I have always thought of myself as intrepid. Equal to anything. Resilient. A brilliant bouncer-back. A great survivor.
Finding myself unhappily between careers, I picked myself up, dusted myself down and thought I’d try my hand as a patissière. Yes. Moi. The Poisoner, as some of my best friends call me.
I think about it now and wonder why I didn’t just sign on for the 100-metre sprint in the Olympics. Probably I could have been as good as Usain Bolt.
I’d bought a French cookery book for reasons that remain unclear. In it were some recipes for tarts (apple, almond and pear, prune) which looked rather unappealing even on the pages of the supposedly sexily-photographed book.
I still don’t know why I did it. Any regular readers will know that I am not a great cook. Poisoning has really happened.
I was dimly aware of regulations about having a stainless steel kitchen which had passed hygiene tests. But I thought I’d just ignore that.
I made the short drive to Leamington Spa, a small market town which was once a place for the ‘quality’ to take the waters. I spied a little café and walked in. The woman behind the counter looked friendly and was friendly. She didn’t ask any hard questions about my kitchen and seemed quite excited by the idea of French tarts.
I went home feeling rather pleased and had a think about what kind of tart I’d make for my debut.
Prune. I chose prune.
I made the tart and it looked quite convincingly tartish. The pastry crust did not disgrace me by crumbling and the filling looked pruney.
Why did I choose prune? I don’t know why. I think I thought that the denizens of Leamington Spa were unlikely to have tried prune tart before and that it would be a novelty for them. Lucky, lucky them.
I thought about this episode in my past again today as I was mulling over the difficulty of writing a novel. I am out of excuses now. The course is over. I am a qualified writer.
I just have to write the novel which should be a breeze, what with my new skills.
So what’s stopping me?
The first obstacle is fear. I sit at my desk and think, what is the point of me sitting here? It is all such dross.
‘Just write,’ an old friend (also a writer) says. ‘Don’t worry what it looks like. That’s for editing.’
I’m trying to take her advice. And to learn from a recent post by Isabel Costello, who points out that this kind of avoiding behaviour has emotional roots.
For me the emotion is fear. Turns out I am a giant cowardy-custard. What if I can’t doooo it? I am constantly whining to myself. What if it’s rubbish and everybody laughs?
I am not as brave as I thought.
And, what’s worse, it’s just not much fun, sitting, worrying and not writing. I’m sure I could be doing something more constructive.
Like making tarts?
When I delivered my prune tart all those years ago, the nice woman seemed unphased. She might even have been pleased. I remember her smiling. She certainly didn’t jeer.
After several days, I rang her and asked how the prune tart had been received.
‘Well, Cathy,’ she said. ‘How can I put this? I’m still looking at half of it.’
Thus my career in tarts crumbled. Bada-boom.
Perhaps I should have signed up for the marathon. Because I think I’ll give writing a bit more of a go.
How do you get over the fear? I’d love to know.