Saturday, 14 January 2012
An Ordinary Saturday at Valley's End.
On this misty, frosty Saturday morning the sun finally came out at about eleven and the twigs on the laburnum and amelanchier were still clothed in their festive winter finery. I'd hate a garden without trees and shrubs, what would I have to look at in winter?
I've been trying to do my income tax return online this morning - late as usual - but also as usual, the HMRC website refused me entry, insisting that 'You Have Not Been Granted Access To This Site' when I typed in my own reference numbers. That means that I'll be sitting at the end of a telephone line on Monday, listening to some godawful canned music and waiting for one of their operatives to become free. I shall do my returns on paper again in future, if they let me.
I'm feeling a little merry. I have said it before, morning drinking doesn't agree with me. We had an invitation to a pre-lunch drinks party and, although I always go to these things with the firm intention to stick to orange juice, I rarely follow my own instructions. The host greeted me by saying he had a lovely Sancerre for me to try and I was lost. I did the Sancerre fully justice, with only a few bites to mop up the juices. Which meant, that for me at least, the party became very enjoyable. I'd hate you to think that I overdo my appreciation of the grape, but I can tell the difference between plonk and a drink worth having. And if it's worth having, I'll have it.
There were several writers of non-fiction present at the party, a historian and a biologist as well as a biographer; feeling uninhibited I button-holed them and asked their opinion on the best process to get the work of writing done. The consensus was "Concentration", "Discipline", "Ruthlessness vis-a-vis Distraction" and "A Quiet And Private Working Area". "Regular Working Hours, No Matter What", also came up. Considering, that between them, these people, all men and therefore free from Cyril Connolly's "pram in the hall" being a sombre enemy of good art, have a couple of dozen books to their names, I rather trust their method. I may not have a pram in the hall but I do have a household to run. The only fiction writer present, who also writes poetry, is more like me: maybe there's time today or maybe there'll be time tomorrow. But then, the only books he's published were non-fiction English and poetry text books, his literary efforts languish in the drawers of his study.
Having had all this stimulation in the morning, I felt like a long sit-down after a very late lunch. To that end I treated myself to a couple of hours with the second part of the Larsson Millennium trilogy. I absolutely love what I've read so far. I've mentioned the books to people whose opinion I respect; one said he disliked the violence, somebody else said they found the long, descriptive passages off-putting, another fiction writer couldn't find an explanation for the runaway success the trilogy has had, because it is actually quite a demanding read, meticulously researched, needing concentration and an interest in journalism, big business and corruption in high places. Not the usual thriller fare, in other words. I love thrillers, solving the puzzle along with the writer is a relaxing exercise. Larsson doesn't give much away, his story unfolds in ever greater circles, drawing in more and more characters, increasing the suspense and making me afraid for the safety of threatened protagonists.
I'm reading this as if I were listening to the ominous sound of distant drum beats getting closer and closer.
The evening shall be rounded off with last week's episode of Sherlock Holmes, with Benedict Cumberbatch. An evening in front of the box. Everybody who has seen it says it's great. I am looking forward to another treat.
Absolutely my kind of an ordinary Saturday.