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Saturday, 3 September 2011

September 3. It’s a deeply significant day for any Brits of a certain age. It’s the day war broke out in 1939. Eleven o’clock in the morning: that was the deadline for the Germans to get out of Poland, which, of course, they had no intention of doing. And so the Prime Minister came on the radio and told the nation that it was at war. I wasn’t around, of course, but my generation grew up with echoes of war very much in the air. Our fathers had fought in it, our mothers had faced the aerial bombardment, the rationing, the loneliness. When my father was posted ‘Missing’ at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, my mother was on her own with three children aged three and under. I wonder how they felt ten years later when we younger ones used to go out in the street and play games based on the Battle of Britain, running around with our arms out-stretched. ‘I’m a Messerschmitt... I’m a Spitfire….’
This is the problem with getting up at five o’clock: part of your mind is still in dream-land.


Besides, it was a wild and stormy night….  Well, not quite, but the wind was strong, gusting and noisy, I’d had very little exercise yesterday, and I was sleeping badly. So I got up, which was no bad thing since I needed to bake bread. I’ve been making it in batches, five or six loaves at a time, since I got here. I’ll never get used to the flour in the U.S. It seems too refined, lacks the grittiness I’m used to in the flours I buy at home. As for the bread they sell in the shops, well, to my taste it’s too light, too sweet, too soft. Besides, I enjoy making my own bread, and I’ve been doing it since the time I complained about the shop-bought variety, way back in 1971, and was challenged to do better.

I’m expecting a visitor some time this morning. Clint, the highway guy and chief roofer, came by yesterday to tell me he’s going to finish off the roof – and I’m going to help him. Actually, I volunteered – so long as I’m not required to step off any ladders. No, he said, I can work out of the big bucket on his pay-loader. I just hope the wind drops.

Well, the bread’s about ready to go in the oven, and while that’s baking I can offer a quick update on the book I’m trying to write. I may be tempting fate, but I think it’s all starting to fall into place. In fact, I have been going through the University of Nebraska Press’s submissions guidelines and working on a covering letter, outline, marketing proposals and suchlike. I really would prefer not to have to jump through all those hoops, but in fairness to them it does concentrate the mind and make you examine some pertinent issues. For example, what is the point of this book and who do you think is going to read it?

Good questions to ponder while the bread is cooling.