The race is on - or at least, that’s the way it feels. There remain a couple of weeks before we set off for the northern isles and Norway, and an awful lot needs to be done. The bikes are in for servicing, lists are being drawn up, and I am keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts. As well as that I have to complete these two sample chapters, produce an overall plan of the two books Mike and I are planning, and arrange a meeting with a photographer to discuss the coffee-table book. Yesterday I managed another 1300 words…
…But I must interrupt this, and pause over my muesli, to report that it’s snowing out there. Not a blizzard exactly, but a lot of downy flakes mixed in with the rain. Never seen that in mid-May, apart from the two years we hiked the high Pyrenees and ended up spending our ‘summer’ holidays wading through three-foot drifts - but that’s another story. And it was abroad. This is England, for goodness’ sake.
Okay, back to the word-count. 2500 in two days, which is rather pleasing. What it means is that I’m well on the way with the second of our two sample chapters. So far - and this could change at any moment - I am enjoying myself. My trip to London the other week, and in particular my hike around Mike Pannett’s old beat, has given me enough material to set the scene as he finds his feet in the alien environment of Battersea. I’m also working on a minor character - one of the old sweats who, at the time of these stories, would be in his late fifties, born before the war and therefore free to use the kinds of cultural references I grew up with. I may even decide that the guy supports Chelsea - and pepper his conversation with talk of the 1955 Championship-winning side, or the 1970 Cup triumph against Leeds. I suppose that’s what my old writing tutor Rose Tremain would have called an enabling device. This guy’s going to be useful to me in the way that the old countryman Walter was in the Now Then, Lad series. He was based on a fellow Mike actually knew and lodged with (and I got to know for myself), but he was also an outlet for all kinds of quaint sayings, attitudes and escapades which I can trace back to my old rat-catching partner in Lincolnshire, and others that came from various adults I knew in my youth. This is the great thing about having had a varied working life - and of being mature in years. You can bring to a story a wealth of experience, characters, anecdotes and references.
The past weekend is already a memory. A’s retirement ceilidh, which took place in Gateshead Town Hall, was huge success. I think she found, as I did at my 60th, that if all your friends show up you get about five minutes with each. It’s great to see them all assembled under one roof, but frustrating to know that you may not meet up with some of them for another year or two, or three…. I took my camera and snapped away merrily, but ended up with a spectacularly lousy set of pictures. I did, however, manage to get one or two of the cake that was baked for the event - by A’s daughter-in-law’s mother. It was a themed confection, and she had clearly been briefed about our planned bike ride (with tents) in Norway.
Well, it’s getting on for nine, and another shower appears to be coming our way. I have a large bowlful of bread dough rising in the kitchen (I hope it’s rising) and another thousand words to write. Better get dressed.