The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Normal Service will be Resumed as Soon as Possible

I am in the doldrums.  It's not just me, either.  The view out of the window behind my monitor is as still as a picture, not a breath of wind, not a stirring of a single leaf.  We are becalmed here in the Northern Home Counties.  Perhaps that's why I am struggling to find a topic to pursue, any tiny domestic event I can blow out of all proportion, Goldenoldenlady-style, and make last a few hundred words on here.

It's hard to create a storm in a teacup without a spoon.  On a flat calm day like today setting the scene for a drama with "It was a dark and stormy night..." would be a bit too much of a stretch. Excuse me while I go back to staring out of the window for a moment, chin on hand, elbow on desk, eyes focused on the middle distance.

Do you remember primary school days and lower down the forms at secondary school when one had to do some imaginative writing in exam conditions?  Gosh, wasn't that difficult to get going on, imaginative writing to order? Little stories, as they'd be thought of before the age of 11, "compositions" as we learnt to call them at Big School. The second term is helpful, I think, holding in it a reminder that one perhaps has to compose oneself before one can compose anything else.

I've heard tell, or read somewhere once, that when J S Bach was working at a church in Leipzig he had to write new choral music for the main service every Sunday.  The piece had to be finished by Thursday so the choir could learn the notes and rehearse, then it was sung on the Sunday, to tremendous and astonished acclaim, and on Monday morning he started the creative process all over again.

Because printed lined manuscript paper was - assuming it was available at all locally - prohibitively expensive back in the first half of the C18th, most of his Monday was spent making his own; laboriously and menially drawing staves, neat groups of lines, on blank paper, enough pages for the multiple copies of the new piece he had yet to write.  I imagine this would be a full score for himself at the organ, and a copy each of their parts for the choristers.  He could have got one or two of the older ones from his musically schooled children (he had twenty at the final count - yes, TWENTY) to do this for him, but he didn't elect to do that.  There must have been some advantage he gained from doing it himself. So Bach's Monday was often just ruling and lining, ruling and lining, a zen-like practice which occupied hand and eye whilst his mind stirred into existence the first phrases and chord progressions of his next motet or cantata.

I perhaps need something like Bach's manuscript paper preparation to get me going today. I don't even have to sharpen a pencil, or change a typewriter ribbon, not with a word-processor.  I have no ruminative prepping chore to perform, no paints to mix, to chisels to sharpen, to instrument to tune, no vegetables to chop, no wool to untangle. Today I am feeling the lack of a task which will turn the key in the door of whatever mental room it is we humans inhabit when we settle down to write.

But I do have a heap of washing up from last night's dinner, far more than will fit in the dishwasher, and a lot of residual food burnt on pots and pans in a way that no dishwasher can tackle, whatever the lying, thieving detergent manufacturers claim in their adverts.  Maybe standing at another window with my hands in hot soapy water will free a productive thought from my stodgy dumpling of a brain.  If so, I'll type again later. If not, you will be left with just this for today; the blog equivalent of the test card which came up on our screens when TV in the old days failed to transmit.

Please do not adjust your set.


  1. Interestingly I draft my blog posts with a pencil and A4 lined pad, just like school. They get revised and crafted as I type them, but the initial thoughts seem to come better through a pencil than a keyboard. Used to do the same with sermons. There's something about a pencil and paper AND you can do it in bed over your morning cuppa.

  2. I have a laptop so could, at a push, write in bed from jotting to final draft

    Over my afternoon cuppa (S.A.D. to say).

    My writing is so atrocious these days I am ashamed at the sight of it when I try to do as little as sign a birthday card. My two-fingered typing is quicker (goes at the same spead as my thinking, believe it or not) than my long-hand now.