A week or two ago I went for a solitary walk in the woods above our house. I needed the exercise, but I was going with intent. I knew there would be bluebells. It is a favourite time of year for me, some years better than others. 2016 was a good year, made more enchanting by the fact that the wood anemones, wild garlic and violets were also out at the same time.
In LIFE CLASS, my character Stefan lives in a house on a wooded hillside. So how could I resist including a passing reference to one of my favourite flowers?
Stefan wants, above all things, to concentrate on his career as a sculptor. It is his intention to live as a solitary artist, without the messy demands of love - in any of its incarnations. The ghosts from his past are his object lesson; love only comes with shame and guilt.
In this section, his mood is understandably depressed. His neighbour, an old lady he helps out with shopping and odd jobs, has died. But more than this, he is continuously troubled by Dominic, the damaged young man currently living with him. Dom has been living dangerously and has put his health at risk. And now there is a woman, a member of the art class he teaches, who intrudes too often and too disturbingly into his thoughts ... and into his life. How did he find himself in this position? He wanted to keep his life clear of the clutter of the unnecessary emotions that come with caring about other people.
It was cool but bright. As Stefan walked from the house to the barn, he saw a violet haze, wreathed smoke-like beneath the trees. Bluebells plus sunshine should have raised his spirits but, since the death of his neighbour, he’d yet to fully appreciate a lifting of his sense of responsibility. Was it because that weight had been replaced by another burden that touched his emotions far more closely? As he pulled open the barn door he was relieved to see Dom drawing at the table.