Dear Fellow Writers,

Do you understand me when I say I am stuck!? I am not writing and have no ideas for a new novel.

Nada. Nothing. Blank.

And it feels very very bad, like a part of me is anaesthetised and may never come back to life. I’m at my happiest, most absorbed, most fulfilled and probably most annoying when I inhabit an alternative universe and escape to a created world with my own invented characters. They, of course, soon develop a life of their own, calling to me to keep up with them as they push their plot forwards. It’s not happening. The page is empty. The voices remain silent. It’s been a while.

When I’m in need of comfort I sniff my dog’s paws. For some reason they smell of burnt grass and lawn cuttings that have been scorched by the sun. It’s odd they should smell of grass because here, where I live here in the south of France, there’s a gravel drive and a rock-strewn chemin. When we go for walks, it’s along dry jagged paths and through lumpy red-soiled vineyards. A hard trudge. Occasionally I take him to a beach where he digs to Australia. Better still is a rare green field where he races in joyful helter-skelter circles of ferocious energy, perhaps remembering his Scottish roots and the watery fields where he used to run in soft rain. Is it with flash images of his past life that he speed-burns the grass and claws back images of damp lawns and the smell of city fog?

I have other beloved smells. Coffee and vanilla and jasmine. My little grand-daughters’ marshmallow skin. But when I’m blue and wordless, I bury my face in my dog’s fur. He turns turtle in open-mouthed, floppy-lipped ecstasy. I pick up his paws one by one, press the soft black pads and breath burnt grass.