Monthly Archives: December 2015

Sunday photo: 20th December 2015

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It’s been a long day.

A long weekend, really.

Yesterday we left Devon at 8am, and drove for four hours before an extended family lunch and then a mindblowing theatre experience.

Today we headed to Heathrow, then had the unbridled excitement of a flight to Iceland.

It really was lots of fun. We’ve been travelling with Arthur since he was 3 months old, ish. It’s been hard work at times, but ultimately we have achieved our goal: a little person who relishes new experiences, who tolerates the boredom involved in getting to somewhere new and cherishes the wonder of the arrival.

And, even more importantly, will very happily snuggle up on a nest of coats when it’s time for bed.

Lushness.

Linking up today’s post with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Sunday photo: 13th December 2015

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Arthur in his happy place.

Throwing stones into the sea is still one of his very favourite things to do, but he loves to explore the beach now too: clambering over the rocks at the end whilst I watch, heart in my mouth and muscles poised to leap to his rescue if he needs me.

I sometimes lament the lack of manufactured play areas near our house, but really of course  this natural playground has so much more scope. And whilst Arthur plays I get to breathe in the sea, listen to it tumble the pebbles at its shore and lose myself in its bigness for a few precious moments before we continue with our day.

 

Linking up today’s post with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Where memories go when they’re forgotten

December is never a good writing month for me. I find the excessive amounts of darkness pretty wearing, and what surplus creative energy I do have seems nowadays to get sucked into preparing for the the double whammy of Christmas and Arthur’s birthday three days later.

It really stressed me out last year, but this year I’ve accepted my limitations and (other than external demands on my time which I have less control over), I’m finding things all a lot easier to handle.

The timing of my self-imposed deadline for getting the latest draft of my WIP to my agent was not accidental. Having submitted that before the end of November I don’t feel too guilty about being a non-writing writer for a bit. That’s not to say all thoughts of novels have been banished completely: as I’ve let myself get caught up once more in the day to day, I have felt my next project tapping away at the corners of my mind, just waiting for its turn in the spotlight.

I find it very curious how a story develops.

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The flash of inspiration that comes first – a person, an event, a conceit that needs exploring. Those can seem to come from almost nowhere: they may have their origins somewhere in real life, but the way that concrete experience gets twisted and turned into the beginnings of a work of fiction renders it almost unrecognisable.

But it’s what comes next that really blows my mind. The way the characters start talking to you, offering up little titbits when you least expect it. The way that reading or hearing something completely unrelated seems to jog your memory and fill in an aspect of the plot that hitherto had not quite made sense. The way that you can lay an idea to rest for a while, and when you return you find it is embellished with so many more details that it is hard to believe weren’t always there.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’m making a story up at all, that the events that are unfolding didn’t really happen. Sometimes it feels like the story is there, waiting to be discovered, and I’m just a conduit for a tale that needs to be told.

There was something Capaldi’s Doctor said that provided an explanation for it all that’s pretty hard to argue with:

“Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten”

There are so many stories after all. So many things that happen to people, that people think or do, that get lost in that moment. But what if they’re not lost? What if our job as writers – as storytellers – is to seek them out, to share them? We may not get every detail quite right, but perhaps our goal – through the planning, the drafting and the editing – is to get as close to the truth as possible.

And once all of that falls into place, perhaps that’s when we’ve got our story.

 

Writing Bubble

Sunday photo: 6th December 2015

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We’ve spent a lot of time indoors this week. I’ve had loads of work to do, and between the weather and still not feeling 100%, Arthur has been more than happy to focus his energies on play.

He’s really been stepping things up in that department: his imagination has shot up again to a whole other level, and he is finding an independence, a freedom, that is quite exhilarating to watch. Along with this independence has come a new cacophony of playmates.

The taps in the bath have become a chicken who he will happily chat away to as he splashes about.

At night we hear him recounting his dreams to the bears who share his bed.

And here he’s initiating a new companion, the Arctic seal who appeared on the first day of advent, by teaching her all about his train tracks.

With all this has come a new role he’s developing for himself. There was one day this week when conversation turned on a few occasions to the things adults do with their time, how they define themselves – who they are. We discussed how Daddy is a doctor (almost). And I asked him what I was – a genuine question on my part. He instantly replied that Mummy is ‘a writer’. Which, you know, was pretty cool.

But back to our boy and how he sees himself.

The three of us were sat that evening, chatting and making plans, and I noticed a particularly clever contraption that Arthur had created from a digger, a torch, and a shoelace. Leigh commented that he could be a doctor with intricate skills like that. And Arthur’s reply?

“I’m not a doctor, I’m a… Playing teacher.”

It could not have been a more accurate reflection of where he’s at right now. And I cannot wait to discover all the things I have yet to learn.

 

Linking up today’s post with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Words of hope

Tonight I set myself one of the hardest writing tasks I’ve ever faced. And even just writing that makes me wince at my misconception of hardship.

I like to think I’m pretty good with words. I’d go so far as to say they’re my ‘thing’. But there are times when they are so woefully inadequate that they may as well not even exist.

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Tonight I have been writing letters to refugees. Cards, actually. I thought that if I could maybe encapsulate my words in a whole package of hope and solidarity then maybe their inherent flimsiness would be less noticeable.

Because, honestly, what do you say?

What do you say to someone whose roof has been ripped from over them whilst you sit in the warmth and the comfort of your own four walls?

What do you say to someone whose children are struggling to survive when you have spent the evening delighting in filling an advent calendar for your own precious one?

What do you say to give someone hope when you cringe at the state of the world every time you look at the news?

In the end it was only hope that made any sense. Despite the odds stacked against humanity by fear and greed and mistrust, hope is the only thing we have to hang on to.

I fumbled through my words, and then – as I so often do – borrowed those of someone else to say what I really wanted to.

Emily Dickinson always stops me in my tracks, and this stanza is one of my very favourites.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all – “

Tomorrow I will take my cards, and my words, down to the sorting centre in Brixham where volunteers are making sense of the bags and bags of donations ready to send them to Lesvos, where hopefully they might provide some respite for refugees. The plan is that each box on the palette we send will contain a message from someone here, someone who is living in safety and in disbelief that our world can treat other humans as badly as we do.

Each palette, each box, each card, will hardly make a dent in the ocean of need: I wrote ten messages tonight; approximately 400,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Lesvos so far this year.

But they might just bring some hope. And whilst we’re busy working out what else to do, there are worse things to leave in our stead.

 

I’ve put together some resources to help teachers tackle the refugee crisis in the classroom. Please help yourself if you think you can use them!

If you would like to find out more about how you can help, please visit the Humanity Has No Borders website. Thank you. 

 

Writing Bubble