Monday, 29 June 2015

All Cogs & Spirals Within A Wheel

Not sure how to start tonight.  It has been a tough few days.  Prepare yourself for a shock. If you are of a sensitive nature, it might be an idea to sit down.  My old mum has passed away.  It happened very suddenly last Thursday night.  And even though she has been in a nursing home for three years, even though we have been expecting it, even though we knew it would happen one day, it has still come as a terrible shock.

How long does one take to recover from such news?  How long before you stop feeling guilty if you catch yourself smiling about something totally unconnected, before you wish you could have - and feel you should have - done more? How long before the weight lifts?  Does it ever really?  Lift, I mean?  Or do we just get better at hiding it as time goes by?

People lose people every minute of every day and yet - yet when it is you - it feels as if nobody anywhere can ever understand how you feel!  Why is that?  Obviously everyone bears grief in their own way.  But no matter how close knit a family you come from, how loving and supportive your partner is, how kind and thoughtful your friends and colleagues are in what they say and what they do, you still find yourself completely and utterly alone at some point.  That point hit me this evening when Steve had to go back to work after being at my side every second since that phone call came in.

So now there is just me.  And my thoughts.  And my laptop.  And me pouring my heart out to people I can't see and don't really know because I do not want to further burden any of those I love so dearly each of whom is having to cope with their own grief in the wake of this terrible loss.

I can't seem to cry.  My heart feels like dried up wrinkled old prune and I can't let go.  I am doing everything on automation.  Everything I normally do, I am doing.  All the things I usually say, I am saying.  But it is all as if that busy, efficient, bustling activity is being done by someone else - someone little and frightened and cornered.  I am a robot.  I am Johnny5.  I am C3PO.  I am not 
Jilly.  Not right now.

I know it will pass.  I still have writing to do.  My young writers penultimate session before the summer break falls this Saturday.  And somewhere in all this confusion, this anger, this pathetic self-pity, I will eventually find myself again.

Thank you for putting up with my rant.  Maybe it is just as well I can't see and don't really know you.

It is definitely just as well, at this moment,  that you can't see and don't really know me!  Because right now I don't really know me either.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Eating Salad With A Spoon

Had to go for a blood test yesterday morning - one of those nasty ones where you have to starve for at least twelve hours!  The starve wasn't so bad.  I had a big dinner around 7pm the night before and drank at least twelve glasses of water between then and my appointment.  The worst bit was when the nurse stuck the needle into my vein and said "... a little scratch ..."  as she gouged half the skin away.  She had to take three lots and with each new bottle she applied she put pressure on that needle.  So the day did not get off to a great start!  

It could only get better from there though.  Had a special invitation arrive a couple of months ago.  Croydon Writers is celebrating its 70th anniversary.  They invited me to their buffet at Fairfield Halls in Croydon.  My association with the group was quite short-lived really.  I think I was a member for about six months when I was in my 20s.  But I have always held them completely responsible for kick-stating my career big time when I took one of my children's poems in to read out and they all raved about it and suggested markets - which is basically how Touch Of Gold came to be published in the 1978 (I think) Beaver Annual.

Straight after work off I went to Fairfield Halls.  At first I couldn't even find the room the buffet was being held in and had to ask twice before I did - which is quite odd given how often I go there and that from the outside Fairfield Halls just looks like a big square box!  I walked in to see people milling around and lots of memorabilia about  and within a few minutes I was approached by one lady who looked vaguely familiar.  "Jilly ...?" she asked with raised eyebrows.   A minute or two later another lady came over "This is Jilly isn't it ...?"  It all began to slip into place.  I remembered both ladies were members when I initially joined - then Mike came over - he's the secretary now and we do keep in touch.  And finally I was introduced to Madame Mayor who said "Oh ... I know this lady ..." Turns out she enquired about her daughter joining the Young Writers about a year ago.

