A day spent editing is not a bad kind of day. The task engages the brain without exhausting it. On the other hand, it doesn't stimulate the brain as much as drafting - but nor does it create such high levels of frustration as drafting does. But it is lazy to do only editing and no drafting. Another form of avoidance really. Along with, in my case, knitting, spinning, dressmaking, curtain making, walking and, once I'm home again, gardening. I will even go in for bouts of cooking and cleaning, if I can avoid the real hard work of a first or second draft. Shame on me.
At last, I've got something: London taxis. The only taxis in the world where I never feel I'm about to die in a terrible accident. I'm not convinced this is due to the drivers' skills so much as the design of the taxis, which doesn't allow for hooning. The worst taxis I've been in so far in the world would have to be in Shanghai - I'd love to go back there again but I'm scared of dying on the journey to or from the airport. There is a New Yorker article by Peter Hessler about learning to drive in China that explains why. There must be other things I'll miss - but not the weather or the food or the people or the cafes or even much of the architecture - thanks not only to the last war but also to the post-war planners' vandalism, as outlined in a wonderful book called Lost London, which too kindly describes some of the worst decisions as 'idealism'. So many bad things have been done thanks to idealism. And I certainly won't miss bed and breakfasts where you're forced to sit with other people for breakfast.
Last night we went out to a dinner party with some very nice people I had only met once before. I'm pretty ancient but such occasions still make me nervous, although I didn't admit that to myself at the time. Instead, I gulped down glasses of fizzy wine quickly and plunged noisily into conversations to demonstrate my friendliness. At two in the morning, lying in bed reviewing events, I realised that the impression created was actually disastrous. I appeared domineering and boorish. Perhaps 'appeared' is the wrong word - perhaps that is what I actually am. The moral of the story - don't go to dinner parties and, if forced to, don't drink fizzy wine. Or perhaps just avoid all social meetings totally?
Surely I'm going to miss London. It's the place so many people seem to want to be. But that's half the problem. So many of them are here it's no longer all that pleasant. But I gather Australia hasn't got automated self-service checkouts yet, so I will definitely miss the 'Unexpected item in the bagging area' refrain. I had actually thought of trying to write a chick lit novel with that title - about someone who gets unexpectedly pregnant, obviously - but I gather the phrase only has any meaning in this country. And anyway I don't like chick lit.
In thinking about what things I'll miss about London, I've realised most of them have already gone. The most obvious one just now is seeing Guy Fawkes made out of rubbish and old clothes being wheeled around the streets. Even as I write, I wonder if such a thing ever existed or whether it is just the product of my own nostalgic vision.
Anyway, Halloween is the thing now. My local supermarket has shoved its herb section into storage in order to tempt us with loads of pumpkin related tat instead. I suppose Halloween is something world wide, so if all the tawdry witches' hats and trick-or-treat equipment doesn't sell here it can be shipped elsewhere and flogged to some other less discriminating nation. Hard to do that with Guy Fawkes ephemera.
For the third time in my life, I am leaving London and going to live in Australia. The first time I was unwilling. The second time, I was pretty keen. This time, I can hardly wait.
Why I keep coming back is a subject too big to tackle in the 10 minutes before Spooks begins, but today the first part of the move home was accomplished - the packers finished taking away our things.
And when they did, they presented me with various forms to fill in, including one which asked me the question: 'Were your team of packers groomed and professionally dressed?' I looked at the five very nice men who had spent the past three days wrapping our furniture in cardboard and bubble wrap and wondered if any of them had ever used moisturiser or had a pedicure. What happened to 'clean and tidy'? Presumably in some committee room somewhere someone decided that asking if employees looked clean might carry an offensive implication. 'Groomed' was chosen as a more sensitive word. Didn't anyone realise it was also a silly word when used in any context but the Pony Club?
Obviously not - and why am I surprised, given the succession of emails I've had from the removals company, each one of which has included at least once and often several times the phrase 'please be assured'? Sadly not one of the emails has contained any useful information. For instance today, I had one saying, 'Please be assured, your belongings are now ready for shipping. Please be assured they will be with you within 9-12 weeks and certainly before February.' I wrote back asking whether 9-12 weeks wasn't a very pessimistic prediction, as I'd earlier been told 6-8 weeks was the norm for such shipments. The reply came back as follows: 'Please be assured your goods will reach you within 12 weeks.'
I wrote a novel that the London literary agency Sheil Land tried to sell for me. One publisher thought it was "compelling". Another said, "It’s pacy and gripping, and the plot is great." A third commented that it "is a warm, engaging and easy read", while a fourth considered that, "It is a good story (stories) well told". If you want to see what you think, you can find it here.
I wrote a novel that Sheil Land represented, unsuccessfully. One publisher thought it was "compelling, but it wouldn’t be easy to categorize – it is somewhere between ‘literary’ and ‘commercial’, and would need to be one or the other to be pitched for successfully in an acquisition meeting." Another said, 'It’s pacy and gripping, and the plot is great, but it lacks that lighter women’s fiction feeling. The writing is undeniably good but I’m not quite sure how I would position it on our list.'A third commented that it "is a warm, engaging and easy read but this ‘middle market fiction’ is a really tough area', while a fourth considered that, "It is a good story (stories) well told, but just missing the X-factor that would make me fall in love with it." I wanted to write an entertaining novel that I would like when I was in the mood for something thoughtful & amusing that I could enjoy without too much effort. If you would like to read it yourself, you can find it at http://cargocollective.com/Unrealities/Holding-On-a-novel.
My other blogs are these: