In the home stretch

I’m not here, you haven’t seen me.

I’ve just decided to stop procrastinating and get on with rewriting my second draft of the novel in first person present tense, following advice that the best way to edit a novel is to rewrite it from scratch.

I’m holding in it one hand on my Kindle and retyping it, changing the tense as I go, and fiddling with the awkward bits.

I have no idea if this is a good idea, but it is slow. I’m only up to about 15,000 words, which knocks my original plan of finishing a second draft by the end of June on the head somewhat.

I’m managing to rewrite about 1,000-2,000 words a day at the moment, so that’s another couple of months at least before I’m done, not including the few scenes I still have to write for the whole thing to make sense.

Wish me luck.

In the meantime I also finished the patchwork element of my patchwork quilt of fields. It looks like this (excuse the birdbath blocking the top right hand corner).

patchwork

Here’s the original plan for reference.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

It is huge, but I think I’m quite pleased with it so far. Only seven years work, along with a few other things. Now for the quilting bit.

The quilt and the book are both on a list of things to get done by the end of this year, so watch this space and I’ll stop procrastinating and get back to retyping.

Advertisements
Posted in make, project, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You matter

I’m feeling a little lost in time at the moment.

I finally managed to visit my Gran recently after more than a year. She’s living in a care home, down near my uncle’s house, and her dementia is pretty severe now. She doesn’t speak or look you in the eye, but she was marking her 95th birthday, so we visited her, me, my dad, my son and my uncle, and we talked to her.

The whole time I was there I was thinking about something I’d read recently. Her memoir, a telling of her childhood, growing up in the 1920s and 30s on the Isle of Wight.

It mentioned her mum and dad, her brother (who is still alive and well on the island at 97), her sister (who died during the war in childbirth), her grandparents, and all the characters and friends she was surrounded by in those years.

She mentioned music and adverts she remembered hearing through the walls from her neighbour playing Radio Luxembourg, music they played in weekly concerts at church, her mum’s singing voice, and flowers she picked.

Her memoir ends just as it’s getting going, in the middle of the war, before her sister died, and before she met her husband, but it’s a wonderful glimpse into her life, and looking at her in her care home (which was possibly the nicest care home I’ve ever seen in reality or fiction) I was seeing her as she was, as well as her as she is now.

After I got home I started reading a series of airgraphs (short letters) sent from my granddad home to his family during his RAF training in 1943. He asked them to keep them for him, and he kept their replies, so there are letters from four of his five brothers and sisters, and from his dad. I never really knew any of his brothers and sisters. Three of them died before I really had a chance to meet them at all, and his two sisters that I did get to meet, were very austere, and old fashioned, and more than likely telling us off when they did see us.

The people in these letters were a tight knit family, full of humour and good cheer and optimism. I had to look back at photographs from the time with new eyes.

Finally, after I’d mentioned my recent reading habits, my dad handed over a memoir written by his aunt, who is generally remembered as a family misery, and I set about transcribing that.

It’s true that her memoir is sad, it focuses on loss, from her new husband during the war, to her nephew of childhood leukaemia, and then her mother and father. However I think that was what shaped her life.

She never remarried, and she suffered with depression and she found it hard to rise above those things. I think the rest of the family failed to understand her. It’s really odd to think that she has the final word on that section of the family history, on my grandma’s childhood, and their parents, on my grandma and granddad’s marriage, and their children.

But she does, because no-one else wrote anything down.

 

What it’s made me realise, is that everyone matters. Your story is worth telling. You may have children or you may not, but if you have nephews or nieces, or any family at all, they may at some point in the future, be interesting in hearing what you remember.

And if they aren’t, their children might be, so write it down, record it in sound files, but do something, before you and your memory disappear.

We bought these for our parents, after our son was born, for him to give as Christmas gifts for his first Christmas, and I really hope he will cherish the replies he gets for the rest of his life.

Who are you the last living link to? Who do you remember? Write about your grandparents and your great grandparents, write about your brothers and sisters when they were kids, write down the story of how your parents met, because this stuff is gold dust to someone, it’s the stuff of life, and it matters. Stories matter.

You matter.

