|I am feeling pleased because the BBC has greenlit my little show for kids, so I’m writing this on a train to Macclesfield where we are about to go into production, filming in August, so bang goes the summer holiday.
The other thing that happens this July month is my 10 part series about the moon for Radio 4, If you are near a set at 345 from the 13th July onwards, listen in for 15 mins a day for all kinds of moony things, and the timeline of Apollo 11.
It’s been a busy time and it will stay busy for a while, but I have stopped going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5am because it was turning me into my mother.
Mrs Winterson style went something like ‘I had to get up at half past four this morning to get everything done, and tonight I won’t have time to go to bed at all…’ For full effect this has to be read out loud in a northern accent.
I realise that this autumn I will have a big book out for kids: THE BATTLE OF THE SUN, and a picture book for little kids for Christmas, THE LION THE UNICORN AND ME, and the TV thing, called INGENIOUS.
I am not sure how this has happened. The strange thing is that the two books were both responses to my complete and utter defeat and depression.
The Christmas story was originally written for The Times in 2007. I had been in Holland to give a big lecture and I was in such a state that for the first time ever I didn’t think I could perform. I had broken up with my partner in the summer and I had reason to hope that we might be making a way back to each other, but the night before the lecture we had had a very bad phone call and it was clear that everything was over.
I did do the lecture, and rather well, but at great personal cost. When I got back to freezing home – and no milk in the fridge, and no one there, and I had so hoped there would be someone there – I couldn’t even face lighting the fire or cooking, so I put on my old tweed coat, ate cold baked beans with a spoon from the tin, and started the Xmas story.
I stayed up most of the night writing the story, and in the morning, when it got light, I felt very much better. It was one of those acts of grace, a thing that comes like a gift, and makes you feel you are not alone, not worthless, not lost.
It turned out to be one of the best short pieces I have ever done, and Kate Wilson, editor at Scholastic, read it to her little girl, and they both loved it, and she emailed me in the new year and asked if they could publish it as an illustrated book.
And that is what is happening.
But it is only right to say that after that moment of grace things got much worse, impossibly so, until March, when in that early Easter when in snowed, and I had taken to my bed for four days with Mark Doty’s glorious DOG YEARS, for no reason, I wanted to start writing again.
What I began was The Battle of the Sun, and I did not know how it would work or what I was writing; it was just necessary to write. So everyday I went to work in my studio and stayed there for about 5 hours, and just went with the process, which became more and more absorbing, and took me back to read Jung: MYSTERIUM CONJUNCTIONIS, which is his arcane book about alchemy, and not for the faint-hearted, but if you liked AION, you can probably cope with MC.
But you don’t have to because The Battle of the Sun will do it for you.
I finished it on my birthday last year, in Paris, where I was staying with Natalie Clein, the cellist whom I love. I do love her; it is sometimes as simple as that. If you have never heard her play, get her recording of the ELGAR CELLO CONCERTO – just amazing…
So the book finished, I was just moving forwards, when I faced two deaths in the next 4 months: Pat Kavanagh, who had been my agent at the most formative time of my writing life, and with whom I had had a very serious affair. For me, if I love, it doesn’t stop, even if the shape changes. Love is as strong as death.
And then my father…
What a time… so if I say that I am in a good place now, and that everything has changed – both at a deep level, and on the surface… I keep remembering that the the opening line of my book Written on the Body, is ‘Why is the measure of love loss?’ But the closing line is ‘I don’t know if this is a happy ending, but here we are let loose in open fields.
So the book I am longing to read but haven’t yet is THE CASE FOR GOD, by Karen Armstrong.
She is such a good writer, and has a way of opening the spaces. I like her enormously as a person, and I love what she does with ideas and with words. She was a nun, lost her faith, left the convent, then found her way back to a different spirituality.
This will be a good read.
And in a minute – 40 years ago – we landed on the moon, Maybe….
And I am finishing this outside, looking at the moon, yellow and huge above the trees, and thinking how good it is to have life, love, work.
And cats and a garden.
Back to top« Go back