The Rake’s Progress



I have downed tools; writing tools that is and no longer sit for hours with pencil and paper, or rattling the virtual keys of a laptop. Writing used to be a joy. Increasingly, over the last months and especially into the new year, joy has morphed to aversion; that exam feeling, impending doom, futility. Ugh.

Now there is the rake. It’s probing fingers scrawping weeds, trails of ivy and fallen leaves to satisfying heaps hour after hour. The repetitive sound and action soothes as it productively, seductively whiles away time.

I look now at denuded swathes of what was euphemistically called the wild garden and feel a deep calm. Why ever did we make paths here, lined with the granite stones that proliferate above and below the soil? Without the stones there is more unity, more peace. The garden plot sweeps majestically to its finale – the road and, with a squint, the sea.

Barrow load after barrow load of stones large and small is tipped into the insatiable stream. Admittedly the stream is fuller and faster following recent rains, but even so it swallows these incomers as if it can never have enough. (Just as well, I have nowhere near finished.)

Perhaps those rough hewn stones strewing the garden are metaphors for stumbling blocks, words, and life and the garden are simpler without them.



Not a blog post to speak of

As a list of chores I have done cleaning, cooking, gardening, and tending the Boxer.
An impressive list.
In reality, only the cleaning was impressive. All the rest was a swift and timed half hour or so of wilful neglect.
The cooking merely reheating, the gardening an intense leaf sweep and dig of roots from a very overgrown patch. The sum of the short bursts of digging will I hope add up to a cleared patch large enough to do something with.
As for tending to the Boxer, after a brief sit in our garden in her wheelchair having been lured with the offer of sunshine and our Sunday paper, when in fact the sun had already gone from the front – lately her only access to the garden unless we have it paved all round – to be abandoned while I did the cooking, gardening ( I had already done the cleaning)

Returned to her own snug little home just in time for her carer to actually do the tending….so I could escape home and do the only thing I wanted to do, but had put off all day.
That is to click my fingers over the key board.
Not a blog post to speak of.

 A trick of the eye.

Today there are fewer cars; the start of Easter holidays, so that morning rush is absent and all is quiet . A good time to think and to write, to put thoughts in order as they hit the page, to read, flick through the newspaper and instantly forget the news, forget to worry for those in far places whose lives affect ours like butterfly wings.
Instead, to invent lives, imbue characters with joy and problems to surmount.

Soon the visitors will come streaming, a chilly season to camp by the sea.

 We see lambs frolic as if they are in the garden; a trick of the eye, as a wall and a road separate the farmer’s field from ours.

No wind rages, no rain falls, in spite of the forecast, so time in the garden is the order of the morning after all.To work on the latest patch to be laid to lawn , to have seed scattered and checked daily for signs of sprouting. Thus far, this year’s scattering is stubbornly dormant. No sign. Perhaps sewn too early or last year’s seed, or stoney ground.

Either way.
We keep thinking we should move away go somewhere with more life, somewhere that is nearer for family.
Perhaps we should but this oasis becomes our life now.


gardening days and writing days



On gardening days I am struck by the similarities between writing and gardening. I know one is a sedentary pursuit and the other anything but. Think of weeding out extraneous matter, re-planning whole sections, consigning failures to the compost bin, leaving well alone for a good long while, thinking about what to do before acting. Style is personal but  obeying the ‘rules’ can  make for pleasure and harmony.

On writing days, I worry about the garden and often nip out to snag a few brambles, or prune rampant roses, when the plot is thorny.

Perhaps this should tell me something.

With one book to your name you can’t call yourself a writer,  Sunny Boy maintains. Well I have written four so far, only one submitted and accepted and two ready to send. I have agonised over story, characters, style punctuation and plot long enough. I have lived with the story and the characters, even dreamed of them and finally think they are on their own and ready to go into the world. Well, I prepare to send them, ready or not, to share their story, first with the trusted few, who will be able to tell me, ‘no mate, you’re away with the fairies there.’  Or else (fingers crossed) ‘it’s got something.’
I wonder how many times Eimear Mc Bride was told ‘no mate.’  I think it took her nine years to find a publisher for a Girl is a Half Formed Thing . Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for her.

The quiet and permanence of the printed word.


Before I was a writer, I had the measure of blogs, or thought so:  blogs are for self publicists, whether or not they have something other than themselves they wish to promote.  That I would have to publicise my first (only) book myself came as a surprise just a few months short of the publication date.  All the creative writing courses in the world never mentioned that glitch.  The writing, the finding a publisher, a mere nothing compared to the lengths required to sell the finished article.

Jonathan Franzen has been in the news recently, ( new book out, I guess,)  speaking of ghastly self publicising , ‘yakking and tweeting and bragging’ as ‘intolerably shallow forms of social engagement.’ He doesn’t mention the necessity for many new writers  to promote their work themselves. Obviously less well connected, less gifted, than he is, it is a struggle to make a name/find readers to whom we are not related.

Since starting to blog, a trap, that I have almost willingly fallen into, more time is spent blogging than writing, creating not writer’s block, but writer’s blog:  a time gobbler into which vast tracks of time, truly hideous amounts, disappear.

Then there are comments from other blogs, tantamount to a cheery little wave, ‘over here, I’m over here.’ from complete strangers, aka potential readers.  Keeping abreast of ‘The Greats’ (JF?) comments is bad enough, never mind actually reading their work.

I swear, one day, my footprints will lead to dense, internet wilderness and not come out the other side. No trace will ever be found, as if I have disappeared into the ether.

Then there is the garden – but that is a different wilderness.

Consoled by lists

Today I hoped to:

prune a camellia that has finished flowering and is now 20 feet tall.

transform an overgrown flowerbed to a neatly planted drift of pink ,white and blue.

write scintillatingly, eloquently for my blog and a chapter of my new book.

instead I have:

watched my mother growing pink in the June sunshine and turning the pages of Nick Hornby, ‘How to be Good,’

cooked a roast dinner and

pondered the similarities of writing and gardening: both can be put off indefinitely.

At least I did dig out two tree stumps that have been on the list  for  years.

(one big tick.)