Friday, 22 January 2010

In defence of writers

This is not the first piece I've read from Susan Hill setting out her stall as a proper writer and firmly pushing others out of her self-determined charmed circle of the real thing. The real thing being limited to William Trevor, Helen Simpson, Alice Munro and, umm, herself.
Why does she waste her breath and her callused writers finger on telling us to step aside and get out of her way, that she and a few others are the Queen Bees of writing and that drones are beneath contempt?
What, exactly, is she so worried about? She is a published writer with, let me just check, yes, she tells us, 43 books to her name. Why can't she be gracious and enjoy the fact that people are writing, they are playing with words, creating stories, shaping ideas, articulating thoughts, having fun with words, working hard with words, and most importantly getting better at using words? Surely she can't be worried that without her name attached to a piece of writing that Jo and Joanna Public might not realise (they haven't received the training) it is of worth?
Her language is so full-on, so angry, and the article is self-labelled as a rant, but I can't see what's being threatened that should cause such an outpouring of venom. It seems so contrary to sense. Does she also want to restrict reading to those who are professional readers? It seems on a par, in terms of bonkersness and pomposity. Do we have a saturation point for reading and is Hill concerned that if we fill up on Big Macs (tweets, blogs, amateur stuff) we won't have room for Chateaubriand (Susan Hill)?
Hill comes out of this like a devilish anti-children's laureate, wanting to curtail self-expression, and deny a platform to any who have not trained or worked hard at writing for fifty years (at least), and her flip attitude to disadvantage does her no favours either. For anyone who's worked in the arts as I have for over twenty years (those are MY credentials) and has seen the amazingly positive impact art can have on individuals and communities when they are encouraged to participate and use their imaginations, Hill's opinions are unpalateable nonsense.
Got that off my chest then. Get writing everyone.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The fear

Before I forget the nuances I'm forcing myself to share the fear. It's an old lady fear, a gut wrenching, bowel liquifying terror. It's new, this year, not felt before and I am hatefully feeble in its grasp.
This morning I was rigid with it, shoulders stiff and unlovely, neck hunched strangely, legs jellied and cowardly. I stood tentatively perched on the ground, not firmly rooted as I love to be, and felt the anger at my fear flooding through from head to heart and back.
It's the ice. The slick, polished, sheen of sheet ice that stretches from door to barn, to barn, to barn. Yesterday's thaw sent chill melt water running across all hard surfaces and overnight the slow streams have bonded into a continuous terror run; my very own glacier.
As I pulled on the layers, with two pairs of trousers to coddle grazed knees, I was brave and fearless. As I opened the door and took my first step, I was old and feeble, sad and scared, unable, thankfully, to curl into helplessness, as I set about feeding the livestock. But every step was tortuous, no following the crow's flight, rather plotting the least nerve-racking route, buckets in hand.
I felt like this at Christmas when the ice was almost as bad as today, and had a small fall on the road, grazing knees, but more importantly, grazing my confidence in my own infallibility to tend to the practical things around the farm, whatever the circumstances. I'm a handful of years off fifty but today I feel ancient and bruised and sad, and want, with all my heart, for the ice to melt and join the river waters and stay away.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow hund

The web is chockful of images of animals in the snow, but there's no harm in adding more to the heap. Here's Fenn, in her element. It's what Bernese Mountain dogs are made for. Snow, sharp cold air and someone or something to play with. Watching her zoom through the powder, creating her own mini mayhem, is a delight. She's happy as a Bernese Mountain dog in the snow.
The only peculiarity about the weather is that it makes the dogs more protective; I've heard more nuanced growling than usual when visitors and deliveries make their precarious way down the track.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Frozen duck

Two brace of duck have been hanging in the workshop for nearly a week and they are tonight's supper. But they can't be plucked. They have frozen solid. So now they hang from the shotgun hooks in the kitchen in a desperate attempt to defrost them in time for plucking, dressing and cooking for mates. If they get here.
Either way, Donald and his friends are as stiff as soldiers. The next question is whether plucking them in the usual outhouse is an option or if it can be done in the kitchen without causing a feathery and downy mayhem, the consequences of which I have to live with for months.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Making a scene...a snow scene

Because I am in the middle of writing a report, I should NOT be blogging, but here are some photos of the farm this morning, snowed in and rather wonderful. Keep toasty.