I’m at the end of a week’s writing retreat at the lovely Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan. Annaghmakerrig, that’s the place.
Lucky me to have such privilege, to have been here three times this year, each time with a huge creative burst which I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I came to try to finish the novel I started in February, and while I’ve done a lot more than I expected, I’m managing not to put too much emphasis on daily word counts. The story is all done now, the characters and plotting sorted, I’m just filling in gaps and editing. And I have a title: ‘Three Ways to Lie’. I’m not sure if talking about it will jinx me or spur me on to finish? We’ll see.
But while novel-writing is going on, my poet head keeps getting in the way. I’m not sure what prompted me to bring five years’ worth of notebooks to look through, but I’m glad I did. I found unfinished poems I’d written about my childhood relationship with Catholicism, and they are now turning into a sequence of poems about religion. Bit serious for me, but there are a few light touches. There has to be if it’s my writing.
Then there has been wildlife to distract me.
An enormous wasp paid a visit to my room not long after I arrived. It was probably already there, lying in wait. I’m not quite as terrified of wasps as I used to be (and I’ve no idea why I should be afraid of them, I’ve never been stung) but I’d rather they didn’t get up close and personal.
When normal rules apply, I just shriek for assistance and move myself to another room while someone else deals with the invasion. This time I was on my own with no-one to call (I’ve been going it alone in the self-catering cottages).
Keeping my nerve, I found a large (empty!) Guinness glass in the kitchen and used a stray copy of some battered poetry book, ‘Beyond the Green Bridge’, to urge the wasp into captivity before releasing it outside (in the rain – ha!). I don’t kill creatures like that unless they are threatening the general well-being of me and mine, me being of the live-and-let-live persuasion (with the notable exception of certain parasites, like tape worms and fleas – and rats who try to take up residence in my house).
The wasp was the first of several wildlife encounters. A little wren flew in through the open window, landed on the writing desk (not the one I was sitting at), looked at me and flew out again. Then I went for a walk and surprised a lovely big grey heron fishing for his dinner. I was slow to get the camera out so he’s just a shadowy blur on the image as he took flight, but I know he’s there.
I’ve also seen jays, lots of other birds I can’t identify, swans in flight, a flock of teal, and best of all, three red squirrels burying beech nuts. They didn’t see me at first and I was afraid to move and switch on the camera, so I’ve not much photographic evidence.
Just as well really, because I should be writing, not looking at photographs, even squirrel ones.