Starting to say yes – but not to everything

I’m sorry. I did it. I started writing lists of what I “needed” to do during my sabbatical. A few goals, I told myself, just write down a few goals. Then it morphed into all the things that have been in the back of my mind for years that suddenly burst forth and overwhelmed me before I could start to push them back to where they had been lying happily dormant for long enough that another year won’t hurt them.

Because writing a novel is not enough. I also needed to learn a language from scratch, publish a book of photos (that I haven’t even taken yet), run [insert random number] ultramarathons, grow a vegetable garden, deal with my abysmal Dutch because I always quite liked the language, learn to play a new instrument. And that was just one list. Then Camille said she was surprised I didn’t want to learn to fly a plane. Fortunately for everyone when I Googled that, I discovered the Edinburgh flying school recently closed. Which was sad because a school friend learned to fly there many years ago and took me up in a plane a few times. I won’t say any more about what he let me do with the plane when we got up there but I still have a smile on my face when I think about it. The invincibility of youth.

I’ve calmed down a little with my lists now, but my theory is still that I can learn French (enough to get by on) while doing housework – ironing, hoovering – no, wait, not while hoovering – emptying the dishwasher, hanging up clothes, watering the plants. So that stays on the list, because maybe it gets us to Paris next year. And a photography book might or might not happen but I can make sure that I always have a camera on me, even it’s just the one on my phone. So I haven’t scratched everything off the list yet, but the ultramarathons have gone, replaced by doing random running events that I see cropping up that sound fun. So I’m doing a 10k at the end of the month in Berlin because I’m there and they close one of the main roads in the evening at dusk so we can run up and down it. And I’ve never run a 10k race before so thought I might as well.

I am finding that it is becoming easier to say yes to some things that would normally just not have happened.

Like disappearing in October with LoLo to see Carlos Acosta (“the best male dancer of his generation” is how she always describes him – you have to imagine the indignation in her voice when she says it to someone who, unbelievably in her eyes, has never heard of him before). He’s dancing in London at the end of a farewell tour and we had great fun choosing our seats in the Royal Albert Hall (there were only a very few left so we examined the viewing angles of each) and then seeing how much we could shave off the price of a hotel room in London for the night. We got it down to £30 for us both (and no, it’s not a flea-infested dump). The highlight was when we discovered that our railcard expired the week after we go so we don’t have to buy another one to get cheaper tickets.

The big trip we have now planned in did involve a potential if not flea-infested then cockroach-infested apartment. We thought the price seemed quite good and were amazed at the number of people who had stayed there after all the reviews had pointed the problem out. So we aren’t staying there. But we are going to New York, hopefully with a performance of at least the New York City Ballet thrown in, plus whatever other dance is being performed there.

So the list is being culled but the possibilities are starting to feel closer to being real now.


And this is the current state of upstairs, with mind maps, character sketches and plot outlines lying all over the place (I’m quite liking it to be honest). Just don’t ask about the target number of books I plan on reading in the next twelve months. But I think I’d better now get on with the Maggie O’Farrell book I’m in the middle of – more on that in another blog.

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