I’m driving myself absolutely potty. I’m still waiting to hear back from Hodder and Stoughton about the first draft of Michele’s book (the psychic memoir). I can’t crack on with it until I hear back and I have kept this time free in order to do the work. It’s beyond irritating as – given we are about to move – I had planned on having this project done and dusted by the end of June. Now it will get all snarled up in the move and I am in a totally foul mood about the whole thing.
What is even worse is that, far from thinking ‘whoopee, spare time’ I am sitting morosely at my computer achieving precisely nothing. I am not good at having spare time. My school, the esteemed Nonsuch High School for Girls (very pushy grammar school in Cheam, Surrey) instilled the puritan work ethic in me to such a point that I feel incredibly guilty if I am not sitting at my desk, working hard for at least eight hours a day. My friend Jane says exactly the same – she is possibly the most driven person I know, regularly working until 2am. In fact she’s coming down on Friday for a ‘farewell to Lee Farm’ weekend. We’ve been here nine years and she’s been down maybe half a dozen times. Too busy. Our headmistress would be proud of us.
So I could be cleaning the spare room for Jane. I could, let’s be honest, be cleaning full-stop. Despite the fact that our buyers have been such total phits I cannot somehow bring myself to leave the place in a total mess. But ‘taking time off’ to clean seems decadent. See what a weirdo I am? So, instead, I sit at my computer as if by dint of dogged loyalty to the screen, I can make something happen.
(pause – half an hour later).. And by heck it works! The phone rang and it was Michele saying that she’d had a message from the editor saying it was absolutely fabulous and required very little extra work… Which is fabulous BUT (you heard that coming) I just wish the flipping editor would tell ME…and would also tell me what the ‘very little extra work’ is…so I can crack on and do it. Grrrrr, grrr and triple grrrrrr.
My conversation with Michele was funny – as our conversations always are. She is relentlessly upbeat, a total positive freak, committed believer in Cosmic Ordering and creating your own reality. I’m far more doomy and gloomy, a Cosmic Eeyore.
‘It’s going to be amazing! It’s going to be HUGE.’
‘Yeah, maybe. But it depends on how they market it.’
‘It’s going to change our lives.’
‘I’ve thought that before about books….I was going to be a brand once…’ This said in a very depressed tone. An editor at HarperCollins once got it in her head I was going to be the next Martha Stewart (a sort of cross between Delia and Kirsty Allsop but with a spiritual edge – yes, it’s a strange concept which is perhaps why it never came off). At the time I was very sniffy about the whole thing – thinking it would be prostituting my integrity to have my name on a candle. Fool! Anyhow, the branding was quietly dropped and, with every book I put out, I become more and more cynical as I watch them drop with a quiet little splash into the seventh circle of remaindered hell.
I wasn’t always like this. Once I was as relentlessly positive as Michele. In my twenties I spent hours upon hours and several trees-worth of paper, writing that ‘I, Jane, love and approve of myself’ and ‘It is safe, fun and exciting for me, Jane, to be totally successful.’ For a while they worked really well – the work poured in, so did the money. I was on TV and working for a national. Life was good. I think it all fell apart when I tried the biggie (for me): ‘I, Jane, now choose to be slim and gorgeous.’ I piled on another stone. It was as if my consciousness, higher being, whatever, suddenly took a reality check and said, ‘No sireee.’
So, while I still think it’s great to be upbeat, fabulous to see the positive, I tend to deal in shades of grey nowadays, rather than stark contrast black and white. Life isn’t always easy and I do think that, if you commit yourself hook, line and sinker to the Positive At All Costs movement, then you condemn yourself to feeling a failure when it doesn’t pan out quite how you thought. Also (and maybe this is my puritan school upbringing coming out again) I still can’t help but think that a little bit of the dark, the tough, the hard, doesn’t do one any harm and can even do a lot of good. Look at Paris Hilton (well, I’d rather not, but you know what I mean). Poor little rich girl. Never wanted for anything. Ended up being thrown in jail and kicked her heels when they wouldn’t let her take in her own bed. Now, of course, she says she has found God and is a reformed character. Oh, and she’s going to do a rap record based on her prison experiences. Have to say, it’s quite impressive really. Talk about seeing the positive in everything. Actually the more I think about it, the more you have to confess that this cloud really did have a silver lining. Brand Paris….you watch, there will be a jail range soon. Maybe there is something in this positive thinking after all.
PS the pic at the top is one taken about twelve years ago, after a draconian diet and a lot of make-up. I have used it relentlessly for all publicity shots ever since and will do so until I am about ninety. This one on the right of the mad woman waving an umbrella menacingly is what nine years on Exmoor does to a woman!!