My plan was to write about a pleasure each week from March to December of 2022. I cunningly thought that resolutions not made in January might last longer. To be honest all it’s proved is that I’m a fountain pen and paper person. There have been lots of pleasures in the missing weeks, most are even written out on paper, sitting in a folder; they just never made it onto the website. I do also have an excuse; I have four books coming out this autumn and am working on another four for next year and the year after. I’m actually working on more than that but those projects are still very much in their infancy.
When I was little we lived in a house which overlooked the route of the 30 bus. In those days it was notorious for travelling in packs; you’d wait half an hour and then three or more buses would come along. Before I went to bed I was allowed to sit by the front window to wave at the buses. I can’t remember how many buses I could wave at before I was banished upstairs but I do remember trying to persuade my parents that three buses together only counted as one. As my Dad pointed out, ‘If you do that you’ll still be here long after we’ve gone to bed.’
This autumn my anthologies feel slightly like a pack of buses, each following fast on the heels of the previous one.
A Happy Poem to End Every Day is, the first to be published and is, unsurprisingly, an anthology of happy poems. It was a joy to compile. Lodged in the airy world of the imagination, happiness is almost impossible to pin down in a hard and fast definition but I had a great time trying. While I was compiling the anthology an article appeared in a newspaper giving a complicated scientific formula for happiness. Learned neuroscientists had worked out that in order to be happy one should lower one’s expectations, to avoid disappointment, but not lower them so much that one became miserable. It is clearly a delicate balance. The other discovery they made is that happiness doesn’t last long; it seems our brains adjust to a happy situation very quickly so we are ready to make the next move in life. Perhaps the best policy is to follow Iris Murdoch’s advice and aim for a life with ‘continuous small treats’. A daily poem (with one or two pieces of prose) will, I hope, bring readers of this collection continuous small slivers of happiness.
A Bedside Companion for Book Lovers is published on 13th October. Following the format of Bedside Companion for Gardeners it is a mix of fact, fiction, prose, poetry, adults’ and children’s books. I grew up in a house full of books, have worked in bookshops for most of my adult life and now live in a house where the books regularly threaten to take over. My love of books, and stories in particular, began early; every night my parents read to me, although they chose the books with the result that by the time I went to school I had a wide but fragmented knowledge of Charles Dickens’ novels and was under the mistaken impression that P. G. Wodehouse wrote children’s books about pigs. This should have been the easiest anthology to compile but looking round my shelves when I started collecting pieces, I was slightly daunted. Three hundred and sixty-six pieces may seem a lot but I soon realised that I would have a problem when I compiled a ‘short’ list of over four hundred and eighty possibilities. I hope readers will enjoy my final selection.
A Nature Poem for Every Winter Evening is published on 13th October and A Nature Poem for Every Spring Evening will follow later. There will eventually be a series of four with delightful seasonal jackets. The poems are taken from A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year and whilst that is a substantial book these are handy little seasonal collections.
As always I would love you to buy my books, ideally from your local bookshop, you might miss it if it went.