A rainbow from the gloom of rain across Blackheath last week, just when I was needing one.
The title for this post is poking a bit of fun, as my friends & I have a running tally of phrases that would make bad/pop book titles – riffing on ‘The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake’ which I will admit that I haven’t read. The title is absurd, and we’ve had fun coming up with others. I think ‘The Uncanny Sensuality of Roasted Artichokes’ was a favourite.
All of this is to say that last week, a pile of things occurred to change my summer entirely, so I went from plans to spend all of June modelling in Bruges and very possibly all of July and half of August teaching in Scotland, to not doing either of those things. Instead, I’m going to Vienna, New York, Lithuania, France, and Bulgaria, for various durations and for various reasons. I also anticipate that those too are subject to some amount of change, because you never know how something will pan out.
In the past week, major potential plans relating to writing projects went up in smoke in a seriously distressing way, and all of these changes actually had nothing to do with me, or any of the large effort I’d put into the plans, but were variously due to disorganisation, poor communication, bad decisions, lack of funds, and people not paying attention. One is never pleased to be reminded of one’s insignificance, but as a writer, perhaps I should consider it good for me in the long run.
The bright side of this is that based on my previous plans, I’d had no idea when I’d collect Vespa from Les Adrets in the South of France, where I spent the winter house-sitting, and now I’m going to go down in the peak of the season when the weather should be as far from the chill November (when I travelled down) as possible, and I shall ride back through Provencal fields of lavender with no fixed necessity as to when I need to come back.
Timing is good, too, for my trip to Vienna in the first week of May, to visit my friend Megan who has been writing about her valiant experiences as an au pair at Jane Eyre, Fraulein Maria, and Me, and who kindly invited me to stay. The circumstances of this have worked out very well (granted they go to plan!) because as much as I wanted to go to Vienna, there was no way I was going to stay with the family for whom Megan is au pair (read her blog and you shall understand why). However, fate had it that Megan made friends with an elderly French nun who happens to live around the corner, who is going to France for the month of May, and who invited Megan to invite friends to stay if she wished. Yes, please! This means I’ll get to see Megan for a more substantial visit (she stayed for one night a few weeks ago when travelling to London and Scotland for her aunt & uncle’s wedding).
I’ll also get to visit the Josephinum, the second most significant place to go (after Florence) to see anatomical wax models made by the workshop of La Specola, arranged by Felice Fontana and crafted by Clemente Susini. All of this is to do with my poetry play, Venus Heart, which I’ll be editing in Vienna.
So that’s Vienna and France.
New York, Lithuania, and Bulgaria, are family-related trips, all of which I hope to treat as retreats to read, and to focus on poetry. In the cinders of last week, I went back to that which I am best at – poetry – and realised that I have enough strong, edited, post-Darwin’s Microscope poems (quite a few which have come out in various anthologies and publications) to make a manuscript. So I’m considering, arranging, and editing.
I beat myself up regularly about ‘being productive,’ but what is productivity? Is it words written, things read, things published? The recent audio collaborations I’ve done have got me thinking differently about some of my projects, and while I’m still paper-book-orientated, I’m beginning to see the merit in things to download, things to listen to, things to hear. I’m back to not knowing what will happen with my zillion-and-one projects, but I hope to adapt so that eventually these stories will have an audience – because isn’t that the point of telling stories?
Finally, I’ve had brilliant support through this. Dani has learned that the first appropriate reaction is to say, ‘those bastards,’ no matter what the circumstance. Not all of my friends knew the details or even that anything was wrong, but have been brilliant, inspiring, helpful, and supportive nonetheless – and those that did know were even more so.