Everyone has a book inside

“You are not allowed to laugh or grin, but I am trying to write a Mills and Boon-type historical romance. I have finished the first draft, and am having a rest for a few weeks so that I can go back to it with ‘fresh eyes’. The historical imprint is longer than some of the other imprints, and there tends to be more story (it is still a romance, though) and whether there is any, or how much, of the physical is up to the writer. [!]…My manuscript isn’t very long – only about 77,000 words – but it has been instructive writing it. I have enjoyed doing the research.”

“I love hearing from you and always have such a good laugh at all your stories. Have you thought of writing a book? Your command of the English language is very good and you express yourself so well. Go for it!!”

“The book died, I am afraid. I put together an assorted 45,000 words. Then, of course, during the summer, everything became very difficult. Two publishers said that, although it was not without interest to a limited readership (damning with faint praise), such books simply would not sell unless they had a minimum of 70,000 words. That either meant rewriting or padding out what I had written, or else thinking out new angles which might be of interest – and that would mean research, if I was to get the facts right, and, in all the circumstances I could not face up to it. Somebody, some day, might find it interesting, but I fear that the hour is past.”

would-be authors

“I find that just getting my book published is all I care about. Vanity and not money is my main motivation.”

“I’ve finished typing out as a book the stories I used to tell to families there because a few of the people go on asking when I am going to publish them. It is however noticeable that none of the children have asked the same thing, so probably the book will never get accepted.”

What some do for fun

“We can concentrate on our training… we start at 8 a.m. day one and partner rides about 60 kms to where I am waiting and I run 23 kms over a mountain range. Then we sleep. Day 2 partner kayaks 67 kms down a river and I ride 70 kms. We’ll be tired at the end of it!!”

“We went to see this really funny movie called ‘Crocodile Dundee’, which is about this guy who lives in the Australian outback, and this female New York reporter comes to him because his leg had been bitten off, and he crawled to the hospital, and she wanted a story. Anyway, it ended up him coming to New York, where some really funny things happened, e.g. this robber stole this woman’s purse and ran off with it in the street, but Crocodile Dundee picked up a tin from the woman’s dropped grocery bag and threw 20 metres to hit the robber on the head. Anyway it was a choice film.”

“… 80 of her friends came [to the 21st party] – I was most impressed that none of the 80 smoked. Without exception they were all into rock-climbing or tramping or diving or … other disgustingly healthy pursuits!”

“We have been visiting friends. They spend about 3 months in the old goldfields prospecting. They stay in Tarnagulla which is a town of about 100 now but was approx. 70,000 during the gold rush. The trees have grown back and it is v. peaceful with the birdsong… [re postcard photo of Great Ocean Road] There are now only 8 apostles left. One crumbled into the sea, captured by amateur video, quite recently.”

gone fishing

“They had a little boat and the weather was good… One snag for him was that she caught lots of fish including two big ones they brought home and are now in the deep freeze, and he only caught 2 trout that weren’t big enough to keep!”

“I’m also playing rugby again this year and Mummy’s paranoid I’m going to get mortally injured. So much for family support!”

“… a man came in the other day who was 199 kg!! and he went bungee jumping! – they had to give him 2 bungee cords because one would have snapped.”

“The weekend was really fun, we played games the first evening, lazed around and played beach cricket the next morning, had a few deep and meaningful discussions interspersed with racing around the sand-dunes, games in the afternoon, dinner, then a bonfire on the beach for a large portion of the evening while we talked about direction and our lives and roasted marshmallows. (We ate the marshmallows, not talked about them!)”

campfire

Exotic adventures

“We were invited to a Malay wedding. The bride and groom wore beautiful costumes of cotton and gold thread woven. This was called songket. They looked lovely. The whole ceremony took place without the bride! And they only came together after all the vows were taken! And yesterday I went hiking in the forest. I saw lots of weird and wonderful insects and animals.”

