I took all of these photos on Sunday morning, when the sun was shining and dew was sparkling on the grass.
An hour later it was pouring with rain, and it hasn’t stopped since. But spring is coming to the garden, and things are starting to grow. If I say I love this time of year, someone is going to hit me over the head and point out that I write that at the beginning of every season. I can’t help it.
But – little drops of water in the alchemilla mollis. Hosta shoots like rosettes. Clematis shoots appearing like magic from what looks like dead wood. The tips of tulips pushing the earth aside. It’s so lovely.
I’ve been challenged to answer some questions by Garry at The Blog Up North. It’s either that or do some things that I’m putting off, so I’ll take the easy option. Which isn’t that easy, actually. Gulp.
I am – a mass of contradictions. An outgoing introvert would probably sum it up best. Extremely short tempered (but good at hiding it). And very good when held hostage in a restaurant. Yes, really.
The bravest thing I’ve ever done – Write a book. Because when there’s one thing that you’ve dreamed of all your life, and it’s the one thing you really want to get right, it’s easy to put it off with one excuse after another in case it doesn’t work out. Because if it doesn’t go right, well, what happens then?
Of course what I realise now is that nobody just writes a book. A bestseller doesn’t just fall out of your fingers onto the page, and an agent doesn’t just take one look at your first draft and love it (see writing tips – rejection for details). What happens is you have an idea, you write it down, it changes, you go with it, you show it to people, they cheer on the good bits and point out the bad ones, and you write it again. And again, and again.
I feel prettiest when – Hrmm. I don’t really feel pretty. I don’t think I’m grotesque, it’s just that pretty isn’t a word I’d associate with myself. I look like my dad. Only with long hair and lipstick.
Something that keeps me awake at night is – Twitter. Hahahahahaha. I am so shallow. I should be admitting to existential angst, when in fact it’s lying in the dark with my iphone giggling at people.
My favourite meal is – Ooh, now this is a tricky one. I’m a bit like Nigella Lawson, in that I spend an awful lot of time thinking about food, and quite often whilst I’m eating lunch I’ll say ‘what’s for dinner?’ in a piggish fashion. That’s because I don’t really cook. I’m married to a man who does the cooking. But in answer to the question, I’d say meze. Because that covers lots of lovely things, and I love Greek food. And Greece. (And I’m reading the most fabulous book set there – Storm’s Heart. Phwoar.)
The way to my heart is – Making me laugh. It’s a standing joke in our family that I said I’d rather sleep with Jonny Vegas than David Beckham.
I would like to be – as famous and well loved an author as Jilly Cooper. I don’t want much, do I?
March tomorrow: time for spring gardening plans. I may even venture up to the allotment.
Ooh, I love Ruby Ferguson. There’s something about her Jill books (you can find them here at Jane Badger Books if you need a fix). They’re gorgeously horsey and full of delicious food, and my obsessive reading of Ruby’s Jill books as a child is probably why I have a slight problem with remembering I don’t live in 1959.
Roz from Nail Your Novel (fab book, recommended by lovely Deerbaby) pointed out I’d missed Ruby from my comfort reading list. I think actually I could write a comfort reading list once a month, and never stop. I have shelves and shelves of books which are like old friends to me. Going to take photos of my vintage Penguin paperbacks soon so you can either scream in boredom or say ooh, how lovely.
Anyway, back to Ruby. Look what arrived today:
My friend Sara, who is lovely, sent me this as a cheering up present. It’s Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary a romance which was one of the favourites of The Queen Mother, who admired it so much that she invited Ruby Ferguson to tea at Buckingham Palace (I’ve been there, too).
It’s so beautiful.
Persephone Books are the vintage Penguin paperbacks of the future, I think. I want a whole shelf of them.
And look what else (I love it when the postman brings nice things, especially because our lovely postman always has a chat with me and the dog when he delivers them):
Tiny red crochet bunting, made from embroidery thread, which is hanging in our sitting room and looking very pretty. All the way from Wyoming, where lovely Jennifer lives. Her blog The Prairie Girl is here, and it is just beautiful.
I’m off to have a cup of tea now, and try out Ruby Ferguson for grown-ups.
Have a lovely weekend.
The first Jilly Cooper book I read was Riders. I was twelve. That’s a bit worrying, really. I found it at an aunt’s house whilst we were visiting and I spent the whole week we were visiting reading in the bedroom, shoving it under the pillow and picking up Jill’s Gymkhana whenever I heard footsteps.
I think I skimmed over the pervy bits, really – all I remember is the breathless excitement as Rupert Campbell-Black won a medal and feeling sorry for poor Tory when her dog was killed. My real love affair was with Rivals, which is still my favourite of Jilly’s books. Gorgeous Declan O’Hara and his love of W.B. Yeats (oh, the romance when I went to university in Northern Ireland and studied Anglo-Irish Literature). Feckless Maud, with her fox-red hair, who took forever to unpack because she kept reading bits of the newspaper as she unwrapped the crockery. There are a tremendous number of Jilly characters with hair the colour of drenched fox – Maud, Helen, Georgie and her rival Julia, and naughty viola playing Flora, who has an affaire (much more exciting than a common or garden affair) with the evil Rannaldini. I never quite got the whole Rannaldini thing – is there anyone out there who thought ‘phwoar’? Maybe I’m missing something.
