I drop my bags, tear off of my coat. I have just walked back into the house after five days away on a writer’s retreat. The transition from beautiful, creative serenity to mundane, day-to-day chaos is simply too much for me to take.
The kitchen looks a mess. The dishwasher has not been emptied out. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink, empty beer bottles litter the table, cigarette smell emanates from the bin and the glass of the gas stove has been smeared with something I cannot identify.
The office in the attic looks only slightly better. The bins haven’t been emptied out, the boxes have not been tidied away. And when I open my desktop, I immediately notice that the latest editorial video that Anthony Cartwright and I recorded a week ago has not yet been uploaded onto youtube.
Back downstairs I put on yellow rubber gloves and begin to tackle the kitchen in a mad fury. I wish I didn’t need to come back. I wish I could just stay forever in the little cottage I rent in Norfolk from time to time. Live all alone – just writing and going for runs and not talking to anyone. Then no one could mess up my kitchen, my office, my life.
‘Hehem,’ I hear the Nymph clearing her throat in the corner. ‘Hello. Nice to see you back.’
‘I don’t want to talk to you,’ I say between clenched teeth.
‘I didn’t leave this mess,’ she says. ‘That was your son. You’re always in a bad mood when you come back to the house.’
She’s right. I find change-overs difficult. But I don’t want to admit that just at this moment. So I continue with my list of irritations.
‘You didn’t tidy the office. And don’t tell me that was James, because James worked from home this last week.’ I stop scrubbing the stove door. ‘But he’s in the doghouse too, ‘ I continue. ‘He didn’t even manage to upload the video.’
‘He tried though,’ I hear Peirene say. ‘But somehow the password had changed, and he needs you to rectify it.’
‘Oh, don’t always defend everyone.’ I have now turned to scrubbing the dirty pots where the dried residue of food has been stuck for days.
For a while Peirene is silent. Then she says: ‘Well, you might not be pleased to see me. But I’m pleased to see you. It’d be a pity if you were just living on your own and writing from dawn to dusk. We’re such a good team running this publishing house. I couldn’t do it without you.’
It takes a moment for the Nymph’s words to sink in, but then I take off my rubber gloves, turn to her and give her big hug. ‘I’m actually pleased to see you too. I like doing both, publishing and writing. But transitions are always painful for me.’
Peirene, who sometimes understand me better than I understand myself, just says ‘I know’.