Down to the seas again….

On the beach – a submerged red brick wall, about 3ft x 4ft. I kid you not. The brick was really red, almost orange, and the cement in between each lozenge, brilliant white. Like Humpty Dumpty’s wall. But this time it was the wall that fell. Well, I don’t know that really, I mean did it fall, or was it pushed?

People and dogs way in the distance, the vast empty sandbeach transforming the scene into a Lowry painting.

In the company of the receding sea, which booms companionably on my right, I breathe, and I think, I sometimes stop and watch the waves as they too, created by the swell of the sea seem to think and breathe, shall we raise ourselves up and crash down, again, and yet again? And of course they do, and reassured, I watch their gentle mesmerising performance.

It’s inviting, that strip of walkway which reaches like a pointing finger right out to sea. It stretches way beyond the sturdy concrete harbour with its railings and back to back benches – I go there, it will feel as if I’m on a ship, the deep turquoise sea bashing and crashing. I’m at the monument, which bears a humble prayer, which I read. It’s about God and the sea, I can’t remember the words, something about God being mightier.  There’s an iron gate which leads to the walkway, it’s rusty and open. I step through it. I take another step, and another. The wooden planks have wide gaps and below the sea churns and thrashes, it unbalances me, that angry sea beneath my feet, it disorientates me and I suddenly feel fear. I clutch the rail and inch my way back. I feel safe only when my feet touch concrete. I scold myself as I walk back, silly woman, I stop and read a memorial on one of the benches: ‘O how I love thee – the ocean’ it said.

And the young woman, pretty in her shorts and suntop, striding/lurching with her dogs and her husband, son as well. Striding/lurching along on the firm sand by the sea, her left hip rolling as she went, her left side and shoulder dipping, and still she strode and lurched and determination shone from her as she swung her arms and held her head high, as she strode/lurched on one shapely leg and one prosthetic leg.

Back along the promenade, part of the Cleveland Way, raging seas crash against jagged boulders sending frothy spray high and the screams as it drenches unsuspecting walkers.

Deckchairs and beach huts, tables with coffee, bottles of wine and egg and cress sandwiches. People spread out, skirts up over knees, bare skin shiny with oil, roasting toasting nicely under the sun. Children dart like lizards here there gone, back, sandy feet scrape icecreams melt seaweed tangles in knots and is thrown over the railings like brown ribbons in the air.

Early one sunny morning, seven yachts follow each other in single file out of the harbour into the sea, sails unfurling as they go.

And the tantalising smell of fish and chips and vinegar……..mmm!

 

 

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Okay,I procrastrinate

I admit it, I will put off getting down to write for as long as I can. I must put the bins out, put the washing in, bake a banana tea bread to get rid of the black smelly bananas in the fruit bowl, phone my sister, brother, sons (no better to text them), send a birthday card, get well soon card, oh yes and it’s absolutely vital that I clean out the pond filter now, today, this minute!! And all the while I know full well I should be writing.

I know I’m not the only one who procrastinates. Everybody does it. That doesn’t make me feel any better though. You see, I’m doing it now – writing this instead of getting down to it. Makes me feel crabby and irritated, makes me drink too much coffee, do too much gazing out of the window………….. I think it might rain. All is movement outside, trees bend in a stiff wind, traffic flashes past, there is a strip of river I can just glimpse, soon I won’t be able to see it at all when the trees are fully dressed. In the winter, if I’m lucky, I can catch sight of a barge making steady and graceful progress through the turbulent Trent waters. I thought I could see Leverton Windmill the other day, glinting white in a shaft of brilliant sun, swore I could see the crossed blades, thought about flour and bread-making, and perhaps going across the bridge and making a visit, haven’t been for years. And a funny thing, smelt freshly baked bread, yes, only for a second, but there it was, and I was suddenly thirteen on a Sunday afternoon and Mum was proving dough in front of the fire and we were all watching ‘I Married Joan’ on TV and later the butter melted into the warm buns as we bit into them.

Come on Gill!

