Road To Hell
Full of good intentions, I set out to do some serious writing this week. Did it go to plan? Did it hell? But if was far from a disaster.
Monday scored high points for a couple of reasons: season three of ‘Game of Thrones’ arrived (gobbled up in five straight nights) and I received news from one of my publishers about a neat promotion with Apple featuring the Tallis series. Having duly tweeted, Facebooked and generally shown off about it, I tied up a whole host of outstanding bits and pieces, including the delivery of a report on a promising piece of work for a grateful client – always lovely to receive good feedback on one’s feedback!
Tuesday, I got down to writing. I only had one joyous interruption: a firm invitation to appear at CrimeFest in Bristol on a panel titled: ‘Gender Bending’. To explain to the bewildered: Men writing as women and women writing as men.
There’s an unspoken rule in our house that we incorporate a daily walk into the working day. Me, because sitting on my rear for hours at a time doesn’t do my derriere any good. My husband, because he suffers badly from what he describes as ‘cabin fever’ and I describe as ‘let’s go out to play’. Sun shining on Wednesday, we set off and dropped into our favourite café in Cheltenham, Café del Art, to hand over one of my husband’s paintings for sale. As luck would have it, our charming Polish friends were not, for once, run off their feet and we spent a little time jawing about life in general. Our friends arrived here ten years ago and they have an interesting and unique take on the UK – all grist to the writer’s proverbial mill.
Next stop on our circular route, the centre of town, and that meant a walk past Castle Fine Art. Normally, I glance in the window and keep walking. On Wednesday I screeched to a halt. Lost in wonder, I felt a tug on my sleeve. ‘Come on, we’re going inside,’ my other half said. So we did.
The objects of our adoration were a collection of sculptural masterpieces by former furniture maker Nic Joly, cousin of Dom. To say I was knocked out, was an understatement, but what made it as pleasurable was the warm, unstuffy welcome.
To put this into context, my husband, formerly a graphic designer, is an artist in his own right. He doesn’t claim to be Picasso, but he has painted and sold portraits, pets, streets scenes and landscapes for the past ten years. We are accustomed to walking into galleries and we’ve encountered the great and the, frankly, dire; places where the welcoming smile is replaced by a sneer, where your every step is studied and tutted at, as if you have no right to breathe, let alone step forth in such hallowed halls. None of this kind of pretentious nonsense at Castle Galleries. The guys were welcoming in a way that made you glow; knowledgeable without ramming it down your throat; open about pricing without making you feel as if you couldn’t possibly afford it so don’t bloody ask, and with a sense of humour that was refreshing. I even got a cup of coffee.
Cut to Thursday and, if you haven’t yet twigged where I’m going with this, stick with it and all will be revealed.
For a while I’ve been meaning to sell a ring. It was bought a long time ago and belonged to another life. I saw no point in leaving it in the bottom of a set of drawers, unworn. I’d had it valued so I knew its intrinsic worth, but my intention wasn’t to sell it to enable me to eat next week. Had this been the case, I’d have treated myself to a novel experience and visited a pawnbroker. What I’d failed to understand was that, as with tastes in publishing or food or music, they come and they go. My ring wasn’t ‘in’, but it took me four jewellers to discover this and what a grim process that was.
It’s easier to get into GCHQ than walking into the average jeweller. There are buzzers and security doors, and dead-eyed sales assistants. The universal glacial wall of disapproval is almost overwhelming. And that’s before you state your business. To be scrupulously fair, there was one refreshing exception, the kind of place where people smile, are friendly and don’t treat you as if you have no business taking up oxygen.
Once in, and it’s revealed that you are not buying but selling, your average jeweller morphs into a used car salesman – I’m probably doing car dealers a disservice. There’s a lot of sucking in of breath and mutterings of ‘there’s not much call for that sort of thing’. One guy couldn’t be bothered to stir from his lair but instructed a shop assistant in a loud stage whisper to ‘Tell her that it’s very nice but I’ll pass…’ It’s as if my ring had been pulled out of a Christmas cracker. Did I expect a red carpet? No. Did I hope for offers of huge amounts of loot? Not particularly. Did I expect a little courtesy? You bet, and what pained me most was that the ‘professionals’ dishing out the snooty attitude were of an age to know better. ‘Knock yourself out, take a leaf out of the young guys in Castle Gallery’s book,’ I wanted to shout, or pay a visit to Café del Art.
As it happens, I’ve got three daughters currently scrapping over ‘who gets Mum’s ring?’ Perhaps they could wear it on a rotating four monthly basis.
So what on earth does this have to do with writing, other than the fact that I’ve used the blog to let off steam? All experience, good or bad, filters into a writer’s work. That look, that mean or warm vibe, kind or nasty word will one day be processed and translated into print. It could be that I’ve just found my new nice guys. Better still, my villains.
Moral of the tale: cross up a writer at your peril.