THE boxes are mostly unpacked, our possessions are more or less organised, and we are getting used to living as town mice. So far, it is similar to being country mice, with a few significant differences: it’s far too dangerously easy to order food to the house; and far too tempting to leave the housework, walk into town, and start shopping. The one thing I really can’t get used to is the sirens. Our new house is on the road to the hospital; so, as my husband puts it, “There is a very different tractor-to-siren ratio here.”
In the ten years that we lived in a village, we did hear an occasional siren, but the main difference is that — on every one of those occasions — we subsequently found out what the emergency had been. It’s going to take me a while to stop jumping at the sound, and wondering whose house is on fire.
WE HAVE a large and glorious quince tree on the front drive. (“What a quincidence” quipped my daughter, ever ready with a pun, when we pointed it out.) The tree attracts a lot of attention. The colossal, heavy fruits are like golden rocks, plummeting from the tree with such force that the gravel from the driveway is embedded in them as they land.
The problem with quinces is that you need only about six of them to make enough quince paste to last the rest of the year; so they very quickly take over. Delivery drivers, posties, and parishioners alike are fascinated; and we have developed a new doorstep liturgy. Visitor: “What’s that fruit? Is it a kind of pear?” Householders: “They are quinces. Please take some away.”
DEEMING it a good way of meeting our new community, we made a last-minute decision to join the hordes of trick-or-treaters. I produced costumes: one black cat, and one wolf guarding St Edmund’s head — amazing what can be done in a short time with a mask, some wool, and a hot-glue gun.
I attached the head to the wolf’s stomach so that he had his paws free for treats, leading most people to assume that the wolf had consumed St Edmund. My husband put on his dog collar and wore his cassock, the better to present himself to his parishioners as their new vicar.
On reaching the estate, we came across a stall with smiling people handing out hot dogs: another local church doing outreach. My husband introduced himself, and was met with polite laughter; just as he was protesting that he was a real vicar, and not in fancy dress, another adult appeared behind him robed in a somewhat garish bishop’s outfit complete with a wonky pectoral cross in silver card, which didn’t help his case at all.
I returned home with a rather despondent saintly wolf who had been mistaken for the big, bad one in Little Red Riding Hood, and a vicar who had convinced half his new parish that he was an imposter in a borrowed cassock. We shall have to do better next year.
MY TEN-YEAR-OLD and I finally reached the end of the Wingfeather Saga, which has taken us months to read together. My son did the only thing you can do when an epic fantasy series finishes and leaves you bereft: he immediately started to write his own.
Four days in, he was going at such speed that I signed him up to the junior version of National Novel Writing Month, with much nostalgia and reminiscing about the days when I was young and carefree enough to attempt NaNoWriMo myself. In those days, the aim was 50,000 words within the month, fuelled by coffee and overly lengthy descriptions of scenery; and the secret was never to stop to think.
I always gave up before the end, though, whereas I think the boy is going to smash his chosen word-count target and leave me in the dust. If he does, I shall be duly proud, but extremely envious. It really brings on an author’s imposter syndrome to be overtaken in zeal, imagination, and output by their own offspring.
THIS week, I was being filmed for promotional videos for my new Lent book, Images of Grace. I perched on a chair in my slightly rearranged new sitting-room, with everything in shot behind me carefully tidied and arranged, and answered a set of interview questions to an audience of light-reflective screens and unidentifiable objects on tripods.
After I had performed some excerpts to camera, the producer suggested some extra shots for filling, and filmed me writing some nonsense in a notebook with my fountain pen and fetching a book from the bookcase.
As I settled down to pretend to read the book while taking acted sips from a mug that contained no tea, I reflected on how much I wished that my life really did look the way this finished film will look. How serene, to spend my days drifting about writing poetry with a fountain-pen, and reading books in my immaculate sitting-room!
I’m sure people imagine that authors spend much more of their time doing such things than they do hot-gluing wolf costumes together, or lobbing quinces into the compost bin, but reality, while not so polished, is always much more interesting. After all, that’s why we write — because, behind every first impression, there is a story just waiting to be told.
Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.