Archive for June, 2008

Beginnings, middles & ends

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I now know that starting a new book will involve both excitement and dread for me. I hope for lots of excitement and only a tiny and occasional splash of dread, but it’s a mysterious mixture that still seems impossible to control. All I can confidently predict about the process of writing is that it’ll surprise me.

The first surprise about the new book came as, well, as a surprise.  I’m only a few thousand words into the first draft, but I’ve just written down the last paragraph! And I don’t usually do anything like that. Mostly I draft the whole thing in sequence: from the beginning to the end.  Once before – in ‘Secrets, Lies & My Sister Kate’ – I wrote the final bit before I’d finished the first draft, but I was much further on than I am this time. And this idea just popped into my head when I was on a bus, coming back from the dentist (although it has nothing to do with dentists or buses). 

I wonder if it’ll hold – if what I’ve written down will really be the ending of the book? I’m not going to offer it here: I can’t share an early draft with anyone. But I will say this: it’d mean the last word in the book would be “me”. 

Thinking about monkeys

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I just read a quote from Mark Twain that goes like this:

“I believe that our heavenly father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.”

Well, that’s certainly funny, but I know at least one person who’s far from disappointed in the monkey. My friend Flavia’s little girl, Amelia, made her first visit to the zoo a couple of weeks ago – and has woken from every sleep, ever since, with these rapturous words: “Mummy …. monkeys!” 

Fifty-seven leek plants

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Last Sunday we planted fifty-seven baby leeks on our veggie patch, which is a plot of ground that we tend in our local community garden club, just five minutes’ walk from home. The week before we put up the bean poles and planted a stack of runner beans, together with spinach, Swiss chard (otherwise known as silver beet) rocket (or arugula) and bitter greens.

 We get great pleasure growing at least some of our own veggies, but waiting to see how the tender plants do out in the big cruel world is a time of high emotion and drama. When the little babies go into the soil I feel like a general sending troops into war, with the enemy troops of slugs, snails and pigeons massed on the border. Our organic counter-strategies are carefully planned – stocking up with sacks of coffee grounds from our local cafe, and collecting plastic bottles, are the main defences. The coffee grounds get heaped around plants; even sometimes scattered on the leaves in desperation. The plastic bottles are cut into rings, and slid into the earth to form barriers.  Some slugs and snails can deal easily with both of those – but the pigeons can’t peck plants through netting, so we use that as well.

What I love most at this stage is seeing those little plants galloping away up the poles or spreading their leaves or branching out, doing exactly what they were born to do. It’s a simple but satisfying pleasure. Good luck, little leeks. 

No bloaning, I promise, dear bleaders

Friday, June 13th, 2008

I’ve had a ton of really useful comments from friends about the website: expect a sharper update soon.  And I’ve been inspired by a friend who asked me how on earth I’d find time to write a blog when I was really trying to get on with writing another book. When I pointed out that if you can’t write you could always moan about that on the blog, he offered a new word: BLOANING. It’s like bleader for blog reader. 


I promise not to bloan. Or blinge. It’ll all be sweetness and blight.

Here we go…

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Well, today’s the day  the website and blog go live – the last two posts I wrote were sort of practice ones, to get me into the habit. I was initially worried about having enough to say – but now, as with writing books, the ideas are crowding in thick and fast. I’ll talk about the photos on the introductory page, one by one. I’ve just read an interesting new book that I want to talk about, as well as David Fickling’s new comic, and a play I saw last week, and …  So all  I have to worry about now is, will it interest anyone else? I hope so!

Mangoes and roses

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I thought I’d missed the alphonse mango season when I was away in New Zealand and the USA, but I was delighted to discover that it was still going strong in London when I came back. I bought a whole box of them last Sunday and I’m loving every waft of scent from them, as well as every slippery, succulent mouthful. And after the alphonse mangos – which come from India – it will be time for the honey mangoes from Pakistan, and then, I think, the little Thai mangoes. I’m sorry to say that all these fruits must get flown in, so they’re heavy with airmiles and carbon footprints as well as their exotic scent and taste. But oh! the delight!

Another joy of the season – apart from asparagus and broad beans – is the flowers of late spring. Peonies are in all the shops now, and I’ve had several bunches of the creamy white ones. It bothers me that there’s generally at least one in any bunch that never opens – and my sister in Seattle tells me the same thing happens there. That means it can’t be a function of chilling the flowers for transport, since hers come across from the islands off the coast and are never chilled. Maybe the buds are picked too soon and lose heart?

We’re  very lucky with roses right now – we have a friend nearby who’s gone away, and asked us to pick her roses so that she’ll have a second flowering later on, when she’s back home. What’s not to like about that? So our apartment is filled with the scent of ripe mangoes and lush roses, with the background fragrance of peonies spilling over them both.