Tuesday 26 February 2013

At the writing desk

Perfect timing. As I sit resolutely at the desk this week, I am delighted to be able to direct you over to Cornflower Books, where I have been in discussion about the process: At the writing desk with...Deborah Lawrenson.
If you love book blogs and haven't yet discovered Cornflower, you are in for a treat. She always has an sumptuous array of books under discussion, new and old, as well as a home, craft and cookery blog illustrated with gorgeous photography. There's a great series of posts about Books and Cakes, in which she bakes to accompany her reading - very clever and inspiring. See for yourself! 
PS. In the interview, Cornflower asked for my advice to aspiring writers. "Never give up. Don't eat that cake," I offered. Clearly this is aspirational only. A real life interpretation is: "Don't eat that cake. Oops. Too late."  

Friday 22 February 2013

Pantomime time!

Ooh, missus. Now this may be hard to explain to anyone who has never seen a British pantomime: The Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, played by two beefy men. For us locals, there's an added frisson in knowing that Trevor, in the polka dots, is our village postmaster and Steve in the fetching stripes and feathers is a builder and undertaker.
The months of rehearsals are over and they are finally live on stage this February half-term, as light flurries of snow fall outside. They're getting rave reviews, as is the panto itself, with its geeky, camp Prince Charming, mournful French chef Les Miserables and a murder mystery to solve along with the riddle of the shoe. As ever, Rob the Panto King has excelled himself with gorgeous original music along with the wit and wonder of the words.
And if I haven't been able to concentrate properly on book writing - blame them! 

Sunday 17 February 2013

In full flow

At long last, I printed out a first rough draft of the new book yesterday. This marks the point when it really starts to feel as if I'm getting there. When I got back to work in the second week of January, the words felt like the water from the mountain source above: coming out all right but freezing up on arrival.

The only way through is to keep going, even on the days when you really don't feel very creative or inspired. On days like that, I reckon that if I can smooth over some of what I've already written and come up with a few good new phrases, then I've done what I can. The good thing about having written books before is that you know that this is par for the course, and you don't give up.

Now there are more than 90,000 words to play with but these are, to bend Eric Morecambe's immortal line, "All the right words, not necessarily in the right order..." When I say it's a rough draft, that's exactly what it is - a right old mess in places. Now is the time for a cool head as I edit ruthlessly to see what remains. But it's getting warmer and the chunks of ice are gone.

Saturday 9 February 2013

The Sea Garden

As part of the work-in-progress I am taking great pleasure in "designing" a garden above the sea on the French island of Porquerolles. And as I have barely lifted my eyes from the manuscript these past two weeks - let alone written anything new for the blog - I thought I would share the mood board of this imaginary garden as I put it together this morning.

The setting is among rocks and Mediterranean pines and scrub, where paths wind down to the sea - or end in precipitous cliffs, or calanques.


The grounds surround an old estate house, grand but decaying, with a honey stucco facade and a pillared terrace at the rear which overlooks the gardens.

The garden needs restoration: old pictures show cypress walks and formal garden rooms but in the present they are overgrown and gloomy. The art of the designer will be to recapture the mood of the original while bringing back light and health to the planting.

Key to one part of the garden is a topiary arch that looks out over the sea, holding a clue to its meaning in the view it frames.

An old bassin, a raised pond edged with stone, lies before the arch. It has been neglected and so tall are the yew hedges all around that the water it holds is a glassy black, not nearly as inviting as this one...

...more like this in atmosphere...

I'd like a tunnel of purple bougainvillea, too...
..and some datura - or devil's trumpet - that dangerous exotic with poison lurking under its intoxicating night fragrance and its hallucinogenic properties.

The garden will have dark corners and surprises - so that when you emerge from the garden it feels like a release into the lightness and colour of the island.

What do you think - would this be somewhere you'd like to explore further?

Sunday 3 February 2013

The Perfume Studio

So are the mysterious perfumes associated with spiritual experiences real, or a biochemical reaction in the brain (as Vanessa asked, very pertinently, in the comments after the Benoîte Rencurel story)? I have no idea; both explanations seem equally interesting. My own experiences have occurred in two separate places, in two different countries, with a couple of years in between. There again, I am over-imaginative, so might well have made what I wanted of what had in reality a very ordinary explanation that I simply did not find.

On a more tangible perfume note, here's a starter kit to have a go at blending your own scent from The Perfume Studio, a small company in East Sussex. Each box contains six basic fragrance notes already blended, an atomiser and instructions, and you can chose from three moods: Fresh, Floral and Floriental. No question that I went for the Floriental, pictured here! 

Great fun at a very reasonable £29.95 - though there are more complex and expensive versions available, as well as lessons in bespoke blending. You can click through to The Perfume Studio and let your imagination go.
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