‘I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I begin to look at it, until it shines.’
~ Emily Dickinson
I’ve called this blog ink on my fingers as that really does sum up where i am in my life right (write) now. I’m living by the sea on the south coast of England – living by myself, I should add, the most positive life-affirming thing i think I have ever done – trying to keep the wolf from the door by writing articles for magazines and websites, while making my brain expand and contract as I write my book. Ahh yes, The Book…. the thing/object/dream/cathartic exercise i have been working on for the last five months… i have a sneaking suspicion that TB will be creeping into these postings as i get into my stride. perhaps i’ll turn into Charles Dickens and share a chapter at a time, or more likely, i’ll send out little snippets, like butterflies into the ether and see what comes back. i look forward to connecting with other souls with inky fingers.
The first six chapters are with my agent now, a wonderfully feisty Irish woman who i have complete faith in, and if all goes well I’ll be in London next week to meet with her so we can roll up our sleeves and plot the next stage – to find the right publisher. But in truth that feels like a dream – to get the work published and in readers’ hands would be amazing, but before that can happen I know I have many more red-wine-and-cigarette fuelled nights ahead of me, with ink on my fingers and pieces of paper strewn over my living room floor (literally cutting and pasting, with scissors and sellotape, has proved to be the best way to focus the mind when the words start swimming across the monitor.)
so I spend all day writing – writing articles, writing TB, writing in my diary, writing lists of things I should be doing, will be doing, want to be doing – and now, at last, I’ll be writing here too. The photo is a painting my beautiful sister did for me as a christmas present – the way she sees me writing, with my head lost in thought. I’ve always been in awe of her talent, what a gift to be able to put what you see in your head down on paper – words never feel quite the same.
I’ve found so much inspiration from reading other’s blogs that the temptation to join in and get cosy in my own corner of cyber space was just too irresistible. of course, whether I write anything profound, that helps and inspires, or just plain amuses, remains to be seen.
but it’s exciting to see how this new project will grow. It also feels strange to be writing for/to readers who can leave their comments (and please do!) – you get used to writing anonymous words for magazine readers, where you don’t have to put yourself into the text – and I’ve kept a diary since I was eleven, a conversation that I don’t think will ever end – but a blog is different, and as I’ve read more of them over the last few months I’ve come to see that there is such an incredible network of like-minded souls out there, a real community of artists, writers, dreamers and believers all sharing their thoughts and lives. So here I am, cup of rooibos tea by my keyboard, sun shining through the window, ready to set sail into the unknown.
~welcome to my blog~
Woke up this morning with a million ideas for my blog, but have decided i must pace myself – Poetry Thursday seems like a good way to ease into the blogging groove. i hadn’t read any of Carol Ann Duffy’s work until recently but had heard of her and knew she was well loved and respected. In 1999 she was tipped to be the new Poet Laureate but lost out to Andrew Motion (Tony Blair was reportedly “worried about having a homosexual poet laureate because of how it might play in middle England”. Hmmm…)
The poem i’ve chosen is from her latest collection, Rapture, which recently won the TS Eliot prize. Every poem in the book burns your fingers as you turn from page to page; it is such a passionate, raw, truthful story of a love affair, i just can’t stop reading it.
Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head,
so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name,
like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables
like a charm, like a spell.
Falling in love
is glamorous hell; the crouched, parched heart
like a tiger ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin.
Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.
I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine,
in my camouflage rooms. You sprawled in my gaze,
staring back from anyone’s face, from the shape of a cloud,
from the pining, earth-struck moon which gapes at me
as I open the bedroom door. The curtains stir. There you are
on the bed, like a gift, like a touchable dream.
~ Carol Ann Duffy
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain” ~ Kahlil Gibran
I’m beginning to understand the mysterious Zen of the Blogging Way. All day yesterday I was narrating my day in my head, as a kind of practice run to what I would be blogging about later (is that a particularly blog-virgin trait?) I had in mind a Woolf-esque meditation of my morning by the sea, where the blustery wind cut out all other sounds as I crunched my way over the hundreds of oyster shells that lined the shore and the waves played a game of dare with my shoes. I was going to write about the wonderful old lady who sat next to me on a bench, who sat with a straight back and one hand on her walking stick, the Queen of the Seaside, her eyes shut, the wind making her white hair dance around her wrinkled eyes ~ I wish I’d asked her her name.
But as I live ten minutes away from the sea, I know there will be plenty of salty posts as I carry on down this path; the sea has been so healing for me, the beach is like a spare room in my flat that I can retreat into. I think the fact that I haven’t worked on TB* for a couple of weeks is the reason for me wanting to put on my writerly hat, but I’ll save it for my first Sunday Scribbling…
So today I’m wanting to connect with this blog like I would a new friend – the urge to write a quick 1,000 word autobiography and spill all the beans in one shot is overwhelming! (I’m not very good at keeping my own secrets ~ ask anyone who knows me ~ I may be a heady thinky Aquarian but I also fly by the seat of my pants, emotionally-speaking).
