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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Who wants to be a writer when the weather's like this?

I have been side-tracked. I had every intention of sitting down this week and working on these comic routines for my friend’s son; but who wants to be at his desk when the sun is blazing down from a clear blue sky and the mercury is nudging the magical 70 mark? (21 for younger readers.) Who wants to be a writer when we’re having the warmest spell of March weather on record?

Yesterday I felt strangely energised; it must be all the exercise I’ve been getting over the past two weeks. I put in three separate 90-minute sessions at the allotment - and got very close to completing what I had expected to take all week.  Here’s where I’d got to halfway through yesterday’s endeavours:


The soil down there is on the heavy side, as you can see from the large clods that are formed as I dig it over, but it’s responding to my efforts over the past three years, which started when I double-dug the neglected plot, breaking up the yellow clay sub-soil. A few days’ exposure to the sun and the clods can be broken up with a fork - and a shot of elbow-grease. It’s heavy going, but yesterday I got to within sight of completion, and ought to get there today:


Those last few rows are going to be the hardest, infested as they are with dandelion and buttercup. Still, the good news is that they also support a healthy population of nematodes - which were conspicuous by their absence when we first took the garden over. For some reason they seem to cluster around the dandelion roots, so a certain amount of collateral damage is taking place as I knock the soil off them. With luck, and a following wind, I’ll have the whole plot roughly cultivated by the end of the day, leaving me the rest of the week to do work it to a fine tilth and perhaps do some more planting. Then I’ll get to work on the comedy material - especially if the weather changes. This hot stuff is coming in from the Sahara, they tell us. If the wind swings round a few degrees and starts coming in off the North Sea, we know what to expect: 41 degrees F (5 C) and a lot of murk.

On more writerly matters, I should mention my brother. For years he has been working on a book about religion, and the part it plays in people’s lives. As I read it, it’s quite a scholarly piece, but the arguments are woven, rather artfully, into a personal narrative about his own journey from youthful acceptance of religious dogma, to doubt, thence to disavowal. Unlike me, he remains interested in religions, and seeks to find good in them. I should be careful not to say too much - it’s not my subject - but I raise the matter because he seems to have found a publisher for his work at the first time of asking. (How lucky can you get, eh?) O-Books (http://www.o-books.com/) are an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. They seem to be a very pared-down outfit - no phones, no letters, no hard copy - and they are prepared to make decisions quickly. So far, they have expressed interest, and have sent my brother a list of questions and requests for action: how does he propose to market the book, what is his contact list, etc etc? Whether there is some sting in the tail - like a request for subsidy - remains to be seen, but they do, so far, appear to be pretty transparent, and he is thrilled.   

Breakfast. Then work.