Friday, 29 April 2011

Beginnings And Endings

Yesterday I visited my mother in Dorset to take her to my brother's grave on the tenth anniversary of his death. We tidied the grass and added spring flowers. We cleaned the headstone and then stood there in this beautiful setting, a village tucked into the soft, watchful hills. The sun illuminated the church, but our corner was in shadow and cooled by the breeze. I didn't want to leave, but my mother was chilled by the thought of his bones lying there in the dark. But I felt at least there was something of him left.

My mother spoke to him before she turned away, leaving me humbled by the strength in her voice, by the courage of the human spirit that allows a frail mother of eighty-five to speak to her cherished dead son as if he were still there.

We miss him more each year, the reality that he is never coming back more brutal at each anniversary of his death. She told me yesterday that he once said he would never be old. He would be content to skip the option of life beyond the middle years. And she said she would hate to go on much longer now. Ageing is harsh and she can feel herself decaying. The last ten years have made her life a waiting game. No mother wants to outlive her child. She wants to join her husband and her son now and the thought that she will be with them at last blocks any fear of dying. Her life will be complete once she has gone. And I will have my wonderful memories of them all and be able to think of them together in peace.

We left that tranquil place and drove on through the narrow lanes dappled with shadows of fresh leaves, skirting round young pheasants exploring their new world, trying to make sense of it all and excited by its promise for as long as it lasts.

Then as I went home along the main roads, I saw a mature pheasant lying dead on the verge, but still with his glorious plumage being ruffled by the wind and shining vibrant in the sun.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Challenge For The Summer

My Spring/Summer challenge is going to be writing 80,000 words in eighty days, as proposed by Sally Quilford at It might be what I need to produce a themed collection of short stories at last, although other writers will write their novel or continue their work-in-progress. It doesn't matter how you choose to shape the words. It's important only that you write them. I'll aim for an average of a thousand a day of course, but undoubtedly there will be the odd day when I can't achieve any. And with luck, the occasional day when I manage more.

I feel excited about it, but as usual I don't know what will happen. I don't plot. But I daydream. Fragments of those muddled visions are stored in my head somehow and eventually translate into words on the screen. I think my theme is going to be: striving for the impossible. But I don't know for sure. And that's as much planning as I can do. On May 1st, I shall launch in and can't wait to see where it takes me. I'll feel inspired by the thought that others are doing the same and probably finding some days harder than others.

Now the days are longer and brighter, I fit in a little more writing than usual. And with my middle daughter soon on study leave for her GCSEs, I hope that my dedication to the 80k/80days challenge will assist with her revision! It worked when my eldest daughter was revising for A Levels. We both sat at the kitchen table and she beavered away with her books while I wrote. I have to say that I was the one always begging for it to be time to stop for lunch. But she would keep my nose to the grindstone until a more suitable time than 11.30! One memorable time, she asked me to help with her Statistics revision. She must have been desperate because no one in the world is less mathematically minded than I am. But, incredibly, between us, we managed to make sense of the problems, taking it bit by bit and getting more and more into the thrill of puzzling it out, and felt fantastic afterwards.

So if I could meet that challenge, then I'll definitely be able to do this one! Especially now I've told you all that I'm going to!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sad Post

I have been thinking about how fictional characters can behave however the writer chooses. And how that makes them so special to us. We send them off on their wrong path, safe in the knowledge we can help them turn round and find the right way again. Not by a chance event or a magic wand wafting conveniently around their bewildered heads, but all by themselves. They see their problem and realise how to set themselves right again. It makes a good story and writers sit back in satisfaction ( hopefully) just for a moment and feel relieved their special person has made it. Or that at least there's a shred of hope for them after the conclusion.

I wish we could do that in real life too. You may remember my middle daughter's pneumonia last winter and the amazing boyfriend who carried her to the car in the snow, cleared our path out of the garage and stayed with us for hours in the hospital. This same boyfriend now tells her he wasted his time with her and that his new life smoking weed, drinking to excess and collapsing on pavements is a much happier existence. She cares and worries about him. She forgives this massive insult to their time together, as long as he is all right and is truly happy. She remembers the happy times and all the love they had. And she always will. This says so much about my incredible Olivia. I hope she never changes.

But I wish I could believe he has found the right way. And I wish real life empowered us as much as fiction-writing does. But there's truly no more to be done than hope for the best.