- About the Author
- On Active Service
We went for a walk on the Quantocks the other day. It was a crisp clear morning, but cold, there was still snow on the ground. It lingers longer up here than in the vale of Taunton Deane. We took to talking about Coleridge and Wordsworth, of how they would have walked these very paths, of what we would think if we suddenly saw them now, walking towards us. Easy for us to see now that they were giants of literature, but if we came across them on our walk (fashions notwithstanding) we would see them as jobless layabouts, scrounging off others while they scribble poetry and wander on the hills at all hours of the day and night. How many aspiring writers nowadays can afford not to work? Oh, they can give up once they’re published and earning money from it but up until then they have to work to pay the bills and their writing is done in the few odd hours they can spare in the evenings and at weekends, Coleridge and Wordsworth were lucky enough to find wealthy patrons, something else that doesn’t happen nowadays, and of course, they lived very frugally, in conditions we would find unacceptable. We need our comfortable houses, our cars, our nice clothes. If you’ve ever visited Coleridge Cottage in Nether Stowey or Dove Cottage in Grasmere you’ll realise how humbly they lived. At one time Wordsworth, his sister, his wife and three children all crowded into one two-up, two-down cottage. It’s hard to imagine how Wordsworth ever managed to compose poetry under these conditions with small children running noisily about, babies crying and being fed, washing, cooking and two women, probably arguing and bickering. Though we know Coleridge wrote one of his best poems “Frost at Midnight” when he was kept up by his baby son crying, and “This lime tree bower my prison”, when he was stuck at home with a scalded foot when a pan of boiling milk was spilt on it. So maybe a busy chaotic life is important for a creative one, and we shouldn’t bemoan the fact that we are forced to fit our writing in around the mundane tasks of daily living.
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.