A Summer of Very Little Growth
The photo shows me with our this year's beetroot harvest - the whole of it!
The carrots did slightly better, I'm pleased to say. We have some green beans. The onion harvest wasn't bad at all. The potatoes were pretty much a disaster...
This is no reflection on my partner, Paul, who did most of the work and is an experienced gardener of many years' standing (and kneeling). The fault lay with the weather, and I know that many vegetable gardeners all over the UK this year (and possibly beyond) have had similar crop failures. Thank God that we can afford to buy instead from greengrocers, markets and so on. Although the quality may well be inferior and we'll have to spend more, we won't exactly starve. It's much harder for the farmers and others who grow food for a living... and of course the problems in some places overseas put our disappointments firmly in their place.
It's been that sort of summer all round for me. I started full of optimism, working on several different books, all at various stages of being written and revised. Ground dug over, seeds sown, green shoots appearing everywhere. And then the rain began. Or in my case, my Dad died. I've spent the summer trying to deal with that, both the practical ramifications and the sense of loss. Yes, he was old (nearly 89), and it had been half-anticipated for some time. But you never really expect someone close to you to die - or you are never truly prepared for it.
For weeks, since Dad's funeral, I've been sorting through his things and clearing out his house in Pontefract - the home I grew up in, from the age of six. It's almost done now, and the house is about to go on the market. I drove away from there yesterday morning, heading south for home, with a strange sense of dislocation and a huge sense of guilt. Not just the guilt that you tend to feel when someone you loved very much dies - the 'if only I'd done/said/not done/not said...' feeling - but guilt from knowing that I have achieved very little else this summer. I'm lucky not to have a 'proper' job - or I'd have had to struggle on somehow. I've done a bit of proofreading, but I've done very little (make that almost no!) actual writing. I've mulled things over, I've made a few plans, and I chanced upon a wonderful discovery on holiday in Brittany for the setting for one of my books. But I haven't written any of the actual words, sentences and paragraphs that go to make up a novel.
Not since June, when Dad died...
I know I have to start again soon, after this summer's failed harvest - but I can feel myself resisting it with every ounce of energy I've got.
Why? Perhaps it's fear. Fear of sowing more seeds - what if next year's harvest fails too? What if I get all tied up in a new book and then something else bad happens? Superstitions, irrational fears - these things surge up in many of us, I think, at times of shock and grief. And there's the biggest fear of all - what if I never write again?
I will, of course. But please hold me to that. I'll give you a progress report next month - when I hope to be holding in my hand something better than a single straggly beetroot stem.
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