What I did on my holidays

What I did on my holidays

It’s that time of year. If you have kids, they may well be scrambling to write up a report of the same name as this article, or complete whatever project they were asked to do. You may be getting ready for the new school year yourself, as parent, teacher, teaching assistant or other related jobs.

I decided to take August off, stepping back from blogging weekly, because I felt it was time to cut myself some slack. I’ve been fighting off some very dark moods and the effort of writing a blog post every week was becoming a big deal.

So what have I been doing this summer?

Reading, for a start. I’ve worked my way through several books by Jungian writer Robert A Johnson. They’re excellent books, deceptively short but packed with condensed, intense but eminently readable information. I’ve also read through several books by Dennis Wheatley and enjoyed them; I was warned by an uncle never to read them but having read them, I can’t see why they were seen as so disturbing. I’ve read a good number of books by Dion Fortune; some I am still working my way through. I’m a person who can have twenty books on the go, and pick up and put down as they take my fancy. Of mainstream authors, I read the most recent by Joanne Harris, Peaches for M. le Curé (good but a tad predictable and somehow lacking in verve), the first of the Cormoran Strike books by J.K. Rowling (enjoyable but oddly dated; I admire her but I really think the success of this book is entirely due to her name and not the actual story). I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the end of the Lane with huge enjoyment, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye with puzzlement and some sadness. I read two books by Graham Masterton, set among the garda of Ireland, and while they were compelling, they were also absurd, ridiculous and gratuitously horrible. Poetry, I read Yeats’s The Wind that Shakes the Reeds and reminded myself why I always loved his work.

Among the independent authors I’ve read this summer, I read Mary Grand’s Free to be Tegan ( gentle, intuitive and a very interesting exploration of leaving a cult), Mari Howard’s Baby, Baby, an intelligent, well written and intriguing novel, exploring the ethics of fertility and the effects on ordinary people. I’ve also read a work in progress by Karl Mercer, an absurdist pastiche of Sherlock Holmes that made me laugh out loud a few times.

As well as reading, I’ve done a certain amount of painting, and active imagination work. In terms of writing, I’ve done dribs and drabs, as well as some poetry. I’ve got three works in progress than trickle along, as well as one that basically got shelved a couple of years ago. I have gone back to doing long-hand first drafts, because I’ve found it impossible to allow myself just to write and let the story reveal itself if I use a computer. There is so much internal pressure to produce perfection on the first draft that I don’t find I can write at all. Long-hand means I can let it come out, and edit later when it gets put onto a document. It’s hard for me to remember that when I had my spell of intense productivity about ten years ago, each story had already been through a process of creation many times over in my head and in my unconscious before it ever made it onto a page. They were never true first drafts.

We were meant to be going away a few times in August but the friends we were going to visit came down with a nasty virus, and then, our beloved guinea pig Tiko became ill, and after a week of hoping and nursing, he died in my arms last Monday. We were devastated. He was such a character, and is hugely missed. We’re on the look-out now for a local rescue centre or individual, needing to rehome guinea pigs.

Other thing I’ve been doing is the final frustrating and maddening edits and tweaks to the collection of essays from this blog, entitled Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking. The paperback is out now and the kindle version will follow shortly. I have a launch party on Facebook on the 4th of September so come along and join the fun here: https://www.facebook.com/events/354508034737778/ I’ve chosen not to do a lot of the running around authors seem to do for new books, like a blog tour or similar. I’ve grown aware that with the ocean of books and the phalanxes of authors out there, there’s just so much noise and shouting louder and longer is just a waste of energy, not to mention that it becomes obnoxious when authors are constantly in your face. I’ll be posting here about the new book and perhaps in a few places as well, but if you read it and find it worthwhile, I’d hope that it might be that you would review it and talk about it to your circle of friends and family. I’ve put a lot of myself into it and I believe that it’s a book that is needed. It’s not a self-help book and it doesn’t offer easy solutions, but I think it asks questions that need asking.

Other things I have done this summer have been sitting out in the garden and just taking the time to watch the flowers grow and the insects do their work. That’s been a great joy, just to BE, and be in a place I feel at home and safe. I’ve read, painted, written and done my colouring seated at the patio table on the area that might loosely be termed crazy paving (not so much crazy as downright psychotic) and it’s been a blessing to have that space. While I was teaching, summer school meant that I never got to enjoy the lazy days and sunny afternoons as I was always on the go and rushing. When we moved here, the first two summers I was still too unwell physically to enjoy it. This third summer has been a time of reflection and contemplation.

Anyway, September tip-toes in and I wish you all the very best for the mellow days of autumn that are on their way.