Wendy Holden's Diary - Summer 2009
Apart from a week of brilliant sunshine sometime in June, this summer has been a washout. Admittedly, I live in Derbyshire, where it’s almost always pouring. You know the country saying, ‘rain at seven, fine by eleven’? Perhaps not, but anyway, where I live, that goes ‘rain at seven, stair-rods at eleven’ (i.e. rain so hard it looks like solid rods). The countryside round here is lush and green for a reason. However, this gives us locals an enormous advantage when it comes to wet weather. We know how to enjoy ourselves in it. Rain does not put us off. If it did, no-one would ever leave home.
I spent the weekend at various events characterised by the unending drip of water. One was the local village fete, where the children and I stormed the tombola. Our haul, after considerable outlay, included an Apollo 11-sized bottle of Avon bath foam and a jar of marmalade. The tombola person let us in on a few trade secrets, such as the horror of the family who, some years before, bought ten tickets and won nine prizes within minutes of the stall opening. I also picked up as many home-made cakes as I could lay my hands on; I plan to stockpile these in the freezer and then pretend to the many people coming to stay with us this summer that I’ve made them all myself.
Then it was on to a garden party, where a magician walked around entertaining the guests – i.e. distracting them from the downpour - with card tricks. Everyone huddled beneath large umbrellas, drank like fishes (felt like them too) and ate everything within sight, as a result of which my teeth feel as if they are made of pure sugar this morning.
Open-rain (I mean air) Shakespeare? Count us in. A week or so ago we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Newstead Abbey, former home of Lord Byron and, whatever the weather, one of the most romantic places on earth. The weather more or less held off, in marked contrast to last year when The Soggy Wives (sorry, Merry Wives) of Windsor was the play on offer. The theatre company promised not to stop performing ‘unless it was actually dangerous’, which is the sort of guarantee we need round here. It duly threw it down; yet, as the rain beat on the shanty town of hastily-erected umbrellas before them, the players poured themselves (as it were) into their task with increased gusto. The Dunkirk spirit duly kicked in; a laughing and appreciative audience, under rugs, in possession of picnics and fuelled by copious quantities of champagne, cheered them on to the end. All great fun. Who needs sunshine?
Although hopefully we will get some because last weekend, fulfilling a vow made many months ago, we finally bought our camping equipment. The children have been desperate to go camping for ages and initially Jon and I resisted. My idea of roughing it has always been no ice in the ice bucket of the penthouse suite, or, as recently happened, no buffet in the Antibes-bound TGV. I remember, also, camping as a child and the way that, even if you had ascertained the ground was flat and free of stones before you put the tent up, there would always be boulders of immense size pushing into your back when eventually you lay down in it.
Things have moved on since those benighted times, however, and we managed to find a tent that quite literally leaps out of the bag and puts itself up, although how we get it back down is another matter, like putting a genie back in the bottle I imagine. We had great fun buying all the other stuff, too – a folding table and chairs that are all connected together in an ingenious unit with a marble-effect top (so chic!) and the dinkiest little stove and tiny pans. We managed to pass on the inflatable sofa and armchairs (just), however, but all in all the retail therapy, albeit of an unusual nature, had the usual uplifting effect. Now all that remains is to find the right campsite – the one I have in mind is a flat, sunny, mosquito-free, animal-free, cowpatless and stoneless field surrounded by shady trees and bordered by a babbling brook. There will be no-one else in it apart from a non-intrusive but friendly couple far away on the other side of the meadow who we could call on in an emergency. There would be lavish washing and loo facilities and a child-friendly gastropub within walking distance that does champagne by the glass. Also nearby, a country house hotel or upscale B&B for when we throw the towel in after one or two days. If anyone out there has any ideas, let me know.
But all that will have to wait until two great events have passed – me finishing the tweaking of my latest novel, which is dreadfully late. It’s scheduled to come out in January 2010, and there’s a whole host of publishing processes yet to be gone through with it – copyediting, proofing, cover design, not to mention settling on a title - so you can see things are getting a little tight. And of course there’s the launch of Beautiful People in paperback, which I’m very excited about, although a little nervous too, as I prepare for book-signings, tours and the rest of it. I always love meeting booksellers though, they always have great stories about other authors. It seems that, while most writers are suitably grateful for the efforts booksellers make on their behalf, there are one or two whose arrogance makes the eyes water. So I’ll be truffling for some tales to add to my collection. Watch this space!