Friday November 13th – Day 9
Woke early, but lacked the requisite motivation to get down to my desk. Walked up around Chertsey green to try and shake off the lethargy. Received an email from an Amazon representative informing me they couldn’t adjust the price of my novel, as the book had been placed with them by my publisher and, therefore, they own the distribution rights. Quite what that had to do with Amazon advertising the book at the wrong price, I’ve no idea. If there is any consolation, it was to be found in their not quoting data protection, an excuse for inaction that drives me up the wall. Forwarded the relevant emails to my publisher and hoped they could do what I couldn’t. I’ll hurry up and wait, as they say.
Although I’ve already introduced my third principal character, a young, black clandestine immigrant by the name of Daniel, I have now to start revealing his place in the story. This also means I need to have more information regarding his personal trials and tribulations which, though half-formed, are not yet adequately crystallized in my mind. This, very possibly, explains my lethargy. Not only after eight straight days at the keyboard is my bank of words beginning to run dry, but also my legs ache and my back is sore. It is strange how the body has the habit of reflecting the fitness of one’s cerebral matter. I don’t necessarily feel tired in the physical sense. Why would I when I have been sitting down for much, if not most, of the time? The problem is more the business of locating the right words and then assembling them in the appropriate order: my mind falls blank; my ears fill with tinnitus; and the rod I use for fishing my words from the pond of my mental thesaurus feels leaden in my hands. To employ an alternative metaphor, I’m reminded of that marvellous scene from Morecambe and Wise, the one in which André Previn informs Eric Morecambe he is playing the wrong notes, only to be told by Eric that he is, in fact, playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. Les Dawson also managed a similar discordant assembly. Sometimes, that’s how it gets you.
So, how do I find my way out of the jumble of notes? The answer, I hope, lies in a day separated from the keyboard, combined with a longer walk and, afterwards, a day of reading. I tend to keep three or four books on the go, switching from one to the other as the mood takes me: it’s also a process of filling the word-bank with words, as you can’t take them out until you’ve deposited sufficient; a bit like a high street bank and funds, I suppose. And what am I reading just now? Two books by Catherine Buckle, African Tears and Beyond Tears, both first-hand accounts of the land grabs by Mugabe’s war veterans in Zimbabwe. Buckle’s writing is searingly honest and her story no little distressing for a number of reasons: in March 2000, her 1,000 acre farm was occupied by so-called war veterans, many of them not old enough to have fought in the independence war. They claimed the farm was left to her family by her forebears. It wasn’t. Catherine and her husband bought their farm from Mugabe’s administration post-independence. Losing the farm cost Buckle not only her marriage, but also her livelihood and the livelihoods of her family of cherished farm-workers. Many white farmers were murdered, beaten and raped while the police and judiciary turned a blind eye. The once productive lands now lie barren and untended, creating a shortage of food and a cost of living few can afford. The world, too, turned a blind eye and reading Buckle’s second journal, Beyond Tears, reminds me of the saying, and I paraphrase, ‘all it takes for evil to triumph, is for a few good men to do nothing’. Catherine Buckle has her own dedicated website, though today I notice the world has been denied access. Recently, I wrote to Cathy via email and have not heard back: the dark hands of the Zimbabwean authorities are at work and I fear for Cathy’s life. Also, I am reading FC Selous’ remarkable journal of his travels and adventures in South-East Africa through the second half of the nineteenth century, and Ian McEwan’s The Children Act. McEwan is a master of his genre and even though his conclusions may leave one feeling a shade bleak, I envy him both his choice of subjects and his craft.
That’s it for me today. Let’s hope I’ve found a fresh pair of eyes by the morning.
Ciao. Until tomorrow.
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