It keeps tumbling around in my mind. It’s not right. Maybe I should, or perhaps I could, and what if? And why did he do that? It makes no sense. And then the dreaded thought, shall I start again, ditch it, do something entirely new!

I have glanced at my scribbled notes, at the arrows and circled points I made during my procrastination period yesterday – in fact I have considered them – waited for a spark – zilch!

I read somewhere, or heard someone say, that procrastination is an essential part of the creative process. And I do know that my writer pals suffer from it, as do many famous authors. Yeh,well.

I’ll just have another coffee.

 

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The Notebook

‘I write a lot in notebooks,’ this voice said. I was listening to the booming in my left ear at the time, a sound like the sea, ebbing and flowing. I was getting used to it, this extra dimension of noise in my head which covered the roar of traffic outside my house with a blanket, which clothed my shoes so I couldn’t hear my footsteps, made my spoken words a faraway echo like they were coming from the bottom of a well. ‘I write a lot in notebooks,’ the radio said. I thought ‘Hang on! So do I!’ I can hear, you see, with my right ear, if I have the volume turned up very high. I turned it up higher……..

He’s been writing in notebooks for 25 years, keeps them in a shed in the garden, grouped, dated and numbered, except for current ones which he keeps in the spare room indoors. Ian Samson, a writer, who works at The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry (I was very impressed), but whose passion for notebooks matched mine. ‘I belong to that notebook and pencil,’ he quoted a famous writer, but I didn’t catch the name – was it Salinger or Hemingway? I dreamed, said Samson, of my notebook being my travelling companion, I could do anything anywhere. Not that I did, he added. But I knew what he meant – he could if he wanted to, it was the possibility that quickened the pulse. And he sticks everything in, articles from newspapers, magazines, like a catalogue of everything. I do that, as well, but I stick mine in Scrapbooks (we used them for gluing fat cupids and starry film stars like Fernando Lamas years ago, you remember don’t you? No? Oh well.) In fact I’ve just flicked through a Scrapbook and read some  headlines that I just know will one day, in one form or another, pop-up in my writing, like ‘Woman took revenge by microwaving friend’s cat…’ or ‘Suicide? I’m just having a smoke.’

Ian Samson talked about the difference between what he writes in a notebook and a diary, he’s not interested in recording the details and sad mistakes in his life, but more interested in collecting everything that has nothing to do with him, he calls it an Encyclopedia of Everything, to prevent the dispersion of everything – I suppose – he concluded – it’s a bit like death. Hmmm.

I can see what he means, but the difference is that I write everything in my journals, yes mine are journals. And I have to confess this fetish – I can’t resist them, I buy them, clean innocent white pages, hard black covers, sometimes with a metal fastener to clip them closed, and space for a pen. I go to a stationers and salivate at the sight of moleskin, of leatherbound thick cream paper, but I like the cheap and cheerful just as much, I love the small notebooks from Wilkinsons I can shove in my pocket. However, in a cream cloth covered box on one of my shelves, is a handmade journal made from re-cycled cotton and left to dry in the Indian sun, and the cover, bound by thin strips of leather, is made from a traditional silk sari and decorated with sequins and a delicate silver chain – a gift from my son, Graham, I haven’t written a word in it – yet. The words that this treasured journal holds must be special, poetic. One day.

I write about everything in my journals, and everything can mean overheard conversations, and things I notice, like the man who walks in bare feet holding a staff past my house, and the old bloke who roller skates on the road, and that woman with marmalade hair who sits alone in the cafe, or the old lady who told her young companion that she ate a Mars bar with her coffee every morning at eleven o’clock. I watch the skies, record the changing colours, the clouds, the light. I write down the feel of silk, and feelings – oh yes folks – feelings most of all. Emotions that suddenly overpower at the sound of a few bars of remembered music, or the turn of a head, the twist of a sad smile. And memories triggered by laughter and leg-pulling, that soft affectionate mickey-taking. I write down memories, or what I think I remember, it doesn’t matter – I write. I described a  Toulouse Lautrec painting which I saw in France last year. It was of a girl sitting by a window she had red hair hanging like a curtain down her back, a fringe covered her forehead. We see only the tip of her nose, her cheek, her chin, and her long white neck. Behind her is a jug and bowl. She was beautiful, but sad, no, melancholy, looking out of the window without any expectation whatsoever.The picture is called ‘Femme a sa fenetre – 1893’ I wonder about her…..

