November 13th, 2014
Okay, so the gap between this blog and the last (almost exactly a year to the day, and written in exactly the same place) is proof once more (if, by chance, you needed it confirmed) that I am an extremely bad blogger. It’s not that I don’t like doing it – it’s just that, when actually sitting down to do it, I really can’t think of anything that anyone would find particularly interesting. To write about ‘my life’, I feel would seem quite self-indulgent and self-important; to write about my political views would most likely show me up as being a complete ignoramus (I’m certainly not going to even start on the Scottish Referendum – all I’ll say is that Scotland just and no more saved itself from years of uncertainty and deep recession – but changes will have to be made); and to write about books, TV programmes and films would make me seem opinionated and self-important. So I much prefer to keep my own counsel.
But then, if you happen to visit my website (and thank you for that…) and you see when the last post was written, then you might think that I’d gone completely off air or, at worst, fled this mortal coil. So, as I bounce across the Bay of Biscay, after a 6-week stay at my house in Spain, I thought that I should at least get something down to say what’s been going on since the last blog.
Well, actually, I’ve really enjoyed this year, although I have to say at this point that I haven’t been writing. That’s maybe the only thing I’ve been missing. As the great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin said, “When I’m not writing, I have no peace of mind.” I try to offset that by finding as many other things to do as I can – my friend, Sam Chesterton ( great-nephew of G.K. Chesterton) calls them his ‘displacement activities.’ So most mornings, I don my outdoor work clothes and head off in a financially unrewarding flurry of tractor driving, chainsawing, lawn mowing and general maintenance-ing, while office work is left to the evening hours. So a quick run down of what’s happened this year.
• The arrival of two grandsons – Herbie, born to Oliver and Abi in Forres, Moray, and Myles, born to Hugo and Lucy in Thonon, France. That rounds it off nicely to three of each.
• We decided to do a bit of B&B at our house in Scotland this year, really to coincide with the Ryder Cup which was held at Gleneagles, Perthshire – about twenty five miles away. The Ryder Cup was a huge success – our B&B was not… Where people were looking for accommodation 50 miles from the event, we were completely empty. It was quite laughable, really. It was as if our farm had suddenly been shifted to the moon. We had a few wedding parties come during the year – that just about covered the cost of our website. So, next year, if you’re this way, and want to sightsee, play golf etc., in the east of Scotland, this is the place…
• To help with the non-existent B&B, we had a series of young people come and help us through the Workaway website. They came from Germany, France, Czech Republic and Australia. We did up the ‘bothy’ for them, the small studio cottage on the farm, and converted Kirsty’s old studio in the farm buildings into a very presentable bedroom. It was a great success and it was lovely to have young people around the place during the summer – and they worked!
• Daughters Alice and Florence move about – Alice to Amsterdam to work for interior designer Kate Hume – and Florence from London to Edinburgh to set up a resurgence of childrens’ clothing company, Tinkers, which was started back in the 80’s by my sister Pippa in the US and my wife Kirsty in the UK as Pedlars (now run by others as an aspirational toyshop for rich urban kids in Portobello Market.) Cult clothes they were back then, both for adults and kids – Florence just doing kids up to 4 yrs to start with, but you can check it out at Pilchers Clothing Co.
• My mother Rosamunde (the ‘FA’ to us – Famous Authoress) had her 90th birthday lunch in September, just before the Ryder Cup to avoid there being a log jam of travel plans. And travel they did. Film producers from Germany, publishers from New York and London, agents from Hamburg and Oxford, film agent from London, and families from France, Amsterdam, Hawaii, Long Island, St. Barths, and nearer to home (well, slightly) from Cornwall and Somerset. 110 people for a sit-down lunch and Ros ‘queened’ the event just as she should.
• Okay, so here’s the truth about the writing. Having been told by my publishers that I had to find a way to self-promote, I started Shortbread Stories to get my name out there. A year and a half in, my partner quits and I find myself having to cover the work of two to keep it going. I build it up successfully, but I have to devote time to it, so I don’t get time to write. Then I get down to it eventually, write half a book and a synopsis and send it off to my London publisher. My editor there, a young girl of about 23 who I had never met (my third or fourth in about so many years) said that I had been away from writing for so long (erm, three years? And what had I been doing – trying to self- promote as you’d asked me?) that I would need to be re-launched and this was not the book to do it – and while she was on the subject, the last book hadn’t made the advance so they were dropping me entirely. And, as for my US publisher, well, I hadn’t heard one word from him since my previous book had been published (successfully too), so I hadn’t bothered sending him the outline or chapters.
So I’ve been going round and round in circles in my head how best to proceed, and also getting more and more frustrated by the fact that so many of you continue to write to me asking “When’s the next book due?” Anyway, about a week ago in Spain, I re-met up with a brilliant young journalist from the Sunday Times in London who said, “Dammit, you’re known, you’ve cracked that part through your writing and through Shortbread – just publish yourself through Amazon. I’ll help you do it.” And that’s all I needed to hear. The fire in the belly rose, and I clenched my fist in determination to get on with it again during the long Scottish winter evenings.
I think that’s all I’ve got to say for the moment. I hope it does answer some of those questions that so many of you have asked over the past eighteen months and have been rather fobbed off with some very wishy-washy answers. The captain announced about an hour ago that the weather is getting worse, but it still seems to be like sailing across a millpond. If you ever do the Portsmouth – Santander crossing, make sure it’s the Pont Aven you sail on. It’s Brittany Ferries flagship and it’s classic…