“Have just spent a delightful week in Israel – but so busy sightseeing that I got no cards written. This church [on postcard] is relatively modern, but very beautiful. Beneath is the (possible) court of the High Priest with a prison alongside, and in the garden beyond is a street which definitely dates back to the time of Christ. But interesting as Jerusalem is, I found the countryside even more memorable. This year the spring has been wet, and everywhere is carpeted with wild flowers, tiny and delicate – even on the bare rock of the desert. Quite amazing!”

“Up in the Pyrenees – croissants and local apricot jam breakfast – hot sun just over mountains. Taking little local train higher up today.”

croissants & apricot jam

“Inside a pyramid at Cairo was not exactly inspiring, nor was Jesus’ birth place in Bethlehem, but I am glad to have had the experience all the same!”

“So far, so good – in spite of the aborted coup. Now that Gorbachev is back, the Muscovites seem happier. We are leaving on our way to Siberia, 4 nights on the trans-Siberian train. A few of my ‘comrades’ play Scrabble so it should be a very pleasant journey.”

[Ebeltoft] “This is the perfect place for a holiday – delightfully quaint little town bordered by beaches and sheltered by tree covered hills full of flowers – if only they could get the weather right too! It’s wet, windy and cold!”

[Meeru Island, Maldives] “This is certainly a beautiful place (coups apart!). The water is so warm and clear azure blue, perfect for snorkelling with amazing range of coral and fish. The accommodation is fairly basic in bungalows on the beach but it’s very clean.”

[Alghero, Sardinia]So far, so good but today some undesired clouds are lurking here and there. / Have played a few games of Scrabble but concentration is difficult after a pasta meal and plenty of wine, or with the Med. lapping gently at ones feet./ And I, sober, still managed to lose, but consoled myself with plenty of gelati which are grand!/ We went to the hills by coach for a Shepherds’ Picnic consisting of lamb stew, fresh curd cheese, sucking [sic] pig and all the red wine we could drink./ Drank two glasses of unadulterated wine so no complaint, real achievement! On the whole people are helpful as to our pigeon [sic] Italian.”

[Arizona] “I love this [Hopi] pottery, wish I could buy some of the Kachinas too. Never mind – better not to acquire too many material possessions. The Hopi and especially the Navajo weaving is so beautiful that I could buy up all the blankets. They are incredibly expensive though – so no hope.”

“Have seen trees so big you can drive through the middle and even a hollow one where 23 horses were stabled by US Army!”

“… a very hairy drive of about 15km over riverbed stones – the road wove back and forth over the bed, and in a couple of places had water (v. shallow). The map had a thick dotted red line for this section, where it should have been thin – then I never would have attempted it. However we all survived – 2 women + 1 car. Was too preoccupied to even think of photos.”

“As usual I find the beauty of the little chapel overwhelming. We managed to enjoy a minute of peace before a flood of huge Americans in shorts invaded the tranquillity.” [Oh dear – even postcards can be non-PC!]

“One day I went on the big tour that went to the Blue Mountains and some caves… we saw the B. Mts, very beautiful but no time to go on an overhead trolley thing as we had to get on to the caves, like temples. I now know I’ve done caves, they all look the same to me, except these after we’d been in them 10 minutes and gone up 80 steps, and there were some 200 more to come, I felt quite faint, and thought it would be easier to get out now than an hour later…”

Put asunder

[following divorce] “X has a girlfriend. They met about 4-6 months ago I think. To be perfectly honest, I find it rather weird. She seems like a pretty nice person, although I don’t know her much at all… She is divorced too… I do try and be normal and nice around them, but nothing stops it from being weird (in varying degrees at varying times).”

“Isn’t it sad about X and X. I can well believe that there were factors in their relationship which were always going to be difficult – differences in background, age, etc. – and maybe the real mistake was getting married in the first place…”

parting

“X ran into marital and other chaos and still is not settled after 3 years and is most unhappy. He adores his children – and it is all most distressing to watch as here an ex wife who is a card carrying member of the Female Liberation Movement, and a school marm to boot, makes life a legal and financial nightmare for the ex whose only mistake was to marry (at her insistence) when he was 22.”

