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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Home again

On Friday, as promised, Granny added to her carbon footprint and here she is again, gazing out on her land, on the sea and the islands out there. Yesterday it was cloudy, today it isn't, but in each case the light is weird, bringing the distant islands into close-up, turning the sea slate grey yesterday, slate blue to day. It is cold: this is the coldest time of year. She is huddled up in wool and trying not to use her heater, though she may be forced to later to overcome the dismay of ripping apart Going Mental yet again. Next draft will be fifth or there about. It has never been harder to get a book right, especially when the prospect of getting such a book published in the present climate recedes ever further. In the publishing industry things are dire. It is too late for Granny to chop some bits off herself, add others, go blond, turn herself into a WAG or minor celeb - even if she was young enough she doesn't think she could do bubbly vapid well enough; or not that kind of vapid anyway. But if she could she might have some hope of publishing something; anything. Her agent reported one editor's comment on one celeb 'author.' 'Does she write her books herself?' the agent had asked, 'No, of course not, but at least she's very interested in what goes in...' Groan from Granny.

Still, as the editor who's currently ripping her apart says: some good books do get out there. Indeed they do; but it's a matter not just of merit these days but zeitgeist and a lot of luck. And many more good books - brilliant books - don't get published. The weird thing is that the harder it gets to publish such books the more people are out there trying to write them: Granny is not alone. And at least she can say - being philosophical - if not in the abstruse way her Beloved would like her to be - she, as well as any other dog, has had her day. Though she is still hoping - vainly so far - for another one, she can at least say that.

For the rest: 'no rain,' says Beloved. 'Nothing has changed since you went away.' Oh yes, it has. 'Hath not the guy eyes?' she asks him. The place is covered in flowers that weren't flowering when she went away. And the grass is nothing like so green. But Beloved doesn't do flowers, merely beasts and it is Granny who wanders round her land marveling, as always at this time of year. Wild marigolds all over, small purple flowers she still can't put a name to, brilliant little blue pimpernels which sting your hand if your pick them, etc etc etc. Apart from which Ruby the friendly brown goat is definitely pregnant, one hen might be a cockerel, the bantams are laying, the bloody terrier continuing to gobble up the cat's food. All an antidote in Granny's head for the difficult things elsewhere which continue to haunt her. She remembers her father saying once in his late eighties: 'all my friends/generation are either dead or hopelessly decrepit.' Granny's are nowhere near that yet. And she prays none of them will suffer the fate of one of said decrepit friends, her godfather as it happened, who spent his life roaming the north Lancashire moors with his dog and his gun until the day he shot the dog by mistake. Whereupon he came in, sat down in his chair and scarcely got up again with predictable effects on his head and body, both. He had no children, grandchilden to cheer him up unfortunately, only a thereafter much put-upon and sad wife.

As she gets older Granny reflects on such stories, shuddering. You see why she needs the pregnant goat, the marigolds, the pimpernels, above all her Beloved, whose fingers these days are covered in little pinpricks as part of his efforts at a long - longer - life. He is now on Warfarin for his slightly erratic heart, and monitoring himself. It reduces his chances of a stroke, considerably, if not to zero, from this cause, even if it does up his chances of a brain haemorrhage very slightly: but that's modern medicine for you, off with one danger - hat - on with another. Granny is thankful not to be on any sort of medication herself, even if, thanks to her faulty genes she faces, has faced since she was forty, the danger from the very same sometimes fatal lurgy currently afflicting her dear friend. Who had another operation in London yesterday and of whom Granny is thinking very hard. Even from far away such things cannot be forgotten. In some ways it is even harder to forget them. At least dear friend is now in good hands - at the Royal Marsden no less - fully functional again. Following the pre-Christmas dramas, though, it still stinks, horribly, of smoke. Granny on her visit there with friend did not find this reassuring. 'Inferno' near as dammit, means in Spanish 'hell.'

On the other hand - here she is on her island - and out there in the kitchen Beloved is making garlic soup - a Spanish recipe, containing water, stale bread, garlic - lots and lots - and tomatoes; if that doesn't sound alluring well it is; the Spanish equivalent of that famous English dish for invalids, 'bread and milk' and much much nicer, believe it please. It is Granny's absolutely favourite comfort food. And the smell drifting through to her now is almost as good. In half an hour or so she'll be in heaven, supping it up. Whoopee.

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