In early January, when I had just started Waterlog by the wonderful Roger Deakin, I had to stop reading in the evening because a teaching assignment took over my life.
Now that I am in the position to start writing and reading again, I have found myself struggling to get on with my own work, and opening the pages of Waterlog once again every evening has come as a relief, especially on days when I cannot find any motivation or enthusiasm for anything (and yes, in my case, the consecutive lockdowns haven't really fuelled a frenzy of creativity, but have rather stifled it).
As I have said before on here, I usually don't read non-fiction, but have found myself being fascinated by Robert Mcfarlane's work and, thanks to him, I am now a big fan of Roger Deakin. I read Waterlog with a pile of little stickers next to me and mark the pages where I find quotable passages, or when I encounter an intriguing place or fascinating character I want to know more about. It is the truly thrilling journey of a man who basically wild-swims his way around the British Isles - and I don't even like swimming... (Read a brilliant review of the book HERE)
Reading Roger Deakin's books is akin to a journey of discovery of nature, literature, lost skills and ways of life. It is also very often humorous - wry observations and deliciously funny little vignettes...
Most of all (and in these days of lockdowns, political and social conservatism and anguish about our liberties and our future), his work pays tribute to the freedom of thinking, moving, creating, getting lost in one's own world and in the natural world on our doorstep (or, such as in Wildwood, another one of his books, in countries far, far away...)
I often wonder what he would have made of our social media-dominated world, with its "curated" spaces and asceptic lifestyles...
It might be that the real rebels are not the urban, trendy crowds, all sucked up in their city consumerism and desperate wish to fit in with their chosen tribe, but the ones who dare to step outside.
The extract below was written in 1999... Imagine now!
Most of us live in a world where more and more places and things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about all this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands, by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official version of things. A swimming journey would give me access to that part of our world which, like darkness, mist, woods, high mountains, still retain most mystery. It would allow me a different perspective on the rest of landlocked humanity.
I urge you to read Roger Deakin's books: Waterlog, Wildwood and Notes from Walnut Tree Farm are all superb reads, especially during this lockdown.
You'll feel better for it.
I can't wait to go back to it later tonight...
A biography of Roger Deakin will be published in 2022, penned by writer Patrick Barkham.
I look forward to reading this as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!
After six weeks away from the manuscript of my third novel, The Right Place, I am slowly getting back to my first draft. I am still not sure how long I have before I have to stop again but I will try to make the most of the next few weeks. I have given up changing my schedules for the book as other things such as earning money need to take priority over the books in those days of global pandemic. So I am not putting any pressure on myself anymore to complete the book and it will be published whenever it is possible.
The Arcane/ArtPix HQ is always quiet over the Xmas holidays, as we never celebrate Xmas or The New Year.
We always keep this time to rest, sleep, walk, reflect and make plans for the months ahead - this year, obviously, things have been slightly different as we cannot plan anything...
On Thursday, we were lucky enough to enjoy my favourite kind of weather: cold and crisp but sunny and a gloriously blue sky.
So we jumped in our red car and headed to the Isle of Purbeck and more precisely to the Studland and Godlingston Heath Nature Reserve for some peace and quiet away from the horrid news. It was just fabulous.
The Agglestone Rock is perched slap bang in the middle of the nature reserve - our very own Dorset Hanging Rock, complete with mythological/folk story: also nicknamed The Devil's Anvil, the rock is supposed to have been hurled by the Devil from the Needles on the Isle of Wight - its target not very clear: Corfe Castle, Salisbury or Binton Abbey in Wool?
From the rock, you get a stunning view over Poole, Bournemouth, Brownsea Island and the ocean... You can also catch a glimpse of the white cliffs and The Needles on the Isle of Wight.
The village of Studland is simply beautiful and is really worth a gander...
It has a special atmosphere - it is a secluded place at ease with its wealth and surrounding beauty.
We even found a (closed) second-hand bookshop: what wouldn't we give to take over the building and turn it into our Arcane/ArtPix shop/venue! It would be the perfect location! I am a bit jealous...
We will go back to Godlingston Heath in the Spring, as there are many walks to do in this superb corner of Dorset.
