Next month I'll be seventy-nine. After that, who knows? If being seventy-plus is to be enfeebled, being eighty-plus inevitably directs my mind towards higher things: should I or should I not add one of Strauss's Four Last Songs to the valedictory programme?
I haven’t blogged recently about the novel, the present one, Second Hand. Instead I've written thousands of words of comment for others' blogs, revelling in that privileged community. I launched Joe's Nudge, frequently discovering I'd bitten off more than I could chew. The novel lurked.
The draft stood at 58,000 words. I checked what I had and the subsequent editing came perilously close to a rewrite, with 5000 words blowing away like chaff. Three weeks ago I resumed the story. Francine, tough-minded, tortured, transmogrified, returned. As always it's the hair that counts; hers is loose floppy blonde, flat to her head, can't be styled. (Blonder and flatter than the pic; with a less knowing face).
Re-starting brought that terrifying moment; imagination is an infrequent visitor and may not call at all. No guarantees. A week in I wrote:
He laughed, poured her some more Burgundy. Both had ordered fish but had merely haggled what was on their plates. The restaurant was expensive and modern, in the heartless straight-line style. The waiters were expert, sympathetic and young, with open-necked shirts and rolled-up sleeves, and they were smiling at a minor dilemma – at what point would the ruined fish cease to be part of the meal and demand removal?
It's not Molly Bloom's soliloquy. Or Robert Jordan in his chancre of a hill. Or the funeral of old Mr Crouchback. What pleases me is when I started that para, I couldn’t see the end. A muffler and slippers against being eighty.