August here is not comfortable. Unless you are a cactus. And frankly, even the cacti aren’t looking too happy at the moment.
The garden is on hold. Every morning, Geoff gets up at silly o’clock and waters the plants we put in earlier in the year. The new fruit trees have four inches of wood chippings shielding their roots from the baking hot sun and they seem to be surviving after a very shaky start.
Las Señoras Ponedoras – the Ladies who Lay – and Jonathan Livingstone Chicken spend most of their time skulking under the Chicken Palace, too hot to want to scratch about much. Jonathan has taken to crowing at 2am, because it is easier to make the effort when the sun has gone down.
The Dog of the Blog, the Tiny Terror and Ted spend much of their time indoors. We feel guilty leaving them outside, even though they have plenty of water, shade under the orange trees and a make-shift shelter in the dog pound.
It is HOT. Thirty five degrees in the shade and humid is not the worst it gets.
We have had visitors, a party at which it rained (unbelievable!) and a trip to a tiny village that boasts street names such as Calle Clint Eastwood. I have been tempted to try to put fingers to keyboard many times since I last posted a blog entry, but the heat…
The party and Clint will have to wait for another time.
So what has been going on behind the flapping fly curtains at Cortijo Limonero? Well, apart form the aforementioned but un-blogged activities, I have finally got around to working on my longest standing on-the-back-burner project.
I hate to think how many times I have skirted around collecting some of my poetry together in one place. Friends have told me on and off for years that I should do something with the poems I have written over the last several decades. It always seemed rather a huge project to tackle, especially when many of them were handwritten in various notebooks that were somewhere in the pile of boxes that moved with me from house to house, from the UK to Spain.
When we moved to Almeria province, we fell in with a rather disparate band of musicians, aspiring musicians and poets, who meet from time to time in various bars under the name of Travelling Acoustic. Imagine the love child of an English folk club, a youth club get together with guitars at the beach and a jam night. Add tapas, San Miguel and warm evenings and you have a rough idea of what I am talking about.
It was at the Travelling Acoustic evening in a wonderful little bar in Lubrin that I read some of my poems for the first time in years. I have a feeling that Dog hair, feathers, dust was one and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark was the other. I was quite overwhelmed by the kind reception they received and highly chuffed that this group of people seemed to really ‘get’ me and where I was coming from.
In the months that followed, I was asked to read more poems at the Travelling Acoustic evenings and also at a poetry night organised by Harvey, a giant of a man with a huge heart and the ability to Get Things Done. Harvey made it his mission to persuade me to go for it and publish.
The world has changed considerably since I wrote my first poems. Man has landed on the moon (yes, seriously! It shocked me, too, when I realised.) Computers have become household items, so I have been able to abandon my original system of writing lines on paper, cutting them into chunks and sticking them to my desk in different orders to see what works best.
It has also become possible to put together a book without posting manuscripts hither and yon and being rejected umpteen times. This was what clinched it for me: life is too short and there is too much else to do, so much more fun to be had. If I could put a book together without it sapping the life out of me, I was up for it. Who knew? If it worked in with the rest of my life, it might encourage me to finish the novel that has spent two years festering its way to chapter fourteen!
Encouraged by Harvey and the TA crowd, I decided to take the plunge. I delved into my stack of banana boxes, pleased that my obsessive listing and labelling had paid off. I soon had a small pile of notebooks and journals to sift through.
Many of the poems and sketches I had written in them were for very specific occasions and people. There was, for example, Off White and the Seven Dwarves, a short pantomime, entirely written in verse. I wonder how many remember that one from Hove, circa 1983! Leaving things that were too specific to mean much to anyone who wasn’t there at the time, there were still enough poems to make up a slim volume.
Finding the poems was the easy part. There followed weeks of typing up, finding online tools to format and prepare the book and jiggling page numbers, headers, footers, cover designs and so forth. Electronic proofs buzzed to and fro and the mountain of printouts grew with each typo spotted and corrected, each alignment adjusted, each image sharpened or re-sized. New poems crept in to fill empty pages and I even ended up with a couple to spare.
Today, while I was working myself up to restoring order to a house too long neglected, I received a call from a courier service. The nice man said he had a package to deliver, but he did not recognise our address. I explained where we are – pass the cemetery, go over the iron bridge and we are near the turning where the joy riders crashed the hearse they had stolen *– and arranged to meet him on the road. I assumed he had a parcel for Geoff, as I rarely order anything online.
Imagine my surprise when the parcel was for me! I looked at the label and scratched my metaphorical head, wondering who would send me a mystery box, contents unknown.
I am slightly ashamed at how long it took for the penny to drop. This was my first consignment of copies of the book, ordered on the advice of my lovely agent/encourager/chief catalyst. He is planning a tour, starting in October and he says it is well to be prepared.
So here they are and here I am, wondering if I should get myself some tour t-shirts on the go. While I am at it, perhaps I should order one each for Harvey and Geoff with “CREW” emblazoned on the chests. I fear that may be taking things a little too far.
* another story for another time, but it really did happen and the road sign was out of commission for a while.