We were the children

We were the children then.  Three little pairs of eyes glinting at the camera.  Six tiny feet, thirty grubby fingers and three floppy sunhats.

We’re older now than our parents were then.  Between us, we’ve produced the same number of children, the same number of twinkling eyes and tiny feet.

We’re the adults now, but still I see the little monkey in each of us.

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Far away

When you read this I’ll be far away.  I’ll be hiking, and reading books, and eating cake, and drinking wine.  Perhaps not all at the same time.

I suppose it’s not much of an adventure to some, toddling around a few English hills.  But I’ll be far away from home and far away from the everyday routine and that means my eyes will be open for new ideas without my having to remind myself.

Yes, I’ll bring a notebook.

The problem with books

Let me take you on a little tour of my bookshelves.  Just the ones in this room; if we go through the whole house we’ll be here all day.

Here are the work-related ones.  These are not the problem ones.  They aren’t many and they don’t get opened much but are particularly useful for pinching ideas from when I have to deal with a new subject or remind myself of things I used to know.

The problem ones are the knitting ones…

…the sewing ones…

…the historical ones I’ve been using for writing research…

…and the writing and creativity ones.  No, don’t touch the pile; there may be an avalanche and it would take days to dig you out.

If you added up all the time I’ve spent reading these books you’d have a big number of hours.  If you added up all the time I’ve spent actually knitting, sewing, writing – I fear you’d have a much smaller number of hours.

And that’s the problem with books.  They trick you into thinking that reading about doing something is the same as actually doing it.

A blessed relief

At the weekend I wandered around a windswept farm cooing over newborn piglets and boisterous lambs and big highland cattle.  I did this for no reason whatsoever, except that they were cute and we needed a family day out.  I didn’t read an interesting or edifying book.  I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know about pigs or sheep.*  I didn’t have any great ideas or ponder any deep questions.  I didn’t even think about much except pigs and sheep and how cold my nose was and whether it was time for a scone or two and how a cow’s tongue can possibly be so long.

What a rest for the creative mind to get out of my head and into the world.  A blessed relief.

*Oh, wait, there was one thing.  English sheep counting words.  I knew the first few: yan, tan, tethera…  But did you know how they go on?  Oh, the linguistic and juvenile pleasure my family and I got from this:

Yan, Tan, Tethera, Methera, Pimp, Sethera, Lethera, Hovera, Covera, Dik, Yan-a-dik, Tan-a-dik, Tethera-dik, Pethera-dik, Bumfit, Yan-a-bumfit, Tan-a-bumfit, Tethera-bumfit, Methera-bumfit, Figgot.

I’m still chuckling with sheer delight.

Adding up the scribbles

I hadn’t written a word for weeks.  Granted, there were a few scribblings here and there: jottings on the back of a shopping list; scrawled phrases on a post-it; the odd page or two of disjointed notes.  Not real writing.  So I told myself, and I didn’t enjoy the telling.

Then I gathered them all together.  I began to type them up, expand them, string them together.

Um, I still haven’t finished.  The scribbles add up, you see.  They are the writing, quite as much as the hours spent at the desk.  Probably more so, because they aren’t punctuated by long periods of staring into space and reading other people’s words.

And although I’d already learnt that the scribbles add up to something bigger, I was fortunate enough to receive validation from elsewhere in the same week.  Mother’s Milk Books have awarded one of my pieces a Commended in their recent competition.  Cue much rejoicing!

I tell you this because it illustrates the point beautifully.  You see, I remember when I wrote the beginnings of that piece, and it wasn’t at my desk or even in the house.  I was tramping the fields in my wellies, watching the crows wheeling overhead and thinking about circles.  I’ve learnt to keep a tattered notebook and a pencil in my coat pocket on these walks, and I kept stopping and adding another phrase, another image.  What they were going to become I wasn’t sure, but I kept scribbling all the same.  (By the way, it’s always a pencil, never a pen.  Pencils don’t run out or leak in your pocket.)

And those images became a piece I was proud of, a piece that someone else enjoyed.  They were real writing, after all.

Yes, we need time to mould the jottings and the scribblings into their final form, but we can always be writing, wherever we are.  Mud optional.