I re- read my writings and then, sometimes, not often, but definitely at times, I know it’s the beginning of a story. And if I’m very lucky, that beginning takes me along until it reaches an ending. And there it is. Well not quite, I take a lot of time editing and re-editing before I can see that a story is finished. I’ve been writing in journals for more than seven years – and they’re stored in plastic boxes, shoved in filing cabinets, piled on shelves. I must get them in date order and number them, like Ian Samson.  When I do, if I do, I know what will happen, I’ll start reading them……and then dagnammit…..those words will force me to get on and write!!

I heard, through the ringing in my fogged head, the radio announcer say, The Notebook – The Crucible of Creativity.

I like that.

 

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On tour

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We are planning to go on tour with TAKE VII to small theatres, stage spaces and festivals. Exciting! The idea is to try for a couple of dates in May and then branch out further in the Autumn this year.  TAKE VII is very portable……and the programme can adapt to any situation or space, the stories can be told and performed practically anywhere! (within reason!). Actors Phil, Laura and I are having ongoing chats about the programme and the audience’s comments, and we will make  changes as a consequence – we were delighted with their response, and how absorbed they were in the stories, whether they were acted or read. We can’t wait to do it again after this successful try-out.

Other news is to wish my writer pal AJ Ashworth all the very best as she takes the leap into more writing time by become self-employed….well done Andrea! I urge you to read her short story collection ‘Somewhere Else, or Even Here.’ available on Kindle – you won’t be disappointed.

 

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TAKE V11 really took off!

Wow! – the overwhelming comment from the audience on both nights was “Yes – it is a performance, it does work.” It’s not easy either to ask for feedback, or to give it. It’s a bit risky, and difficult too write down what you think immediately after a performance. So good for us, the TAKE VII Team for taking that risk, and full marks to the audiences for giving serious thought to the feedback questions.

Here’s a few examples of what they said in answer to the question:-What aspects worked well?

great actors made it believable/the intimacy of the setting/short stories brought to life/emotional performances/the good mix of comedy and drama/very thought-provoking/good lighting and stage management/the whole thing

and What needs to be improved?

longer intervals between each story/perhaps a few lighter pieces/maybe use music in between for variety/more movement on stage/perhaps more lighting/more props/ ‘The Couple duologue could be longer

And these two from other comments:-

It was all lovely, sad, funny, poignant, a fantastic evening/This is not the type of show I would usually pick to see, however I thoroughly enjoyed myself this evening – congratulations to all involved and good luck for future performances.

There’s lots more – and we will certainly take all the audiences comments into account. There were just six of us in the TAKE VII team, Phil, (actor + ) Laura (actor + designer and printer of programmes and tickets etc), Tom (lighting and sound), Lauren (Stage Manager) and Gemma (Front of House welcome, manager of refreshments, including the odd foray in pouring rain to fetch milk!) Me, (writer and co-director with actors). Small is beautiful they say! And it’s been an absolute delight working with them, we’ve had such a great time – and YES folks we will be planning for future performances. Hurrah!

Just one more thing, snippets from behind the scenes:-  when Laura (aka Jean) went off stage to get changed into a dressing gown and jim jams for second scene and discovered to her horror that they were stuck behind  locked door, and the next night the door was open but there was a strange lady inside……..

and the bed collapsed under Phil (aka Martin)

and Tom said he was on emergency call so he might have to leave mid-performance….ergo no lights, no sound. (fortunately it didn’t happen)

Corpsing in ‘The Couple’ – it was the Irish accent that did it!

I could go on. Brilliant stuff Team. Can’t wait to do it all again!! Thank you.

