Blooms all round. Sorry I have not been writing this as often as I should – am very fixated on writing my novel at the moment. Life Chez Battleaxe is pretty much back to normal now – out and about, nice outing to Great Dixter. Weather has been fantastic, but today we have torrential rain and thunderstorms. Battleaxe knows readers enjoy reading rants, but am going to try to rant and rave a little less. It is no good for the physical and mental health.
So what’s this novel then? It started as a housing association novel (quelle surprise) and then changed into a WI whodunnit based in a Wiltshire Village. Now it is WI with a touch of housing thrown in. Autobiographical? Self-obsessed? Moi? Never. It is currently based on a real village, Compton Pauncefoot in Somerset, which we used to see signposted off the A303 when we drove that way down to Cornwall. I’ve never actually been to Compton Pauncefoot, I just really liked the name, but clearly I will have to change it once the book is finished. Finished? Yes, quite possibly this time. I am now on Chapter 5, the furthest I have ever got.
I don’t dare say how many times I have started novels and given up after a couple of chapters. My first attempt was another crime story, when I was about 8 years old. I remember when my sister got hold of my manuscript and started reading it out loud. I was furious, and burst into stormy tears:
‘Inspector Brett Wood knocked at the front door of the school. The Head Mistress opened it and wept “someone has been beating my girls”…’
Some of the same characters have stayed with me through several novel attempts. One of my heroines, Olga Paradise, has been around for about 30 years in various guises, and one of the settings, Mill House Farm, featured in an early story started when I was about 18. Trouble is with crime novels, you have to lay clues all through, and need lots of people with motives, and it all has to tie together. Guidance on novel writing always says you should rattle off the whole first draft and then edit, but the thing has to make some sort of sense. Anyway, watch this space.
Great Dixter? Gorgeous as usual. The alliums and umbellifers were looking specially good. We met artist Louis Turpin, prospecting around for new Dixter views to paint. Readers will know we have several of his paintings, and I have written about him and his work on several occasions, but we don’t own one of the very many he has done of Great Dixter. Here he is, and an example of his Dixter paintings, together with another photo I took of the gardens on the day.
Talking of gardens, look at this giant echium in our garden. It is around fifteen feet high. The seeds came from the Botanic Garden in Ventnor, Isle of Wight, several years ago. Would you believe it has taken three years to get to this stage? Now it will set seed and die. The first year it, with several siblings, grew to a reasonable height in pots, so I put them out in the garden. The frost killed all but 3 – this one, a smaller sibling and another which lost its top to frost and grew out three side shoots, which have not as yet flowered. Last year this one grew to about 5 foot but did not flower. It was a warmish winter, so it survived to do this… it would be about 3 feet taller than this even, but its stem trails along the ground like some horrible thick serpent before shooting upwards. The bees love it.
And oh, I forgot, our wisteria has had its first flowers ever this year, after sulking for about five years, it has suddenly burst forth. I nearly pulled it up a few years ago… sadly, I didn’t take any photos…
So, less ranting and raving. Believe it or not the national picture has got so bad that even I am giving up in despair. The cost of living crisis mounts each day, Brexit is an obvious disaster and meanwhile, the government is even more paralytically useless than ever because Partygate shows no sign of disappearing – and we haven’t even had the infamous Sue Grey report yet! I just said to Philosopher, imagine how ghastly it must be for those craven fools of cabinet ministers, being trotted out every morning to vomit forth their stomach contents – the most pathetic and feeble lies – on national telly. This morning the snivelling brown-nose was Grant Shapps: ‘he goes down and thanks the staff, raises a glass and doesn’t, in his mind, recognise it as it a party.’ Oh for God’s sake… still, they are desperate to keep their jobs and I can’t see anyone but Johnson employing any of them. Internationally, Ukraine is still terrible, Putin is still maniacal – and oh, our dastardly, unbelievable Rwanda wheeze is apparently still alive. And don’t forget the Great Jubilee… a massive fest of jingoism and sentiment. Is it any wonder that Battleaxe is giving up?
Stick to the novel, I say. Here’s Battleaxe and Philosopher at Great Dixter