A wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It is pretty exhausting and by the end my creative mind is bursting. It is good to talk to other writers and I got a very useful critique of some new work which I am going to look at closely. Back home, I had family visiting and good weather. A boat trip from the barbican in Plymouth with one of our party feeling unfortunately seasick followed by a visit to the aquarium. Our family favourite fish was the ray although for ethereal beauty the tiny transparent jelly fish came a close second, both creatures unfortunately have a sting in the tail. A visit next day to Bude; lunch at The Olive Tree watching people enjoying themselves on paddle boats on the canal. Seeing people attempting rowing was funny and it makes you realise how easy the Olympic rowers make it seem. Trundling along the Bude canal is not quite the same as slicing through the waters in Rio.
Wonderful day at Taunton watching the cricket – Somerset v Glamorgan. Typical summer day – warmish with spits of rain from time to time. We were covered for all eventualities. On the way back I stopped off at a convenient Little Chef for something to eat. Disaster - broken frying equipment and no coffee machine. A nightmare, the pleasant girl at the till explained, because everybody wants chips. They are not coming to fix it until Wednesday, she added, which is very bad for business. I sympathised and settled for what they could make me – Chicken Tikka – not my first choice but I was hungry and a pot of tea. Felt so sorry for the waitress who looked close to tears that I gave her a tip.
Still waiting for summer. A few days of sunny weather here and there but a lot of grey skies too. I have been tidying my desk which gets in such a pickle when I am in the middle of something. I came across pages of stuff I printed out ages ago – long lost stories that haven’t seen the light of day. It was interesting to look at them again from a different perspective. I can see the day when printing out copies will be a thing of the past as publishers start to accept e-mail submissions more and more. Thinking back to the beginning of my writing using an old typewriter, paper and strips of Tippex, seems like the dark ages now. What a fuss that was and everytime you made a mistake, it interrupted the flow of writing. Much as I despair sometimes about the pace of technology I would not choose to go back to those times.
When there are no visitors about I find myself looking closely at the Rembrandt self-portrait we have on display at Buckland Abbey. I can almost feel the way the painter felt as he added touches of colour to the canvas, working away in his studio, a man who had to deal with a lot of sadness in his life as did so many of those painters of old. Before I took up writing, I did try my hand at painting but it wasn’t to be. I love the uninhibited way my little granddaughter splashes paint on a piece of paper, tongue out in concentration and I have to say some of her offerings could find a place in some of the modern galleries with all sorts of hidden meanings being discovered. Or am I being cynical?
Three days away in the New Forest based at Lyndhurst. Lovely sunny weather for visits to NT properties at Mottisfont, Uppark and Kingston Lacy. All very interesting and different properties, the rose gardens at Mottisfont at their spectacular best, the scents heady. I can just imagine the ladies of old taking a ‘turn’ round the garden. Oh for that gentle pace of life. Winchester was a delight too and I never cease to be amazed at the skill of those craftsmen shown at its best in the cathedral whose soaring arches really do take your breath away. Peering at the 12th century illuminated bible, I leaned too close and banged my head on the glass – no harm done and as the lady overseeing it explained with a smile, people do it all the time. Trust me to join them!
A lovely birthday – lunch with my granddaughter Meg and then Guys and Dolls at the theatre, a lively production that had my feet tapping. I have booked for Swanwick Writers’ Week up in Derbyshire in August. It’s a great week, full on with lots of interesting talks and workshops. It doesn’t matter how long you have been writing and how many books you may have had published, you can always pick up something from it and it’s a delight to talk to other writers. I hope I can pass on some of my own continued enthusiasm for writing to the newcomers.
Got so engrossed with a story yesterday that I very nearly forgot I was going out for lunch to the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock. It meant a hasty getting ready and I was out of breath when I arrived thankfully in time. I have been looking at a story called Diamond in the Dust, the first story I have written set back in the 1930′s. Research is fascinating although eventually you have to set it aside and get on with the writing. I believe in this story even if it is a bit different from my usual offerings but it needs considerable work before I can present it to anyone. I am telling the story from just one viewpoint because that seems the right way to go about it. Funny, my children’s stories are always written in the first person because that seems the right way to go about them. Go with your instinct. If it feels right then it probably is.
Day out in Cornwall. First a visit to Wheal Martyn china clay museum – good visitor centre with café and shop. The tour took us outside on a drizzly day but the view of the current workings of the quarry was spectacular. It was huge and the pleasant hills roundabout were not quite what they seemed – landscaped heaps in fact. After lunch, a quick visit in the rain to Mevagissey, not at its best of course and then to Charlestown when the sun briefly deigned to appear. A successful trip despite the weather with good company. I am looking at all my old stuff with a view to reviving some of it – interesting because I haven’t looked at some of it for ages and it was as if I was reading it afresh.
Spent the day in Dartmouth on Saturday. I went with a friend on the bus from Plymouth. It’s ages since I sat on the top deck of a double decker bus and it was lovely to see all the things over the hedges that you don’t see in a car. Some of the village streets on the way were very narrow and we could almost see into the bedrooms as we edged past with inches to spare. What a fantastic driver! Dartmouth was bustling as there was a music festival (Dart festival) going on and lots of street musicians adding to the entertainment. The bus was crowded with barely a seat to spare and everybody was in a very cheery mood – oh for more days like this.
Gave a talk at Buckland Abbey Social Club’s Annual Review meeting. Preparing it made me think very carefully about how ideas for a story come about. It is a complicated business and it was interesting to try to analyse it. My cat Lucy killed a rabbit the other day after patrolling the grounds and proudly carried it – with difficulty – to the front door. Thank heavens I don’t have a cat flap so she didn’t bring it indoors. What can you do? It is the hunting instinct and I can’t really blame her but I did go off her a bit because it was distressing.