Wednesday, 11 August 2010
writing in august by Leslie Wilson
It feels strange, writing in august. Back when my kids were little, or even young, I usually abandoned the attempt and just became Mum for the period of the holidays when we weren't on holiday, as well as when we were. I used to start writing again in September, when we returned, the weather was cooler, and they were back at school.
Now August is when everyone else is away, my email box fills up only slowly, and the traffic in town is non-existent. It is easy to get parked in Waitrose - I don't need to go on a writer's retreat, the world has ebbed away from me. Unfortunately this year there are a lot of things that need doing to the house, and a major window-replacement-operation looms towards the end of the month - but I am still enjoying the sense of freedom. A holiday! I can get on with Writing my Stories.
In addition, I have the garden. August is harvest, beans, mangetouts, courgettes, onions, spinach beet, kohlrabi, tomatoes, chillies and aubergines. The figs and autumn-fruiting raspberries are coming on and ripe windfall apples are bumping off the Tydeman's Early Worcester tree. Soon I shall just be able to wander out and pick myself an apple when I want a snack while writing! We harvested the garlic in July and I can go and admire the 50-odd bulbs which will take us through the year. And there are the pumpkins.
They are magic, though I'm not sure if I can fulfil my daughter's request to reserve one as transport to her wedding next May. It might have got a bit wrinkly by then. I grow two kinds, one large, one small. The large one is illustrated above, this is the Enormous Pumpkin, the biggest of all, which must weigh close on five kilograms. It's a Crown Prince, and ripens to steel-grey, at present it is like the sea on a dull day, silver-green - I love it. The little ones are the apricot-coloured ones, they fit in the palm of your hand, they are called Jack Be Little, and would actually be perfect to take a miniature Cinderella to the ball in. They mature to a rich orange, and come ripe all the time, a lovely alternative to courgettes. But they keep too, and when I find unsuspected ones they won't have rotted. My pumpkins are like free-range hens, they ramble around and decide for themselves where to lay their massive or small eggs. Up to me to find them - I recently discovered a whopper smugly lying against the fence, shielded by leaves. Though shortly the leaves will have to come off, to assist the ripening process.
What has this got to do with writing? Well, it's odd, but it feeds into it. Of course the pumpkins also feed me in the literal way, but there's something about having them - they are planted in a raised bed just outside my study window, though (see above) they have sprawled away from it to actually fruit - the excitement of seeing them get huge, seeing the colours change, gloating over their size and weight - that helps me to write. So, the current answer to the question so frequently asked of writers: 'What do you do when you get stuck?' is: 'I go outside and inspect my pumpkins.' Later I shall inspect them stored in the house. Some people grow decorative gourds and don't eat them. I grow lovely pumpkins and then they get eaten. You opens your seed catalogue and you takes your choice.
WRITING IS SO MUCH MORE THAN WHAT YOU DO AT YOUR DESK!!!