The Banker's Niece

Read exclusive extracts from my new novel The Banker's Niece. Click here for Chapter 1.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

24 hours

Today is Ellie’s day at the dogminder and my day off – my chance to have an ‘artist’s date’. (I’m not a proper artist of course, even though Frog insists I am, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to be and if I have enough dates, perhaps I’ll turn into one one day.) I have three choices of what to do. I could go and see Nina’s exhibition ( ), I could browse round clothes shops in Exeter, or I could do some writing for The Novel.
    The third choice is what I really want - or perhaps need - to do, I think, but it fills me with terror. What if I can’t do it? I’ll end up feeling even worse than I do already, not-writing. I can’t find out where Nina’s exhibition is, so I decide to try and do (no, not ‘try’, ‘do’, as Obi Wan Kenobi says in Star Wars) some writing for The Novel.
    As I head for a private corner of the next field but one (I have to be outside for first drafts. It’s the only place I feel free, or relatively so anyway) I see two magpies. An auspicious sign! I’m going to do it!
    I sit down, open my notebook and plunge in. An hour or so later I have ten pages, the last chapter of the rough, very rough First Draft of Novel. Hooray! I ring Frog to celebrate and to sort of get his permission to go into Exeter. ‘Have a good browse,’ he says. How kind.
    I don’t enjoy my browse. Winter clothes are so boring – expensive, sensible and grey. I go to the library instead and then to Waterstone’s where I treat myself to a copy of One Day which everyone is talking about and which Frog’s niece was reading when she came to stay two weeks ago. (I looked it up on the library computer and it had 49 reservations, so no chance of getting it there. My excuse for spending money.)
    I come home and lie in the garden. The sun is out and it’s almost warm. I deliberately don’t read and instead let my mind run over what I’ve done so far for The Novel and where I might go next. I feel guilty lying doing nothing (what don’t I feel guilty about? Frog would say) but then I realise that I am doing something. Writers are working even when it looks as if they’re just lying in the sun in the garden.
    Aren't they?
    We have a small swimming-pool in the garden (Yes, I know, disgusting isn’t it, and another thing to feel guilty about, but the man we bought the house from thirty years ago had MS and had it built because swimming was the only exercise he could do so who are we to complain) so I plunge in and feel wonderfully refreshed. All the makeup I put on to go into Exeter is smeared – I have mascara all over my cheeks – and my hair is a disaster. I feel like me again, instead of somebody smart and normal.
    Dog is delivered home and then she and I hear Frog’s distinctive car-hoot and run to the gate to greet him. He swims while I cook supper.
    I have some chilli ratatouille left over from the day before yesterday and some cooked runner beans from yesterday, so I fry up some onion and then add the left-overs and some beaten egg to make a sort of Spanish omelette. Frog eats it with relish, as he does almost everything. He is a delight to cook for.
    Neither of us can see anything whatsoever that we want to watch on television, so I wipe off the smudged mascara and squash my hair and drive into the village to look for a DVD and to get our weekly chocolate ration. (Frog by now is in a caftan, so can’t be seen in public, he says. I’m not sure why not.)
    I find 127 hours about the man who got stuck in a canyon and had to cut off his own arm to escape. It’s actually quite gripping and not just an adventure story, as he reviews his life while he’s there. Interesting. My novel is set over a short space of time too. Perhaps I need a stronger plot angle/gimmick/premise. 
    I eat my chocolate ration in one go while Frog nibbles a tiny bit of his and leaves the rest to eat throughout the week. That’s what we always do. He has to have chocolate I don't like so that I don't steal his when mine is all gone.
    I sleep badly, waking every two hours. In between waking, I’m half-awake, half-asleep. My sleep goes in cycles, like my migraines. It’s tiring. I should be able to relax after getting to the end of The First Draft, but now I’m worrying about whether I can do the rest. In some ways writing books is hell, but not-writing them is even worse. The trouble, I think, is that I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have the confidence that I can do it. But maybe all writers feel like that. You have to, if you’re not going to churn out the same thing over and over.
    We wake to a glorious day but before I walk Dog I succumb to temptation (leaving her whining in the kitchen), switch my computer on and read some of the new blog I’ve discovered, ‘What’s cooking?’ ( ). The author writes of her days in minute poetic detail. I wonder if I should try that myself.
    So I do. And here it is. My day, in minute detail. But not poetic, I think. I need more practice. Or maybe I should just saw off my leg to make it more gripping instead.


  1. Well I enjoyed reading this - and followed the link to the other blog too. Nice. What you have to do when writing a novel (my novelist friends tell me - ones who have actually finished them and begun others - is give yourself to the process completely, dive very deep. This is the challenge. I am about to take it up again - again.

  2. I'm sure that's right (about the diving deep) and I think that's what I find so scary and at the moment I seem to have too many other things going on to commit myself - or maybe that's just an excuse.
    Thanks again - for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.
    Maybe we (the readers of your blog) will hear more about your novel-in-progress some time.

  3. Lovely writing, deep and funny and real, I'm inspired to write some deeper stuff on my blog, I'm getting a bit twee! And vince is similarly enthusiastic about my cooking, and we have a similar chocolate routine..but there isn't any I don't like!