An Amazing Year
It has been an amazing year so far, and this is only July. Not that it really seems like high summer, although the garden is full of flowers, even if they are a little soggy. The lupins are marching like an army with banners, pinks and salmons and here and there a blue. They do look a little more like an army after the battle, rather than before. The roses are definitely late, but perhaps they will last longer? There have been a lot of grey skies, but here and there a hectic, glorious sunset streaming colour across the sea.
When I listen to the news I realize how lucky we are up here in the far north of Scotland – we have no floods, no droughts, no hurricanes, no anything else that is dangerous or destructive. I am sitting here dry and in comfort. The white roses look a bit more like a spattering of slush than their usual drift of foam, but the rich pink Albertine up the side of the house and outside the study window is in full bloom. There are birds everywhere.
In February I went to Barcelona, just a long weekend, and for my Spanish publisher, which means I was looked after superbly, met charming people and ate too much excellent food.
In March I went to Paris – Paris in the Spring! Life can be tough! I worked, of course, for the Book Fair which was a lot of fun. I had Sunday morning off and walked in the Luxembourg Gardens, one of my favourite places. Lovely hearing the church bells ring. Again, I sat late at superb dinners, and had great conversations, and ate too much good French food – especially chocolate profiteroles, which were so good I don’t think I will ever have them again, unless it is at that restaurant.
In April I went to America for my latest book – from the east coast to the west, to the south, and back to the east again. It was pretty tiring, but so immeasurably worth it for the charming and very interesting people I met. And I don’t use either of these words lightly. Everywhere I found kindness, as indeed I always have, but also I met people with fascinating professions, or whose immediate family had. These included a lawyer on international war crimes trials at the Hague, and a forensic accountant specializing in divorce cases. I was given so many new things to think about.
I also renewed old friendships, and saw beautiful sights. And of course, I did some terrific shopping! Again I ate too much good food!
In May I went to Paris again, and then to Toulon, which is on the south coast of France. I actually sat under palm trees about five feet from the beach and ate lunch with friends.
In June I went to le Havre, to a festival I have visited several times. It was their tenth anniversary and a great celebration.
In early July I had a week’s business in London, and have just returned. I had better eat salads for a month, and go for lots of long walks – and exercise every morning and evening! Apart from that, I will have quite a spell of time to devote to working without interruption so I can really get on with the next Pitt story, rather than doing a few days, and then changing gear, so to speak.
My head is full of ideas for other stories after that. When I see good drama on TV, I am itching to pick up my pen and see if I can improve on what I have done so far. I want to create something that will fill other people’s minds and make them dream and aspire, the way other people’s work makes me do. There is always room to be a little better, to make the descriptions more evocative, the plots more powerful, above all the characters more real, more alive and the passions deeper.
All that said, the most important thing to me is to say what I really mean, and that is not as easy as it sounds. First I have to refine and clarify what that is. If you go to pitch a story to a Hollywood producer they will ask ‘What is your story about?’ They want the answer in two sentences - or less!
What is my next story about? This is the one I have just started. Answer: You cannot go through life without accepting help now and then, which means incurring moral debts. Those debts have to be paid, perhaps at great cost, and in a currency you don’t have (i.e. by doing something you very much do not want to do, and which may even ruin you.)
I am also in the process of planning a long story set in Europe in the 1930’s. What is the theme of that? Answer: All that is necessary for evil to come about is for good men to do nothing. i.e. You are responsible for what happens as a result of your actions – OR your inactions. If you could have prevented it and you chose not to, then you are answerable. That is a pretty big and frightening thought. Even so, I believe it is true. Opting out of life is not an acceptable choice.
There is so much to think about, so much to learn, so many stories that are worth all the skill anyone has, in order to write them well, with sensitivity, power and compassion. I want to be using my time and ability, not wasting them wishing I had more!
Perhaps a little organization is needed, and a little more faith that if I try my hardest, I will accomplish what is necessary. I think that is true for all of us. The measure of us is not only in what we have succeeded, but also what we tried, what we dreamed of but did not have time to finish. What is ‘finished’ anyway, except asleep for the time being?
I’ll talk to you again soon. Have a good month.