I am eternally grateful that anyone in my family chose to write things down.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in love, project, rant, writing, writing lessons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Human matryoshka dolls

A thought keeps buzzing around my head. It’s been there for roughly the time my son’s been alive, plus ten months or so, and I figure if I write it down and give it credence it might go away, so hear me out. Please.

Women are like human matryoshka dolls. You know those Russian nesting dolls, where you start with a large one (but never unfeasibly large) and when you look inside there’s a slightly smaller one, and inside that another and another and another.

I bought one once while travelling through Russia from a market outside Moscow, and despite being tiny, it still managed ten dolls, one inside the other.

When my mum was dying (roughly the age of my son, plus eleven months ago) I told her we were trying to get pregnant. We had been trying for nearly two years (if somewhat haphazardly) and I wasn’t feeling positive, but she made me promise I would name my baby after her. A promise I made, because I was so convinced that if we did have a baby it would be a girl. After all she had two girls, my sister had two girls. Seemingly all of my friends had two girls (they didn’t, but our wedding was like some kind of fairy rampage).

When we saw him on the scan, and the scan operator said he was a boy (she said ‘you can never be 100 per cent sure, but there’s his penis and those are his testicles’), we were both in shock, because we were SO sure we were having a girl.

And I had been having this thought, ever since I promised my mum, that here was I in the early part of the 21st century, a woman who came out of a woman, and she in turn came out of a woman, and her mother before her, back before records began, back to the dawn of humanity, women coming out of women coming out of women, too many to comprehend. And I was the end of the line, and I didn’t want to be. There’s something crazy powerful in that chain. It’s the branch of the family tree where the names change the most frequently, but the connection feels the most physical.

But ‘the age of my son plus nine months’ ago we managed to get pregnant and that was that. I’m a matryoshka doll.

But every man. Every single man (I newly thought after my shock at the scan) is the tiny doll at the very centre of the matryoshka doll. The end of the line.

What I can’t get past is, why that sounds sad, because it shouldn’t be. My son is awesome for one. Really awesome, but the end of the line feels strange. And it’s not just men obviously, And this isn’t about judging women who don’t have children, for any reason. I think it’s kind’ve selfish to have them if I’m honest. It’s not about that at all.

Maybe he should own it. Maybe all tiny matryoshka dolls should own it. Celebrate it!

It’s a weird thought, but apparently there’s no shaking it, so I’m sharing it instead.

And here, take a look at the last few dolls in my own personal matryoshka.

 

Posted in rant | 1 Comment

Empty Inside

This is a 200 word response to a writing prompt from a recent workshop, which I just got around to typing up, so I thought I’d share it…

 

ONCE she seduced a man who turned out to have nothing on the inside.

It started as after work drinks with friends.

Turned into evening drinks, hair let down, heels slipped off, bar furniture shoved to one side to create a dance floor, and unsuspecting punters lured up to dance to the Pointer Sisters, and then she saw him across the dance floor, pure perfection.

He’d grinned. She’d raised an eyebrow. He’d come over, and they’d danced, until the enthusiasm ebbed out of the crowd around them and they were the only ones left entwined in an empty bar.

Her friends whispered ‘he’s perfect’ as they left, and she invited him back to hers on a whim.

They kissed in the back of a cab, groped on the stairs up to her flat, left their clothes by the coat rack, fell into the bed, and then he stopped.

Utterly and completely.

She thought it might be a stroke or a seizure, but closer inspection revealed a fine ridge around his neck, and when she unscrewed his head he was empty inside.

Not one to miss the bright side, she sat him in the hall to store spare umbrellas for guests.

Posted in fiction, writing | Leave a comment

The loneliness of the long distance everything

I should start this post by saying I don’t make new friends easily. I make good friends and I think I’m pretty good at keeping them, but I find it hard.

Lovely husband and I met at a thing in London. When we got talking (with no idea of what we would become to one another), it felt crazy that I was from one city in the Midlands, and he was from another, only 50 miles away. We practically lived next door to each other.

Then we started dating and suddenly felt the full 50 mile stretch of motorway last thing on a Sunday evening after each weekend together. We couldn’t wait to live in the same place.

