On writing, and friends, dogs, pigs, sheep, etc.

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I invited a friend round for brunch today, and we sat in the garden, she and I, my beautiful Stephanie, and the parents-in-law, who are currently staying with us. Also the dogs – our two lovely Border Collies, Scooter and Indigo, and the new acquisition to the family, Harley, our ten week old Collie pup.

My friend had a smallholding. Saying that, reminds me of Karen Blixen – ‘I had a farm in Africa’. And in my friend’s case, the outcome was much the same, because she’s recently had to close it down, not from any choice of her own. It’s been a difficult time for her. I have often said I could not have have done the work she’s been doing there. With sheep, cows, pigs, hens and geese to care for, she and her husband have spent a lot of time and effort fencing and building, carrying hefty bags and bales of feed across a field that, in winter-time, was often liquid mud in places. One of the rams had a knack of catching her unawares, and has knocked her flying a couple of times. On one occasion, as she was strengthening some fencing, he had an altercation with one of the fence posts and she nearly lost an eye when it came flying through the air in her direction. Lambing time they spent hours out in the freezing cold ensuring the new-borns and their mums were all ok. When their first calf was born last February, my friend spent much of the day alone there on top of a snow covered hillside, husband at work and unable to be with her, helping ease the little one into a world she hardly expected it to survive; but she got it and mum into shelter, and the little one thrived.

Anyway, this summer, through neither choice nor fault of hers, it all had to go. She’s been broken hearted over it; but she has the mentality of a country-woman, and she survives, with plans for the future, to make things better next time.

My friend also writes, and after we’d eaten and chatted awhile, asked me to listen to one of her stories, which I said would be lovely. So I did, and then, when I told her how much I’d enjoyed it, she read me another.

I feel ashamed. And also inspired.

I haven’t written anything this past six months. I can say that it’s been due to a family bereavement, two house moves in which we’ve been involved, re-modelling the garden, and a period of illness. And now new puppy. But with all that my friend has been doing, and experiencing, she has still found time to write; while I have not.

Some time ago, I read ‘Stephen King; On Writing’. I recall his discipline, in which he writes each morning, 9 til 12, whatever he feels like. I recall Anthony Trollope’s discipline, writing religiously for two hours every morning before going to work. Now I acknowledge, we are all different, and sometimes circumstances do prevent us doing the things we want. So I’m not going to beat myself with a stick or anything. But I do resolve to do better, and to make time in future for writing. As well as for my piano, and my language learning, all of which have had little of my time in recent months.

So now, as my friend has gone, and my partner and p’s-in-law have all gone for afternoon naps –it’s pretty warm this afternoon! – I am sitting in the garden, surrounded by the dogs, puppy busy with a squeaking bone, and writing. Inspired by my friend’s example, and, for the first time in six months, actually writing! Inspired by her example. And I m very happy.

A good friend can be an inspiration.

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