I am just back from swing-dancing; I even got myself home from the bus stop, having forgotten to charge up my phone. Ohhhh, scary! But here I am, safe from whatever or whoever may haunt our woods. (I ran like the dickens.)
I paid £10, i.e. for both the beginners' and the improvers' classes, and stayed for the social dancing, which this week featured a live band. To my great joy, I discovered that I really am getting better. Thank goodness. Maybe one day the Really Good Male Leads will ask me to dance. (The Really Good Female Leads already do, bless them.)
I notice, however, that women ask the Really Good Male Leads to dance within seconds of the last dance ending. It will be a few months before I will feel that my own skills are good enough to risk that! Personally, I asked two beginners and one just-back-after-three-years type. And I was asked to dance by four or so leads myself, so that was very good. I think I danced as much as the average follower can expect!
I bought a "How to Draw Animals" book for a very young friend today. My conscience besmote me, for we should all start off by drawing what we see, not in a cartoony way. However, all the exercises are about copying the author's drawings, bit by bit, which strikes me as good training after all.
B.A. and I took another friend (older than the above) for a birthday lunch at an Edinburgh restaurant today. It was a very good one, the sort that marries French cuisine with locally sourced Scottish ingredients. I had home-cured salmon decorated with fennel fronds, blue flowers, wafer-thin toast and cubes of purple potato, followed by a mushroom and truffle oil risotto, studded with parmesan brittle. Quite heavenly
I am quite pleased with myself, for I have written two ghost stories in three weeks, a vast improvement over my recent literary output.
They have nothing in common with Agatha Christie novels, but I mention AC again because of having read so many of her novels when I was ill: six or seven. What is really astonishing about the novels I read was that they were not at all formulaic.
Christie was, in her way, just as inventive as J.K. Rowling. And she really was a plot machine. Indeed, Christie wrote two plots per book: the plot she wants you to see, and the plot she reveals at the end. She must have turned almost everywhere she ever went into a setting for her novels: villages, boarding schools, hotels, trains, country homes--murders happen at them all.
And of course she froze all kinds of ancient British specimens, now generally extinct, in amber. Hysterical housemaids, professional dance-and-tennis instructors, Latin-spouting vicars, Indian officers (meaning white Englishmen who were in the British "Indian Army"), lazy old gardeners and ladies' dress shop owners. Where else do people come across such people nowadays, save in a Christie novel? Meanwhile, I think it worth mentioning that Christie chose for her most prolific detectives two types rather despised during her lifetime: the never married, childless, elderly woman and the theatrical, boasting foreigner.
But one thing that Christie does NOT seem to mention in her books, unless I am very mistaken. Although she has a lot to say, in the 1960s and, I believe, 1970s, about Modern Youth and Terrorism, she doesn't describe foreign migration to the UK in any detail. Today one of the most frequent surnames in London is Patel (another is Khan), but you would never, ever get that from Christie's later works. A curious oversight.
Interestingly, although I gobbled as many Christie books as I could when I was 12, in my 20s, I decided I was tired of her "formulaic" stock of characters--the colonel, the mysterious foreigner, the bullying wife, the spirited ingenue, et alia--and set them aside. But now I am back among Christies' admirers, in part because she did such a very good job at what she set out to do. Even if I never publish another novel again (and I am sure I will), I hope I will be able to write as prolifically as she did.