Can this really be my first post of 2014? Well, shame on me! I seem to have been bogged down for months, trying to catch up and meeting myself coming the other way. But I’m conscious that my lack of time seems to be a constant whinge and I’m fed up with hearing myself droning on about it. I feel it is time to do something about it. Clearly writing has taken a back seat to the day job and the running of the writers’ group has consumed more of me than the actual writing.
Well the latter problem seems to have been partly addressed already – the group has grown up and needs a committee. Now I hate the whole idea of committees. When I started the group it was just for a few like-minded writers who wanted to get together to discuss our work and give feedback. But there was clearly a need for a group like ours – people trying to get published needing support and motivation – and the numbers grew. Members decided they wanted to produce an anthology. This was wonderful but I could have no part in the organisation as I have no time for anything else so they got on with it. And how they got on with it! Before I knew it, we were applying for a grant and for that we needed a formal committee. In the blinking of an eye my little group became a big group and that group was suddenly applying for bank accounts and grants and for that we needed a Treasurer. As of now I am the Chairperson, there is a Treasurer, Secretary and two deputies. We have a full committee of six people and a Constitution.
The anthology is under way – all being handled by a supremely efficient group member who has already published her own work. We have a new member with loads of energy who has a series of children’s books on the market and she is helping with cover design and marketing. If I had time to sit back in wonder to admire all these talented people I would. Admire them I certainly do – time, I have none.
Why? Because this week is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and the celebrations for this and the annual birthday weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon are moving like a juggernaut, inexorably closer. Every day at work a succession of journalists and film crews, carting all the attendant technology; cameras, furry microphones, amplifiers, lights and cables, traipse through the Birthplace searching for electricity sockets! I wish so much I could tell them Shakespeare didn’t have electricity and send them on their way but we long ago capitulated and this lovely 16th century house has electric power!
It seems that interest in Shakespeare and his birthday seeps into every nook and cranny of the planet. In the past few weeks I have given tours to journalists from Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Holland and Australia. This week promises to be even busier and on Shakespeare’s official birthday (April 23rd), we are expecting film crews from all over, in the house virtually all day.
Not that I’m complaining – working as a guide in Tudor costume brings many rewards. Every day is different – you turn up and never know what the day will hold. Often it is punctuated with hoards of bored French students, longing to be away from their teachers, longing to be out shopping, by the river, anything in fact that isn’t listening to a bunch of strangely dressed people droning on about a long dead playwright who doesn’t even write in French! I can understand their predicament but it makes for a difficult day when you are trying to do your job, telling those visitors who are interested all about the social history of the time whilst having to talk loudly over the general noise of the disinterested schoolchildren.
Then there are the days when you have visits by dignitaries – HRH Princess Anne and the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins are two recent visitors for which much preparation was required. We’ve also recently been invaded by the likes of Jedward or celebrity chefs or historians filming soundbites for their documentaries, with their attendant techies and entourages. I can honestly say it’s never boring.
Which brings me back to whinging about lack of time – it’s all about choice isn’t it? Would I rather be sitting in front of my computer, struggling with the research, the dialogue and the prose which writing an historical novel demands? A novel which may never see the light of day (at the rate I’m writing it won’t!) and for which I earn nothing but backache and a dim sense of failure. Or would I rather be in the thick of it, giving thousands of visitors an insight into the life of the greatest playwright in the world, talking to journalists, appearing on national television (oh yes… but we’ll draw a veil over that one!)? For this I earn – not a vast amount I’ll admit but enough to make me feel I’m contributing to living expenses and the odd holiday. There is, I’ve discovered, no elasticity in time – the week will not stretch into ten days, try as I have to make it do so. So what is the alternative? Basically make a choice and stop whinging – apportion my time better – accept that I cannot do everything and deal with it!