22 Jul 2009

My First Novel

Well, I'm gonna write it sometime. And right now's sometime!

I was searching around looking for inspiration and I suddenly remembered something I'd started a couple of years ago on an Open University short course. The problem was to find where on earth I'd put it. I searched through all the files on my computer and found the first chapter. Sitting down reading it I realized I'll have to make some changes (complete re-write!) but it's a good base to start from. And then, blow me down with a feather, I found the last few paragraphs of the last chapter. How on earth had I managed to write the beginning and the end (typical of me) and where for God's sake was the middle? Arghhh!

I started going through all my old notepads which are full of freewrites, journaling, moans and sketches, looking for anything that might fill the gap (and gaps don't get much larger than this one). And there, on the last two pages of an old, battered Paperchase e-co A4 notebook, I found the bare bones of a complete plotline through 18 chapters.

And my heroine? Why, none other than Sadie Larson, sassy, gobby private detective...

17 Jul 2009

Another Requiem

Not many weeks ago I posted a piece about a horse that had been killed on the road outside my house. Today, yet again, I find myself in tears over the death of another animal or, to be more accurate, a bird.

Last week I'd noticed that one of the adults from the resident swan family on our local lake was missing. Only one parent plus the seven cygnets were about. This struck me as odd because they are a devoted family and always together, but I thought maybe the male adult had gone for a little cruise around the other lakes in the area, leaving the female with the youngsters. But as the days went by I began to think this wasn't the case and maybe something had happened.

And then today I read in our local paper that the female had been knocked down by a car driving alongside the lake and left there, dying, with her family grouped around her.

Mute Swans, some of which have been known to live for up to 20 years, mate for life, and these well-established pairs have the most success in raising their young. There is no evidence that upon the death of one of the pair the surviving swan will pine away and it is possible that it will find an alternative mate. But I find it so tragic that, after all these years and after having successfully brought up all those youngsters, this needless slaughter should have happened.

The road past the lake is little more than a track which runs for about a mile and a half between two parallel main roads. For much of its length it is unpaved and deeply rutted, winding between farm fields and a farmyard before it meets the other road. People walk their dogs along it and take their children down it to look at the lake and the wildlife. It's the sort of road that you drive along at about 15 miles an hour tops and if you meet someone coming the other way someone has to back up. So what sort of speed was this person who killed the swan doing?

I hate writing blogs like this. And I so hope it's the last blog of its kind.

14 Jul 2009

Spectacles, schmectacles

You would think, wouldn't you, that buying a pair of specs would be the easiest thing in the world. The amount of choice available in most large opticians is massive - every shape, colour, style you can imagine. I thought, 'Hmm - I'll just pop in and choose a couple of frames and get them made up to my prescription - shouldn't take more than half an hour.'

Half a day more like! By the time an assistant came over to me I had about eight pairs I liked clutched in one hand, another three stuck in the neck of my T-shirt and was trying on a twelfth.

'Can I help you, madam?' She glanced with barely disguised horror at all these expensive frames (I assumed they were expensive - I don't like tat!) hanging off different parts of me.

She led me over to the back of the shop where she offloaded the frames onto the relative safety of a table and sat me down. Then she unclipped the security tags from all twelve pairs so I could try them on properly. After trying them all on at least twice, some of them more, I settled on my favourite couple of frames and she called up my prescription on the computer.

'Oh dear,' she said. 'You can't have either of those with your prescription. This one,' and she pointed to a beautiful fuchsia pink beauty with a thin, oblong frame and slightly blingy arms, 'is far two shallow. Your varifocal requirement won't suit that at all. And this one,' an electric blue half-frame with arms that faded from blue to purple, 'won't do either. You need a full frame for your prescription.'

'So which of all these would work for me?' I asked her, pointing to the rejected pile of ten frames and thinking I would have to settle for second best.

But no, none of them were any good. They were either too shallow, too narrow, not enough frame etc. etc.

So back we went to the rows of frames to start over. We looked at Prada, RayBan, Oakley, Dior, Armani, D&G... We even looked at some cheap ones! And nothing, absolutely nothing I liked would work with my prescription.

By this time there was a fairly healthy queue forming at the reception desk and most of the rest of the staff had gone off on their lunch break. My assistant's voice had gone up an octave or two - definitely the first signs of panic setting in.

So we turned to the problem of the lenses. Should I have extra thin lenses? Aspheric? High index? Glass or plastic? Arghhhhhh - my head was spinning from all these options. All I want is some colourful, blingy specs so I can ditch my contact lenses before the bags under my eyes get big enough to hold the entire English Channel because they're being pulled around so much.

What on earth is a Chaffinch to do?

9 Jul 2009

I need proof...

I need proof. Without it my life is snagged in a time stutter like a stuck record, constantly going over and over the same thoughts, worries and conjectures. Why is it that you are so unable to be straight with me? How easy would it be if you just showed me what I need to see, told me what I need to hear? Once that's out of the way we could go on - go forward - go anywhere at all that we wanted to.

But no - you won't keep the faith with me so I am unable to do so with you. You ask for my love, my commitment, my support, all of which I am aching to give you, but you offer nothing in return. It's like a bad pulp fiction story; so predictable and corny, yet so incomplete and unexpected. My life was not supposed to be like this - my life was supposed to be exciting, yes; radical, yes; driven by chance and fortune, not by planning and organizing. And I'm almost there - teetering on the edge of a great world of new sights and sounds, new cultures and customs, new colours and textures.

