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A mist opportunity

Newsletter: March 2017

Dear Web friend

Greetings from a grey and misty Seaford, entirely in keeping with the official gloom of Lent.

The weather clearly feels guilty about its inappropriate and spring-like behaviour yesterday, involving sunshine and laughing daffodils. Today, it has returned to sackcloth, ashes and a meteorological ‘Woe is me! And thrice woe!’

Though as I write that, I’m hearing the great and awkward Frankie Howerd, so I’ll stop there and hold back from saying ‘The prologue’ and offer instead the Lenten command of ‘Titter ye not.’

Lent is supposed to be serious, a ‘time of self-reflection’, we sometimes declare, though I suspect this is more theory than reality; something which we say happens but which in fact doesn’t happen much at all. And this is partly because – well, self-reflection is difficult.

Asking people to look at themselves is like asking a fish to describe water. It can’t – because water is all it knows. And we’re the same – we’re all we know. So most people imagine they’re normal, because they’re all they’ve ever known; and like the lunatic who thinks he’s Napoleon, we make complete sense to ourselves.

Of course no one is normal. Everyone’s a freak, full of the most odd assumptions and bizarre behaviour. But from the inside, it all appears as normal as a seagull by the sea. So self-reflection? Well, what’s there to look at?

The other reason it remains more theory than practice is that unless the wheels have well and truly come off our life, (and for some of us, they have) no one much wants to change their perceptions. I’m reminded of that old joke:

Two men meet in the street. One says to the other:

‘Dave, hi! But how you’ve changed! You used to be so tall and now you’re so short! And you used to be fat and now you’re so thin! And you used to be bald and now you’ve got curly hair!’

And the other man says:

‘I’m not called Dave.’

‘So you’ve changed your name as well!?’

Most people do not want to change their minds and possess a self-image they wish to leave entirely unbothered by anything but the most superficial self-reflection.

‘Stand clear! My self-image is now entering the room! On no account should anyone touch it! Unless you wish to stroke…’

Which is why it’s a miracle that we have a full house for my Enneagram retreat next week at Abbey House in Glastonbury. Nothing threatens our self-image like the Enneagram; it’s like a mouse in a cheese shop, nibbling away… so we’ll all need to be very kind to ourselves in the process. The purpose of self-reflection is to inhabit my skin more happily, not less happily…

In the meantime, in the parallel universe of Book Land, The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and Her Lover has hit the (cobbled) streets. This is my novel take on the last days of Charles I, a story you really couldn’t make up… so I haven’t. If you like historical fiction, do give it a try, and the same goes for those who don’t… you must also give it a try. And if you like it and feel able to support it in any way – book clubs, reviews, word of mouth, birthday gift, asking me to give a talk, whatever – then, well, thank you.

You can find details about it here…

I have actually started work on a further historical fiction (and I’m enjoying it very much, since you ask) but its future depends on the sales of the present one. You’ll be the first to know when/if something happens… and what the hell it’s about.

But amid all the history – the flagons, the hoses and tights – I haven’t forgotten the Abbot. The next Abbot Peter mystery, The Indecent Death of a Madam, is champing at the bit and ready and eager to spring from the blocks in September.

So there we are… and I’m noticing that I’ve reached the end without mention of what I thought I was going to write about when I started. Life, eh? It would be nice to have a plan which actually worked out, but that’s clearly only to be found in yet another parallel universe.

But my best wishes to you now are definitely in this universe and as real as your present and life-sustaining breath.

Through the Seaford mist, the Prologue…

Simon X

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