Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Emma chose ‘Space’ as this week’s word. I love words with a lot of potential interpretations. I’ve been thinking about this word since Emma picked it and there are so many ideas that come to mind. I confess, I am sitting down to write this post with no idea of where I’m going to go – I’m hoping that the pressure of a deadline will work its magic and I’ll have a coherent post by the end. This is fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants blogging, people!

I suppose one of the first ideas that I had was the ‘outer space’ connection. There was the brave chap who jumped from the ‘edge of space’ recently. ‘Outer space’ is a rich source of stories – usually stories about its inhabitants. I wonder if we people the ‘space’ of our imagination with all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures because we genuinely accept the rational view that logically, we can’t be the only living things in an infinite universe, or because the idea of being alone in infinite space is somehow scarier? I find reading about the vastness of space actually hurts my mind. I’ve posted this video before, because it’s amazing – if you haven’t seen it before, do watch it. It’s a marvellous testament to human curiosity as well as being pretty fascinating.

And then of course, at the opposite extreme, there’s the idea of having our ‘own space’, carving out a small part of the world that’s ours. Our ‘room of one’s own with a lock on the door’ that V Woolf argued was essential for creativity. This, as I mentioned in my last post, is a bit of a preoccupation Chez S&S at the moment. We’re trying to create spaces in our home that work for us as a family, and we’re having a bit of a rearrange so the youngest member of the family can have her own space. And my office will be moving to the attic, which is going to be a bit novel – I’m a bit apprehensive about making a creative space up there. It’s exhausting and expensive, but also exciting – it’ll be good to have this place as we need it to be. We live here and work here so it’s very important that our little corner is a happy and comfortable place to be.

And part of that process has involved the creating of spaces – of emptiness – where once there were none. Things have been moved, rearranged, given away and thrown out to create empty spaces in which we can realise our ideas. It’s wonderfully cathartic, and the empty spaces are quite exciting. The overgrown flowerbeds we’ve emptied now seem to overflow with potential. The once crowded storeroom is now empty and is going to be a lovely space for laundry, which means the rest of the house won’t have racks and baskets of washing all over it. This process is making me realise even more strongly that I’d like to simplify. I’d like to have less stuff and more space. More room to breathe, to create. Space can mean emptiness, but a space is a possibility, a potential. In a space, anything can happen. And that’s pretty cool.

Go and see Emma to see what other people have done with their spaces!

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Katy chose the Weekword this week, and picked the very Hallowe’eny ‘eldritch’. Check out her blog to see who else is playing this week.

I looked up the derivation of ‘eldritch’ and it comes from words meaning ‘other’ or ‘strange’ and ‘realm’ or ‘world’ – so, strange and otherworldly. Hallowe’en, of course, is the time when the ‘other world’ is closest to ours and things unspecified can move between them – ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night.

So, here is a little something otherworldly that’s been in my head. It’s not really a story – more a snippet of one. I’m not sure where it came from or what, if anything, it’ll turn into, but to make a change from my normal posts, here it is.

For as long as she could remember, she’d seen pictures. When she was little, she would lie in bed and stare at the flowery paper on her bedroom walls until she saw castles, horses and ladies with incredibly long, flowing hair. She had always seen patterns and pictures in the clouds – maps of strange lands, unicorns, even giant water lilies floating above her. Faces would appear out of wooden panels – a knot hole would become an eye, an uneven surface a jaw. She saw pictures in puddles of oil on wet roads, the tracery of bare branches against a grey winter sky.

So it was natural that as she lay on her stomach in front of the fire, she started to gaze into the flames, looking for pictures. As the wood in the grate spat and crackled, and the red and orange flickered, she started to see shapes form – first a mountain, which fizzled away as a log shifted. As she lay by the fire, more pictures appeared, moved, and faded. And then a new image formed – a face. She continued to stare into the flames and watched as, instead of disappearing, the face grew clearer, more defined. Although definitely still part of the flames, it seemed somehow to be more than that – more solid, almost three dimensional. It was a man’s face – lean and long-jawed, with heavy eyebrows. She started to feel a bit uneasy – this was not the sort of picture she was used to. Another log shifted in the base of the fire, and the shape of the flames moved, but the face didn’t flicker. It remained there, looking out at her as she lay, frozen, looking at it. And then, slowly, it closed one eye.

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Weekword: Ten

The Scribbler over at Domestic Scribbles chose this week’s word, and she chose the word ‘Ten’. I felt that as I have recently started writing my ‘Tuesday Ten’ posts, I couldn’t really interpret this word by doing a list of ten things – that would be cheating a bit. I tried to think of any resonance that the number ten had for me and in the end I emailed my mum with a question.

‘Can you remember,’ I asked her, ‘what I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’ when I was ten?’

I had tried to remember the answer to this myself, but had drawn a blank. I think I had already given up on a career in ballet by that point (I have neither the figure, the patience nor the pain threshold) but couldn’t remember where my ambitions lay.

The following day, the answer came back. ‘When you were ten,’ my mum replied, ‘you changed your mind every ten seconds.’ How appropriate for this weekword – even my correspondent is joining in. ‘You wanted to be a fashion designer at one stage then became interested in politics and wanted Elinor Goodman‘s job as the political editor on Channel 4.’

When I read that, I remembered both ambitions very clearly. I remember the endless drawings of dresses and the cutting out of lots of bits of fabric. I remember the fashion books I got out of the library. I also remember the avid watching of the news and the interest in politics, and I do remember watching Elinor Goodman on the TV and thinking that I’d love to do her job.

