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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Summer Pursuits

It's been a trying time. We tried to be helpful by agreeing to open up the field we rent for our ponies as a temporary car-park. This was to help the owners of said field, who were celebrating a family wedding at their home. Could the overspill of guests use the field for their cars? Of course, we said. How lovely. But we didn't realise the guests would leave the field-gate open all night! From 5am, so we are told, our pony and another he egged on from a neighbouring field trotted gleefully around the village.
They found their way into a farmer's field and nibbled ten new bales of hay. The packaging was ruined and the damp getting in. The owner of the other pony was cross with ours, who was the certain ringleader. And the farmer was fed-up with everyone, understandably. As the ponies were too full of hay and high spirits to be chastened, the two men got cross with each other instead!
Hubby had to act as peacemaker while catching our (exceptionally pleased with himself) pony and mending fences in every sense of the word.
Middle daughter made a notice for the field-gate requesting any remaining wedding-guests to please not open it, walk in and excite the ponies any more. As she attached the notice, four adults strolled past her, went in and proceeded to do just that! Whatever happened to the Country Code? I remember in the sixties/seventies seeing the reminders on television about closing gates.
Meanwhile our neighbours are replacing a fence and the removal of the old one has caused the boldest of our chickens, improbably named Spiffy-Peaches, to get excited and venture through the resulting gaps. Our small kitten, recently allowed to begin exploring the great outdoors, is amazingly not fazed by the chicken, despite being a third of her size. She is thrilled at the hunting opportunity presented by a plump, but small-brained bird on the ground. Hubby had to canter down the garden and rescue Spiffy-Peaches twice yesterday while he was trying to work. Thankfully, Coop, Bernhardt and Kevin Kiev are less adventurous.
I have seen one beautiful daughter graduate - what a wonderful day that was; another beautiful daughter pass her driving test (waiting for her in the test centre with the real driving-instructors gave me a lot of short story ideas) and a third beautiful daughter go off to a week's residential novel-writing course for ages fourteen to sixteen. She has a story published in an anthology, Objection To Perfection, published by Gentlemen Press, and full of pieces by young writers aged thirteen to twenty-one. So, feeling proud of them all, I'm fluffing up my feathers in a style reminiscent of Spiffy before she encountered the kitten and started jogging back up the garden.
In between animal escapades and motherly pride, I have read The Colour Of Milk by Nell Leyshon. I really enjoyed this little novel. It's very quick to read if you don't have much time and is so moving. The language is spare and direct, which adds further shades of grey (I didn't mean to say that) to the bleakness of the narrator's life. I thought I would be annoyed by the lack of capitals at the beginning of sentences. But it was appropriate for the narrator to write in that way and not distracting after all. And for me it was a good lesson in pared-down writing and how effective and emotive that can be.
I'm also looking forward to reading The Lighthouse by Alison Moore, which is long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and published by saltpublishing.com. They are running some short story competitions at the moment, which I have been busy entering. I've read an excerpt of The Lighthouse and really enjoyed Alison's style and voice.
Tomorrow, all being quiet in the garden and field, I start the first read-through of my own novel. This will be the day I read it as a reader, a very critical one who is easily bored by unnecessary description, tedious dialogue, rambling plots that go nowhere, characters who don't leap from the page and repetition of ideas in case the reader didn't get it the first time a hint was dropped. I know I can be guilty of all these in a first draft and I don't want to let any of it slip through the net. Or through the fence. Or out of the gate.
So I shall be ruthless and harsh. I won't correct typos etc., since they might occur in parts that I'll delete eventually. I'll cringe at the silly mistakes, gritting my teeth as I leave them where they are for now, and just note where the massive, sweeping changes need to be made. And I'll let you know how it goes. By the end of the summer, I hope I'll have made some real progress with it.

12 comments:

  1. Congratulations to your lovely daughters on all their achievements.

    Hope you are not too distracted by the animal adventures to concentrate on your novel.

