Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In which I do some "real" work...

I haven't blogged recently because I've been frantically trying to finish the edits on my next book, The Demons of Ghent, to be published in 2014. Writing, sadly, is not all lying on chaises  longues sipping absinthe and idly noting down the occasional stroke of creative genius in a moleskine notebook..! I've been very busy trying to get some major changes made without too much slippage in the deadline.

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by," said the late great Douglas Adams. Well, that noise makes me feel very twitchy (control freak, moi?). Anyway, I more or less met the deadline, but now I am having to wade through a massive pile of tasks that were neglected whilst I was working on the edits. One of the big things is the preparation for the upcoming Crieff High Street Arts Festival on 24th and 25th August. I'm doing an event at that, about which I will blog separately later.

Anyway, I also found a bit of free time today to help my daughter with a temporary job she has, delivering leaflets door to door in the town. There is a certain sort of fascination in jobs like that, I think.  When I was a student I did the Christmas post a couple of times to earn a bit of extra money, and this reminded me of that. The actual "work" is pretty mundane - you just carry a bag of leaflets around and stuff them through each letterbox. However, that's not all there is to it.

For starters, there is a certain kind of door to door etiquette. When I approached most of the houses I didn't see a soul. When I did see someone working in their front garden, I made of point of saying hello to them so that they didn't jump out of their skin when I passed by. But in some houses there were clearly people on the other side of the windows. I pretended not to see them and they (I suppose, because I wasn't looking) pretended not to see me. The only exception I can recall to this was when I was doing the Christmas post on one particularly nasty snowy day, with no gloves on because you can't sort letters whilst wearing mitts. I walked up the drive of one cosy-looking house with all the Christmas lights on, whilst snow drove into my face and melted down the back of my neck, and the occupants sat snugly in the front room laughing and pointing. Grrr. But yes, you are probably right; I should have forgotten that by now...

Then there is Man's Best Friend, of course. We didn't see much of him today, though we did hear a bit from him. At one house we put the leaflet through the letter slot and it was instantly greeted with what sounded like an entire pack of very small dogs yapping their heads off. I am not sure there will be much left of the leaflet by the time the owner sees it! There was nothing however to rival the Hound that used to lurk on the post round I did all those years ago. The old postie who trained me warned me about that particular dog. I never actually saw it (well, not the whole of it) but whatever it was, it sounded like MacReady's description of the alien in The Thing: "weird and pissed off." Also enormous. A mastiff perhaps, or some kind of tyrannosaurus. Whenever it heard me approaching the door it would hurl itself against the other side, growling and snapping, and the minute I put anything through the letter slot, it would seize it savagely. I find it hard to imagine that the owner ever got a single piece of post that hadn't been shredded by its enormous teeth. Once I opened the letter slot and looked through it instead of putting a letter through, and I could see right down its throat.

The other endlessly, er, fascinating aspect of door to door deliveries is the varying accessibility of people's letter boxes. I probably make life more difficult for myself by refusing to walk across people's lawns in case they come out and shout at me. But I am amazed at the convoluted routes some people's paths take from the street to the front door: up the drive, turn right, cross the entire front of the house, turn left around the side, then left again up the steps... They remind me of those penitential mazes that mediaeval monks used to trudge around. My daughter and I whiled away the walk between houses by debating which was the most difficult to get at. I think the prize went to the one which had a drive, followed by a gate with a latch, followed by a garden and then one of those letter slots about three inches off the ground, so that you have to grovel on your knees to put the leaflet through. And it also had those brush thingies inside the letter box, which make it very difficult to poke a flexible item through, especially if the hinge of the cover is a snappy one. It was rather like that monstrous dog again, only with the teeth on the outside and the fur on the inside.

Anyway, it was fun. Sort of. And I got some fresh air after being cooped up with a hot laptop for weeks. My daughter will also be fantastically fit by the time she has covered the entire town. So that is also good. There is just one final thing to add. To the people of Crieff, those of you who have those letterboxes attached to the wall at the end of the drive, right next to the street: we love you. x

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