It’s bluebell time again. I have measured out my life not through coffee spoons like J Alfred Prufrock but through bluebells. These are taken at Duncliffe wood in Dorset at dusk. The scent of the flowers is always strongest then. It’s hard to concentrate on writing when I know that just a few miles away the bluebells are waiting for me…
Category Archives: dorset life
It’s been 20 years and it’s time for the cottage to be re-thatched. This is the cottage that my grandparents bought when they first arrived in Dorset and the place where I spent all my holidays as a child. The windows are really high as it used to be the village school and the teachers didn’t want the children to be distracted by interesting goings on in the lane outside.
The thatcher and his assisant are doing a grand job as you can see. My mum mentioned ‘Mr R’ to John the thatcher and he was very enthusiastic and is bringing his wife and their book group to the launch. If only he could have helped Jack and Sadie with their leaky roof in chapter 10…
And you need a good head for heights… I feel dizzy.
I feel slightly odd, like I’m actually living in two parallel worlds; or, at the very least, jet-lagged and trying to zoom between two time zones. Only rather than London/ Los Angeles, the zones are 2010 and 1941. I disappear to write and vanish into wartime Tyneford, then return to the kitchen for a cup of tea, a chat with Mr S and to make a phone call or two, and I feel very discombobulated. Time-lagged.
When I approach the end of a draft the story takes over and I start to think incessantly about it. I don’t sleep very well and, when I do, I dream of Dorset long ago. Out walking with Mr S, he complains that I’m quiet, but it’s not quiet in my mind, or at leas they’re not quiet, since they are chattering very loudly in my head. Before you start to panic, and think you need to send Mr S or Jocasta or Agent Stan concerned e-mails, let me assure you that this is a hazard of the job. Many writers talk about hearing snatches of conversation between their characters, and that part of getting into a story is learning to listen to them.
When that first draft is finished and set aside for a few weeks to rest and simmer, it will become peaceful again. My noisy characters will be held inside the manuscript, waiting to be read so that they can talk again. For now, I might go out to the summerhouse and hide, but somehow I expect they’ll be waiting for me there, impatient to get on with the story.
It’s so good to be back in Dorset. Within a week I start to pine for green fields. The snow has almost gone here, just a smattering of white across the high ground. I think I timed it very well, carefully avoiding the evil slush.
Emails are flying back and forth as Sceptre (and my mum) try to organise the launch of Mr R and begin to arrange events for the book group tour. (If you want me to visit your book group, click on the link at the top of the page and leave a message – or email me at: mrrosenblum AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk). I’ll be very well behaved and will even bring my own biscuits.
Yet, while all this is going on, I’m hurtling towards the end of Fred. She even has a title. I can’t sleep for Elise and Mr Rivers wandering through my dreams. All I want to do at the moment is write. I have notebooks and files and scraps of paper, all filled with scribbles for the last few chapters and these are slowly making their way into the story. If only they could all stroll off into a sunset as lovely as this one…
I couldn’t resist posting this picture of my grandparents’, Paul and Margot, looking so chic after a country snowstorm in the 1950s. My grandmother looks particularly fetching in her blouse and slacks.
The festive season was so much fun, but I am really glad to be snuggled at home writing again. Jocasta is busily preparing the paperback edition of Mr R and has asked me to find some photos of my grandfather, Paul, who was one of the inspirations behind Jack. I sent her the pictures through and she called straightaway to remark on how handsome and elegant Paul is. Jack is many things – determined, obsessive, tender, ‘five foot three and a half inches of sheer tenacity’ – but he is neither handsome nor elegant.I found myself oddly glad that Jocasta had observed the differences between the two men as well as the similarities.
I hope my grandfather would be proud of Mr R – even though he was never really a fan of fiction, never quite understanding why writers felt the need to make things up when the world is already chock-full of fantastic stories. I suspect he would not approve of Jack. He’s too rash and impetuous for his taste. And Paul would consider himself a far superior golfer.
I love winter. There is something about the cold weather that makes me want to sit by the fire and write. It’s too cold to venture out to the winter house across the ice-field terrace and arctic lawn, but Mr S has the woodburner blazing. I also love the seasonal food. Slow cooked stews, stroganov with cardamon rice, and most of all the cakes. This is the time of my grandmother’s sugar dusted vanilla crescents, marzipan stollen, gingerbread and the legendary Pffefferkuchen.
Christmas is marked each year by the search for the lost Pfefferkuchen. This is a chewy biscuit made with mixed peel, mixed spice, chopped nuts, sugar and egg whites, which my grandmother and her sisters used to make. Unfortunately, the recipe was recorded in my grandmother’s usual haphazard fashion: ‘chop sufficient nuts and fruit, cook in an oven that’s hot enough, until they’re done.’ No one is left who can remember the precise proportions so every December my mother, sister and I try to make the perfect Pfefferkuchen – ‘less sugar’, ‘just bash the nuts’ – and every year we fail. Inevitably our biscuits don’t rise, the texture is all wrong, and yet our quest for the lost Pfefferkuchen has become a memory in itself. Hmm. I’m getting hungry. I think it’s time for elevenses and perhaps a slice of stollen.
This is the teapot that I really want to pour my tea from. It was made my Polly at Hodder.
And from the back…