That’s a question! Often, or so it seems to me, asked by someone who expects the answer, ‘Nothing. Nothing significant. I have no other interest that means anything to me.’ Because there’s something about being a writer that non writers assume is a little bit, a tiny bit, vocational. (Vocational, with a touch of the insane.) Fifty per cent an irrational compulsion to provide yet more stories for the every hungry consumers of the written word. Fifty per cent a habit that the writer hasn’t the strength of mind to kick. Like nail biting or googling Amazon rankings. Bit scary that. Better get outside.
Outside is the real world, and my first love, and best: natural history. Fantastic, all over the place, and free. I can’t resist it, I never could.
Here’s the toad who lives in my garden.
I found him in a street gutter, all dehydrated and desperate, but he soon cheered up with a bit of damp.
Here’s the frog, or one of them. Look how different. Much more liquid. Much less magical.
This is a hedgehog (there are three) hopefully asleep now in the enormous pile of leaves and hay I built for them behind the shed. I wish, looking at this picture, that I had given him a red plate, terracotta, not that nasty plastic green. He is eating kitten food, chicken flavour.
Of course there are birds and insects and spiders. A visiting badger, squirrels and mice. But look at this! A newly hatched greenfly- in real life about the size of a comma (,) and yet you can see her antennae are jointed- not bad for a £6.99 Science Museum toy microscope, with my digital camera balanced on top. I love her green shine, and her liquorice black eyes.
And here is my favourite picture of the year. I was so lucky to see this beautiful adder. It flickered across the path in front of me like a ribbon blown in the wind, and I got down on my knees and took this photograph:So that’s what I do when I am not writing books. One of the things anyway. As Walter de la Mare said, I stand and stare. At the stunning, astonishing, endearing, mesmerising, humblingly gorgeous world on my doorstep.
And what do you do when you are not reading books? Any stand and starers with me out there?