Baker, Jo “A Country Road, A Tree” (Vintage 2016)

‘There’s still the oldest and best reason. Even in war, even in any circumstances, really. That still applies.’

‘What’s that then?’

‘Spite’ she says.

He snorts.

‘No, I’m serious,” she says, not very seriously. ‘You need a bit of spite, a bit of venom, to keep you going. Particularly at the start, when no one gives a damn what you’re up to.’

‘Well, I suppose so.’

‘And then, of course, its necessary.’

‘Necessary?’

‘If one is not writing, one is not quite oneself, don’t you find?’

And he thinks: the sweaty sleepless nights in Ireland, heart racing, battling for breath. Frank’s gentle company the only thing that could calm him. The two things are connected: the writing and the panic. He just had not put them together, until now.

‘Its like snails make slime,’ she’s saying. ‘One will never get along much less be comfortable, if one doesn’t write.’

He huffs a laugh.

‘So.’ She shrugs. ‘There you are. You’re stuck with it.’

He raises his glass. She chinks it.

‘To spite,’ she says.

‘And slime.’

They drink.

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