One hour to write up a day.
I did this before, in 2013. Some things haven’t changed. My beloved still brings me a mug of Earl Grey at around 5.15 am. Pre-Covid habits of getting up early for his commute to work haven’t deserted us, and at this time of year I wouldn’t want to sleep beyond 5.15 anyway, with blackbirds singing in the acid-green maple trees right outside our bedroom window.
First action is glasses on and check phone (don’t judge)! See what’s come in overnight. Quick look at Instagram, WhatsApp, respond to notes from collaborators, write lists. Greet the day. I’ve been working on three operas over the past year, and all of them are very soon to come to fruition on stage, so there’s plenty to keep up with – call sheets, notes from colleagues, programme proofs to check, other stuff. I’m high on excitement.
Next I’m out in the garden in my pyjamas and wellies (heavy dew) talking to plants, listening. Opening the greenhouse, watering. Over the winter, we commissioned garden works which had been in the planning stages since we moved here three years ago. New gravel garden by the kitchen to replace rather barren paved yard, beautiful woven willow fencing where the old panel fencing had collapsed, rotting greenhouse rebuilt, driveway tidied up, beds created at the front of the house and by the Studio to tie buildings into landscape. And now finally the planting, so thank goodness for rain and cool weather.
In the greenhouse dept, I’ve gone crazy with courgettes this year – so simple to grow from seed. Five different varieties. Round and yellow, round and green, long and multicoloured, long and green, long and yellow. Obsessive, me? Counted 54 seedlings this morning. No way I can plant more than max 30 in our veg patches and pots, so I’ll probably put the rest outside the gate one morning and invite people to take them on.
Breakfast: fruit and yoghurt, coffee. No toast and marmalade as I’m off refined sugars and most carbs for now – losing extra lockdown pounds and finding more level energy without refined sugar. After 12 days, I don’t really miss my small daily chocolate fix. I’m a tiny bit smug about this.
Lists for the day. One of my things. Such busy times lead to stacks of lists, everywhere. My list duties for today include planning food for the weekend, listing emails to respond to, checking the backlists (!), making annoying little list transfers. Some items remain on lists forever.
After listwork, I co-ordinate diaries. I’m more of a paper diary person – I like to see which domestic commitments might clash with work commitments – Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Open University, etc. But I’m getting better at using phone agendas and letting events and meetings etc go straight in. There’s no easy answer.
Exercise. Last autumn and winter I had tendinitis in both hips, exacerbated by hard bed in Welsh rental cottage on our one escape. Combination of this and long walks had me hobbling. The physio prescribed a tough exercise regime and warned me it would take months to reduce the inflammation. She was right. I’ve been exercising since October, with the addition of a lot of yoga now, plus extra moves for core strength (planks, crunches) and at last I’m more comfortable, so sleeping better. Hope to get back to swimming soon.
Work: long conversations on WhatsApp and email with opera collaborators and other colleagues, discussing lots of things including ticket allocations for The Apothecary at Guildhall in May/June. So thankful that performances will happen, and even small audiences are a triumph.
Had hoped to be able to work on finalising a group of five or six poems I’ve had on the go for a couple of years, now close to completion – I think there’s one more poem to write. I manage to make a few notes for it, but holding back never did a poem much harm, so I don’t begrudge the admin, and try to enjoy the pressure of the poem building. It will burst out, maybe in a few days.
Download papers I need to read for a charity committee meeting I can’t attend as I’ll be at rehearsals of The Apothecary in London (SO exciting!). Sign off minutes from last week’s meeting of another charity committee. Great privilege to be involved with both small arts organisations doing brilliant, valiant work for poetry and theatre, in the face of the pandemic and the fallout from Brexit. Don’t get me started…
Check OU email account for news of student who is late submitting final assignment. I marked all the others’ last weekend, and I worry about this student needing repeated extensions due to challenging circumstances caused by Covid-times. I write to say please take a few more days, crossing my fingers the submission will arrive.
Clear old emails from system (some every day) to try and extend life of MacBook, now maxed out on memory.
Register for a couple of online events over coming weeks, hoping I’ll be able to get to them on the day. Everything is quite up in the air for the next few weeks, until mid-July, due to the three operas.
Note I should order more worming tabs for Flint. And his vet checkup must be due soon. It’s a miracle he is still with us after a severe illness last summer.
Stop briefly for a bite of something, feeling light in the head, and cross over with Philip for ten minutes. We’re getting better at each taking a break when we need to and not worrying about being anti-social if the other is at a different stage. This December we’ll have been together 31 years.
Afternoon: succeed in spending an hour or two with the poems that are soon to become a friend and colleague’s Selected. Loving the task of editing the collection. The author is recompensing me in paint on canvas (he’s a wonderful painter as well as poet and musician).
Hop from Zoom meeting with opera collaborator to yet more admin, and then can’t resist going to visit garden activity. Only one and a half more beds to be planted up now. Everything’s in place, just needs to go in. Heaven. Chat with lovely neighbour and friend Kinna Mosley who is a planting designer – she’s here placing the plants on that last bed opposite the kitchen door. Her children are playing in the garden while she positions the pots – a joyous end to the day.
My last vital duty: watering everywhere, making sure the new beds are really damp and the plants still in pots are too. I can see P is getting supper ready as I go on my watery rounds. How kind he is. I haven’t managed a walk today – very rare, but my Steps Summary tells me I’ve walked nearly two miles anyway, not bad for house and garden only!
After supper I answer a couple of emails, let the blinds down in the bedroom as the sun sinks, read a poem or two from Poems on Nature, edited by Helen Macdonald, which our son Freddie gave me when we saw him two weeks ago for our delayed Christmas. Reflective moments with a few favourite dead poets – Edward Thomas, William Blake, John Clare.
Finally, an hour or two on the sofa watching telly, and yes, it’s still crime thrillers…