Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Monty Don's got a lot to answer for... by Cathy Ace

Sitting typing isn’t what we evolved to do, no matter how rewarding it might be. At your desk and/or away from it, how do you counteract the physical toll a writing life takes on your body?

This question’s a bit like one of those cans of worms that explode when you open them...however carefully I try to answer it I’m not going to end up looking good...though I think this garden!

You can see 6 of our hydrangeas here - we have a couple of hundred

I know we humans were not designed to sit typing all day, but I also know this particular human wasn’t designed to type at all competently. I should’ve taken lessons at some point – but I’m old enough that when I started work there was a typing pool in the bowels of London Transport’s splendid art deco HQ at St. James’s Park, to which I dutifully took my boss’s handwritten letters etc. each day so they could be typed, then I’d collect them around 3pm, and present them to him for signing before I took them to the post (mail) room so they could be posted (mailed). Yes, I know it sounds like the Dark Ages, but we’re talking about 1984…yes, the REAL 1984. If I’d learned to type properly back then maybe I wouldn’t have to spend quite so long at my desk retyping all the Scrabble-hands I seem to want to include in every sentence. Maybe.

I love this...see below for scale...

Since I didn’t, here I sit cursing the fact that I cannot (and this is a hue admission folks) type an apostrophe in a word – I always type a semi-colon instead. I have absolutely no idea why my finger goes to the wrong key every single time, but it does. It’s every time. Just did it then – typed It;s and had to go back and change it. Sometimes the spellcheck thing decides to change it for me, other times it doesn;t and if I keep typing this blog without changing every time I do it, you;ll soon see how many changes I;m likely to have to make on every page of every book I;ve ever written. You might think this is just an amusing aside – a way to get out of an even bigger admission that I;m holding back from making, and maybe it is. I don;t know. But it certainly contributes to the overall number of hours I sit here.

I am the tiny figure in orange - helps with scale. Far right - the ESSENTIAL hot tub

Okay, so here goes. How do I counteract the physical toll of writing when I;m actually sitting at my desk? Simple confession – I don;t. I;ve tried setting alarms to get me to leave my chair and move around, I ignore them. I even have one of those watches that counts my steps (LOL…I think it thinks I;m a bump on a log) and tells me when to get up and stretch…I ignore it.

Lovely rhodo behind a soon-to-be-lovely hibiscus. We have a couple of hundred rhodos

To counteract the damage I;m doubtless doing to myself I work the five acres we live on (with husband), and do my best to keep it looking half way decent. That’s a lot of work. Today I moved six logs. Doesn’t sound like much, but they weighed about 150 pounds each, and all needed to be moved about 30 feet. It took a while; I rolled them when I could…but, you know…it was a lot. Yesterday I did four hours of pruning – which meant I did about one third of our hundreds of hydrangea bushes (and still my watch told me to exercise – it can become very bossy!) and tomorrow I’ll be clearing a large bed of branches and detritus that husband will run through the chipper, then I;ll shovel that into a wheelbarrow, wheel it to one of the paths we;re building (which are edged with the aforementioned logs) and will tip, spread, flatten…and repeat. Probably for three or four hours. We call it gardening – others might think we’ve invented some new form of masochistic torture we impose upon ourselves…but it will look lovely eventually…when we’ve dug holes for the hundreds of plants in large, heavy pots we’ve got standing by, ready to go. Monty Don’s got a lot to answer for…it all looks so easy on Gardener’s World!

Standing beside one of the first rhodos I planted, about 18 years ago

So, simple answer: when I sit, I sit…I;m oblivious of time, and I know that;s a bad thing. I overcompensate with ridiculous amounts of work in the garden – then stretch my screaming muscles in the hot tub. And take painkillers.

I love playing with colour and texture...even if I have to wait years for it to work

I am not living healthily. I know this. But I am managing to write books people seem to enjoy reading, and the garden looks – to me, anyway – magnificent. Hope it was okay to show it off :-) 

And I saved at least 5 minutes at my desk by not altering all those blessed semi-colons! Ta-daaa!

By the way - don't forget I'll be taking part in the opening panel of Wales's FIRST international crime writers' festival - online, and FREE - on April 26th. I kick off the whole thing with Martin Edwards, and Gail Williams. Other authors include Lee and Andrew Child, Peter James, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Ragnar Jonasson, 7 Criminal Mind's very own Abir Mukherjee, and lots more... Full details and FREE tickets here: Gwyl Crime Cymru Festival | Wales' First International Crime Festival  

If you'd like to get a copy of the TENTH Cait Morgan Mystery, The Corpse with the Iron Will, when it’s released on June 3rd, check out the pre-order link on my website:


Dietrich Kalteis said...

It sounds like you've combined the caber toss with gardening, Cathy, and you've got a great way to keep fit, along with a very beautiful garden.

Cathy Ace said...

LOL, Dietrich...I don't think I have a role at the Highland Games at all ;-)

Susan C Shea said...

Your Garden is a real showpiece. When I toured English gardens in 2019, some of the ones I saw were as beautiful as yours. If that doesn’t count as exercise then we’re both doomed. Be glad that you only have the;‘ issue to deal with. I am must have 10 equally wrong handed mistakes that I make all the time but I’m glad to know I’m not the only three finger typist in our writing group.

Catriona McPherson said...

Your garden is glorious, Cathy. And I kind of adore you for saying that your preferred solution to pain includes painkillers. I love living in modern times!