I have been writing a lot of late. Writing so much, in fact, that I haven't had time to write a blog post.
No, that's not true. I've had the time, but when you write long fiction you get caught up in it. It takes over, it colours everything you do, it doesn't want the real world to break in. Recently, in one day, I wrote 11,000 words. I forgot to eat.
One day I became insanely happy. Happy beyond all reason. It was cold outside and the fire was lit. Brief Encounter was on the TV. I had written something I was genuinely proud of and I'd just put the kettle on for coffee. The combination of those things made me euphoric.
In the real world, my son and daughter came to visit and we saw the Christmas lights in Ljubljana, then spent a couple of days in Venice. It was perfect and I love to see them. While in Ljubljana I visited a travel agent and went back a week later. I bought my tickets to Bali. I fly April 21st and come back here in October.
On Christmas Eve, Sabina and the kids turned up with a tree, tinsel, baubles, a nativity, and in five minutes I was festive. Then they swooped off to do the 1000 other things she has to do.
Christmas day with my brother and his wife was quiet and nice, then they flew back to England for a bit, and Slovenia was all mine. I wondered what I'd do on New Year's Eve. Last year I was at Sabina's and it was lovely. This year I wasn't sure what I was going to do.
And then Bing Bong and it was Sabina at the door. "What are you doing for New Year?"
"I assumed you're coming to us."
Igor had asked her if I was going to be there and she had said yes. "Have you asked him?" he said. "Oh, no, I just assumed."
I hugged her. There's nothing better than becoming so close to the neighbours that they forget to ask because it's just assumed. I like it there. I like being part of the local celebrations, part of the family, part of Slovenia, which is how they make me feel.
I have finally admitted to being an incurable romantic. Dudley Chalk is a romance, dressed up as something else. Everything I've written of late is a romance, no matter how much I protest. I've recently bought myself an MP3 player -- the first time I've been able to listen to music while outside -- and it's transformative. I walked through the mountains with it, everything covered in frozen fog and looking like Narnia, with The Four Seasons playing. There were moments where I had to simply stop walking because the combination of Alps and Vivaldi was astonishing.
It's all a romance isn't it. Even when there's nobody for miles.
When I arrived on New Year's Eve the party was in full swing. All the kids were playing and the house was full of Slovenes, one Swede, one Englishman and five Russians. I love that. It isn't just that I feel special, but I actually love the fact that I don't know what people are saying. Really. You have to concentrate on more than words. But I also like it when a group of people speak English because I'm in the mix, and they are doing it simply to include me. Good people.
Matea arrived. Remember him? He got to fly in a helicopter when I didn't, and ever since we've traded insults. He rings the church bells during celebrations. "Peter! I'm ringing the bells at midnight!"
"Can I come!"
The church in Bohinjska Bistrica is old and lovely and I can see it from my balcony. Every fifteen minutes a bell chimes, but at moments of great import all the bells are rung by lunatic campanologists with a crazy free-form syncopated enthusiasm that can be heard for miles.
Just before midnight, we wrapped up and set off across the road to the church. Matea, me, Bostjan the farmer, Tatiana and her daughter from Moscow. In the churchyard was a drunk man and a couple I didn't know. Matea opened the great front door and we entered a completely dark church.
Flights of old wooden stairs lead up. And up. And more up. You have to crouch, you can bang your head on the ceiling, fall all the way down if you've drunk too much, which some of us had.
Up in the belfry there are three enormous bells, like Russian dolls with clappers. A huge one in the middle, medium and smaller to the sides (though smaller is a relative term). Matea and the drunk guy had a practice, Tatiana had a go and so did I.
And then, as the hour was nigh, Matea swung the giant centre bell back and forth to get it into a permanent rhythm and together, he and the drunk set-to with the other clappers. The drunk fell off his perch several times and was in danger of falling down the small hatch through which we had entered the belfry, but he gamely clambered back. You can feel the sound in your chest. There is nothing at all up there but the cold night air coming through the glassless windows and a deep down shaking coming up through your feet.
And then Bohinjska Bistrica exploded in fireworks. From the highest point in town, standing next to the very things that proclaimed the new year, the sky lit up and the bells got more manic and there was not one place in the world I would rather have been.
Champagne was poured into plastic cups and I learned how to say Happy New Year in Russian. Watching the fireworks, Tatiana and her daughter said we should be making a wish.
I couldn't think of one that was better than where I was, right then.
It's all romance, isn't it.
My writing of late has had a backdrop of Brief Encounter. To keep me focused, in the zone, I tend to put on the same film over and over, all day long. Like hypnosis. It's been Brief Encounter, partly because it has Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto running all the way through it and I like the way Celia Johnson says "Hat."
Brief Encounter is old, black and white, and at first you might think it quaint. Then you laugh at the accents. Then you wonder what all the fuss is about. Then you realise it's perfect. Every movement, every delivered word, every camera angle, the story arc. Perfect.
Like living here, really. All the same reactions.
We wandered back to the farm and there was much back slapping and shouts of Srechno Novo Leto.
Once again, a wonderful New Year at the neighbour's.
Happy New Year, wherever you are.
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things