Since March, I have read a few books but probably not as many as I could have.
I always try and read the books both for pleasure, but I cannot help to keep my author/writer's hat on - I keep noticing things here and there, and, most importantly, I LEARN from what I read to improve my own writing.
This is not a review blog, just a quick recap of the books which have kept me going during these challenging months.
Back in March, I started with a challenge: Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, which I chose because of its period (19th century) and its location (New Zealand, a place I'd like to know more about). If this novel is a massive writing achievement (the prose could have been written by a Victorian author, the sprawling scope of the story was quite mind-blowing and the amount of research necessary to write this book is astounding), I am sorry to say that I found it confusing and overblown at times. The astrological elements left me cold, the complicated structure and length (at over 900 pages) spoilt the experience for me somehow and, in the end, I am ashamed to say that I didn't find it enjoyable at all - and I struggled to finish it.
I followed up with yet another Victorian-era Gothic novel, Sarah Perry's much more digestible The Essex Serpent.
I have added some 1920s humour with two of E.F.Benson's Mapp and Lucia series (they are light and delicious!).
I have a whole pile of them waiting for me to pick them up!
I love the Cormoran Strike series and loved the latest in the series, Troubled Blood, in which Strike and Robin deal with a cold case from the 70s. Utterly addictive!
Also by J.K Rowling (but published under her real name), The Casual Vacancy, her only standalone novel. It is excellent, cruel and perfectly executed. It really digs deep into the horrible mediocrity and grotesque quality of most people's lives, and every single character is horrible, adults and teenagers alike. I really, really enjoyed it.
A little bit of folk-horror is always welcome, and I really found inspiration in the fascinating stories gathered by Candia and Tony McKormack (founders of the band Inkubus Sukkubus) in their book/CD Tales of Witchcraft and Wonder.
I also admired Andrew Michael Hurley's succinct prose in his very dark tale Starve Acre, a novel at the same time rather short yet full of layers and meaning.
I have been re-reading Geoffrey Household's iconic West-Dorset based Rogue Male for a little project I'd like to complete in 2021... Hopefully, more on that later in the year.
I have been reading Agatha Christie's books since the age of ten. During Lockdown, I have been diving in and out of my Agatha Christie complete collected works published in the 70s by Heron Books.
I always discover something new each time I re-read a story!
Finally, I have just started Roger Deakin's Waterlog, and I already adore it, as I did his other two books: Notes from Walnut Tree Farm and Wildwood.
I am still waiting to hear whether I will be working in the next few weeks.
I haven't worked on The Right Place for weeks now, but will pick up my first draft as soon as possible, as I am determined not to give up on it. It will depend on the work situation... Watch this space!
Arcane Publishing is still in hibernation until mid-February at the earliest. As I cannot plan anything, I believe that it is the best way to deal with the current uncertainty. More news as I get it.
Things are growing more and more difficult in those challenging times...
I haven't made any progress on The Right Place lately because of all the anxiety caused by the current situation (virus/Brexit). Unfortunately, in 2021, I have to change direction and will not be able to prioritise my writing. This makes me sad and feel a bit inadequate, but that's the way it is. I won't give up, though, and I hope to publish The Right Place at some point in the next two/three years.
I went to the indie bookshop in Bridport and bought three of the books on my "to buy" list (which is very, very long). It includes the only non-fiction writers I like, the wonderful Robert Mcfarlane and Roger Deakin.
I have already read Andrew Michael Hurley's Starve Acre, a fantastically dark novel which astonished me by its minimal, sparse yet incredibly effective prose.
Sometimes, when we need a blast of fresh air but don't want to drive too far from the house, we just head to Portland Bill for a quick walk.
Yesterday, we noticed some new (and most welcome!) occupants in one of the fields just before you get to the Bill: a lively herd of woolly alpacas! They were very curious and incredibly comical...
We'll go back to see them over the holidays as we do need a lot of cheering up in these gloomy times!
Over the next three weeks, I will be trying to complete an important section of The Right Place, before having to put the book on ice for a while whilst I earn some much needed money.