I could post my CV on the blog, but that wouldn’t tell you who I am, just what I’ve done. So instead, as this is my third post and we’re still in the cosy getting-to-know-you stage of the relationship :-), here are my Top Ten Beans to spill:
1. born 1973
2. parents divorced when I was eleven – father emigrated to Australia
3. left home aged seventeen
4. HND in photography; degree in journalism
5. ten year relationship with lovely Italian man; ended in 2003. His wife recently gave birth to their first child
6. I would take a bullet to protect my mother, my sister and my three godchildren
7. my dreams are so vivid it’s like living a second life each night
8. I smoke and drink too much
9. writing is the way I make sense of the world, and my life
10. thirteen months ago the man I loved died from a heart attack. My grief journey has brought me to this point, where I feel strong enough to reconnect with the world, and this blog is my attempt to honour the new person I have become.
I’ve discovered that this is Grateful Friday, so in honour of this lovely idea can I say I’m grateful that Tim Berners-Lee had the genius to dream up the internet. His world-changing creation has been instrumental in my healing twice: last September my soul sister Anna helped me to create a website for my journalism work, which, after six months of not working, helped me to get back in the saddle and start looking after myself.
And now, for a second time, the internet has lead me to a place where I’ve found a supportive network of souls. Thank you Tim, and thank you all for your welcoming arms I already feel through my computer screen.
I’m in trouble. It’s day four in my adventures in the blogosphere and here I am again, already writing a post when I should be writing an article. I knew this would happen. Feel pulled in so many directions: it’s Saturday and because I have been so lax this week, work-wise, I have an hour-long interview with an expert to transcribe and a 1,600 word article to sculpt, yet I want to go to the beach and have coffee with my friend Madeleine and her kids, I want to buy the papers and read them while drinking tea on my sofa, I want to go into town and buy a new lipstick to cheer my face up, I want to sit and read blogs all afternoon, I want to go to the supermarket and buy some duck breasts so I can try a new recipe tonight for dinner, I want to get on the train and go have brunch with Anna in Soho, I want to buy a lottery ticket and win a million pounds so I never have to write another article again and can indulge in writing TB and not have to worry that I can’t pay my gas bill… I want… I want… I want. The article is for the best-selling women’s magazine in the UK ~ and I am grateful for the work, of course I am, but today… today I want to be doing something else.
The beautiful moon-struck Elena suggested tagging some friends to spill their own beans – you can read hers here – so I am sending the call out to Denise, Megg and Alexandra, and anyone else who would like to reveal a few jelly beans, mung beans or refried beans… big or small, the choice is yours. Should add that I have no idea what the tagging etiquette is, so if i’m off the mark, please tell me!
As every day is Poetry Day in my little flat by the sea, here’s something I read last night that I wanted to share here…
From indescribable transformation flash
such creations–: Feel! And trust!
We suffer it often: flames become ash;
yet, in art: flames come from dust.
Here is magic. In the realm of a spell
the common word seems lifted up above…
and yet is really like the call of the male
who calls for the invisible female dove.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, 1924
There’s a louring cloud that covers my childhood, stretching along as far as this very day. The moment he decided to abdicate from his role as our protector, I don’t think for one minute that my father understood how he was changing the path for his two wee daughters. The day he left home for good, he took with him the cassette recorder he had leant me, leaving the two shiny batteries on the floor of my bedroom. I do not know if that memory is real anymore, but it is one I have carried with me for the last twenty-two years. Other memories of my father stop abruptly at age eleven, as life pulled me forward, the mysteries of menstruation beckoning. Teenage years were cluttered with romantic fantasies out of Danielle Steel novels; with no brothers and an all-girl grammar school, the opposite sex was an alien species to me. Such a crucial piece of my jigsaw was missing, and even now, when friends talk of their fathers, I do not understand the language they use.
It is only recently that I have allowed myself to think good things about my father. Where once I might have written about how he was a moody man, gruff words muttered from behind his moustache, sullen silences lasting for days after my parents argued, now I can remember his dry wit and appreciate that, like Goliath, he too had his weaknesses. Six foot four inches of confusion and insecurity; a man who had been a policeman at New Scotland Yard, a fire fighter and a coach driver; a man who loved women, as his mistresses proved, yet who could not find it in himself to stay near the two future women in his charge. Perhaps by moving to Australia he thought he was doing us a favour: get out of their lives and let them grow with their mother’s love. And grow we did, but when you lose a leg you fall down, and I couldn’t right myself for years; even now I have an emotional limp.
