Monday, 28 November 2011

This too shall pass

First, apologies if you've been frantically trying to hear my short story, 'The Clown' broadcast on Soundart Radio. It took a little while to be available online, but you can hear it now :o).

In other writerly news, I have failed (by quitting NaNoWriMo early) to write 50k words of my novel in a month, which seemed such a modest aim, and as a result I've collapsed into a despondent mood about all my creative endeavours. I must be feeling more positive than last night or I wouldn't even be writing this. I can blame illness (mine and others), or visitors taking up work time, but really it was just an awful slog - too much like school and not enough like skipping after the words as they dart ahead of me. Maybe another year, or maybe it's not for me.

And I certainly don't want to be complaining about our visitors. They came bringing music and song,

never minded when Pickle joined in (she's lately added the kazoo to her repertoire - one saved from our wedding) or the endless toddler impedimenta (they had to sleep on that sofabed, under the dangling elephants and boinging beefly),

 and introduced us (and our neighbour who came to share his latest toy and discover the wonders of Becherovka) to apple and chocolate pancakes.

As if music and pancakes weren't enough to cheer me up, here's a group of heroes doing a ten-day-and-night chant. This is the lovely Fiona explaining the point of such a thing, or you can tune in to see them live - a kind of voyeuristic spirituality which feels ridiculous at first, but quickly becomes mesmerising..

And speaking of heroes, please bear with me while I share another little film of those good people at Chagfood:

So, an odd day. I haven't decided if I'm enjoying it yet. I'll leave you with this November strawberry from our garden, which I also have mixed feelings about:

and, finally, this poem, which did make me better, in at least one way.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Big Lips: The Clown and poor Pickle

My story's being broadcast on the radio tonight! I haven't been so famous since I was on Songs of Praise with my school choir. (Did I just type that out loud?) It's Soundart Radio, only available locally, (okay, not even as famous as my few minutes intoning Laudate Dominum in an excruciating haircut, blouse and blazer combo), at 7:30 tonight (It's Tuesday), but everyone can access it online via this link. It's called 'The Clown' and I remember thinking it was funny in parts when I submitted it eons ago. I will be making myself listen, even though it might be like hearing my own voice on an answering machine. I had the option of reading it myself, but I'd rather have my tongue pulled out my eye, so someone more competent will be doing that. And I should mention that it has the great quality of being short.

I'm almost 9,500 words behind my NaNo word count target due to - told you there would be excuses at some point - visitors, illness (mine and the Ent's) and Pickle smashing her face on the side of our bed this morning (she's over it; I'm nowhere near). She's got her first fat lip and she's still dribbling blood, but our saviour arnica has reduced the forehead marble to half a pea and her cheese-and-raisin obsession is unharmed, so really she's fine.

I've raved about the wonders of Chagfood here before. The Observer recently ran an article about Ed, Samson and co, which I heartily recomend: Inspired by the Levellers (not the band) Ed Hamer's radical vision of farming involves a commitment to making the land work for the people. And it helps to have a big horse
Do have a read if you've got a minute - it's so refreshing to hear positive news about people acting from conviction, intelligence and not a little courage, and I'd really appreciate it if you listened to my story and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Burn

At 25141 words I'm just ahead of my National Novel Writing Month word count target, so here I am, as promised, with no excuses to make (yet).

Our house is being held to ransom by a couple of particularly stubborn molars (or particularly tough gums), so all bets are off on what may be achieved in the coming week.

Pickle and I went on a brief foray into the city (for winter boots - for her - the price of which made me sweat a little) and were confronted by this creature:

Pickle was, understandably, uncertain, but then decided she loved her and produced some fine moos for the good people of Exeter to enjoy. She stands outside The Real Food Store, a community owned food shop, bakery and cafe. I can heartily recommend it if you're near. It is the only time strangers have joined in with our whispered chorus of 'If you're happy and you know it, touch your nose'!

