Newsletter no.156, August 15th, 2020

It never rains but it pours. Do you remember that one? Well, we’ve had a few patches of rainy weather down here in London but we’ve also had extra high temperatures which make life difficult. I’m sitting here with a fan blowing hot air around me . . . I can’t say it cools me down, and I have to keep rushing to the bathroom to wash my hands in cold water. On the other hand, other members of the family have had cool, drizzly weather which has also made life difficult, in another way.

We always say that our borough empties out in the summer holidays. Parking becomes a lot easier, the shops are easier to walk around and even our parks, which are normally thronged with bikers, runners, dog walkers and people just taking the air, are much quieter. The ice cream vans, though, still visit every day . . . sigh!

So back to it never raining but it pours. I signed the contract for the next book and happily sat down to work out exactly who said what and when . . . and then an email popped in asking for another short story for the Recorder, to be delivered asap. They qualified it must be about lockdown, with masks, and social distancing. Oh. They said they knew it was short notice, but each of them had thought the other had asked me for the story, and please could I oblige. Um. The lovely lady at the greengrocers suggested the title, Love in Lockdown. No, it’s not about young love. Far from it. Or rather . . . no, you’ll have to wait till it comes out before I can divulge any more details. I think it will be out at the beginning of September. To be continued . . .

Meanwhile, I had to put the next book on hold. And my computer failed. So along comes my trusty knight of the keyboard and we have ‘that’ conversation. Can he mend it, and is it worth it? Sigh. It isn’t. So I have to have a new ‘tower’ which is now a square box and not a tower at all, and everything, hopefully, will get transferred over. Oh, the agony of being a communicator without any tools with which to communicate!

The bird bath continues to do its duty. One morning early I found the water almost gone, and all the ground around saturated. How many blackbirds having a bath does it take to empty the bird bath? Five or six, perhaps? It did cross my mind to wonder if they were trying to lighten my load by watering the pansies for me . . . but no. That’s just silly. (Although pleasant to think about.)

Turning to my archives, I find the next short story in the series was published at Christmas. And it’s now August. Bad timing. But it’s a nice little story, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s called ‘Not Just for Christmas.’ And you can find the link to it here.

Libraries. There’s absolutely no news about our library re-opening. None. But every day I put another old or new book out on the wall outside, and every day more disappear. I think of the people who take these well-read books and hope they enjoy the stories as much as I did.

A blessing on all who take away one of my books and enjoy it.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.155, August 1st, 2020

Writers need time to ponder their plots. I usually reckon to be on holiday in Bruges and away from my desk and emails and stuff when I start thinking about the next book. I make my way along the canal to where a certain bench is placed in a small patch of greenery overlooking one of the splendid panoramas for which Bruges is famous. And there I give myself time to sit and think and maybe jot down some suggestions for names, or for a twist in a plot.

Well, there’s no Bruges this summer, but I have been busily tidying up the manuscript for the next book, which I delivered in the usual way. Then, before my editor had had a chance to read it, she asked if I had an idea for another book, what would be its title, and when could I deliver it! Well, er . . . not sure. Yes, I did have the very vaguest of ideas, but I hadn’t really done any serious thinking about it. So I sat down to play patience (with real cards) and to look out at the garden. And watch the birds.

I have a bird bath which I fill up with water twice a day. The crows and the magpies arrive, drink and without making a song and dance about it, fly off to resume their hunt for food. The pigeons allow themselves some digestive time after drinking. They linger on the rim and ponder what to do next. The blackbirds have no idea of social distancing. One, two, anything up to six will arrive together. They drink and then they get down into the water and flap their wings madly till the bird bath resembles a fountain. The sparrows tend to keep away while the blackbirds are having their shower and then daintily help themselves to a sip here and a sip there. However, there is one sparrow who has observed the antics of the blackbirds and likes to try them for himself. He goes ker-flop! Into the water. Then, tentatively at first, tries to set up a fountain of his own. He succeeds, to the muted admiration of the others, who are not nearly so daring. He’s the king of the castle, don’t you think?

Anyway, I sat and watched the birds and thought, and disentangled some sort of plot . . . so, as of this minute another contract is now being prepared for my signature. And that will be another Bea Abbot. I’ll tell you more about it later.

Now, what is the next short story for me to attach to this latter? Um. Well, the next one in the series is called HARVEST HOME. My stories begin with something I’ve seen or heard about and this is no exception. Is it really up to me to deal with a member of the awkward squad? Can I avoid noticing that someone is in trouble? So this story is in memory of Fred, who loved a good singsong. Access it here.

Libraries. More emails in, saying how libraries are gradually opening up and extending hours everywhere even, it seems, except in our London Borough. I continue to put books I have read and loved out for people to take away, and now have some gaps on my shelves which I am beginning to fill up again as I pay another visit to our local bookshop. I used to be able to get some books from one of our local charity shops but they’ve not opened yet, so what I’d do without the bookshop, I do not know.

A blessing on all who keep an eye open for others who may be in trouble.

Veronica Heley