Love to hear from anyone who went to the performance – or who didn’t but is now intrigued!

 

 

 

 

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TAKE VII debut performance this week!

Seven monologues and readings of my work are going to be performed by great actors Phil and Laura on Friday and Saturday this week (15th and 16th March). We three started to talk about this last October, and we’ve had such a good time preparing and rehearsing not simply because it’s something new, something different, and demanded much more from the actors, but mainly because of the collaboration that we’ve shared as the rehearsals progressed towards performance. We’ve talked about the ‘feel’ of each piece, the moves, the atmosphere, the words. Phil and Laura become several different characters each night, each of whom are telling their individual stories.

They include a middle-aged woman struggling to come to terms with big changes in her life, a man whose routine evening of cards with friends turns into something sinister, and Clive, an Elvis impersonator for the ‘elderlies’ who gets into hot water with his tight drainpipes and Sandra. The final performance is a duologue where Phil and Laura become ‘The Couple’ a  story which acts as a full stop to end the evening.

The performances are at The Old Nick, Spring Gardens, Gainsborough (near to Marshal;l’s Yard) and they are FREE but please book in advance at the Box Office of Gainsborough Theatre Club (01427 810616)  Audiences will be asked to give their comments about the production which will really help us to develop it and other similar productions further.

Here we go! Hope to see you there!

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O tell me the truth about love

Let’s think of love. Love today, new love, loved ended, love beginning, old love, married love, lost love. And I can’t stop there, there’s unrequited love, love never spoken of, first love, cupboard love, and the love of my life. Love is all around today, there’s been a discussion about the lack of scent in roses, and whether to buy a dozen stems or a plant. And Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy introducing Love Poems on Radio 4, and ‘The Seventh Wave’ a radio play by Daniel Glatteur, his sequel to ‘Love Virtually’  about love online, with the delicious David Tennant and Emilia Fox. Red heart balloons soar above bunches of flowers in the shops, crowds flocks around the Valentine Meals for two with a free bottle of wine at Marks and Sparks, heart-shaped cakes, butterpats, biscuits, sumptuous boxes of chocolates tied with a red satin ribbon.  There’s romantic love, spiritual love, love of convenience, love on the dole, love by order, love by design, love by stealth, planned love, love that hurts, tender love, uncontrollable love, manipulative love, selfish love, forbidden love. And this is where it gets complicated, and hearts and flowers really don’t come into it, and instead there’s heartache, and frustration, anguish, disappointment, and all those other emotions that come with love as part of the package.  There’s a line in a Tom Wait song ‘falling in love just makes me blue….’  and so it does sometimes. You can never tell, when it will strike or how, or even why it happens. And writers have tried to explain it for centuries, and so do we all, and there’s no answer, except the one that says love makes the world go round. Here’s the last verse of W.H Auden’s poem ‘Tell me the truth about love.’  

When it comes, will it come with a warning/Just as I’m picking my nose?/Will it knock on my door in the morning/Or tread in the bus on my toes?/Will it come with a change in the weather?/Will its greeting be courteous or rough?/Will it alter my life altogether?/ O tell me the truth about love.

 

 

I’ve just listened to ‘The Seventh Wave‘, a radio play by Daniel Glatteur which was a sequel to ‘Love Virtually’ 

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Words mean more….

My Mslexia diary has quotes from writers on its weekly pages, and flicking through to February I found this one from the legendary poet Maya Angelou:-

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”

If any of you have heard her read from her collection ‘And Still I Rise’ you will understand exactly what she means. Here’s the first verse of that memorable uplifting poem….

You may write me down in history/With your bitter twisted lies/ You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I rise.

