Well that was it: once I’d got the sweet taste of success and had all the fun of getting a book published, I sort of got the bit between my teeth; now there was no stopping me. Next came THE PARROT IN THE PEPPER TREE… that’s not to say that I sat down with the idea of writing a book called “The Parrot in the Pepper Tree”; the title came later, in the way that it usually does. Books have a tendency to name themselves, I think.
Anyway, shortly after the publication of “Lemons”, the parrot turned up. Porca is a Monk or Quaker Parakeet and he just turned up on the farm one day, landed on Ana’s shoulder and decided there and then to move in with us. This whole episode was such a singular occurrence that I could hardly resist writing about it… and because the whole experience of being adopted by and then living with a wild bird, was – and still is, ten years later – so fascinating, I wrote pages and pages on the subject.
So Porca and his antics formed the basis of the second book. The rest of it continues the theme of “Lemons”: the things that go on in the Alpujarras, the characters, life on the farm, the curious case of the ecological swimming-hole, a journey up to the high sierra, a life threatening encounter with a murderous desperado. And now I come to look at it I realise what a richly textured book this is… there’s heaps of stuff in it: Chloë’s continuing journey from infancy to childhood, school at the local bear-pit, a chapter on the literary life… or my version of it… and then to ring the changes a little, and to buffer myself against the accusation of churning out the same old stuff yet again, there’s an episode in the cold cold north, shearing sheep in Sweden; also the famous Genesis connection and a brief acount of my time with Sir Robert Fossett’s Circus… and it’s all true.
One day I should like to write a novel, create my own characters and situations… but at the moment I’m still sticking to the autobiographical stuff. It’s easier; you just think yourself back into remembering what happened, write it down, lop off the extraneous bits, buff it up a bit and there you go. It beats shearing sheep at any rate.
All in all people were very nice about the book. Somebody was even good enough to say they thought my style was maturing, which gave me a bit of a boost as you may imagine. “The Parrot” didn’t sell as well as “Lemons”, but apparently this is often the case… unless you happen to be JK Rowlings.
Ten years after, the eponymous bird is still with us, still utterly dominating a household that consists of no fewer than seven cats, three dogs… and right down at the bottom of the pecking order, the poor hag-ridden author. Porca loathes the very ground I stand upon, and never loses an opportunity to make my life a misery. Monk Parakeets live for ever; I fear we’re in for the long run here.