More than twenty years have passed since then, and I am now thinking about how much of my ten year old ambition is still in evidence. Well, I’m no fashion designer, certainly. I am not even much of a follower of fashion now I live in the depths of the countryside. I live most days in jeans and jumpers, with wellies for outdoors and slippers for the house. But I love fabrics and textiles, I love making things, and enjoy fitting the right fibre, colour and texture to the thing I want to make.

And the politics? Well, the interest continued, and I did Politics at A Level, and after university I joined the civil service and spent four years working in Whitehall, briefing ministers, writing answers to Parliamentary Questions, asking the Treasury for more money and putting together policy proposals. I even wrote a few speeches. And I went to a lot of meetings and wrote a lot of emails and learned a lot of jargon. As for the journalism – not quite. I am an editor and a writer – and one of the things I’m writing is a novel set … in Westminster.

So perhaps I haven’t abandoned the dreams I had at ten after all. The fashion designer who grills politicians on the news has morphed into the editor and copywriter who writes political novels and does some sewing and knitting on the side.

And although my ten year old self may have been disappointed, I’m more than happy with that.

Pop over to Domestic Scribbles to see who else is playing.

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This week’s Weekword, chosen by Elisabeth is ‘Collection’.

It was a good word and got me thinking (as, I suppose, was the intention). My house and my life is filled with groups of objects that could be termed collections. I have a formidable stash of yarn (often alluded to in this blog) and a smaller – but expanding – collection of fabric. I am gradually accumulating buttons (it’s my ambition to have a button tin that my children beg to be allowed to play with).

I have always collected something – at various times in my life this has been stickers, china cats, art postcards, perfume adverts, things with ladybirds on. For the last few years, my collection has been cups and saucers, and to stop myself filling the house with them, I have had to set rules to make it harder for myself. Firstly, they have to be singles, so no pairs or sets. They have to be a cup and a saucer, no ‘trios’ with cake plates. And thirdly, they can cost no more than £10. Even with these constraints, I have accumulated a wonderful collection.

All that aside, the collection I’m choosing to focus on is my collection of words and pictures. Since May 1997, I have kept a ‘commonplace book’ – a notebook where I copy and stick things I want to be able to find again – quotations, recipes, poems, wedding invitations, amusing or illuminating newspaper cuttings or magazine articles. I’m now into my third book, and it’s interesting to look back and see how my choices and preoccupations have changed over the years. There are things in the first book (a wirebound notebook with a Matisse print on the front, which I bought when I was twenty in the stationery department of James Thin’s in Edinburgh) that I wouldn’t choose to write in my book now because my tastes have changed so much since then. And then there are some things that I would – including a rather startling love poem written by my boyfriend at the time.

The second book (a gift from my friend Ruth for, I think, my twenty-third birthday) contains things that are much more recognisably ‘me’. There is little in this book I’d not choose to keep now, and it’s also much tidier, with fewer scrappy bits.

The third and current book is going to last me a good while. It was bought in the shop at the Doge’s Palace in Venice during my class trip in 2000, and still has the (considerable) price pencilled in the front in lire. (Rather alarmingly, many Venetians used the £ sign for lire as both words came from the same root, which has led to some raised eyebrows…) It has probably hundreds of pages, and glorious thick, cream paper which makes me want to write neatly.

I love this little collection – I know I can find things easily if I want to read them again, and because it’s like an unfolding time capsule of my life, my passions and my preoccupations.

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As it happens, those probably are two of my favourite things.

I’ve been flat out recently, not just with editing work, although there’s been a fair bit of that. I have also been writing. I may have been rather critical, in conversation with one of my editors, of the quality of the writing in some of the books I’ve been editing. And so the editor in question may have challenged me to put my money where my mouth is. Which is how, gentle reader, I come to be writing a teenybopper book about a young actor-fellow of whom I had never heard before a fortnight ago. Sadly, he is not a particularly interesting young man, but this cannot come across in the book. I am not given to exclamation marks and breathless fangirling, so I have demanded a pseudonym for this particular ‘literary’ endeavour. No, I’m not telling you the name of the subject. Nor my pen-name.

But my subconscious is clearly determined that should I be extinguished in a freak tractor incident, this dubious prose is not to be the only writing I’ve ever done. So for the first time in more than fifteen years, I am writing fiction. To be precise, a novel. I have done more than 8,000 words and they are still flooding out. Most peculiar – I never saw this one coming. So, with one thing and another I have been tied to my desk all day, and then into the night. I haven’t had much time for fun and games and have been feeling quite growly. So as an exercise, I wrote a list of my favourite things. Julie Andrews eat your heart out.

Stretching out in bed after a long day (clean sheets a bonus).
Home made cake.
The view down our valley from our kitchen door.
My little girl’s giggle.
My little boy’s chuckle.
Big squeezy hugs from someone who loves me.
A good cup of tea just when a cup of tea is needed.
Walking over crisp autumn leaves.
The smell of tomato plants.
Elegant use of the semi-colon.
Laundry that’s been dried on the line.
Proper, old fashioned, scented roses.
Curling up by the fire on a cold evening, with something nice to drink, a purring cat and a snoring dog.
Really good ice cream.
The first time I untwirl a new lipstick.
A long chat on the phone with a friend I haven’t seen for ages.
Eating food I’ve grown myself.
A good book.
Really, really fabulous shoes.
Champagne in bed.
Singing along to the radio.
Wrapping presents on Christmas Eve while listening to Carols from Kings on Radio 4.
Actually, Radio 4.
Being out on a clear night and looking at the stars.
Wearing pretty knickers.
Having a ridiculous and impractical crush, even if you’re a grown up, married mother of two.
Eating a curry so hot it makes my nose run.
Smelling a perfume that reminds me of someone, something, somewhere or some time.
Dancing. Especially on my own in the kitchen.

What are yours?

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