It’s been quite a busy summer. Some non-horticultural readers of this blog might have found my obsession with the two National Gardens Scheme Open Days a bit obsessive – and I suppose I ought to apologise to them. But I’m afraid I won’t. This blog reflects the chaos that is life, although I do try to see longer-term patterns that are of more general interest and applicability. In the case of the Open Days, I’d ask any irritated readers to reflect that we raised some £1,400 for Charities, such as the MacMillan Cancer Nurses. As I get older, I realise that life and health are inextricably mixed and that disease and pain are not just about death: they profoundly affect the way we experience ourselves, and the times we are living through. Health matters: nothing lasts longer than pain and pleasure is sadly so fleeting.
Sometimes people ask me whether I’m enjoying retirement. My answer is that I haven’t retired, as such. I still do what I enjoy doing, even if sciatica, slightly creaking joints and an increasing intolerance for extremes of heat and cold, sometimes make simple tasks last an eternity. The same goes for Maisie, although her afflictions are different to mine. So we both lead active lives, but perhaps less energetically than was the case a decade ago. As our bodies have slowed down, we have both tried to cut time-wasting bullshit. So we neither of us sit on committees, if we can possibly avoid them. There are other things we stay clear of too, but perhaps it would be invidious to mention them. In a nutshell, for us, retirement means doing what we want to do and not what others expect us to do. And in my case, that means writing – and all the stuff that goes with publication and subsequent PR and publicity. Unlike some other more elderly authors, I don’t write for the sake of writing. I write for my readers; for people to read me. And that’s why I take the promoting of my books so seriously. And make no mistake, it’s great to meet readers – even those who are critical. You’re never too old to improve.
At this precise moment, I’m very busy promoting my book on Stonehenge, for its publishers, Head of Zeus. A couple of days ago I was signing stock copies at Hatchards in Piccadilly, and I’m delighted to say the book will be in their Christmas Catalogue. In a week’s time I’m doing an illustrated talk in Peterborough Library (in the John Clare Theatre) and there are signings later in the autumn in Salisbury, Spalding, London and others are being organised, too. Very shortly I’ll be receiving page proofs of The Way, The Truth and The Dead, Alan Cadbury’s second mystery. There was talk of editing this book down to a more commercial length (it’s a bit longer, even, than The Lifers’ Club), but I’m glad to say those plans have now been dropped. Neither myself, nor my editor, Liz Garner, could see how such severe cuts could not damage the mood and atmosphere of the book. And besides, we’d already cut it pretty harshly, ourselves. So the current plan is to print early in the New Year, with copies going out to our patient Subscribers, probably in March. Paperbacks would be published for release into the book trade, in May.
Over winter, I’ll be writing a short book on the British landscape for Penguin. And I have to confess, I’m looking forward to it enormously – and I’ll have more to say about it once I’m under-way. And for the first time in my life, I even know what I’ll be writing, when that one’s finished. So the next couple of years of ‘retirement’ look like they’re going to get a bit frantic. Which is fine by me!