Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Writing is Such Sweet Agony
Some weeks are very quiet, nothing at all out of the ordinary happens and going grocery shopping is about as exciting as it gets. Weeks that feel a bit like pulling a steam engine uphill by a strap over your shoulder.
(I had to get a picture in, even though there will be no further mention of steam engines and they have absolutely nothing to do with this post)
Then there are weeks that are full of chores and appointments, the dog needs the vet, a doctor's visit is due, the washing machine needs fixing and even the book you're reading is the most boring tome, destined for the charity shop pile.
Occasionally, weeks take flight, leaving you breathless and exhilarated; I've just had one of the latter. Not that they happen very often, I probably couldn't stand the pace for more than one week at a time. As it is, I am glad the weather has turned gloomy and cold, giving me the perfect excuse to put my feet up and watch documentaries on tv for the rest of the day.
It started with an impromptu dinner party at my house. Some friends are going away for a month and we felt like having a convivial evening before they left. I also invited another guest whose work frequently takes him away from Valley's End. All three are connected with literature, drama and writing and all three are the sort of guests a hostess dreams of: lively, intelligent, without food fads and foibles and happy to drink a glass of wine or two. Okay, you might say, there are lots of people like that. Yes, there are, not lots, but some; what made these people stand out as far as this hostess is concerned is the fact that they all appreciate my writing! A blogger friend said in a comment the other day that I don't seem to be fishing for applause for my posts. Oh, but Mary D., you are wrong, I like applause as much as the next person, and to have these people come right out and say how much they liked my pieces in the local paper absolutely made my evening.
More stimulation followed a day later. I belong to a group of people who get together once a fortnight to speak German. I am the only native German speaker, the others are British and their command of the language is varied. Sometimes the afternoon is dead boring, people stumble over words and I am constantly translating and explaining. This time we took an easily understandable piece from a German newspaper about warring neighbours; people who fight each other to the death about a parking space outside their homes or chuck dustbins through windows when the volume of late night music becomes more than somebody can bear. And God help you if you let your sheep stray beyond your own land and they trespass and nibble the grass in my meadow! Human nature is the same the world over, we all have similar stories to tell and we all enjoy a malicious snicker about the misfortune of others occasionally.
My special pleasure derives from standing just a fraction of a millimetre on the periphery and watching the show.
The writers' group seems to have found a firm base. No doubt, the cast of characters will change as we go along but the ones who were there this week all seemed seriously interested. We had some really good work presented to the group: an Irishman brought a fantastic poem on 'The Troubles', which he read in a broad Irish accent. Once the vague old lady had finally found one of the two poems she wanted to read - she never found the other - she turned in a marvellously lyrical piece of work about a small child growing up by the river Severn; she is obviously still the same, unfocussed, dreamer she was then, living in a world to which few earthlings have access. I asked how long she had been writing poetry and she said:
"I was taken away from home when I was three, when my mother died, and never knew where home had been. My teacher at school allowed me to sit in the library when other children had reading practice and I found the book of poetry. One of the poems said: 'I remember, I remember / The house where I was born / The little window where the sun / came peeping in at morn; (a poem by Thomas Hood). So I thought that poets must be very special people, because they knew where home was and if I became one then maybe I would remember too."
And finally, as the newsreaders say, all this literature has made my own fingers itch to pick up a discarded piece of work and start again. For one whole day this week I have been sitting at the computer composing a new chapter of a memoir, about just one day. I had planned to read this piece to the writers' group, but it grew and grew and is still not completed. The work flowed easily, I am happy with what I have written so far, and I will continue with it. As I said to my friend Deborah, who is going through similar birth pangs (she won't thank me for saying this out loud), "If I don't do it now, I never will".
And that might be the reason why you will see a little less of me round here.