It may be because it's so close to our trip to Crete and it feels like I'll be away such a long time, but this last week seems to have been end-to-end catch-ups with friends; a fair amount of Pinot Grigio sunk but sometimes simply enjoying walks in spring sunshine, now it's finally here. Through Vallis woodland valley with Emily, at Heaven's Gate above Longleat with Niamh, along the river bank at Nunney with Rosie - all talented writers, incidentally - and on Thursday through the estate of Kings Weston House near Bristol with Steve Hennessy. Steve is a playwright; his themes are difficult subjects: damage and madness, usually - the stuff of ordinary life in fact. He's a fantastic wordsmith and above all a trader in integrity. And he's a brilliant friend - one of the hardest-working people I know, yet he's always got time to listen gently and give good counsel. We walked, as we talked, in the woodlands of the estate around Kings Weston; the socialist in me struggling as ever with the realist to acknowledge that without the arrogant vision of these 18th century grandees, without their ludicrous investment in sequoia and redwood from the other side of the known world, we would not have the landscapes that make England so beautiful today.
We linger in the gargoyled - and graffited - folly and Steve tells me of the neighbouring estate, Blaise Castle, which boasted among its many follies a Hermit Grotto, complete with loinclothed hermit who, for the entertainment of passing gentry, had to lurk in the cave for 7 years before getting any of his wages... no wonder so many went mad.
Also this week:
two excellent Writers Circle meetings, a Frome Writers Self-Help Group discussion, writers' supper with Alison, and on Friday it was Little Miss Sunshine dvd night. I often find it difficult to make distinctions between personal events and 'a writer's life', my self-set blog-brief - what's differently nourishing for a writer than for a person? I've had wonderful moments with friends and family but as Luke Wright says, a blog is not a private journal. So even though I don't spend much time shaping or filing these thumbnail experiences, they're all rooted somehow in the process of writing. A lot that I've enjoyed gets sifted out, but Little Miss Sunshine can stay. My favourite films all seem to be about dysfunctional outsiders, or else road movies; here's both rolled into one with humour, charm, and an enfant-sauvage indictment of US cultural values.
And apropos writing, thanks Luke for the pro-Frome puff - and thanks to the 312 viewers of onomatopoeia!