Gardening: A better buzz than showbiz

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The Independent Online
WHICHEVER way I look at it, it's been a helluva week. At least, I thought, the manuscript of the latest book has been delivered these couple of weeks since. Now I can go on that promised walk and see the bluebells in the wood on the hill behind the village; it's been an age since I frittered away time.

I knew, in some subterranean region, that the publisher had been a long time sending me the letter that would say, wow, The Future of the World: Rediscovering Faith in Progress is a belter of a book. And then there would come the bad bit: it's too long of course, and needs tightening up, and one thing or another. And then it would have been a bit more slog followed by the sunny uplands of a glorious launch party, the angry and delighted reviews making my newspaper-reading a chiaroscuro of thrills and spills for a month or more. Then, as surely as dyspepsia follows Sunday lunch, there would have been Sue Lawley's producer on the phone.

Not a bit of it, or not yet: in comes a brilliant, hard letter, spelling out all the things I half-dared think were wrong. But there's a menacing hint that the editor thinks that it can't be put right. Hang on, this is a work of near-genius, I whimper, feeling that it may be my last utterance.

Of course, I'll show him. In fact, it was the first serious buzz I've had since I came here. I never believed the vicar when he said that all serious endeavour and brainwork ceases in the heavy, heady Hereford air. It's all right for him to be flip; he is retiring in a couple of months and can take himself off to bracing Cardiff.

I've been at it night and day, slinging yards of text out, booting tens of thousands of words into outer darkness, rearranging others. A few hours' sleep separates these giddy sessions. I'm working in a frenzy, the way I imagine the people who make Eldorado must be at it. Eldorado is, by the way, becoming a terribly good programme, though I doubt the world will recognise its quality. Anyway, it's crazy to say it, but I haven't enjoyed myself so much since kayaking in the surf off St David's Head and bringing on the angina attacks.

Or no: I haven't enjoyed myself so much since the mad evening in the school hall last month when I had to run an auction. A few jokes, and then pulling money and laughs out of people like plucking apples off a tree: suckering them out of their scepticism and meanness, putting a laugh on their faces and pulling pounds out of their wallets.

It was great, better even than the after-lunch speech I had to make to the waste industry at the Hilton last year. I didn't stop to think at the time, because you feel you must chuck out constant morsels, like the man in the Russian night flinging chunks of his picnic over the side of the sledge to slow up the following wolves. But afterwards I thought: so now you know what it's like to work a room, the old showbiz game.

So just in case the book really is going to bomb (of course it isn't]), I called a bloke I met at a conference: he runs something called Stand and Deliver and fields some of those rubicund professional diners who drop- kick surreal jokes into the cigar clouds of trade association dinners. Welcome aboard, says the old highwayman, and mentions a nightly fee that should keep the kids in trainers, provided the bookings come in.

More insurance: it's down to the village hall for a Heart Start meeting. Our local lugubrious casualty specialist was running an hour's session on how to kick-start the unconscious human.

The way I've been feeling, I am keen that everyone gets down and learns these skills, and I felt I owed it to the enterprise to be able to deliver the treatment I hope someone will be able to deliver to me but won't have to.

The French-kissing of dummies is not everyone's idea of fun, and I can't say I got the hang of it very quickly. And I don't recall ever hitting anyone, which is a pity since to get the human heart going, it's a good idea to pump the breastbone hard enough to depress it two inches at each stroke.

This was also the week I took advantage of an offer to store books and papers in a spare office in the warehouse of a chum of a chum. Boxes and boxes have been filled and labelled. I'm going to keep at it until the house has just the stuff in it that any civilised old rocker and hippie might have.

And then, I thought, if things work out, we'll have a decent, unclutterd place to live in. And if I really have blown it and we end up in a rented two-bed semi somewhere, at least I won't have the world's best reference library on the state of the world hanging around my neck.

All in all, I would describe my current state as highly motivated. Even so, I understand the feeling of a bloke in the village whose business isn't doing any too well. Screw this, he says, I think I'll go back to the Smoke, at least to work. He thinks he needs to feel the buzz of the bad place and get himself revved up again.

If he can't face the weekly commute, he could always try receiving a letter from this publisher chap: it did wonders for my attitude, at any rate.

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