Posture; Turnip Seeds

If you’re bored of reading The Enormous Turnip to your nearest 2-year-old, you’re bored of life. The Read It Yourself with Ladybird, Level 1 series of books includes an absolutely stellar example of storyline: if the mouse pulls the cat, the cat pulls the dog, the dog pulls the girl, the girl pulls the boy, the boy pulls the old woman, the old woman pulls the old man and the old man pulls the enormous turnip, can it be wrenched from the ground? YOU LITERALLY ONLY FIND OUT ON THE LAST PAGE, which may or may not include gorgeous illustrations of turnip soup, pickles and jams and an absolute abundance of this exuberant but slightly wan-hued vegetable (which I personally can’t recall ever having tried, but have known since childhood that sometimes they grow enormously, and that mice think they go very well with holey cheese, if there’s a celebratory banquet going). On an early page, the old man is planting seeds, faithfully, and as such, his very old back is bent halfway so that he is completely inverted, his nose to the ground, as he delivers hope and potential to the just-raked earth (I may have invented the order of events slightly here as related to the rake, riffing off the images and, more crucially, pointing out the red-breasted robins, which I think I can take credit for my niece knowing the name of; she doesn’t need to know that I lack gardening chronology/confidence). So that sets the scene. Continue reading

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What I’ve learned about fire (and what fire has learned about me)

I feel uniquely qualified to write about the lessons of fire: I come from a place of absolute zero, for one thing; before I moved into my new rural idyll of a cottage one week ago (complete with multiple varieties of deer who saunter past my window, foxes, rabbits… a woodland within its acres and… a woodburner), I had never lit a fire in my life.

When my move was confirmed, prior to the actual getting in (the hanging up of my Guatemalan wall hangings, the placement of my Balinese sunflower woodcarving, the consideration of the enormity of my wardrobe and the decision over exactly how ashamed I ought to be for possessing so many dresses), I mentioned this fact to everyone. Wild-eyed and frantic, I implored them – ‘not even barbecues. Not even a campfire!’ – I had lit only so much as a candle, before now, and nothing more. How could this be, for a real live human? How am I (here as in so many other instances) so ridiculous?

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Anyway, I’m practically an expert now, and I can tell you: there are many lessons in fire. Some glorious, some bastardly.

It is massively fun to prod at embers with a poker, for one thing, seemingly conjuring up a dance of flames from nothing. It is frustrating when your fire stares back at you with pity, full of ennui, saying nope.

Some things I’ve learned: Continue reading

Believability

At current time of writing (point zero, all blank page ahead), I believe I’m going to write about believability. I’ve even written the blog title in the box above in advance, which I believe I never do.

I’m currently battling with believing that believability is going to be believably achieved in my novel, which is straddling the alternative paradigms of:

1. believability (by way of character motivation; why on earth would the young, beautiful girl say yes to the alarming, unlikely thing?), and
2. eyebrow-raising incredulity.

Believe me, it’s a narrow tightrope to waver across, and achieved (I suppose) by a mix of skill and faith. The problem is that what I believe, you (reader) may not.

Things I believe:
– The scariest, most offensive deadlines are the most useful.
– The brain works in mysterious ways. I.e. sometimes you find Continue reading

On the importance and abundance of not thinking; also, illusion

I’ve come to the basic conclusion that I’m better at absolutely everything when I don’t think about it. This is, of course, a surprise, utterly unsurprising and completely liberating.

I just royally effed up a piano piece by making the grave mistake of paying attention to what I was doing. It was right at the end – I literally had to freestyle an ending in an entirely different key. This happened because I started thinking about the fact that it was quite incredible that my fingers knew exactly what they were doing and if I was asked what notes I was playing I would have no particular attachment to any particular answer. Muscle memory; gets totally messed up when you notice it’s happening; when your inner voice start remarking that your brain is possibly redundant. The ego kicks off and wants some appreciation, so it slaps down the bigger part of your brain that already knows what it’s doing. Continue reading

Pressing

On the long bus journey through Guatemala, I was
so tired I couldn’t keep my head
straight. Several miles and easily an hour before I plucked up the courage to ask the large, delightful Greek next to me
for permission.
Throughout that journey I had snuck
furtive glances at the flesh of his shoulder.
Wide and round, firm and padded, oh it would be divine, I knew.
Heaven in my periphery, lust for his edges, I wanted
to rest my cheek against that shoulder and dream.
Hours until the next town and no pride
to lose, I asked.
He smiled and stuck it out extra
gladly, ready, his beautiful curls shining around his face.
I shuffled my bottom
slightly
for the manoeuvre of relief;
the full lean.
and nodded into my own world.
For days, I think people wondered
if we were orchestrating
some kind of romance.
And it’s true the event brought us
closer;
that sometimes we would talk about books
into the night.
That at least once more I pressed my face against his warm cotton T-shirt.
But, oh, that fat, ripe, beautiful, strong, shoulder.

Then, in Las Vegas –
I don’t believe I was drunk –
I asked a man
if he would sleep in my bed that night.
Not to do anything
(I said multiple times; important he understood)
‎but so I could feel contained in his arms.
‎He had the physique I needed
‎and a gambling habit I wouldn’t want.
Perfect. He thought about it
‎from his great height
‎and told me it might not be a good idea.
‎He was not made for single beds and he would irritate me, wanting to sleep or to act, knowing he could do neither.

Then the hand I held down an alley
in Indonesia; slipped digits, black
and white, laughing
because it made me feel magical, like a child, high, and I wanted to show him the frogs and he wanted to swim at night, in secret, under the thunderstorm.
The fresh sheets made him itch but he called me for breakfast, called me ‘fine art’, still sends photos of dinners he is making, still presses into my possibility, the rightest fit for that changing season.

Militarily speaking

I’ve just had a text from my casting agency asking if I have any military experience (if so, I must reply regarding a new feature film). I find the entire concept of me having military experience so hilarious – images of me in some kind of uniform, marching, straight arms (no flow to the wrists), maybe a hat unjauntily angled – I am simply going with the non-reply and snort-to-myself-quietly option.

I am the star child of schooling, really – straight As (unless A*s were an option) – and a genuine enthusiasm for most subjects. I had highlighters, musical instruments, calculators with slide-on covers – the lot. But uniforms were more tricky for me. Within the approximate boundaries of school regulation colours, I preferred Continue reading