Note to self -- gotta get to grips with how this works. My June 1st blog posted on May 24th. Why? I don't know, except that I was jet-legged that day. If I stole someone else's spot, I apologise! If I didn't, hey, you got extra words from me!
Currently, we in UK are experiencing something very rare -- a summer! Which makes it very difficult to sit inside, staring at the computer screen, instead of being outside in the sun. Now, if, like my writing partner, Chris, you don't enjoy the sun (she says she goes red and blotchy. I say, use SPF 50!) then I guess you can ignore the glorious weather. I can't. I'm a sun-worshipper. I love being out. Do you see the problem? If I'm sun-worshipping, I can't be working on the WiPs. Now, don't tell me to get a laptop and work outside. I have a laptop (very cute mini laptop!) but I find my brain goes into a fugue-state in the sun. Maybe I was a lizard in a previous life...
Going off on a tangent -- what is it about a tan that we so admire? Our heroes are tanned (usually because they lead exciting outdoors lives?) and even our heroines. Even if they're not the colour of teak, they'll have a 'glow'. They won't be pale and interesting (unless they're Victorian). I know, medically speaking, that tans are Bad, that tanned skin is Damaged Skin, that we are courting all manner of nasty things. But, irrational as it may be, I feel better when my pale English skin is overlaid with a tan. Deluded, I feel slimmer, sexier, and happier. I droop when the weather is grey and cloudy. I'm sure I suffer from S.A.D. The sun comes out, and I perk right up!
Anyway, I spent yesterday in the garden with my grandson (three years old this summer and cute as a bug) and his new paddling pool. He was nude and plastered with total sun-block and had a whale of a time. So did I -- but I wrote not one word.
However, I'm cautiously happy with the current WiP. See below for a taster...
It had once been a jewel of Jacobean architecture, creamy Cotswold stone standing four-square at the end of a curving driveway edged with elms and surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. The driveway still existed, ending in a gravelled space in front of the sweeping steps that led up to the front entrance. The gardens were an overgrown jungle, though attempts had been made at clearing some of the tangled growth. The steps were moss-covered and crumbling in places. Windows looked out over the courtyard, blank eyed, desolate…
“It’s a fixer-upper!” Jon said, grinning. “Some wedding present, Mad…”
“It cost Laura the best part of a million,” she snapped, defensive. “Another million will go on restoration and modernisation. Then it’ll rival Castle Howard, and we’ll make our fortune.” Maddy felt obliged to defend the place, even though her initial reaction had been similar to her brother’s. “Come on in. I’ll show you where you’re sleeping. Then give you the tour.”
“She’s a wealthy lady, then, this Laura? Or she was, until Dad turned her brains to mush.”
“You can talk,” Maddy muttered to herself. She had lost count of the girlfriends Jon had acquired and discarded in his teens. Aloud, she said, “Even you must have heard of Stanscombe Paper Products. She’s the only daughter, and current CEO. Henblas Pennant will be a kind of corporate conference centre. Eventually.”
“Or loss-leader? Tax write-off?” Jon ducked under the low lintel, dislodging cobwebs, dust, and some dried-out insect remains. He brushed them off his shoulders, looking around him at what once must have been the Great Hall. Oak panelling still lined the walls, dark with age – stone flags were underfoot. The ceiling way above was corbelled and bossed, and around the upper floor ran a balcony – a minstrel’s gallery. He whistled softly. “A mil has to be a conservative estimate, Mad… Dry rot. Wet rot. Death Watch beetle…”
“Dealt with,” she said shortly, a tad annoyed that he had so accurately diagnosed some of the faults of the old place. “We also have the plumbing fixed. And the electrics. What’s left is cosmetic. Well, mostly.” She crossed her fingers surreptitiously behind her back.
Maddy had appropriated the master suite for herself, and relegated Jon to the small housekeeper’s room she herself had occupied until the departure of her father and his new bride. Grigori Hawke she gave the only other accommodation ready for occupancy, the butler’s pantry off the kitchen, and felt obliged to apologise.
“We will be very comfortable here, Miss McMillan. Thank you.” He placed his backpack carefully on the bed, and the cat emerged, giving a sinuous stretch and wide yawn before hopping down to inspect the room. “As you see, Meri approves.”
“She’s housetrained…?” Maddy wondered what she could find to use as a litter-box. He smiled, and gestured to the small window that gave out onto a walled garden.
“She is a very sophisticated lady.” He lifted the latch and pushed the window open a few inches. The cat levitated to the sill, chirped at him, and slipped out.
“Aren’t you worried she’ll get lost? Or, well, there are a few farm-cats – toms – that hang out…”
“Meri can well take care of herself,” he smiled. “But thank you for your concern.”
He did have a lovely smile. As he shrugged out of his jacket, the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt showed a deep tan, muscles moving smoothly under the skin. His hands were narrow, long-fingered, elegant. Maddy always noticed hands. And eyes. You could drown in the caramel depths of his eyes…
Down, girl! “I’ll – just go and rustle up something to eat,” she heard herself gabble, and got out of his sight, leaning against the wall outside and taking several deep breaths. You’re twenty-five years old, she reminded herself sternly. You’re not a silly teenager.