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Planting chillies

13 March 2003

Tuesday was awards night, the announcement of the Northern Rock Writer's Award (20,000 a year for three years, the most generous literary award in this country), plus a number of other grants from New Writing North. I had applied for everything, of course, and got nothing, grrr; but I went along regardless, doing my wounded-but-noble act, being loudly and conspicuously graceful in defeat. Loads of friends there, lots of drinking - and Julia Darling got the big award, which is brilliant. A second-best decision, obviously (it really should have been me), but brilliant regardless. So then I went to the pub with a couple of the judges and a bunch of mates, fetched Julia later and got thoroughly drunk [see my earlier comments on literary events and their propensity towards inebriation; this was a fine example of the genre].

Yesterday was a slow day, then, and a chilli day (chilly outside, chilli within, ho ho). I ordered a lot of dried chillies from Cool Chile Co and received my order of seeds from The Chile Seed Company. Apparently I should learn to write chile rather than chilli, it's more authentic; but I like it my way, so tough. Anyway, I spent a happy hour with pots and compost and clingfilm (for that greenhouse effect), and there are now nine different varieties getting all hot and steamy in the dark, in my airing cupboard. I'll let you know how many come up, and how they fruit. This is my fallback position; if I can't find a publisher and don't win the lottery, I'm going to give it all up and grow chillies, and make interestingly piquant sauces to sell at farmers' markets. And of course write a book of recipes, all beginning 'First grow your chilli...'

Then I went to an event in Durham, Kitty Fitzgerald and Peter Mortimer talking about short stories (though I suspect that I talked more than they did, sigh...), and stayed over with Jean and Roger. Who share my tastes both for wine and for armagnac (who was it who said 'Cognac is the wine-drinker's brandy, while Armagnac is the brandy-drinker's brandy'? I quote it often, conveniently overlooking the fact that I am a wine-drinker also), but are prepared to argue about almost anything else, so that was fun.

And so home this morning, and a day spent pottering around, hoovering and rescuing houseplants and cleaning windows and throwing out junk; but in between all of that I carried on with what I've been quietly doing all week, writing the synopsis for my proposed fantasy novel. A hateful process, but mine own. And I finished it about half-seven this evening and immediately e-mailed it off to agents both sides of the Atlantic, before I'd even read it through. That's how much I hate those things, I didn't want it kicking around a moment longer than necessary. Synopses take something soft and slithery and sexy, this idea that's been eeling its way around the back of my skull for a couple of years now, and they skin it and spreadeagle it and nail it down all nice and square and neat, and then it has fixed angles and exposed bones and isn't soft and slithery and sexy any more.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.