And now obviously we do, and our small person with us.

His arrival has created some life changes, such as me leaving the job I wasn’t that attached to in the first place, and Lovely Husband deciding to train as a teacher, and on the whole I think these changes have been good, but they have meant that we have less money, which means less ability to travel to where our families are, or our friends.

These changes also come on the back of other less good changes, like losing my mum.

I’m saying all this because we’ve come to the conclusion recently that we’re both a little lonely, and we don’t exactly know why, or how to fix it.

Lovely Husband sees folk at work, and I made a few friends on maternity leave, but they’ve now gone back to work in the main, and it’s a lot harder to make new friends with a toddler, who is inevitably damaging themselves, another child, or someone’s property the minute you strike up a conversation with a friendly looking stranger.

I miss my mum dreadfully, but I think this is more than that. I don’t know if we are enough to keep us going. And I know there are couples who just up sticks to far flung corners of the country or the world, chasing dreams and jobs and all sorts, but I don’t think we’re those people. I think we need people to feel comfy.

I don’t know what the solution is, because if we move away from where we are to get closer to one family, we move further away from the other, which sucks, and if we move further away from both we’re worse off, but if we stay here, we stay lonely, unless we magically manage to make new friends.

So if you’re planning your ideal life, should that be a consideration? Should you factor loneliness avoidance into it? Or if we had more money, would the distances seem smaller?

Because we are trying, to plan our ideal life. Isn’t everyone? Mine has more sleep in it, and more writing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The nature of grief

These are the things I have learned about grief.

My grief is not necessarily like other people’s grief. My grief may be like your grief.

My grief is a thing which sits in the corner of my vision. I am always aware of it.

If I choose to I can turn and look it straight in the eye. I can cry for hours if I do this. I can scream at it or shout.

None of this will make it grow or shrink, but I could lose days or weeks to doing this if I chose to and it would still be there at the end of it.

I could turn away from it, ignore it completely, but it would still be there whenever I turned back.

Mostly it talks to me. It tells me how much my mum would like this chill in the air, the colour of the changing leaves. It tells me (as I dig my allotment) she never wore gardening gloves, that’s probably why her nails broke so often, she always wanted good nails.

It tells me it’s been two years since we last spoke.

Most of the time I nod and agree. I don’t have to look at it.

Sometimes I smile.

She loved autumn, which is when the plants die away, but the colours shine out. Does that mean she was more of a painter than a gardener? I smile at that.

Occasionally though it says something shocking.

My son will never miss her like I miss her, because he never got to meet her. She didn’t even know he was going to exist. Every time I look at him, that’s how long she will have been gone.

These things shock me so much that I have to turn and look, I have to cry.

I hear it speak daily, but these days it only shocks me a couple of times a week.

I hope it will think of fewer shocking things to say as time goes on, but I like it talking to me.

For me grief is love. Grief is my love for her.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making hay (because everything else is too hard work)

In November of 2011 I was starting work on a new patchwork quilt. I know, because I wrote about it on this blog.

It was designed around the idea of looking down on fields from above, where they begin to look like a patchwork quilt of their own.

So I found a patch of Google Earth that was sufficiently fieldy, and several bags full of green fabric, and I got started.

Only life never seems to work out that way for me, and journalism exams, exciting theatrical writing opportunities, a house move, familial earthquakes and a new baby (not to mention my own inbuilt inability to finish things) all crept in one after another to stop me from getting too far along in it’s progress.

Skip forward six years…it’s so hard to say that without feeling ashamed, but…I’m back.

I can’t seem to write. My brain does not have the required space at the moment. I haven’t slept properly in a long time. But I can piece things together. I can trace shapes, and cut out baking parchment and find fabric, and I can sew. Huzzah!

So instead of feeling rubbish about my unfinished novel (there’s always time to feel rubbish about something) I am very very slowly, putting together the rest of my fields quilt, field by field. It is happening. It will be finished. And if it isn’t, it will be because I’m writing again. I’m calling that a win either way.

Pictures may follow, but knowing my new scheduling abilities, expect them around 2019.

Posted in make | Tagged , , | Leave a comment