Monday, June 10, 2013

Alexander MacCall Smith

Scottish best-selling author Alexander MacCall Smith has just bought an island so he can have a peaceful place to write, rather as you or I might indulge ourselves with a shed in the garden.  Admittedly it's quite small and uninhabited, just across a narrow stretch of water from  the house he owns on the remote Hebridean island of Coll.  It's only accessible in fine weather but it's enchantingly pretty and he says he finds it difficult to write his cheerful and uplifting books in uncongenial or ugly surroundings.

This week I have had a chance to see what pleasant surroundings do for my writing since, amazingly, Scotland has been having real summer weather after two years when the summer months were indistinguishable from the winter months by the fact that it rained more in the summer.

So I've been spending as much time a possible in the garden. The clematis that climbs up through the crab apple tree is in full bloom, draping curtains of pink flowers that make a shady room beneath and the wisteria is out, pale lilac against the white walls..  We have pairs of blackbirds, robins and wrens nesting in the hedges; the garden rings with their song.  Admittedly we live in a city but having lived here for years I don't even notice the hum of traffic.

So - an inspiring atmosphere for creativity?  Well, not so much.   There is a pair of magpies also nesting in a nearby garden who have the charming habit of popping by and going along the hedge,diving down with their murderous beaks to slaughter the innocents in the nest below, while their parents shriek in dismay.  At the first 'pink-pink' of alarm I am on my feet, ready to yell at the intruder, clap my hands, throw  - well, anything, really.  It's just as well there are strict laws on gun control in Britain, since I would blast them out of the sky without compunction if I could.  Actually, given my general incompetence I would probably only manage to blast out my neighbours' windows.

As a matter of fact I don't think the beauties of nature are helpful where I am concerned.  I spend too much time admiring the irises coming out in the flowerbed and then noticing that the roses need watering and spotting the weeds that must be pulled up before they spread.  If I tell you that I'm not actually at all enthusiastic about gardening you will recognise this for what it is - the old 'anything-to-get-out-of-facing-the-blank-page' syndrome.

In my study, a pleasant if untidy room, I face a wall with a picture on it that I like but am so familiar with that I never notice it.  There's really nothing to do except get on with the job in hand and it's amazing how a spot of perspiration produces inspiration eventually.

But frankly, on a Scottish summer day  when the temperature has topped 20C, I don't care about efficient production.  In a couple of weeks the nights will be drawing in again and I'm going to make the most of it right now.

2 comments:

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

And, of course, it would be blank page syndrome on my part if I said I'd love to head to Scotland right now. Even with the magpies, it sounds quite lovely today.

It's raining here in Albany, and I am unproductive.

Aline Templeton said...

You'd have to come quickly, Frankie. They're predicting a change in the wweather tomorrow. Still, fun while it lasted and maybe now I'll get a bit more work done!