Sometimes I think I miss him. Not the man himself, I do not know who he is, but the idea that there could have been a man who would protect me, who would be on my side no matter what. For a long time I tried to find that in a partner, but that way lies ultimately only disappointment.
So on this Easter Sunday, when fathers are giving their children chocolate eggs and piggy-back rides, and teaching them how to ride their bikes in the park, I realise that I no longer need you, Dad, wherever you are. You are just one yellowed page in the book of my life, the book that I am still writing.
The quiet reflections of yesterday’s Sunday Scribblings have left me in a thoughtful mood. My hormones and the moon usually batter me like a ship at sea, and today is no different. At the risk of this blog turning into melancholy ink on my fingers, here’s what i wrote this morning. Tomorrow I will endeavour to lighten the tone, if only for my own sake!
When I moved into this flat I was drowning in my grief. Most of my time was spent in bed, though sleep was not a friend back then. Mundane tasks such as brushing my teeth were not worried about; food was begrudgingly eaten, though I could not see the point. It was as if his death had struck a bell in my head, and the sound reverberated in my ears, deafening me, razing the old me to the ground, clearing a space, my blackened insides barren for so long. Yet today I must acknowledge the new shoots that have grown. Four seasons have passed since I arrived here, and this morning I woke to the sound of the pigeons that are nesting in the roof. They walk along the ledge outside my kitchen window, a courtship so sweet as I watch them pecking at each other’s head, the male puffing up his feathers, peacock-like, the female coy and running out of his reach. They have been doing this for a week now, but I fear their cosy existence is being threatened by a new arrival. My new visitor is a seagull, majestic and curious, a tuft of feathers on top of his head, so I know that it is always the same one. He peers in through my windows, though I think he is more fascinated by his own reflection than me typing at my desk. Yesterday afternoon he brought a friend by for Easter tea so I threw old bread out on the ledge for them. A magpie stopped by too and the grey clouds mirroring my ambivalent thoughts about my father broke open and I became an ornithologist for a while, watching the theatre taking place a metre from my face.
Last year I wouldn’t have seen these birds, but today they make me smile, and inside that moment there is peace. I no longer live so violently in the past, the future a mystery but not one I fear. Life carries on, and for so long I didn’t want it to, but it has cajoled me and courted me, and while I may not be ready to spread my wings and fly out to find love again, there are two buds on my back: the wings are sprouting, and that doesn’t make me feel so guilty any more.
…I would want it to look like this. My sister pointed me in the direction of this illustrator’s delicious work and it’s so vibrant and colourful, I want the world to look like this. If you haven’t already picked up on my subtle clues, I love my sister very much. I have known her since she was floating in our mother’s stomach and I thank the stars every night that she chose to be my sister, my little brave daisy waving to me from the garden of our shared life. This year, in my birthday card, she wrote: “I love you more than you could ever imagine. My life would never have been so good without you holding my hand along the way. So now it’s my turn, and I’ll never let go…” I think what upsets me the most about our father being such a fool (and I want to write ****, but that’s my angry teenage self trying to get some airtime) is that he doesn’t know my sister. He is missing out on so much…
Over the last few days we’ve been talking a lot about blogs as she’s thinking about setting up her own, as a way to get the creative juices flowing in the right direction. I think this is a marvelous idea and am encouraging her in true pushy-big-sister style! How I wish I could paint what I see in my head like she does. I paint with words – always have done – but oh, how I want to scoop up handfuls of paint and smear it over the walls. To surround myself with Pollock-esque splatters and Dali dreams. I love words, I love stringing them together, letting them run over the page, crawl up my arm and whisper in my ear, but sometimes a black and white page just doesn’t cut it. Of course the irony is I did go to art college – i can life draw with the best of them! – but my sketch books were always so dry, my paintings so contrived. I think it’s very indicative of me that I write my journals in large Moleskine notebooks, serious hard black covers concealing tear splats and scribblings. I let the colour run riot in my home instead – creaking antiques next to a Tretchikoff print; red lamps by yellow sixties decanters; chocolate silk cushions against a blood-red throw. And books – have I mentioned the books? Piles and shelves and Eiffel Towers of them, so many I have to wonder if they are the ballast keeping me on the planet.
But I digress. This evening I’m simply frustrated. I want to finish this article and file it. I want to have time to get on with TB. I want to paint like Abigail; I want to rip off my clothes and run in the streets. Just as the skin on your arm itches when the cast that has supported your broken limb is due to come off, I think I too am healing. Maybe I should buy a sketchbook and see what happens… I’m still scared to go outside, but I’m starting to think it might be fun to be in that Technicolor garden.