I’d always been told that hyperthermia was quite a pleasant death, apart from the alarming tendency to feel so paradoxically hot that one strips naked. I researched hypothermia for my latest novel Casting Shadows. When asked, I tell people this is how I intend to hasten my demise in my decrepitude; I am now seriously reconsidering this option and instead researching heat-stroke and flying to warmer climes to peg out. That Swiss clinic holds no appeal for me – have you seen the furnishings? No one’s popping a needle in my arm in a flat that looks like it is furnished with charity shop chattels and from an era that has no hope of make a furnishing-fashion comeback. In reality, I shall likely want just one more day as every elderly person I have encountered seems to and I worry that this could lead to an enforced cull; having booked my place on this planet some time ago I have no intention of giving up my slot early.
As I look out of my study window, which might as well be open for all the protection it affords, I wonder when this long, cold winter will end. There is this awful sense that it never will. I have taken to logging on to the Met Office website in the hope that those myriad arrows showing the Siberian home of this ill-wind have changed direction. Some hope. I should be good at waiting, and indeed I often disguise myself as a patient person. Waiting is a long, lonely tunnel. Waiting takes practice, resilience and the ability to keep hope alive. Waiting for competitions to close and winners to be announced – hopefully you. Waiting for an agent to read your manuscript – hopefully all of it. Waiting for the publisher/editor to read it and say yes. And while you are doing all this waiting you have to become skilful at distracting yourself, otherwise, faced with the literary equivalent of a relentless Siberian wind you might curl up and die of cold – clothes on or off, stark naked, who would care?
So distract yourself by writing something else; con your impatient soul with the limitless possibilities of a new beginning. The magical thing about a writer’s life is that there is always another story; a beginning is full of possibilities. So much so that when someone reveals a fascinating snippet, you’re off; your mind has transferred its attention to the infinite possibilities of the new character, setting and plot.
And frankly, if all else fails there is always the café lunch with a fellow writer where together you can lament the vagaries of the profession and wind up by asking: ‘So what are you writing at the moment?’
I am thankful, that unlike poor sheep farmers who are digging their dead stock and their livelihoods out of a fourteen foot snow drifts, starting again for me is tapping a new story into my computer, thankful, that in a few weeks’ time I will be moving from ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ to a home of my own, with central heating, three working wood burners, a garden studio and – here I pinch myself – a wild-flower meadow. We would do well to remember that the Siberian arrows don’t always point in our direction and in the meantime we can disguise ourselves as patient people and anticipate spring.
Please go to the shorts and images page to read The Conspiracy of Appliances - a witty monologue.