The evening went swimmingly.  There was a nice buffet, lots of speeches, a toast to President Jean Bowden who is retiring but who has been at the helm for decades and will remain an honourary member.  Best of all it was my world, my people, my language - it was where I belong.  Coming out I was on the same kind of high whenever I do a Young Writer session and I was full of ideas - I must do this ... I must do that ... what if I ...  anything to start getting published regularly again (and maybe even earn a bit of money ... you never know!).

Today as I sit at my desk at The Day Job, eating salad with a spoon (because I forgot to bring a fork and the only cutlery here is teaspoons), I do wonder how my life as a writer might have been different had I never had to worry about money!  Ah well ... never mind.  You never know what lies ahead.  And one day all my Christmases will come at once when I can just stay at home and write ...

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Scotland, The Epic & I

I think something weird is going on with The Epic.  It seems to have developed a lifeforce all of its own and keeps feeding me surprising twists and turns that I have not anticipated!  It is almost as if it senses when I feel I am running out of steam with it because it will suddenly give me a boost out of nowhere and, without warning,  there I am - back in the thick of it and completely oblivious to the passing of time or the world around me.  Suddenly I am as tiny as a mouse or as big as the sky.  How can words - words that I write down - have that effect on me?  I am at almost 40,000 words now and it still keeps telling me this is only the beginning!

In the end I decided not to take it to Scotland with me.  Just as well because I would not have had time to add to it really with all the travelling we were doing!  Saw some amazing scenery though. snow-capped mountains, lochs, wildlife, waterfalls.  One thing I realized was how in touch with and proud of  their history the Scots are.  Every entertainer we saw sang "Flower of Scotland".  I am going to learn all the words before Steve and I go up to the Orkneys in a year or so.

One of the singers was a guy called Ronnie Ross.  He is pretty big up there and his renderings of "Ghosts Of Culloden" and "Ballad of Glencoe" - as tragic as the stories behind them are - were something of an eye-opener for me.  I have been wracking my brain since I got home for similar songs to mark events in English history with that kind of passion and you know what?  Proud as I am to be English and as much as I adore my country and will believe till the day I die that it is one of the most beautiful and amazing places in the world (Lake District, Yorkshire Moors, South Downs - the list is endless), I found it hard to think of a single song! Plenty about London - did you see Alexander Armstrong sing "London Pride" at the VE Day Celebration concert on TV?  Brought a tear to my eye, I can tell you.  But there is so much more to England than London!  This is something I may look into when The Epic releases its vice-like grip on my time!  Would absolutely LOVE it if anyone reading this can come back to me with some songs about English history....

So back to The Epic - here, just for you - are the opening paragraphs.  NB - any publishers or agents reading this please contact me immediately ...

Th sun was shining on the day of The Howl.  In fact, right up until The Howl, it had been another normal Tracklands day.  Tamininka would, from this day forward,  recall how she'd just been sitting quietly in the Woodside shrubs, tips of ears twitching as her big orange eyes took everything in enjoying the weather and her Tracklands life in general, unaware that it could ever change.  Even the mice were being good today.  The Becks family was enjoying themselves at their end of The Tracklands.  The Croyds never just enjoyed the sun they were far to militant for that.  Their place of residence - allegedly right in the heart of People-Eater territory - was more like a base camp, with drills and practice battles going on all the time, whatever the weather.  Or so said Red whose self-appointed job it was to keep everyone in The Tracklands completely up to date with everything going on.

Truth was, Tamininka never really knew what to make of Red and his - as he liked to call it - "reportage".  Had he been human, he'd have doubtlessly been a highly successful author,  Tamininka wasn't sure how she knew this, she just did.  He wasn't human though, he was a Ginger Tom.  He looked like a miniature tiger he was so huge and it was solid muscle.  Tamininka - Mouse-Warden extraordinaire - looked positively tiny next to him - a fact not helped by the obvious absence of  a tail.

(c) Jilly Henderson-Long 2015