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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
- The soundtrack was this (in my own voice, though most of the lyrics forgotten to the extent that it was more a refrain of the first line, over and over):
The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love Continue reading
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
– Best Self: I think I’m going to have a boyfriend again.
– Worst self: Um, terrible idea.
– Best self: Why?
– Worst Self: You might die.
– Best self: I’m hardly going to die.
– Worst self: You were so miserable last time, remember.
– Best self: Only because he was the wrong man for me. Another man – the right one – will make me happy. Or keep me happy, because I’m already happy.
– Worst self: Sounds horrifically claustrophobic to me. You’d be locked in to being whoever you are when you meet him. Won’t be able to change or develop. Sounds hellish, actually. That panic in your throat right now; you know you’d hate it.
– Best self: Not true. He might be someone who is interested in learning and self development and who I can have interesting conversations with. In fact he almost certainly will be, otherwise I won’t be attracted to him in the first place.
– Worst self: You’d have to meet his family. Continue reading
Small, quotidian examples of a teetering, joyful, doolallyful mind
Only the third was a lucid conversation; the rest were dreaming-while-awakes.
- I’ve created the base of a helicopter. It’s a smooth, shining, navy blue body. No hard edges, utter grace. My hand runs over its contours; can’t believe I’ve made this! Had no idea I was going to do this. I’ve literally made a helicopter on a whim. Then the propeller: I’d forgotten completely that it would have a propeller. What a bonus! A propeller arrives from nowhere (maybe heaven), drifts down to it and settles perfectly onto the top, and the whole thing lifts and flies away. Beautiful.
- There are millimetres in my house. I tell them to come outside. They hate each other, so instead of pouring out together, as though from a jug, they each thunder down the stairs into the front garden, stubborn and furious. Drops of water with legs and scowling faces, they stand there in a line, obedient and cross, with folded arms.
- My little doggiewoggie, poorly and normally a difficult eater, has eaten 3 portions of chicken-and-rice-for-Luna before 2.30pm. We are all very impressed. Telling her she is a little darling, I say ‘my little piglet, you’re going to turn into a chicken,’ then: ‘Don’t worry though, I’d still love you. I’d still carry you about and call you my little-darling-Lulu.’ It would be a new lease of life; a whole new animal’s lifetime she can stick around for. I picture her with amber feathers nestled in the cradle of my arms.
A sort of bubble – enormous, glinting all the colours there are in its wavering rim; around me. Or something solid, made of wood, with grains like eyes and ridges to ease a thumbnail along without thinking. A deep space under the earth, damp, half-lit, messy where I whisper things to you and you only smile; dip down into it, into you, seven times a day, just in between things. A complicated, clever, worldly mechanism, made of all the things I don’t understand; the relief that someone else is those things and I can watch. Mostly, the voice, which doesn’t change, and the gentleness of it, the quiet tones, the breath, pulls me from my stomach, jolts me, leans me in. Sometimes, stray words that buzz around between us and repeat themselves in places and things. The pressing. The heat. The sleep. The distance, so I can do things. The closeness, so I can be calm. A ready gaze, ready for changing, for mine; the seeing all things and knowing there’ll be more. The new life of your yeses. Sometimes I think I am bigger than I am meant to be, and growing bigger and bigger, and am taller than the earth. But made of fog and droplets. You can catch them, and water yourself with me, and other things too; be my size in different form, some other element; something certain and hot and your own. The hold, so I can dissolve, reform, forget everything after all. The space, in a smile, in an eye; the flashes which come from the ending to the beginning; the middle, which is where I am.