The advantage of being a jack-of-all-trades is that life is interesting and I am never bored. The disadvantage is that I’m constantly juggling everything with either feast or famine. Things then come along unexpectedly and I very much the person who says ‘Yes! Absolutely! I’d love to’, only worrying later (if at all) how the new project will fit with everything else.
It’s a good thing I adopt this approach as, if I’d thought about it for more than half a second, I would have said ‘Oh no, I don’t think I can,’ to the suggestions that I should write books and, later, edit anthologies. I have now written twelve books, compiled twelve anthologies and, if counting the new editions and books I have contributed towards, I have had thirty-six books published. The constant throughout all this has been selling books, mostly at Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly, mostly in the children’s department. Even that was chance; I started as a Christmas temp to fill a gap because a friend of a friend told me that someone had been offered a job there and not turned up at the last minute. To mis-quote Nigel Slater I am beginning to realise that I am a writer who sells books (in every sense) as well as a bookseller who writes. It’s a very nice feeling.
The only thing I actually trained properly in was pottery, starting at evening classes and then doing a post-graduate diploma at Goldsmiths College in London. And, for various reasons, it’s the one thing I don’t do any more. For about ten years I sold pieces and made a respectable living as a part-time potter, making everything from castles and cottages to mirror frames and candlesticks. But people inevitably wanted commissions and that took all the fun out of it – I wanted to make what I wanted, not fulfil their orders. Life moved on and I stopped potting. Making and selling patchworks, working as a gardener and writing filled the gap, and more.
I missed potting and, in recent years, making papier mâché models has taken its place. I don’t often sell these pieces, partly because the way I make them is very slow and the hourly rate would work out at about tuppence-ha’penny. But mainly because this way I have free rein to make whatever I want and if it goes wrong it doesn’t matter. In fact some of my most successful pieces went horribly wrong at some stage. If pottery pieces went wrong I often didn’t realise until they came out of the kiln and it was too late. With papier mâché I simply chop away with a Stanley knife or hacksaw and move on; it’s very liberating.
This year I intend to juggle very carefully and preserve my making time, be it patchworks or papier mâché. Which means everything else will have to fit into its allocated space.
All of which is a rather long-winded way of saying that there will be (even) fewer posts here. I love this website as a record of my books but for day-to-day news please head to my instagram @alittlecitygarden which is an almost daily record of my life, with the addition of Matilda, a small grey tabby cat. Thank you.