Read aloud – it is so much more powerful than read inwardly. I find amazement, comfort, and laughter in poetry. I have discovered that poems open up parts of my mind that I didn’t know existed, they offer beauty, wonderment, grief. Poems tell stories with words that take your breath away. Years ago, my late husband Jack and I were browsing in a bookshop in Ambleside and I came across an anthology of poetry called ‘Glitter When you Jump’. (ISBN 0330341049) It had an illustration of a woman leaping high into the air on the cover, the poems celebrate the Seven Ages of Woman. I bought it. These poems are never far from my reach, and I have  sent copies to many friends. They cover the whole of life from birth to death with comedy and tragedy and love in equal measures. My friend Terry Quinn is a poet; in his collection ‘away’ (www.poetrymonthly.com) he writes poems of the everyday and makes it extraordinary. He writes of sitting on benches and stone walls and black rocks and what he thinks as he sits there, he takes the reader with him and we see the sea, and the Tea Bag Lady. It’s quite magical, poetry.

So, Maya Angelou, you have done it again, inspired me to have some of my short stories read and acted, spoken, telling stories to a live audience, reviving storytelling. More details later, but this event will happen at The Old Nick Theatre in Gainsborough in March this year.

In the meantime have a read aloud of this one:- ‘Names’ by Wendy Cope from the above anthology…….

She was Eliza for a few weeks/When she was a baby-/Eliza Lily. Soon it changed to Lil.Later she was Miss Steward in the baker’s shop/ and then ‘my love’, ‘my darling,’ Mother.  / Widowed at thirty, she went back to work/As Mrs. Hand. Her daughter grew up,/Married, gave birth. / Now she was Nanna. ‘Everybody calls me Nanna.’ she would say to visitors. And so they did – friends, tradesmen, the doctor./ In the geriatric ward/ They used the patients’ Christian names./ ‘Lil’ we said, or ‘Nanna,’/But it wasn’t in her file/And for those last bewildered weeks/She was Eliza once again.

 

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Happy New Year

My one resolution for 2013 – to write and write and write and write (you get the picture).
Here’s to a wealth of hope and happiness for us all eh?

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From my window on Christmas Eve

Pools gather at the foot of the field, they grow into a pond, and as the rain falls without cease all day, the ponds develop into a huge lake which brims on the lip of the bank, tantalising it seems, teasing, until the moment comes and it overflows and streams down my drive. Across the road, the landscape has been dramatically transformed from rolling countryside into a vast acres of water,  unfamiliar, threatening. The River Trent has burst its banks and invaded the fields for miles around until I can no longer see contours of green, or the rise and fall of slopes, or hedges, I see only grey water, shining silver in places, and bare black-branched trees striving for dignity above half-drowned trunks.

This could be the start of a story…….sometimes it can happen like that. I’ve just read a brilliant William Trevor interview which John Tusa conducted. (See: www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/johntusainterview/trevor_transcript.shtml) It is fascinating to hear from the man who John Banville names as ‘the finest living writer of short stories’ describe how he works, like a sculptor, starting with a mass of material and chipping chipping away until it takes the form it needs. My writer friend James Wall sent me the link, he is also a great admirer of WT….many thanks James.

I’ve just had a look at WT collection of short stories The Hill Bachelors, and I’ve selected two beginnings of two of his short stories because once you’ve read these, you absolutely must go on and read more….that’s his amazing talent with words…. take a look at these:-

A Friend in the Trade

They fell in love when A Whiter Shade of Pale played all summer. They married when Tony Orlando sang Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree. These tunes are faded memories now, hardly there at all, and they’ve forgotten Procol Harum and Suzi Quatro and Brotherhood of Man, having long ago turned to Brahms.

Low Sunday 1950

She put the wine in the sun, on the deep white window-sill, the bottle not yet opened. It cast a flush of red on the window-sill’s surface beside the porcelain figure of a country girl with a sheaf of corn, the only ornament there.

There is promise in these two openings isn’t there? In the first one we know immediately that something has changed between the married couple, but we don’t know what or how. In the second we are drawn into that perfect described picture of the wine catching the sun on the white window-sill. Why did she put it there? who is she expecting? Is it significant that the porcelain figure is the only ornament?

And wonder of wonders, the sun has just broken through the clouds……….. I can even see bits of blue sky. That’s better – it just feels a lot like Christmas now! I hope you can keep your heads above water and your feet dry……..Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

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