After the horror that was Hallowe'en, I was nervous about taking Pickle to the Sticklepath Fireshow. Every year there's a crowd of thousands and the surreal play which precedes the fireworks is about half an hour and even less comprehensible to a toddler than to the rest of us. Four generations of our family went in the end and we all had a good time, despite Great Granny scuttling off to get lost in the crowd and Great Grandpa struggling to move at all over the lumpy ground and Pickle being startled awake by the ambulance siren in the safety bit before it had even started.

As ever, the set was impressive. The two skeletons to the left were crafted by that most handsome of woodworkers, Thomas Hine and if you click on the Fireshow link above, the big dragon head was also his.

Hundreds of volunteers make the whole spectacle happen and the work of each of them was rather lost on our girl, happily snuggled in her ear defenders (one of our best buys ever), but she did wake for the fireworks - the best display I've ever seen, which I won't demean with our dodgy photos.

And she was quite mesmerised by the burn. Great Granny couldn't believe people had worked so hard to create such a huge and intricate structure, then those same people would merrily set light to the whole thing and start again for the next year.

As we watched each new piece collapse, we talked about how rare an opportunity it is to see a fire on this scale, and particularly to watch a building burn.

Fire is an energy much feared in my western/British/English culture, or so it seems to be in the main. Anger is never welcome; there is no admittance of a healthy way to express anger. Sometimes we can justify it, but never welcome it. Sex is something that is mostly discussed within the safety of comedy, or else it furnishes us with many of our swear words.

When I first became pregnant I was shocked by the fierceness which came along with the tenderness. I hadn't experienced it until a crowd surged in my direction and I locked my arms in front of my belly, ready to take them all on! With most people I never mentioned this new intensity; it is the opposite of what pregnant women and new mums 'should' be feeling. But the truth, now as much as then, is that, to protect my daughter, I am capable of things I could not later justify. This is a fire which will not go out.

And so to a whole group of people desperately trying to keep their fire alight. I can recommend no blog higher than The Hermitage and in particular this latest post on travelers. Do please take a look. The two little films are each haunting in different ways and Rima's artwork is worth a visit in itself.

I love living where I do. You've probably gathered that by now, if you've been here before. I spent a few years being nomadic, but really I'm a roots person. And as a rooted person, I am grateful to all the traveling people for adding their difference to my world. It is perhaps a way of life less afraid of fire and passion than the one around me.

I hope we can learn.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, everybody!
Samhain has passed. We're all on the dark side now... :o).

When I last wrote we were full of excitement about Pickle's first experience of trick-or-treating. We left treats at the bottom of our path (the route to our door being too genuinely dangerous for kids high on sweets in the dark) clenched between the teeth of a skull and lit only by the world's most menacing apple. (A Crawley Beauty, if you were wondering.)

Just before we set off, Thomas rushed to get his mask. Sadly for those of us with a sadistic sense of humour, he noticed and evicted the hibernating wasp before he put it on. But as you can see, he failed to notice the massive spider about to crawl into his eye.

Strangely, given how attractive he looks in that mask, Pickle cried and he had to take it off. Then, when we met up with our friends, one of them had full Sith face paint and she got truly terrified. Slightly mollified by being in my arms rather than in the buggy, we carried on, but every painted face caused her to cling to me in such desperate horror that we soon turned back. If I didn't know face paint existed, I'd have been running for the hills too - if only to avoid catching something!

Samhain is our anniversary of being together (five years now), so we'd planned a babysitter so we could go out once she was asleep. But, after her traumatic evening, we just couldn't bear to risk her waking without us there.

Fireworks night was far more successful, but Thomas has taken the camera to the sea, so more of that when I'm here next.

And that may not be soon. I'm in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to those in the know) and attempting to write 1667 words a day. As a compulsive editor, I can delete faster than I can produce words, so to give me any chance, I've resurrected a novel which I've been ignoring for months... or, actually, years. It turns out to be a) bordering on chick lit and b) bordering on good. Still trying to work out how those happen simultaneously, but that's how it is. I'm up to 11,885 words, which is on target (to save you the maths) and appreciating being online so much less. Maybe it's the 'net rather than the screen which gets to me.

If I stay on target, I'll give you an update on my progress; and if I don't, I'll make my excuses on the other side. (Now those I could write about at great length!)

Wish me inspiration!

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