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Friday, 28 January 2011

Looking Up

A lovely visit from my eldest daughter, taking a break from uni, opened my eyes. I realised that I rarely look up from my laptop during the day while the other girls are at school. Grudgingly I see to the needs of the washing machine and sometimes I'll remember that a bed has to be changed or the surly upstairs toilet is waiting for me to unblock it again. But I rush back to my little table covered in books and notes and, oddly, the salt and pepper, and get back to what I love doing best when I'm alone. All the writing stops as soon as the family arrive home and it feels like the perfect time to put it aside. By then, I'm all written out.

However, it was inspiring to look up from the screen for a couple of days to enjoy my daughter's company. She and her beautiful new boyfriend entertained me with their news and views, their funny banter, their wicked impressions of people and their obvious love for each other. They sat on the pew in the kitchen with a never-ending pot of tea, while I sat opposite and just drank it all in. (The entertainment rather than the tea.) It was a realisation for me. Firstly, they are an exquisite couple. But secondly, I don't sit down and look/listen enough any more. Their visit showed that I have cut myself off perhaps a little too much from the world. I gleaned so many ideas for stories from looking/listening to them.

Now, I am still not going to change myself much. I am a loner by nature, except when family are here. Then all my attention is happily focused on the people I'm with. But I shall make an effort to leave the house and sit in coffee shops more, observing people and picking up a few strands of ideas to weave into stories. Time to look up from the writing occasionally and just tune in to the world outside my kitchen.

However, I shall keep my eyes peeled while I sit in Costa. And if I spot anyone I'm acquainted with, I might duck under the table. I'm not that sociable yet. Besides, I'll be too busy making notes.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Enjoying My Ginger Nuts

I have begun a new story today to the strains of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. My typing was more ponderous during the slow, thoughtful sections. But the pace of it accelerated so much during the crescendos that I started laughing and had to take a break. Besides, I can't actually type that fast and discovered all the words were nonsense.

I have a CD called Gypsy Creams And Ginger Nuts. The tracks are very sixties-supermarket background music. I am writing a lightly-shaded story, which has, hopefully and allegedly, some hilarity content within it, with my Ginger Nuts trilling alongside me. Another story, which I'm planning to revise this afternoon, is rather dark. The music I listen to for that is the theme from Twin Peaks. Sinister, haunting and overhung with menace. I am convinced the music sets the mood and helps me to lose myself in the atmosphere of the story. And I enjoy the transformation from light to dark within the space of a day.

I'm feeling pleased today to have received copies of the latest anthology from Biscuit, in which one of my stories appears. I have had two acceptances from People's Friend as well. So the year is panning out rather well. Let's hope that's not a flash in the pan.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Silver Linings Last Longer Than Clouds

I'm finally surfacing after flu has stamped its insidious footprints through our Christmas and New Year. My middle daughter has been hospitalised twice with pneumonia. She and I both rattle with antibiotics. The muscles between our ribs are in agony from being stretched by coughing. And my husband is suffering terribly from exhaustion, having made a thousand glasses of squash, dispensed a million painkillers and scraped countless uneaten meals into the bin. My daughter is tentatively trying a day at school today and I am hoping to write. I have missed it so much. I wrote a little last week whenever I had enough energy to sit upright. The week before that, I couldn't face my laptop at all. In fact, I couldn't believe I had ever really been a writer. My normal world felt alien. All I had was this horrible grey existence. I hate feeling weak, hate doing nothing. Some days I have been almost in tears pushing the Hoover around just to rediscover some sort of familiar routine, just to be vaguely active. But in the end, all anyone can do is wait until they feel better. That takes patience. And I am criminally impatient. I was never blessed with that virtue, so I am ecstatic that I finally feel I'm emerging.

There are highlights though. My daughter and I felt so emotional when the flu had us in its clutches that we cried at everything, including Jeremy Kyle and most adverts. I cried when my husband and eldest daughter cooked a roast for Boxing Day even though they'd never done it before. They worked as a team and produced a perfect meal. aided by several gin and tonics. I shall never forget the look of pride and pleasure on their faces. They are now planning to be the Boxing Day cooks every year. The most tears I shed were when the boyfriend of the daughter with flu carried her down the icy lane to our garage so that we could take her to hospital the first time, two days before Christmas. Her little white face resting on his shoulder is an image that will stay with me forever. He shovelled the snow away from the garage door so I could get the car out. He came with us, waited there for six hours with nothing to eat while she was assessed and kept our spirits up the whole time. He assured me she would be discharged in time for Christmas. He is only fifteen.

I also have a guardian angel. When we were driving to the hospital, my car slid on an icy hill and refused to go anywhere other than towards stone walls and other cars. A huge Land Rover appeared out of the greyness and smilingly towed us until we were on safer, flatter roads. This kind of thing has happened to me before, which is why I think I have an angel watching me. I have got into several difficulties on the roads (my own fault, owing to my head always being engaged in fictional matters, I think). As you can imagine, I cried further tears at this act of heavenly kindness that helped us on our way to hospital. The boyfriend then had to read all the road signs for me as I didn't even know where this particular hospital was. He remained calm and patient throughout and there was nothing a panicking flu-struck mother with a very ill daughter could have needed more.

It all goes to show that, even in miserable times, there are amazing surprises that will never be forgotten.

So all this is why I have been behind with writing my blog and reading your lovely blogs. It's lovely to be back and I'm ready now to catch up. In the middle of the dark days, I found out that Woman's Weekly are taking two more of my stories, which was another beam of light shining through the murk. We're definitely having flu jabs this year!