Notes From The Cotswolds – Time To Regroup by Penny Parkes
I have recently come to the conclusion that I have become an Extroverted-Introvert and apparently – thankfully – science now agrees that this is, indeed, ‘A Thing.’
For every occasion when I want to be out socialising and celebrating, there will be at least two when all I really want is the sound of a puppy snoring beside me on the sofa and a good book in my hand. I thrive on the company of others, delighting in humour, conversation and silliness until quite suddenly, as though by the flick of switch, it’s just not fun anymore and, to misquote Greta Garbo, “I vant to be alone…”
And so, over the long (lo-ong) summer holidays, juggling children, deadlines and travel plans, this realisation has motivated me to start hatching a plot. It involves a slight tweak to the calendar as we know it, but bear with me – it’s been working for teachers, children and farmers for decades and they seem okay with it…
The suggestion is simple – no more miserable Januarys, thick with post-Christmas, broken resolutions on dark and wet evenings – I’m going to make September my New Year, my fresh start. I’m quietly convinced it’s a much better time to make our resolutions for the next twelve months actually stick.
From my perspective, I’m far more likely to eat my ‘five-a-day’ in the form of hedgerow-fresh blackberry crumble, and to sleep a little better with the crisp, fresh bite of Autumn in the air, calling me outside to pace the fields and riverbanks and refill the creative well that can so easily be depleted by domesticity and fatigue. And that’s before we even mention the fresh bounty of beguiling stationery on display in every high street store!
The timing of my plot couldn’t be better: Best Practice, the third novel in the Larkford series has been put to bed, tucked in nicely with the blessing of Editor and Agent (cue huge sighs of relief all round) and now it’s time to face the blank canvas again, to begin to weave the life stories and plotlines of the residents of Larkford through a fresh, new stage in their lives and loves.
So my resolution to myself this ‘new year’ has been simple: to acknowledge that it’s not so much a question of ‘wanting’ a little time alone, but ‘needing’ it, simply to find my balance. I utterly adore the company of family and friends, but openly admit that I appreciate them considerably more after a day or two without the unrelenting procession of wants, needs, interruptions and noise. In short, recognising that taking time out actually makes me a better mother, a more considerate friend and a more creative writer has been a watershed moment for me.
I also happen to be a very lucky writer, with very lovely friends, and so I find myself writing this column on a sofa in a stunning treehouse on Bredon Hill, looking out across a deer park, to a soundtrack of birds and sheep, and with Post-its scattering around me like confetti as the ideas flow thick and fast.
A new book is so fragile in these early seedling days, so easily swayed off course, that I find there’s no use dipping tentatively in and out – I need to dive in, inhabit Larkford, away from the incessant nagging of the tumble drier. As a book takes shape, the stories thankfully evolve until they can easily exist alongside regular life, even becoming stalwart enough to survive a good pruning where required and still thrive, if not flourish. That’s when you know that all the hours of soul-searching and plotting have been worthwhile.
So this is a good resolution, I feel; an investment even. A few days simply to breathe – to rest, recover, refill the creative well; to acknowledge who I am and what I need.
And, oh, is it good to be back in Larkford again, with my cast of characters who have become friends, confidantes, therapists even! And to be perched high in the branches of an ancient Cypriot Pine, surrounded by rustic luxury, I can’t help feeling I’ve gained a new perspective as well.
So, may I be the very first to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous “New Year” – may your resolutions be easier to keep and your Autumn be filled with new beginnings. And, if you need me, I’m up a tree, in my pyjamas, with some truly fabulous stationery…
With love, from Larkford
Best Practice publishes in hardback and eBook in February 2018. You can pre-order the eBook here.