Spring always feels like a good time to launch new projects, don’t you think? I see that the Penguin online story project starts next week. It looks good, but I don’t think I’ll be following it. It’s not sour grapes exactly, more like regret.
Early on in the discussion they suggested I be involved. My lovely editor, Charlie, called me and said:
“Darling, I’m not nagging, I’m not chasing, don’t think for one moment I am, but this one tinsy-winsy little project? Won’t you think about it? It could be just your thing, short stories, back in the saddle and all that.”
I said I’d think about it, even went into the shiny offices on The Strand to meet the team who are putting it together – they’re all so young! But the awful truth, the fact that caused a sinking sensation in me like the day of the French vocab test when you know you haven’t learned the words, the truth was that I couldn’t find an idea for it. Just like all the other times.
When I used to have the privilege of being asked to speak to audiences about writing, this was always the question uppermost on their minds.“Where do you get your ideas from?” they’d say. I never knew how to answer them: the idea for my first book just popped up one day while I was dead-heading the roses. And despite all my attempts to recreate the moment (let me tell you, no rose near me ever keeps a dead head for long) nothing has ever popped up again.
Hey ho, as my father used to say. Time to whistle a new tune. An intriguing offer has come up: a friend my uncle Bernard’s is in the book trade, runs a little second-hand bookshop in North London. Mr Marsh-Ayre is his name. He’s thinking of retiring, apparently, and is off to the south of France to look at gites. All right for some, eh?
The idea would be for me to take over running the shop for the next few months, with a view to buying it when he eventually retires. Which all sounds like rather a good plan to me. A fresh start, away from my sorry attempts to begin a new book without that fire-wisp of inspiration, and among other people’s books at last!