Hope you’ve had a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Happy 2022!
It seems traditional to look back at highlights of the year just gone and I’ve sometimes summed up books I’ve read, things I’ve done. Except, I can’t honestly remember all that much! 2020 bled into 2021 and continued in much the same way. Restrictions, lockdowns, nagging worry.
However, as I began to write, memories of more positive things began to trickle through. Mostly, I’ve enjoyed my home, garden and the dogs. Small pleasures in a shrinking world.
The year kicked off in style with the publication of Janey Trelawney’s Year of Surprising Triumphs.This book about a muddy-loving snowdrop gardener who dances under trees and her sexy accountant had been lying dormant while I concentrated on other projects. When I eventually got down to writing it, it fell onto the page and Janey is one of my favourite creations.
I’ve a happy memory of meeting friends for lunch when we were first ‘released’ and eating in a beer garden in April. It was so good to be OutOut! Although sunny and warm, a stiff breeze made eating gourmet fish finger sandwiches tricky. Seem to recall the dogs reaping the benefit of a flying lettuce leaf. We were determined to stick it out though; there was no alternative as, at that time, we were banned from meeting inside! I also met up with a couple of writing groups and sat in the sun eating cake. It felt so good to be meeting up in real life and not on Zoom. I was less enamoured of a train journey where none of the other passengers wore masks and resented feeling unsafe during such a ‘normal’ activity.
Mostly though, as you’ll know if you follow the blog, I’ve been stuck in front of a computer screen writing, editing, revising. 2021 was the year of writer’s block and starting new projects, only for them to be interrupted or for me to lose heart. In December, full of Christmas spirit (mostly Baileys) and surrounded by the soft flickering light from the tree, I began a Christmas book, having never written one before. Not sure going back to it in bone-cold January will have quite the same appeal!
I’ve watched a lot of TV. Emily in Paris sucked me in and was perfect escapism. I also loved the Turin-based Guida Astrologica per Cuori Infranti. I wanted glamorous European cities, café culture and hot men! On a different level, I adored The Dig, the film about the Sutton Hoo excavation. Sublimely acted, it was poignant, and nostalgic for an England which probably never existed. Detectorists mined a similar theme. Warm, funny, gentle – just the thing to soothe the soul. I came to it late and caught up on iPlayer. Twice! The new Worzel Gummidge grabbed me too. Also written by Mackenzie Crook, who has a genius touch for the eccentric, niche and rural. Whatever he turns his hand to feels like a celebration of all things folkloric and English. Saucy Nancy is definitely my new hero! I came across Worzel while waiting for Strictly to start. What a year for Strictly Come Dancing! I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much during a final. If we thought we needed it in 2020, we really did last year. I loved the partnership between AJ and Kai and, like the rest of the nation, fell in love with Rose. Looking back, lots of things I watched, funnily enough, featured actor and musician Johnny Flynn, over whom I will gloss. Just expect a tousle-headed blonde guitarist to appear in a Georgia Hill book soon! What can I say? I get inspiration from many sources.
I’m going to mention Jo Whiley here. Her evening radio programme on Radio 2 not only introduced me to great new music, her gentle warmth has also got me through some early evening writing sessions. Check out the exquisite Aurora.
Thanks, too, to Elaine Paige and her Sunday afternoon show. Musical theatre is a passion which I don’t get much chance to indulge in these days. I can’t sing but nothing stops me belting out On My Own or Hello Dolly to an audience which consists of two dogs, one of whom slinks away in disgust.
In a time when most of our worlds have shrunk to hearth and home my book of the year is perfectly apt. It’s actually just perfect. Please read Clare Chambers’ Small Pleasures. Clare excels in observing the minutiae of suburban life. Learning to Swim is one of my all-time favourite books and I was incredibly excited to hear Clare was writing fiction again. Small Pleasures is the story of a woman escaping her pleasant but dull existence when she’s sent to interview a woman who claims she gave birth as a virgin. It’s a book which is full of joy – and small pleasures.
Speaking of books (and, as much as I’d like to bracket myself with Clare Chambers, I cannot claim such genius) 2022 is dawning with some great writing news; I will have three new books out (well, long novellas) with the first coming in February. Watch this space. I’m hoping I’ll be able to share the title and utterly gorgeous cover with you all soon.
Whatever you have planned for 2022, I hope the new year will treat you kindly.