14 July 2004
I got to use the word gralloch yesterday. This makes me very happy. Itís a word I have loved ever since I first met it (I suspect in John Macnab, say thirty years ago, though I couldnít swear to that; contrary to rumour, you donít always remember the first time).
To save a fair proportion of you the need to go and look it up, I will define. Any decent dictionary will tell you that the noun means a deerís entrails, and the verb to disembowel (deer), but actually itís broader than that. The gralloch is the whole act of disembowelment, there on the field, in the heat of the hunt; it encompasses the huntsmanís cut to open the belly, the spilling of the intestines and the houndsí reward. You will understand, I think, how come I never had the chance to use this word before, in thirty years. Not my field, really.
But the British Fantasy Society is producing a calendar for next year (think Xmas presents, and keep in touch...). Theyíve divided the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight into digestible chunks, and assigned a dozen writer/artist pairs to a portion each. Those of you who know me will know that I usually run shrieking from any Arthurian retelling - havenít these stories been told enough, already? - but itís always nice to be asked, and itís only a hundred words, and there was an obvious opportunity to use the word gralloch, so I did weaken.
Itís an interesting challenge, trying to tell even a portion of a story in a hundred words, without resorting to synopsis. As a rough guide, the paragraph preceding this is 99 words long, so thatís the space I had to play with, to cover a dayís action, two parallel events and consequences. What interested me was that I thought Iíd have to be very direct, straight up and down, but actually the solution was to be unexpectedly oblique in my approach. Not going to say more now, donít want to spoil the object at Xmas, but I may talk about it in detail later. If someone reminds me, and if I remember what I want to say.
Anyway, I was happy. That went off, and I went into town to see Spider-man 2 with friends, leaving my computer quietly printing on its own. I didnít like the film much, but hey, Hollywood has a magnificent talent to disappoint, and Iíve never really got comics anyway.
And so to pub, and then home to replace the toner cartridge and keep on printing; and then when the printing was done I stashed two copies of the revised first draft of Selling Water into padded envelopes and took them to the post office, where it cost me thirty quid to post íem to London and New York. I must, I must write shorter novels...
Then to the pub again, and unexpected friends to drink with, the Liar boys and others; and so home again, and a quiet evening, and bed at midnight because I couldnít stay awake.
And this, this is the thing: it happens every time, and every time it catches me out because I never realise just how strung out I am by the end of a book, or how much release there is when I send it off. For the last few months Iíve been sleeping dreadfully, waking at five thirty and at six and listening to the news at seven and always wide awake, often up before the alarm goes off at eight. This morning, blank unconsciousness till ten; and I am dragging myself around the house, and everything is too much trouble, even reading is hard work and Iím wondering what I can eat out of the freezer because I havenít got the energy to cook, and I never ever do that.
I think Iíve been gralloched.
© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.