‘Hi,’ I say cheerfully, putting down my bags. I have just come back from my writer’s retreat last week.
‘Hi,’ Peirene replies without looking up from her work.
‘I’m back,’ I say. I would love to have a catch-up chat.
‘I can see that,’ she mumbles, still not turning her head.
‘Are you angry?’ She usually punishes me with a bad mood if I have been out of the office for too long.
She shakes her head.
‘Good,’ I reply. ‘I had a productive week. But quite austere,’ I add. My retreats consist of renting a lonely cottage in Norfolk where I don’t see or speak to anyone, so hearing my own voice again is delight, and I continue: ‘Let me tell you my daily routine: I start work at 8 on the dot, write the first 1000 words by 11, then stop for a late breakfast. Then write the next 1000 words by 2, then have lunch, a bit of a rest, go for a run or walk, have a shower. By 6 I’m back writing the final 1000 words of the day. Eat something, read for an hour. Lights out. I hit my target of 15000 words,’ I finish proudly.
No responds or acknowledgement from the Nymph. I pull a face, sit down and start going through the pile of post that has accumulated. For a while the only sounds in the office are the tearing open of envelopes and the Nymph’s tapping on the keyboard. Suddenly I hear her whisper:
‘I’m pretending you haven’t come back yet.’
‘Why?’ I ask in a normal voice.
‘Ps, speak quietly,’ she reprimands me in a hushed voice.
‘Ok, why,’ I, too, whisper.
‘Because good things tend to happen when you are away.’
‘Such as?’ I’m all ears.
‘Well, this time we learned that BBC Radio 3 is going to do a programme with Hanne Ørstavik, Radio 4 ‘s A Good Read will feature The Dead Lake and Born Films have told us that their English screen adaption of Jan van Mersbergen’s Tomorrow Pamplona is progressing beautifully.’
‘Wow!’ I shout, jumping up and rushing over to Peirene to give her hug.
‘Oh, now you’ve broken the spell with your racket.’ She pretends to be upset but I can see that she is thrilled to be the bearer of good tidings.
We have a coffee. It’s nice to be back in Peirene’s company. She’s matured a lot over the last year and increasingly is able to run large parts of the publishing house herself. Nevertheless she loves to ensure that I don’t become underemployed. She points to a big box in the corner. ‘This has also arrived – the books for the Arts Foundation Award.’ I’m a judge on their 2016 Literary Translation prize. ‘That’ll keep you busy reading for a while,’ she adds with a little wicked smile.
By Meike Ziervogel
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 25 October 2015.