Friday, 9 May 2014

A lonely awakening

Yesterday the manuscript of the book that Marcia has been writing was emailed to Dinah, her agent, and then on to Linda, her editor. There is nothing to be done now except to hold our breath and await the response. It is a chilling thought that this manuscript represents a year of work – which means that if it is rejected . . . I am sure I do not have to spell it out.

Anyway, it seemed to me to be totally wrong that she should have a day with nothing to write about so I persuaded her to write this week’s blog. Over to Marcia.

* * * * *

This is the first morning for more than a year that I’ve woken without a whole group of people – their loves, lives, dramas – at the forefront of my mind. They’ve told me their stories and vanished. There was a latecomer – two in fact  whose voices were drowned out in the clamour of the others but they’ve been absorbed into the story and it seems odd, now, that it could have been written without them. It’s strange to be alone again, and very restful; rather similar to when a group of visitors have left after a very jolly, busy holiday. I miss them – but gosh, it’s good to have my head to myself for the moment. Not for too long, of course, or I might begin to feel anxious that I’ve written my last book.

So, having no other demands on my morning, I drive my rather battered old Jimny through the six-odd miles of country lanes to the Farm Shop. This long lane is one of the most glorious I’ve discovered in a lifetime of driving in glorious lanes. The Devon banks are steep: brimming with colour: bluebells, pink campion, creamy cow parsley, shiny yellow buttercup. Occasionally, through a farm gate or from the brow of a hill, the land tips away to reveal the stark uplands of the distant moor; such a contrast from this richly verdant riot of colour.

Today no such view is to be seen. Soft, warm mizzling rain drifts from the west concealing everything but the near aspect – but I don’t care. The splendour of the lane is more than enough for me. I pass two tractors - backing up, darting into a gateway, squeezing past, with cheerful waves- and two cars but these are my only encounters on the entire journey.

I love Farm Shops. Not those great big smart ones whose busy shops sell expensive kitsch pottery and up-market tat; no, I love small farm shops where the produce is very locally sourced and local people sit in the little café to have a cup of coffee, to argue over the merits of a Devon pasty compared with its Cornish counterpart, and to exchange friendly insults and jokes with a neighbour.

This Farm Shop is opposite a farm. I park near to the entrance and go inside, heading for the café. My life is “counted out in coffee spoons”! A cappuccino, made by Siobhan (‘Lots of chocolate sprinkles?’ ‘You bet!’); afterwards a consultation with Matt, the butcher – without whose advice I’d never dare to choose which cut of meat (‘Lamb’s not ready yet, wait ’til after Easter’) - then a chat with Mac at the check-out. He’s ex-navy so we compare notes on long-past postings, commiserate on how many times we moved house, and he carries my shopping out to the car. We part and my spirits lift as the mizzle is driven away by the sun

A few weeks ago, Rodney mentioned that we missed being surrounded by stock. Well, my people might have gone on their travels but this group of bullocks arrived in the field behind the garden and are clearly enjoying being let out on grass.
Outside I have an exchange with a fellow of much my own age whose delivery van is parked beside my car. I smile at him as I open the car door. He smiles back, heaving in some empty bags, sliding the van door closed.
‘We’ll have to stop meeting, like this,’ he says lugubriously.
‘But however could we?’ I demand.
He shrugs. ‘I could come earlier. You could come later.’
‘Would you break my heart?’ I cry.
He sighs. ‘Life’s hard.’
Then we both burst out laughing and we drive away. Wonderful.

So – back to the real world . . . or is it?

Dede is no ordinary dog. Not a bit of it. Apart from being a delightful brown Labrador she spends most of her time in Chrissy's in Totnes (a hairdressing salon) where she is a great favourite with the customers.