Remedial Work

Looking out across Cardigan Bay from Gwbert

It's probably not surprising that the last four months have left us feeling a bit frayed round the edges. There’s a lot to process and a need to rest and repair so these are some of the remedies that have helped this week.

Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins. I can’t believe it took me so long to get round to reading this! I absolutely love Kate Atkinson’s writing but was a little bit put off by Life After Life which is my least favourite of her novels (and that’s a very qualified ‘least favourite’ - it’s head and shoulders above the pack). Atkinson is so good at demonstrating the best and worst of human behaviour through her characters and A God In Ruins is simply dazzling in its brilliance. It’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

Long runs.  I’m not sure how I’ll fare in the Llanelli Half which takes place in a couple of weeks - my Women’s Troubles have taken their toll (‘Stick with it,’ advises my GP of the remedy that’s supposed to sort everything out and since things are slowly getting better - I hope! - that’s what I’ll do). I do know that the contemplative nature of long runs in this beautiful part of the world certainly restore my mental balance. 

A Luxury Loo. ‘Did you know,’ Tom observes, ‘that this loo has now cost £500?’ £500!  Neither of us was very taken with the grim-looking chemical loo in situ on Blue Nun but replacing the entire bathroom in our house didn’t cost much more than that, thanks to some very canny shopping.  How has a loo for our bargain boat cost so much?  The bulk of the money’s gone on a pair of very sturdy brass seacocks which ensure that only the water that’s supposed to be there enters or leaves the boat which is always a Good Thing. Alas, if we’re on a long passage, I’ll probably won’t even see the loo as I’ll be clutching my good friend, the black bucket, however it’s cheering to know we’re gradually accumulating everything we need for comfortable sailing this summer. I wonder if it would be too much to hope for some sunshine? 

Writing.  I’m happy to say that my next contribution to The English Home magazine appears soon but, sheesh, ever since my catastrophic posterior vitreous detachment last summer (still feeling some of the effects from that), not to mention recent events, it’s been a bit hard to get in the mood for writing fiction. I dig out my poor, neglected novella, decide that 14,000 words are fine, 6000 need a lot of editing and another 10,000 need to be written. Oh well, the only remedy for that is to get on with it.

Family. Is there anything more beautiful than the soft nape of a baby’s neck? I spent a few days with Lily, Russ and Bee this week and there’s nothing that melts my stoney heart more than giving Bee her tea. Her little innocent face, the trusting way she opens her mouth to a spoonful of food and the delicate, careful manoeuvre as she wraps her fingers round a raspberry have gone a long way to lifting my low spirits. And jumping along with her in her ‘Jumperoo’ and crawling on the floor getting her to chase me also ensured that other cure for knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care a good night’s sleep… for me.

Ladies who lunch - with Lily and Bee


Kathryn Freeman said…
Isn't she an absolute sweetie - and I'm sure a tonic, too. Hope you feel like getting stuck back into your fiction writing soon (I'm looking forward to reading that next novella) and enjoy that expensive loo. Clearly not for spending a penny in, but a flipping tenner :-)
Jane Lovering said…
Oh she's adorable - and how she's grown! Looking like a proper little girl now and it only seems five minutes since she arrived. Glad you're starting to feel a bit more like getting on with the writing - we writers are such fragile beings, nobody seems to realise how trauma affects our output. And I love that beautiful view... I hope you get some summer to clutch your bucket in (if you see what I mean). x
Chris Stovell said…
Haha! I hadn't thought of that one, Kate - but I will now! Whenever I use the facilities I shall think of that expensive tenner! Yes, I've certainly got to get on or I'll be the forgotten ancient aunt of the Choc Lit family... whaddya mean?

I know, Jane - where has that time gone? I know I should take a professional approach - heck, you'd get the sack in a normal job for taking so much sick leave... on the other hand normal jobs pay a lot better but let's not go there... so, time to gird my loins or whatever it takes and put some effort in. Thanks for your good wishes xx
Clare Chase said…
Congratulations on the next English Home article, Chris, and I do hope you feel more in the mood for fiction soon, too. Your collection of remedies sound really good – I must try Kate Atkinson’s non-crime books. I love her Jackson Brodie novels, but haven’t read the rest. Your description of Bee taking a raspberry makes me feel as though I was there. Precious moments. x
Frances said…
Chris, it's been a pleasure to take the tour of topics that you've offered us in this post.

I think that you know that I'm a Kate Atkinson fan. I'm so glad that you liked A God in Ruins, as did I. I also liked Life after Life, and just marvel at how she uses her imagination, researching skills and talents at observing folks in and out of their families. I am a sometime member of a book club, and suggested A God in Ruins for the group to read for one of our irregularly scheduled get togethers. I was surprised that several of the folks preferred Life After Life and felt that A God in Ruins had been written to make use of unused WW II research not used in Life After Life. I felt quite differently.

I'm hoping that you will be returning to your novella, or even beginning a new book soon. Also wishing you well on that upcoming run.

Best wishes for smooth luxurious sailing this summer on the Blue Nun.

Now on to precious little Miss Bee. How fortunate both of you are to be sharing these early months of her life. Like Clare, I could absolutely see Bee examination and testing of the joy of a raspberry.

Chris Stovell said…
I hope so too, Clare - it's not because I haven't wanted to but I like the 'total immersion' form of writing and having to put the WIP away so often means I struggle to get back into it. Hopefully I can now complete the novella. Kate Atkinson's 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' her extraordinary debut novel is as good a place as any to start but she's quite simply a wonderful writer. xx

Frances, I was very interested to read what your book club thought of Life After Life and A God In Ruins, I think A God In Ruins works better for me because it's dazzling on so many levels - I sat back afterwards and just marvelled at Atkinson's talent. And, of course, there's Teddy Todd who will stay with me for a very long time. Thank you for your good wishes - and, yes, I do feel so, so fortunate to see this new little person exploring the world and becoming very much herself. I'm a very smitten and proud nana! xx
Frances said…
Chris, I felt the same way about Teddy Todd, and once again marveled at how KA envisions how family's generations develop.

Chris Stovell said…
Yes, that was marvellous - all the 'reaping and sowing' was very clever too... now, if we were closer I could join your book club! x
Pondside said…
You had me at Luxury Loo.
For every holiday, much depends on the loo! I don't mind roughing it once in a while and heaven knows that every Canadian park has its two-seaters, but a nice loo on a boat would be a treat!
Very good to catch up with you and to see you finding ways to look after yourselves and to restore your energies. And what a delightful baby!
Deborah Carr said…
Dear little girl, she's so gorgeous! We've got a new baby in the family and he's utterly adorable and takes my mind off everything when I'm holding him.

I couldn't get into Life After Life at all although most other people thought it was amazing, so I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't love it.

It takes a long time to heal when you've gone through so much and I'm sure your writing muse will kick in again when you're ready. xxx
Flowerpot said…
I haven't read that Kate A book but I am a great fan of hers too. Best of luck with the novella, Chris, and other freelance stuff. I'm glad you have many other things to lift your spirits X

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