That’s Jilly in the 70s – I always suspected that Janey Lloyd-Foxe, the unprincipled journalist with a ‘mane of tawny hair’ was Jilly’s naughty side, and this photo looks just how I’ve always imagined Janey.
Ooh, and then there’s Caitlin’s love affair with Archie Baddingham (yes, I did name my first son after a Jilly Cooper character, and in fact my daughter was very nearly Tabitha after Rupert’s daughter). Cameron Cook in her suede dress, slit at the sides and reeking (Jilly’s characters always reek) of Fracas, the naughty-girl perfume. Gorgeous Patrick O’Hara. Oh, swoon. This is all a bit inarticulate, isn’t it? Hermione cantering naked around the indoor school with Rannaldini cracking a lunge whip and Lysander noting that she’s on the wrong leg (those pony stories again). It is utterly, gloriously bonkers and completely impossible to put into words. What’s wonderful about Jilly’s writing is that she does all that, but her observations of nature and descriptions of animals are so tender and accurate. If you’ve ever read her collection of diaries, The Common Years, which is probably one of my favourites (and yet isn’t in my comfort reading post, because I am forgetful and fickle and have millions of favourites) you can see that the diaries she kept have informed her writing. It’s a beautiful book.
Another of the Rutshire Chronicles, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, has heavenly Lysander, and Boris and his love of red wine, red meat and red-blooded women, and the amazing ability of Jilly’s heroines to lose a stone in a week through pining (never happens to me, grumble grumble). Detective Inspector Gablecross – the only policeman in Rutshire. Smooth James Benson, the private GP who arrives whenever required. But the best bit of all? Lovely, cloudy-haired (I suspect she could do with with some Frizz Ease serum) Taggie falling in love with Roopurt Cambel-Blak, and Rupert trying to resist her because he’s too old and bad and horrible for her. If you haven’t read Rivals, you must – The New Year’s Eve party is heaven, too. Nobody throws a party like a Jilly Cooper character.
(If you’re a Jilly lover, have a look at this. I guarantee you’ll giggle. I think Jilly would, too, if she read it.)
Here I am. In bed with glandular fever, aka mono, aka the Epstein-Barr virus (which makes me think of the Beatles). It’s nice to have a reason for why I’ve been feeling so yuck for the last few weeks. And even nicer still to be in bed with a whole heap of new books.
Monty Don – The Ivington Diaries has been on my gardening books wish list for ages. And I love Carol Klein, for her gardening style and for her ‘plunts’ (that’s an in-joke for Gardeners’ World viewers). So a book by her all about cottage gardening – bliss.
I picked this up one day when I was feeling poor and couldn’t afford to buy any books, and promised myself I’d buy it on payday. Jane Wenham-Jones is brilliantly funny and the book is full of writing tips. And tips for when you’re famous. Which of course I will be, just as soon as I get out of bed.
I love Sue Moorcroft’s blog which is full of loads of useful writing tips. I discovered her book Starting Over and devoured it in one staying-up-until-2.30am gulp. Can’t wait to read her how-to book on writing romance.
This was bought on the recommendation of Nicola Morgan. I can tell I’m going to love it already.
And guess what. I didn’t have to buy any of these. Appliances Online waved a magic wand over my Amazon wishlist, because I left a comment on this post by my friend Melanie. So hooray for them (and quite nice karma, I think, because we bought our fridge/freezer and dishwasher from them in the past). And lucky me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie down with the Queen Mother.
Ooh. Forgot this bit! The lovely news is if you leave a comment, you might get a surprise email, too.
I’ve been waiting all month for an email.
A while back, on the Tales from the Village facebook page I got a comment from an agent, who happens to be a fan of the blog. She said well done on completing Nanowrimo and offered to have a read of the book when it was finished. Well, last month I finished the book and sent it to her with much excitement.
Last night the email arrived. Thanks, but no thanks. I could lie and say it didn’t hurt, but in fact it was blunt, to the point, and felt like a kick in the stomach. I didn’t tell K it had arrived for an hour or so, because I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.
Then I went back and read it to him, and mentioned it on Twitter, and showed it to a few writing friends.
‘This is amazing’ they said. ‘You are really lucky’ they said. Apparently my rejection was a good one. And let’s face it, if I’d managed to secure an agent on the back of a snippet of writing on a blog I’d be a miracle. That’s not to say if any agents are reading I’m not interested, I add hastily. Ha. Anyway, last night people were really lovely and encouraging, and rejection is part of being a writer. When I was a little girl I once fell off seven times in one riding lesson, until I realised what I had to do to stay on. And if I can run a marathon, I can blooming well learn how to write.
So I’m holding on to the good bits, and taking on board the other comments, and next week I’m going to start afresh.