Art and makers

“We went on to see the current exhibition in the gallery, which was called ‘Townscape’ although they were interpreting the title pretty widely since there were normal portraits, abstract squares of paint, three pigeons on a lawn and a variety of other subjects not easily identified as urban. The usual mixture, so far as I was concerned, of about half and half admirable, and ‘why-on-earth-did-they-accept-that?’ pictures.”

townscape

[Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe] The balustrades were added years later as the nuns were afraid to slip and fall. The beauty of the original wooden free-standing structure is breathtaking when you see it from behind. It is a strange story, the unknown carpenter who left without his pay as soon as he had finished the staircase. In the cathedral some of the stained glass windows are impressive – we noticed some had been made in Chartres.”

“X may have a commission – may! She called me at 2 a.m. I could have throttled her.”

“X [grandchild] gave me a pomander which smells very strongly – and for [grandfather] so he wouldn’t feel left out he gave him an old brown envelope stuck down – right down at the bottom was a flattened toffee paper, with 2 scrumpled toffee papers stuck on and a red ribbon bow and he explained it was for him to hang in his wardrobe!”

Advancing years bring change

“I have been entertained by X. Her questions have kept my brain ticking over: seven or eight questions on the trot, I am about losing the plot and forced to answer the original one and then managed to change the subject… But, the process starts all over again with the next lot!”

“They came at 3 p.m. and left at 7 so think that was a success – v. pleasant couple. He has something terrifying wrong, with internal bleeding of the brain at intervals when he’s rushed to hospital.”

“…the garden is tiny too and even if far nearer to neighbours than I like I shall have the consolation of being able to shout for help if in despair, and would be heard.”

“I tried to give my brain a brush down and went to Oxford for a residential week. I did a course in Literary Criticism and lived in Somerville College. Quite wore me out…”

“Oh I do wish I had your ability to like living alone.”

“…most of whom I hadn’t seen since we left X [14 years ago]. Many of them were sprightly early-retired in those days; and it was rather strange to see them again after this gap, all looking distinctly elderly. (I of course haven’t changed a bit!)”

group of older people
distinctly elderly

“How is the homespun jersey going? Shall hope to see it on you one day if I ever brave the stairs again – I got so comparatively-able-to-breathe-deeply during the summer, but I think I ought to live in the South of France or somewhere as I am panting again now and appear to be developing asthma or something sinister every time I try to ride up a slight incline on a bike. The answer is to walk of course and I can pant more gently then!!”

“We heard from X… I got a nasty shock to hear he’s 80 – it’s almost into-the-chasm-sounding, rather than over-the-mountain.”

Nothing is certain but…

“… about a year ago I wrote saying (more or less), ‘nice to have known you, goodbye’. He wrote back, having recovered from his latest bout of rigor mortis, saying he was bird watching and going off to Italy!”

“It was such a sudden and tragic loss that I suffered when partner passed away.”

“She was happy at his ‘easy’ end, and I can attest to that as husband was in and out of Hospital Emergency for 17 years before he died – and it was awful to watch it all – and of course more awful for him.”

[re bout of rhinitis] “…and those pills were the ones I didn’t bring. I reluctantly bought some quick relievers – which did work praise be. Horror story of X’s about a visitor who did the same and they didn’t go with some other medicine he took and he died within hours made me a little apprehensive!!”

“I was to and fro all the time and mother died last month just before I arrived back in X. It has all been too depressing for words. I know it was all for the best but it still knocks you for six.”

“Unfortunately X’s grandfather was hit by a car recently and he died a few days later. He was 80 years old so would not have been around much longer anyway but it was not a nice way to go.”

[re X’s garden after her death] “X had lovely iris stylosa – they are gorgeous but I haven’t been out to croon over them for about a fortnight. They made me burst into tears anyhow so perhaps it is as well to leave them uncrooned over.”