The time is only ever now

Anthony Albright

Anthony Albright

It’s been one of those weeks, both exciting and terrifying and potentially life changing. Finally, after months of toying with an idea of writing about a book based on a journey across the estuary landscape of the North Kent Marshes documenting my own experiences of living in a caravan on the marshes and meeting others who have chosen to live in similar ramshackle, alternative, edge of society dwellings, I sent off my proposal to a tiny selection of London literary agents and was most surprised to receive an e-mail from one the same day.

The e-mail began. Thank you for your material, which I enjoyed. That would have been nice enough but I was expecting  the next sentence to be either;

A) but it’s not right for us.

B) But I don’t see a market for it or

C) But our lists are currently full.

Anyone who has ever written and sent their stuff off to agents and publishers will be all too familiar with these replies. What I didn’t expect to see was some glowing praise followed by

D) I would be interested to see more chapters if you have them available.

“whoooooeeeeeeeee,” but also, “BUGGER.”

I don’t have more chapters, the thing isn’t written, the journey hasn’t begun.

I was forced to e-mail back and confess that this is only a proposal and receive a reply along the lines of.

Well, go away and write it and come back to me when you have as I am interested.

A reply which made me want to weep with frustration on how I was ever going to find the time to research and write this book while working full time, driving hundreds of miles for work every week and trying to keep my house from falling down round my ears.

Two sleepless nights followed as my head swirled with how it could be done. how I could find the time to write and find the money to find the time to write. Should I give up everything, work and holidays, and men and family and DIY and friends and become a hermit. It is the age old writing dilemma, the age old life dilemma. An opportunity presents itself and if you don’t grab it, whatever, whatever the risks, then you will forever regret it. Something has to give, but what and how?

Then, the inkling of an idea was given to me, a way it could be done, not easy, not without sacrifice, but then is anything of real worth in life ever gained with ease.

Another friend stopped by for tea and gave me this good advice. “Get A Plan.”

and so a plan is forming which might transform 2014, if only I have the courage to take that first step.

but when that door opens you just have to step through it and not hesitate and tell yourself the timing is all wrong because after all, the time is only ever now.

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Solvitur Ambulando

untitledTuesday proved to be a fitting end to the survey season as I trudged across miles of marshes in the driving rain. It could have been hideous but, like many things in life, being outdoors in the winter is all a state of mind.

On this occasion, the wind and rain in my face and the vast flatness of the landscape were what I needed. I needed to think and walk under sullen skies with swirling flocks of lapwing and starling overhead. Stonechats hunkering in the bramble, herons, with faces as thoughtful as my own.

The weather helped, the rain in my face and the fact that there was no one but me abroad. The world so empty that it was like walking around in your own head with a window to the outside world, a feeling enhanced by being encased in layers of waterproofs.  Solvitur ambulando, You can work it out by walking. Today it helped. I came to a decision while leaping a gate.

Unfortunately I had leapt down into a field of cows. Cows are not my favourite creatures, particularly gangs of heifers as these were. My own internalised problems took a back seat as I was faced with the more immediate difficulty of dealing with a bunch of feisty teenagers, egging each other on to take a swing at me.

“What’s that? Let’s have a look, go on Tommy, have her.” The lead cow fancied his chances and bundled over.

“Back off,” I said. “Back off, I want no trouble. I’m just here to look at that ditch and then I’m gone from your life.”

The cow looked at me with soulless eyes and at that moment I could understand why the devil is cloven hooved. The others pushed and shoved at the back, climbing on each other for a better look. I banged my stick on the ground.

“Geeeerrrrrrtttttt offfff.” I warned trying to sound farmer like and authoritarian. They only took it as a sign that I must be a provider of food and came closer. I was becoming surrounded, with my back to a barb wire fence and a railway track. My heart was pounding and stories of people crushed by cows played out it my head. If I was trampled in this spot then no one would find me for days.

I was reminded of the scene from the film Withnail and I where Withnail gives instructions from the safety of a nearby field. “Hold your bag up. Run at it shouting.”

I looked at this wall of bulk and horns and ran at it. “Ra, RA,” I shouted and slapped the nearest one with my stick. They  backed off, hooves flayling. I pounded away across the field before they could change their mind and reached the level crossing, climbing on top of the locked gate I felt victorious.

“Sucks to you.” I shouted back at the herd, jumped off the gate and almost got squished by an oncoming train.

The survey season and my own concerns almost ending in spectacular fashion.