21 June 2010

The summer’s longest day: it’s as inappropriate as possible for me to be thinking about winter. I ought to be outdoors, picnicking and barbequeing, staying out without an extra layer, taking advantage of however brief an interval it’s going to be before the weather reminds you where Southampton really is: a rain funnel and wind trap in the middle of the English Channel.

I wonder whether I’m a winter writer. I can’t concentrate at all on new ideas in summer, can’t even think myself back into the old ones I had to store up back in spring. In summer, I want to be experiencing. Maybe it’s the legacy of too many school holidays when I managed to experience nothing at all, except teaching myself how to write macros for an Excel spreadsheet or retype a teenage diary on that second-hand old Mac.

Go out and make something happen, I start thinking when the sun comes out. And make it something a bit more constructive than the provocative things you used to do in term time because you’d read ahead through the whole syllabus and you were bored.

I mediate and season things in autumn. (Kirsty Logan, a few days ago, posted about personal clich├ęs. The longest thing I wrote while I was still at school had red/gold light and trees and sodding chestnuts up the wazoo. I never want to see any of those things again.) They’ve dissolved into a meniscus of ideas by wintertime, when the air is cold and darkness starts at half past four and experiencing things means zipping up a winter coat so high I can’t see out.

Somehow I managed to hit an anthology deadline that comes up in July. Still, that may be it for proper writing for a month or two, until the evenings start reversing and a shadow in the kitchen makes me say: ‘Bloody hell, since when has it been dark at suppertime?’



31 May 2010

Working through the Bank Holiday weekend (and ‘most every other weekend that’s come my way since it started to look anything like spring outdoors) is almost palatable when it rains, or when all the wind comes round off the Atlantic to hit Southampton from two different directions at once.

When the sun comes out, a full weekend’s work means missing out on what’s probably one of less than a dozen weekends where I can take the rug down to the park and sit there with a good book all afternoon.

I’m fond of this rug. It replaces a much-loved tartan one from my parents’ house that went out on picnics, open-air concerts, and Saturday excursions to expand our minds. (I only pulled a few tassels out of my parents’ one to find out how far down the colour went.) I’m more fond of the rug than several disappointing books I’ve read on top of it.

I googled my surname when I ordered the new rug to find out whether there was a tartan that I ought to buy. There wasn’t, in any sense except the tenuous. I can’t say I was completely disappointed. It’s all invented tradition anyway, of course, but some of them have ended up in drained-out greens and pinks. They look like a nineties clubbing outfit that has spun in a washing machine drum ever since.

Fortunately, there are royal tartans appropriate for use by every subject of the Queen. The monarch’s our clan chief, you understand. (To those of you reading this blog from republics based on reason: I apologise. It’s a bizarre place, when you scratch it about a bit.) I can’t imagine there’d ever be a situation of an English picnicker harassed in a park for sitting on a tartan some Scots considered didn’t belong to her. Actually, I can imagine. It’s just the sort of little detail of social chaos that nibbles at me several times a day.

They posted the rug the length of the United Kingdom, including a transfer through Southampton sorting office, within 48 hours. That’s actually the most impressive thing about it.

Even so, with summertimes like these, I only get to use it as a blanket.


20 May 2010

It’s that soul-sapping energy-eating spirit-quenching windcheater-cheating sort of rain. The kind that when you go inside, through the first open door where they serve coffee, which naturally is at least fifteen minutes away from your location when the rain first came down, makes you discover all the inlets in your wet-weather clothing you never knew were there.

‘Would you like to borrow an umbrella?’, says the kind man in the coffee shop. I try to make him understand that, actually, I wouldn’t, because while it’ll get me home in a slightly drier state, I’ll then need another trip out into the rain just so that I can take him his umbrella back. Not to mention that I’m bound to break umbrellas. Even if I do venture out to bring it back, the frame will be twisted or the spokes hanging off. Those umbrellas you see jammed into litter bins every time a storm comes off the Channel? Yes, those are the micro-light umbrella I bought from Boots and the tiny one that even fits the handbag the size of a hard drive I take on evenings out and the tall one the size of a walking stick I once took from a relative’s umbrella stand. Except they’re not, because I got tired of buying what were essentially disposable umbrellas, and I invested in a ski-slope-worthy winter coat, where even the Velcro fasteners have Velcro fasteners.

The ski-slope coat is currently a couple of hundred miles away from me, because, of course, it never rains there like that this time of year.