    Every morning lately there seems to be a new hole in our fence which needs blocking up, or Harvey would be off on a free range trip round the neighbouring park. Although we live in suburbia, there are lots of foxes and badgers about. I don't know which of them is making the holes, but soon there will be more holes than fence and we will have to replace it altogether.

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    1. Thank you, Joanne. We have had some encounters with badgers too. There seem to be lots of them here. One found its way into our stable and it gave us a huge shock to find him lying in the hay. Sadly he was wounded and the experts told us he was probably ousted from his sett by a more dominant male after a fight for supremacy. He didn't pull through and poor Hubby had to bury him.

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  2. Congratulations to your daughters, Joanna :-)

    I think it's awful the way people have no respect for the rules of the countryside any more. All it needs is a little common sense. Thank goodness your pony came to no harm during his spree - but I think it was a bit of a cheek the owner of the other one blaming yours for leading him astray!

    I bet you have a ton of inspiration from all that though :-) x

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  3. Thank you, Teresa. Yes, I think it was all very inspiring! All these little inconveniences provide a great starting point for stories after they're sorted out.
    I'm really relieved our pony wasn't hurt, but, as you say, it's no thanks to those people who don't stop to think when they're out in the countryside.
    yes, the owner of the other pony has a huge cheek. He's one of those people who always have to blame everything on someone else. He even blamed the farmer for leaving the gate to his hay-storage area open! That was when it nearly came to blows!

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  4. A very entertaining post. I loved the pony story! And well done, those clever, beautiful daughters!

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    1. Thank you so much, Frances. It has been a fun and exciting time!
      I hope you are making a good recovery and still managing to write while your bruise heals. At least the weather isn't so uncomfortably hot while you're laid up. Get well soon and thank you for your lovely comments.

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  5. Great post - your faimil7y sounds wonderful... And best of luck with the read through and editing! I hate that part...

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  6. Hello Pat and thank you for your lovely comments. the read-through is proving to be a strange experience. There are moments when I feel confident and whizz through the editing. And then there are horrible, dark moments when I think I must be mad to have started this and even madder to think I'll ever feel satisfied with it! Some mornings I start with great confidence and then flag in the afternoon, wondering what in the world could have ever made me think I could write a decent novel! But I haven't given up and your good wishes will spur me on.

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  7. Oh no! Those ponies have some bright ideas don't they? It is very thoughtless of people not closing gates, I think they perhaps just don't understand the importance of it.
    I am feeling your glowing pride as my son also graduated and past his driving test! So exciting, what a wonderful feeling :) Congratulations to your daughters for their achievements!
    I understand the frustration of editing (I have just been complaining about it)
    Best if luck with it!
    x

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    1. Many thanks, penandpaints. I'm so pleased for your son on his achievements. It's a very exciting time, isn't it? It feels as if they're about to set sail on all their adult voyages and I wish your son every success with all he does in the future.
      The editing never ends! I'm still ploughing through it. Sometimes it's frustrating and then there are those wonderful moments when it clicks into place. I don't think I'll ever feel I've truly finished!
      Very best of luck with yours and let us know how it goes. x

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  8. How exciting that your daughter has a short story published! My daughter (12 years old) is also a writer and it's such a wonderful thing to watch her come up with story ideas and sit and type away. We were sharing my laptop for a time and that was a bit difficult, but her grandfather got her a used laptop for Christmas, so now we can happily type away together. :)

    Your story about the ponies and the chickens just made me smile, and it's very much needed as I am missing my own farm where I grew up. :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Melissa. It's lovely to hear from you. I'm so pleased for your daughter that she is writing at an early age and that she now has her own laptop. It's so nice to know someone else is typing away close by! I wish her lots of success and happiness with her writing, and for you too. I love my laptop and tend to use it all the time, apart from scribbled notes on bits of paper that are scattered all over the house.

      It must have been wonderful to grow up on a farm. I longed to have that lifestyle when I was a child and always read books about children living on farms. 'Six Cousins At Mistletoe Farm' by Enid Blyton was my favourite, although reality, I guess, isn't much like the perfect picture created in those stories!
      Many thanks, Melissa and good luck with the writing. x

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