Where Writers Put their Angst by Milly Johnson
A little bit of angst is always good for a writer. I have known me to be too happy to write. Which is good, but happiness doesn’t give you enough fuel to write those big emotional passages.
Luckily that’s where memory comes in, because when my other half and myself had just got together and I was floating around with my feet off the floor, there were luckily plenty of scenes in my head to call up of me being dumped quite unceremoniously by men who are now regretting that decision (imagination is a wonderful thing).
Sadly, The Queen of Wishful Thinking gave me enough fuel to write a library. My readers know that my lovely dog died of cancer last year. He was too young at seven to have it. It was worrying me that Ted might be half way through his life, never mind that he was near the end of it and I went through a lot of paper tissues last year. We cancelled holidays, outings that weren’t necessary – we just wanted to be with him, because he was happiest being with us. And his two favourite places were behind my writing chair and in the local park where he has peed on every blade of grass and enjoyed every minute of his vandalism.
On days when I wrote, I savoured his presence behind me, knowing that soon he wouldn’t be there any more snoring, snuffling, chasing things in his sleep (he had a ridiculously low prey drive, he once caught up with a poorly rabbit on the field and walked beside it until it disappeared into the long grass). On days when we went up to the park, we enjoyed his sniffing everything that he could and treading on crocuses, taking him out of his poorly zone. But he was getting more and more tired as summer passed and when I got back to the desk, I poured all my grief into ‘Queen’ because it had to go somewhere. It was too big to keep in.
I was worried that Ted would leave us on my son’s 18th birthday. I hoped that a happy day, a day that always stays with you wouldn’t be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Ted was fine though. Eating all the wrong things (we didn’t give a toss about his diet by then) and being in the middle of us, his family. Then the next day we took him up to his beloved park and he romped like he hadn’t done for months, he even nicked another dog’s ball and wanted to play fetch and he was usually far too lazy for that.
Then, at the top of the hill, he just stopped and stood still, like the Monarch of the Glen, and his head went from one side of the park to the other and I thought ‘He’s saying goodbye to it.’ I didn’t mention it to my other half because it sounded maudlin and dramatic. But at the car, he said ‘Did you see him on the hill? It was as if he was saying goodbye to the park.’ And we knew that we were close to the end. Sure enough, Ted couldn’t manage another trip. He really had said goodbye to the park and we lost him three days later. And my office really does feel far emptier than the space he took up in it.
So you’ll forgive me for the indulgence of making him an integral part of my book because I couldn’t have done anything else. Bear was as much of Bonnie’s life as Ted was of mine. And that’s why ‘Queen’ will always be a special book for me, because it is our last work together.
The new book by Milly Johnson - THE QUEEN OF WISHFUL THINKING – is available to now in eBook and Library Hardback format. The paperback edition will be available to buy in all good bookshops on 4th May 2017.