But you're stopping me - you've put a concrete block across my tracks that I can't go around however I may try. And all for the sake of one sentence; twenty words max; the opening or closing of the rest of my life.

8 Jul 2009

The Lake

I went outside and wandered down to the edge of the lake. The sun was lowering now and the sky was turquoise fading into pale orange near the horizon. The lake glittered lazily.

'Maria?' I heard Beau's voice from the house behind me but pretended not to, walking instead along the edge of the bank that had been built up with sandbags and topped with a mixture of earth and sand, allowing cautious white clovers to self-seed and grow among the young grass.

A 'plane droned softly overhead and I looked up, wishing it was tomorrow and I was safe aboard the flight to St Lucia, away from this place and the memories that I was pulling along like a shadow behind me as I moved slowly round the lake.

I glanced down at the water again. The sun no longer touched it and I stopped, certain I could see through the cloudy layers. Or was it my imagination? For as long as I remember the water here had always been murky and impenetrable. But now...

I bent towards the water, looking intently; there were fronds of some sort of aquatic plant down there, a few small fish moving slowly through them. And something round and rigid. What was that? At first I thought it might be a bicycle wheel but, crouching down and slitting my eyes to focus my vision, I could see it was definitely solid. I stood up quickly, glancing over my shoulder at the house. Beau was nowhere in sight, thank God. If he'd been watching me he would have come over to see what I was looking at.

A trembling started in my legs; my throat felt dry and I was finding it difficult to swallow. 'Get a grip, Maria,' I muttered to myself, shocked at the quaver in my voice. 'You just have to get through another fourteen hours and you'll be on the 'plane, safely away from here.'

But I shouldn't have walked down here. I should have stayed in the house, finished my packing, sat down with Beau for a final drink together and just kept away instead of coming back; re-living the memory; scratching at it like a mosquito bite; tempting fate.

7 Jul 2009

Watermelons and Zen Students

Watermelons and Zen students grow pretty much the same way.
Long periods of sitting till they ripen and grow all juicy inside, but when you knock them on the head to see if they're ready— sounds like nothing's going on.
Peter Levitt, from 'Essential Zen'

This quote came to me courtesy of Tricycle.com and I thought how nice it would be to post it on my blog and find a really great picture of watermelons to go with it. It's a great example of the power that both the written word and visual images have to make your mouth water.

Plenty going on in my head today though. I spent an hour taking photographs of a couple of a couple of camera lenses I wanted to sell on Ebay, another hour filling in the forms for each of them and they both sold immediately! Wow - what's going on? Did I happen upon a collector of camera lenses? Needless to say I'm a very happy bunny and I promise (honest) not to go and spend the proceeds immediately.

I'll wait til the weekend!

6 Jul 2009

A Wake Up Call

I woke up this morning feeling pretty miserable. To be truthful I was feeling sorry for myself; going over all the 'why am I so useless?', 'why can I never finish anything I start?', 'why can't I be who I want to be?' thoughts that come at me in the early hours.

Quite often I wake up with a feeling of fear that's amazingly strong; I lie there, trying to find the source of this fear, yet what I'm really trying to do is ignore the fact that I know the source. It's a fear of the future; a fear of growing old and a fear of the possibility that I will look back on my life in old age and think, 'Well, what was all that about. What did I really do to make my mark on the world?'

And I remember an exercise from a life coach that I once saw. You write your own obituary and in it you detail all the wonderful things you'd really like to do and be, as if you had done and been them. This obituary was then a game plan for the rest of your life; to work towards doing and being the person in that obituary.

Now, I think a lot of the tools that life coaches are taught to use are rather over-egged these days - there are just too many of them saying the same old things. But this one stuck in my mind as a useful way of reminding myself that I only have one life and it's going by ferociously fast and that I really do have to work at becoming more than I am if I'm to live up to my imaginary obituary.

This morning, I read a post by sbass at The Inkwell about the loss of her mother to lung cancer earlier this year which, devastating though it was and still is, has brought an additional dimension to her life which is, unexpectedly, a positive dimension.

It was a bit of a wake up call for me to be honest. I was lucky enough to survive cancer some years ago so what on earth have I got to be miserable about? If I'd been fearful for the future then I might have had justification, but now...?

So I'm taking an inventory of the things I want to do and then I'm going to go about doing them. The first one is to WRITE. I don't know whether I want to write short stories, a novel, fact or fiction, poetry or just a journal - all I know is that I've wanted to WRITE for years now but all I've actually done is to turn prevarication into a fine art. I've had the pens and pencils lined up on the desk, the special ink bottle ready, the absolutely nicest journal I can find ready to write in and what have I done? Nada; zilch; sweet sod all!

And what am I going to do about it? I'm going to sign up for the Open University course in Creative Writing that starts in October. I will then have to start WRITING. This time there'll be no escape - if I don't produce WRITING, I'll flunk it. If I don't WRITE my fellow students will know me for the quitter I am. Or rather for the quitter I was!

4 Jul 2009

John Lowrie Morrison

Today I bought my first JoLoMo painting - 'Croft and Boat North Uist'. Actually it's a limited edition giclée print, but nonetheless beautiful. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford an original.

It's small, about a foot square, in a large white frame and it was just made for the white wall in my hallway.

JoLoMo is a Scot who paints wonderful, highly coloured images of Scottish land and seascapes which just lift the spirit when you see them. I've loved them for years, ever since I first saw an exhibition of originals in a nearby town. Hopefully this is just the first of a collection. I'm already planning to paint more of my rooms white to show off this imaginary gallery of wildly colourful art. And that's saying something because I hate decorating.