I hope to pick up my pen - or rather keyboard - in late February for a bit, but because of the pandemic I have now accepted that I will not publish in early 2022 as planned... Such is life...
I am putting Arcane into hibernation until at least late February/early March whilst I try and find some funding for the imprint...
Over the next three weeks, I will carry on working on The Right Place and hope to make some progress.
I will post a few updates on here.
My partner in crime Matt ArtPix will carry on selling vintage items and art from the unit at The Customs House, but there won't be any Arcane stock in there anymore. I am working on some new plans which hopefully will come to fruition in the next year or so, but this will depend on the Covid situation and Brexit...
Try and have a rest over the holidays and stay safe!
There is some serious work going on in the countryside around Martinstown in Dorset, apparently to remove the pylons you can see in the picture. This is a monumental job as 22 pylons are to be removed to be replaced by a new underground cable system!
Yesterday, we encountered a pedestrian crossing in the middle of our walk!
Last month, I posted a picture of a particular little corner of the West Dorset countryside above Abbotsbury (the location of my third novel and seemingly never-ending-work-in-progress The Right Place (which I hope to complete and publish before I get to the age of 100), thus starting a series of pictures I will be taking of the very same place over the next year.
The picture above was taken yesterday, 27/11/2020. Granted, it doesn't look that different from the October one, but I can confirm that we noticed a few subtle differences standing there looking over the green valley... It's very difficult to pinpoint, but it felt decidedly more wintery despite the sunshine, and the air bit ever so slightly.
We then moved on to West Bexington and walked along the beach for 30mn or so; I breathed in the sea air deeper than usual as I hadn't been out and about in nature for a while, having been stuck inside poorly ventilated buildings with several hundred kids...
I have tried to research which house in the nearby village of Puncknowle the sculpture below refers to but cannot find anything online...
We stumbled across on bit of driftwood which looked more like the weathered skull of some prehistoric horned animal...
And also the remains of a beach barbecue... I still struggle to understand how people can just leave their stuff like that... If you blink, it would be an iron-age archaeological find...
I'm going to try and get out in nature as much as possible in the next few weeks as I will be doing a full-time assignment over January/February and won't be able to indulge in walks - or anything else bar work for that matter... Hopefully I will emerge on the other side roaring to go, as I do have a lot of work to do on The Right Place and the plotting of the Arcane online bookshop.
My goal over the next two weeks is to stay virus-free before I stop for the December break...
I still hope that a little bit more progress can be made on The Right Place before January...
Probably wishful thinking...
I have finally managed to source a second-hand printer, and therefore have been able to read through all the new writing I have completed over the summer. What a delight! For some reason, I cannot edit properly if I do not have a printed copy of the manuscript with me.
I did struggle to get going during the first lockdown, and it took me about two months before I was able to sit down and add a few words to the first draft of my third novel, The Right Place.
I now have about 30,000 words, and we are almost at the end of the month of November, which means that there is absolutely no way I will finish off that first draft for 31 December; as a result, I've had to scrap my whole publishing schedule, and I have no idea when I will be able to publish the book as I need to try and earn a living at the same time, and even that hasn't been that easy over the past few months...
The COVID crisis has really put a spanner in the works and I've had to accept that things would take much, much longer to happen over the next few years.
Yesterday, I had a read through of those 60-odd pages of manuscript I've managed to squeeze out of myself so far for this book, and I was actually - and surprisingly - rather pleased; there is much, much editing and correcting work to do on it, but I have found quite a lot of aspects of the story to be exactly as I'd want them to be, and the characters have really started to come to life.
So today, I'll be doing a little bit of editing and I'm hoping to add a few hundred words to the manuscript before I start my full-time work assignment in January.
I have put a lot of lovely books for sale on the Facebook marketplace, and you can find them listed on the Arcane Publishing blog HERE.
I sincerely hope that the winter weather will allow me to spend some time in the beautiful Dorset countryside over the December holidays, and I will try and post a few pictures on here...
Finally, we at Arcane/ArtPix towers are preparing for the re-opening of The Customs House in West Bay where our little unit is located. Do pay us a visit if you're around when all non-essential shops reopen next week!
I think therefore I write.
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