“I forgot to say,” I wrote to her, “that we had some rain yesterday. And some hail. And some high winds. It’s very children’s book up here.” Then, the following afternoon: “This is going to be a permanent adventure. The main fusebox switched off everything but the lower ring main just as it got dark. An overnight leak in the bathroom dripped through the floor and into the kitchen sink.”
I was trying to entertain her, but she only wrote back: “I’m surprised your surveyor didn’t pick up on the leak.”
Later, I emailed: “I’ve got a feeling no one’s used the bidet for years.” To be honest I had only used it myself because I couldn’t find anywhere else to clean my shoes, which had picked up some kind of gluey ash in the garden. “I’m painting the study ivory white. Ivory white is a story in itself.”
While I was writing that a wasp pushed itself into the room from behind the wooden blanket chest, as suddenly as if it had made itself from nothing. I looked behind the chest and found a ventilator, daubed with layers of paint. Had the wasp blundered down the old chimney? It flew straight up into one of the skylights and sat on a bent nail, grooming its antennae. I tried to hit it with the local freesheet, but I couldn’t reach that high; and anyway I didn’t believe in it as a wasp. My writing long ago began to fill up with characters who suspect that they don’t understand the world: not because the world is impossible to understand (though it is) but because their intelligence has either reached its own limits or the emotional limits that demark what it can be allowed to understand.