After long months of bitter cold and constant rain today spring has arrived. When Hoover and I went out this morning I left my jacket behind as I have done several optimistic times before. This time I did not shiver and we headed further afield to make the most of the sun before returning to work.
All around us spring was bursting out. Fat chestnut buds were stickily opening and buried in the undergrowth below them fiddle headed ferns were starting to unfurl their necks. There was a definite shift to green pushing its way through the brown coat of winter. The pale winter fields have a green blush that promises better than the winter wheat that sank into the sodden earth and refused sprout last autumn. It really lifts the spirits and both Hoover and I stepped out cheerfully.
Around us larks laughed in the clear blue. A flash of yellow caught my eye and Hoover darted over to check the yellow finch we haven’t seen for many months. A hidden wren’s burst of rowdy song almost stopped us in out tracks and we bent to watch the insects out collecting nectar from the first dandelions.
I have just completed a rewrite of the Baggage Stories. Now they are Me and My Boy, told entirely from Baggage’s point of view. I’ve been testing them on willing readers, collecting comments and criticism. It is hard to get across to family that criticism must be honest. My mother is my mother. I am a mother too: I am constantly amazed by the outstanding quality of my children’s output. She is a staunch supporter and wonderfully encouraging. But when my children laugh and tell me it is good then I am more convinced. And when a publisher asks me to send it to her as it sound so interesting then I am even more encouraged.
Now is the time to put my work out there; to look for the serious, non family criticism. The trouble is I know what a rejection letter looks like and it doesn’t offer any criticism, just a polite and blank no thank you. It is hard to build from that.
The hedge is sending out new leaves. Fresh hawthorn is brightest green and reminds me that it used to be called poor man’s bread and cheese. Apparently it is delicious, but I am more glad to see it on the black twigs than I am tempted to eat it. I suppose it depends on how hungry you are. The children in one of my stories forage for food and I now am catching glimpses of some of the food that they found. Fresh green stinging nettles are already sprouting, and this year I have promised Jay that I will make stinging nettle soup. I still wince at the thought.
The Wayfarer’s tree, hacked back by harsh flailers in the autumn is holding up it’s new heads of flowers. Still tightly closed against the late frosts they stand tall and pale against the blue of the sky. Mingled alongside them are the opening leaves of the elder. It won’t be long now ’til the hedgerows are covered in blossom and we can make cordial again.
Back at home two hard jobs are lurking. The first is the writing of the cover letter that I need to send out to my chosen agent, probably the hardest writing task I can think of. At The London Book Fair I was struck even more strongly by the two main categories of books that publishers are putting out for junior school aged children at the moment – the chick lit for children books, and the street cred town-based books. My writing doesn’t fit into either of those categories. One publisher, who hadn’t read any of my work, called it ‘slightly old fashioned’ because that’s what the country is. And yet there are lots of people living out here in the country, and even more that wish that they lived here, and consequently take their holidays here.
And the other daunting task – starting the next story. A blank page is waiting.
If nature can do it again and again every year, then so can I.