Sunday, 1 January 2012

Back on the Beaten Track...

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post: seven weeks, at a guess, because it was some time in the first half of November, when National Novel Writing Month was in full flow. And whilst little has been happening within the realms of Beaten Track, it's been a hectic time otherwise.

Firstly, I finished NaNoWriMo, sort of, which is to say that I wrote more than 50,000 words (64,740, to be precise) and stuck in a few brief paragraphs, sets of bullet points etc. to outline the key plot points at the end. The editing, re-writing and whatever else this novel needs should be well under way by now, but alas this is not so. I've researched a little, changed some character names, tinkered with the first chapter - the usual toe-dip at the shoreline of the deep blue sea that is the first edit of a novel in progress. Before I go any further I'll have a good ponder over the star charts, draw up a map and sketch in the major landmarks, in the hope I don't get too lost once I set sail for real.

I also completed a far greater challenge, which has nothing and everything to do with writing at the same time. You see, my office / study / writer's den is what the rest of my family like to call 'the kitchen' and I suppose they have a point, given that it is where the cooker, sink, washing machine, fridge and food are located. It was a well-considered move on my part to place my work area within spitting distance of the kettle, not to mention that my dad bought us an awesome coffee machine a few weeks ago, which would fit perfectly on top of the cupboard just to my left, but Nige isn't having any of it.

Anyway, to cut a very long (17 and a half years) story short (a couple of paragraphs), the kitchen has been subject to many attempts to make it more practical and / or aesthetically pleasing. It all began during my student days, with the collapse of the cupboard holding up the sink, and every face lift since has been an interim measure on the way to the stainless steel kitchen that I didn't believe I would get, as back in the nineties it was the stuff of catering establishments only. It's a tricky room to begin with, being long and narrow, making it virtually impossible to place a table so that it doesn't block the thoroughfare to the fridge. Add to this the bizarre route of the chimney, the butt-end of a long-gone dividing wall and some substantial concrete cupboards and we're left with little room for manouevre.

Other than these permanent fixtures, the rest has been more or less rebuilt. We went from the original grey and pink tile-on-a-roll wallpaper, floral curtains and teak laminated chipboard, to 'farm kitchen' rough plaster and hand-built pine (and I really mean hand-built - like the sound effects on early Queen albums produced with 'no synths', I had no power tools for ease of sawing and drilling - I now own no less than five electric saws!). We had so much stuff, none of it matching, all of it secondhand, which is all well and good - I like recycling and saving money, but a cluttered work space is not conducive to good writing. If I get past the distraction of the mismatched, disorganised mess of everyday life in the first place, then it is guaranteed to make some kind of appearance in my work, unconsciously or otherwise. Thus, in the past my characters have variously blown up Christmas tree lights, tended lawns in blistering August sun, spent insomniac nights chatting online, consumed copious amounts of coffee and survived for weeks at a time on cheese on toast. More recently they might be found plastering, rewiring or in a state of woeful despair on account of collapsing walls and leaking pipes.

The kitchen as it was when we moved in.

Our first attempt - the surveyor suggested we invest in a proper kitchen. Pfft.

A snapshot of a wall at Manchester Airport, which became the colour scheme for the next paint job - this was during the post small children / pre-digital photography phase, so no photographic evidence could be located.

How we lived for the past two years - holes and rough plaster, prior to which there were holes and no plaster, a general lack of ceiling and half-fitted stainless steel cupboards.

The kitchen as it is now, complete with granite flooring, stainless steel, rewiring, plastered and papered walls and it all matches. Hurrah!



And so I return to what I started some time ago, although it has to be said that until such point as writing and publishing becomes my main source of income (an unfortunate catch 22 presides here), the best policy may well be to declare November and December my annual holiday from paid employment. After all, it is the part of the year when I write the most, improve my home and spend time with my family. It strikes me that this is more how things should be all year round. And since it's January 1st, it would be apt to declare my resolve to make it so. I won't be doing this, because we all know that New Year's Resolutions are made to be broken - it's only a matter of time. However, I'm happy to commit to doing my very best in continuing to develop Beaten Track Publishing, safe as I am in the knowledge that my workload is somewhat lighter in the first half of the year and that building a publishing company is a lot easier than rebuilding a kitchen!

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