all had our fair share of it during the past 18 months or so, to varying degrees, but I'm lucky having a dog as an excuse to go out and our walks have become my social life, too.
I can only deal with so much isolation. So far, I haven't had to, for Covid reasons but I dread that more than being ill. For practical reasons, mostly - Lainy is too nervous to walk with anyone else, so what would happen to her? I couldn't leave her for 10 days without a walk. And how would I manage not seeing my friends, my support network. My lifeline? This is another reason for being very careful...
Much has been said about the benefits of walking, but I don't feel I've had a Proper Walk unless I go somewhere quiet, with grass or turf or sand beneath my feet. Where I am away from other people - preferably not seeing anyone, or other dogs. I'm not unsociable, but I pick and choose my friends and when I see them. I need Quiet Time, to unwind, and process what I'm writing, what's been going on in my life, and I get very crabby if I don't get it.
Being a writer for me means writing in isolation. I can't even have a radio on in the house if I'm writing, or I can't concentrate. I know lots of writers to go cafes and other busy places to write, and I can do that for short periods of time, but for in depth writing, I need my own space, and quiet. I also get awful back ache sitting at a cafe chair.
I write in my bedroom - my desk looks out on the back yard and my neighbour's garden where, looking out now, Joe is filling up the bird feeders on the tree outside their door. Their nasturtiums are creeping along the branches of the bottle brush tree, showing their beaming yellow faces to the sky. The wind is flapping my sheet and duvet on the washing line. The sun is creeping round to bathe the back of the house. Mel is hoovering in the distance, a low whining sound. Silence, as she stops. The muted tones of a radio.
It's a good exercise, I find, sometimes, to pause for a minute, listen to what's going on outside my window. See the wildlife outside, against the blue blue of a July sky. It must be like meditation - it brings me back into myself. Which for a writer, is vital.
Where does everyone else write? And what is your view?
Monday 19 July 2021
Last year I used to go down to a certain beach not too far from here which is dog friendly and involves a cooling walk down through the woods. But Lainy's quite nervous of strangers still, and doesn't like the water, and we figured that the past weekend would have been swarming with people near the sea anyway. So yesterday we had a lovely day in a friend's (shaded) garden, planned our next holiday and then took a cool walk in the woods nearby. What a lovely day, and Lainy loves having a proper garden to play in and sunbathe in. And today I'm going to run down the hill when the tide is in and swim there.
Having had a few weeks not being able to do any editing, it has been lovely to get back to it, and proves that a bit of distance can be a Very Good Thing as you can see your work more objectively. I'd been concerned about two of the characters, and suddenly realised that one of them is redundant. So he can go! Oh, the power of the writer - just like "Off with his head"!
When you read a really good book, it's hard to find another to take its place, isn't it? AFter the Mike Gayle book I featured last week, I've re-read The Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Berniere for our book group, but didn't enjoy it was much second time round. I find this quite often with books - a few years can make all the difference between enjoying and not enjoying something.
We have Mavis Cheek's The Lovers of Pound Hill to read for my next book group meeting and it's one I haven't read before. As I love her books, this will be no hardship. I particularly loved her early books, which made me cry with laughter.
So that's my reading while the weather's hot - what about you?
Thursday 8 July 2021
My local library has reopened and what a joy it is to go and browse again. I was the only one there, so maybe people aren't aware that libraries are open again - I do hope more customers make use of it, for it would be a terrible loss if they were to close.
While I was there, collecting a book that I'd ordered, I came across Mike Gayle's latest novel, All the Lonely People. What a joy this book is - refreshingly honest, and so important in tackling one of the worst problems of our times - loneliness.
Hubert Bird, an 85 year old widower, lives in Bromley in the house he and his wife bought many years ago. But in his weekly phone calls to his daughter, Rose, in Australia, he tells of a busy retirement, packed with good friends and fun.
But in reality, Hubert talks to no one other than Puss, his cat. He shuns company and has no idea how isolated he has become. And then Rose announces that she is coming over to see him, and Hubert panics - how can he conjure up a bevy of close friends and a fun filled life out of nowhere?
The arrival of a young single mum and her daughter on his doorstep, begging for help, set in motion a whole new way of life for Hubert that at first he stubbornly resists. Ashleigh is a determined character, who brings joy and richness to Hubert’s life, and it’s a joy to see how their relationship develops.
The novel is told in the present day, with flashbacks to Hubert’s life when he arrived in England from Jamaica, desperate to find work, and then meets Joyce, who he soon marries. But Gayle doesn’t flinch in telling of a cold and wet London where people are rude, prejudiced and incredibly racist.
Gradually Hubert realises the value of friends - of all ages and walks of life - and becomes aware of just how lonely he has become.We hear the truth about his son, David. Of his beloved daughter, Rose. Of the long love affair he had with his wife, Joyce, and how he slowly loses her.
He renews an old but vital friendship, becomes involved in a community scheme that aims to end loneliness for good, and even stumbles across a second chance of love. I fell in love with Hubert, for his kindness and compassion, his way of always finding a way through life even when it was incredibly difficult, and his desire to make things better for others.
This is a moving look at life, race, old age and friendship that I found incredibly touching and uplifting. We can all relate to all or some of the problems addressed in this book, but above all, the message is the ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference - if they just have a go.