As re-imagined by his daughter, Juliet
6th June 1981
Usual earlyish wake up – sun streaming in. Downstairs and let excited dogs out in the garden. Put kettle on Aga for morning tea while doing last night's washing-up. Take tea back upstairs: usual routine – we read and chat whilst drinking it. Get up, wash, shave and dress. Drive down to the shops to pick up the paper, while Myrle gets breakfast ready. For me, it's a cup of coffee and some Weetabix, adorned with a spoonful or two of last night's apple crumble and custard – lovely!
Morning chores: no fire to clear out and re-lay, as it's June and nice warm weather. Instead, do a bit of hoovering and breakfast washing-up. M. already out in the garden, weeding and dead-heading roses. Then up to my study to start the morning's writing. Working on a story about a young supermouse, who grows enormous on porker-fattening pills which his mother has eaten during pregnancy, believing them to be sweets. The character is based on Will (grandson) who, when aged about three, would rush around with pretend guns, roaring 'Kill you! Machine-gun you!'. Haven't decided on the protagonist's name yet, though his father, brought up in an Oxford college, is Marcus Aurelius, and his simple, country mother is called Madeleine. Maybe, to be nicely alliterative, a name beginning with 'M' . . .
Come down for a mid-morning cup of coffee and chat with Myrle, then back upstairs to try and complete a few more pages of the mouse book. Funny – I often write about pigs, my favourite farm animal, but this time it's an ever-expanding, fierce young rodent. Deal with a few bills when I've finished with the as-yet-unnamed mouse hero.
Downstairs – it's lunchtime. M. has laid a tray for me to carry out to the terrace, where we have meals or drinks when the weather's this nice. Fresh bread, cheese, tomatoes from the greenhouse, an apple. Have done so well on my writing this morning that I allow myself a glass of white wine too! Afterwards, take The Daily Telegraph to my favourite, rather battered armchair, for a cursory read and a start on the crossword. Two squares of Cadbury's milk chocolate accompany this ritual, which culminates in a twenty-minute zizz.
M. and I decide to take the dogs down to Hare Valley, which they love because they often put up a rabbit or even a roe deer and enjoy the subsequent chase. Maggie the terrier snapping at our heels in excitement as we prepare to go, Great Dane Daniel, his usual gentle, patient self, the dachshund dynasty of Dodo, Poppy and Elsie jumping up and down on their short legs. Lovely walk – almost too hot. Back through the village, where we run into Michael (friend and neighbour), who asks if we'd like to come over for a swim in their pool. Go and get changed and enjoy a delightful dip. Then I need to do a bit more work – typing up this morning's efforts. I only use one finger – never learned to type properly – but at least I have a more modern machine now than the 1920s American one, with keys in unusual places, that I used for so many years. Put in an hour or so; then decide I've finished for today as the story's coming along pretty well, though still pondering on name for my mousey hero. Michael was using a power tool earlier, to trim his hedge. Could I incorporate 'power' into the mouse's name, I wonder? Mention this to Myrle, to whom I generally read out my work in order to hear her (always apposite) comments.
A few more chores to do outside. Over to Rabbit Hall to muck out and feed my pets: there's Frank, a huge lop-eared rabbit, some Old English rabbit does, and a couple of Abyssinian guinea-pigs. Could do with another hutch in Rabbit Hall – babies are expected and it's getting over-crowded. Perhaps I'll try and knock one up (bodge it, M. would say) from an old wine box at the weekend. Lawn will need mowing too.
M. comes in from her veg. patch with a colander of French beans and baby carrots to go with tonight's fish pie. Asks me to pick some raspberries for her while she makes tea and feeds dogs. Just time for a quick game of Five Square before Pat and Ian Macdonald drop in for a drink at about 6.00, on their way to the theatre. Five Square seems to have been invented by my grandparents who played it regularly and we continue the tradition. It involves creating five-letter words (or anagrams of words) from a sequence of letters drawn out of a bag. We are very competitive! M. wins again – that's the fourth time this week.
Catch the T.V. news headlines before Macdonalds arrive. I make the drinks – G. & T. for Pat and M., whisky for Ian and me. Take them out to the terrace, where there's still some late afternoon sun. P. asks what I'm working on. Tell her about the mighty rodent and my struggles to find an appropriate name. Go and get the typescript, at everyone's request, and read out a few paragraphs that demonstrate the mouse's character. M. thinks using 'power' would be good: how about Powermouse? Then we all try and think of a boy's name that would fit and simultaneously seem to come up with the solution: P. and I.'s son is called Magnus – why not Magnus Powermouse? 'Magnus' is Latin, goes nicely with Marcus Aurelius, means 'big'; and M.P. together has a euphonious sound. So, Magnus Powermouse my latest animal hero shall be.
Macdonalds leave and M. sticks fish pie in Aga to warm through, prepares veg. Have our supper at 8.00, in front of the telly as there's a good Attenborough programme on we want to watch. Excellent fish pie, followed by raspberries and cream. Afterwards, chat for a while about the day's events, M. with some wine, me enjoying a nice little tumbler of the malt. Relieved that the question of the mouse's name has been settled so satisfactorily. Now I can get on with the story.
10.15. Bedtime. Let dogs out for a last pee, stack dirty dishes, to be attended to tomorrow. Glass of water to go upstairs. Read my book for a bit: am revisiting Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree – my favourite of all his works; then bedside light off and sleep.