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Okay, I knew I’d do it. Here’s a picture of the kittens, Schubert and Tilly (one guess which is which). Today I watched as by turns they climbed as high up a tree as they could manage, teetering on a branch. They think they can stalk birds invisibly through the branches and undergrowth. We can’t bring ourselves to tell them that they are actually as bright as neon signs in the January gloom.

Not that they’d listen.

Schubert and Tilly 4 months

As soon as we wake, we know it’s the sharpest frost yet this season. Just lying in bed, the air — or imagined air — feels like the holidays.

Of course, we have to struggle up and get E moving — a difficult job after many late nights of first play performances then yet another concert last night (samba band, choir, and wind band – heavens!). To his credit, by after breakfast he’s awake enough to notice the lightening sky, brushes his teeth looking out the new (lowered) windows, over the fields and out to Blean Wood. He stands at one, I stand at the other, and we don’t need to say much. Fine mist rises from the tops of hedges, and every branch and leaf, blade of grass, stands out in white relief. He’s out the door at twenty to eight, no doubt sliding first down, then up the hill to the bus stop.

Losing You launch tonight. Some long-standing friends will be there, some new ones, and doubtless others I’ve never clapped eyes on! Good. This morning I’m feeling thankful for all sorts of things.

Tree in winter frost

(image from a British wildlife site)

Yikes! I’m grateful (often) for the lack of paper in my life, but not (often) for the stacks of unopened, emboldened messages in my inbox. Sigh. I am grateful too (very often) for the rich tapestry of my many-threaded life, but not (usually) for the multi-tasking it demands of me.

However. Small potatoes compared to the fruitful, thoughtful week away: plans, writing, pin-drop silence. As predicted, lots and lots of fog, rain and general greyness — hence no lovely photos. And all of our photos from previous years seem to be buried in the bowels of the other computer. Oh dear. But here’s a taste, a photo that at least captures some of how the gorgeous Lake District looks this time of year (photo by Glen Morris):


conistonwaterlakelandcamweb.jpgI ventured out twice in a week (except for village walks). The second time I went to Brantwood (Ruskin’s home, and a wonderful rainy day visit, great to go back after several years), and Jumping Jenny’s, the cafe there (visited, I admit, many times a year! Delicious well-made food, and beautiful views). Despite the persistant and breathtaking-in-itself rain, Coniston Water was as complex and edifying as ever (this shot is taken from The Cumbrian Directory ). The roads were lined with fallen beech leaves that when wet darkened to pure russet.

By 3.30 pm it was nearly dark, but each day just before real darkness fell, 15 minutes of gold suffused everything — even through the clouds and fog. I stepped out the door more than once just to look, thinking there must be sun. But there wasn’t. Like when you’re walking down the street before people draw their curtains: inside you see warm sidelights, home. Only it’s outside, and 15 minutes later someone somewhere realises it’s nighttime, lowers the blinds.

I’m away writing. This is a good thing. No computer. (Probably) even better. Notice my shaking hands.

However. I’m resolved. And relieved to be getting my head down with the new novel (by which I was ambushed two weeks ago). And some more poems. And some of the memoir.

It’s cold where I’m going, and maybe not even much sun. The heat will have been off since October.

And yet. The views are spectacular. I know them and love them well.

Til then.


From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.