I had intended to work for the rest of the week, honest, but they are not ready for me (they never have been) so I have more precious time to
Gore Vidal once quipped that every time he heard of a friend's success, a little part of him died. I think this is the opposite of how I felt when I saw Sarah's latest book promotion photo, and I only wish she was in this hemisphere so I could help her celebrate. I am sure that she does not feel the same way, and not just because of me - you cannot write stuff like that about Somerset and the rest of Wessex, even if your name is Thomas Hardy. It just isn't big enough for a start, and there is not enough water.
I have an Ethiopean friend who used to be a landscape gardener before old age and infirmity put a stop to it. He was head gardener for a famous British architect, and he proudly recounted how the architect would fly in and out in his own helicopter, with himself at the controls as the pilot.
Shortly after I met him, another landscape designer friend of mine killed himself by parking his car a few yards away from my little cottage in the country (at the bottom of the lane in the photo) and putting a hosepipe through the window attached to the exhaust outlet.
He was discovered next morning by my next-door neighbour, who parked her car in the same area and was leaving early in the morning for her job as a nurse. I was not aware of the tragedy until the following evening, when she returned home.
He had, she told me, gone a very strange purple colour because of the carbon monoxide in his bloodstream. You don't think of details like this until you experience them first-hand.
It wasn't until the day after that I realised that I had known this man. I had even had a conversation with him a couple of hours before his suicide. He had explained to me that his business was going very badly and he was getting to the point of having to fold it. He told me that he had gone to a mutual friend an hour before to ask to borry money, but the friend refused. He did not bother to ask me, knowing that I would probably not be able to raise the amount he needed, which was more than just a few pounds.
I know that he did not know precisely where I lived, so his choice of final parking place was sheer chance - or something. The friend who refused a loan was - and still is - bitterly remorseful about it.
I told my Ethiopean friend about the death, asking him whether or not he had known the man as a fellow landscape gardener. His reply has stuck in my mind forever.
"No," he said, "I only know successful people."