21 January 2003
Helen was back in town this weekend: a friend of short stature but long standing (cf Chambers' definition of an éclair, 'a cake long in shape but short in duration' - a dictionary with a sense of humour, hallelujah!), Helen who used to own the best house in Newcastle until she sold it last year, and not alas to me. It was very lovely to see her, despite that clear and inexplicable shortcoming, and a fair amount of drinking was done, with her and others. And then Kate & Adam came round Sunday night to help me eat smoked sturgeon and keta caviar (sing ho, for the writer's life! But they were gifts, for my birthday; I have generous and understanding friends). I made blinis, and am still basking in triumph. There are probably as many blini-recipes as there are blini-makers, but they seem to fall into two camps, the simple (beat eggs, add flour, add milk - essentially a pancake mixture, but with buckwheat flour) and the complex (yeast, flour, warm milk, stand for an hour, add melted butter, egg yolks, a fold of whisked whites). We recommend the latter, and not simply from a male urge for complication: lighter and richer at the same time, and approved for authenticity. What more could you want? Except for a lemon cake with honey syrup to follow, and we had that too. And then down to Live Theatre for an evening of poetry and music - Amanda Dalton, my adored (well, hell, everyone's adored) Julia Darling, and Maggie Thacker singing largely Julia's lyrics. More drinking, more talking, more lateness.
And despite all of this social stuff, and despite also cleaning the house - at least to the point where there is a visible tidemark lapping around the public rooms, thus far and no further - I have none the less been working also. Not on the fantasy text, I set that aside for a few days (again!), to write an early outline for the Moshui project, the big Chinese fantasy sequence that my American agent really doesn't want me to write. Don't ask me why I did that, but I did. And am actually quite happy with the result, which I rarely am with anything even vaguely approaching a synopsis. Someone recently described this process as being asked to draw a map of a land you haven't visited yet: a point of view with which I am wholly in sympathy. And yet one does it, because one has to; gone are the days when I could sell a novel over lunch, or down the telephone. (Hey, look, I've been doing this job a long time, okay? I'm allowed to murmur wistfully about the golden years...)
© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.