Monday, February 27, 2006

Last week was not my most productive, but it was certainly fun and relaxing (a nice change). There were six of us who were roommates at university (dare I say it, a decade ago!) and one of The Roommates, the sassy CEK came to stay for three days - oh joy! such an unadulterated pleasure. She is a writer and filmmaker and had great suggestions for my new literary endeavours. As luck would have it, it rained... and rained...and rained...and rained some more. Heavily. With determination. Not the sort of rain one walks in if one can help it. So we didn't and instead watched successive episodes of Firefly, a most excellent creation by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. If you've heard of the film Serenity, this is the TV series which preceded it. Moreish and wonderful stuff. Watch it before seeing the movie as it fleshes everything out.

On Friday I travelled to Brighton to tie up some loose ends for the Africa Book Centre, which is now located there. As luck would have it my train was delayed on the way there and on the way back. By the time I got home, the journey had taken more than six and a half hours. A not-so-gentle reminder of why I am working from home from now on!

It is difficult to describe the intense satisfaction of wandering through from the kitchen after breakfast to the study (with perhaps a little detour to throw some laundry in the washing machine en route). Boring domesticity perhaps, but balm to the soul for me after all the horrendous hours commuting in the past few years.

From my study window I look out on our gnarled and craggy apple trees. Since the tree surgeons' visit last month, they've taken on a wonderful sculptural quality - somewhat entlike. A collared dove (normally resident on our chimney pot) has decided the new minimalist look is pleasing to her and taken to hanging out in the tree closest to the house. A flock of starlings visits daily for worms (we have good, earthwormy soil) and enthusiastic sploshings in the birdbath. There's a wonderful robin which I have named Fearless, for his curiosity when we're in the garden. Blackbirds, pretty sparrows...the list would go on except that I need to consult my birdbook as I don't know all my British birds yet. And, oh yes, at night the owls come out...

Can you tell it is distracting to work from home? but oh, the pleasure...

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Francofinn and I are working on a reading guide to African fiction. She came down from London yesterday and we spent the afternoon trying to identify what we do and don't like about other reading guides on the market (and therefore the style of our own). Although there are several literature guides to African fiction, there are none in a popular style that don't have the feel of reference works. We are writing something that should (we hope) make you want to go out and read everything you can get your hands on. That's the optimistic idea anyway...There's so much great stuff out there.

Just next to the station is a wonderful farmers' market - the first in the UK to open six days a week, and hugely successful it has proved to be too. We love it there. The giri and I do our veggie shopping there every week - the perfect way to make sure we're cooking seasonally, and supporting local organic farmers into the bargain. We hope by next year to be growing most of our own, of course, but the garden was well and truly trashed while the builders were here, so it will be a while before we get it up to speed again. The local birds don't seem to mind, though, we have loads visiting every day - maybe because the garden has run rather wild - and I've seen a fox twice this past week on the bridle path behind the house.

Anyway, getting sidetracked, back to the farmers' market. It is located in the old railway goods shed and, raised on a balcony overlooking the market itself, there is a super duper restaurant serving food made from whatever's fresh in the market that day. We have found this to be slightly hit & miss, ranging between excellent and good (ie. nothing will be terrible, but it won't consistently be fantastic), especially for us poor vegetarians. Francofinn arrived in time for a late lunch (does one need an excuse?!) in the farmers' market. Yumm. A bramble kir later and all seems right with the world...

I have been sent the perfect quotation by another editing buddy: "Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound strive for obscurity" Nietzsche (it would be - the arch nemesis of my undergrad Moral Reasoning class. Funny how then I couldn't stand his work, and now I think he makes so much sense!) Perhaps I should send it to my writer, or would that be cruel?


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Monday night took the train up to London for our non-fiction reading group. The fiction group has been meeting for over a year now, but this was the first meeting of the non-fiction group - just three of us showed up. But hey, small is beautiful, right?! Excellent folks. Book chosen was very inspiring, if practical: THE GREEN BELT MOVEMENT: Sharing the Approach & the Experience by Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Definitely an awe-inspiring lady - her achievements are legend. Made me want to go out and plant another tree. Since we have cherry and apricot trees arriving next month to join the apple trees in our garden, I won't have that long to wait!

OK, now I feel terrible. The latest headline reads "Man Shot by Cheney Suffers Heart Attack"! This is not what I wish for my writer (even though his manuscript is mind-numbingly boring). Given the large number of people who are keen to have books published, how does this sort of stuff get accepted?! Big words do not equal intelligence. And I can't stand writers who make their arguments so convoluted that you need an hour to decipher a sentence. Frankly, it makes me suspicious that he doesn't actually know what he is talking about. Oh for simplicity.

Woe is me - I am stuck home with the flu. Blocked nose. Clogged head. Gunky eyes. Blech.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

I shouldn't laugh at another's misfortune, but I have to admit a chuckle at the classic headline today "Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter."

Speaking of headlines, I find it an interesting exercise to compare headlines globally. Basic example is checking out yahoo's selected top stories on vs. (never mind the rest of the majority world) - can be most illuminating!

I am editing my first manuscript as a freelancer. Oh, the pain. To protect the identity of the author I shall give it a fictitious title alarmingly close to the original and giving a taste of what I have to put up with: let us call it ANGUISH OF THE MIND. Aargh! He should be shot. Where is Cheney when I need him?!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

After living across several continents and making amazing friends along the way, I have also managed to shed them too (and very sadly) through insane schedules and an inability to juggle my schedule sufficiently well to find the space to write emails and letters. Perhaps this new format will lend itself to a better way of connecting and reconnecting.

I have high hopes for 2006. Just retired from a particularly backbreaking and soul-destroying stint (four hour daily commutes - never, ever again). I will work from home now - writing (a book on the pleasures and joys of African fiction); reviewing (let's hope this takes off); more writing (a novel - two paragraphs yesterday, although who knows where it is headed); editing (freelance, for a small socialist press); event co-ordination (more Africa related themes); gardening (yay!); and learning how to keep house (a lot harder than one might think). I hope that by picking things to work on that I actually want to do - except for housekeeping, which can only be viewed as necessity rather than joy (I'm not that far gone yet) - my life will magically rearrange itself into more manageable blocks. I expect my own personal Grand Adventure. The only drawback is that I'm just not cut out to be this organized! I am curious to see what, if anything, I've accomplished by February 2007.