Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Aggie Endersleigh

Today, I have something for you to read. It's a passage that I've decided to remove from my work-in-progress but I will use it in a future novel. This is still in first draft condition but I'd love to hear what you think and whether it creates the same emotions in the reader as it does in the writer (me).

***

Aggie Endersleigh was dying. She wasn’t quite sure how old she was. She knew that the terrible magical explosion had taken place two days after her seventy fifth birthday but nobody would tell her how long ago that was. Some days it seemed that only a week or so had passed since then and on other days, when she caught sight of herself in a puddle or a window, she thought that decades must have gone by. Her grand-daughter had braided Aggie’s hair, finishing it with a tartan ribbon, and fastened her shoes for her. Such a good girl. There’d been cake and presents and lots of people laughing. Sometimes in her dreams she saw their faces but when she woke she could never remember their names. All gone now, she thought. Just me.

Bundled in layers of threadbare clothing, Aggie lived where she could. Sometimes she would find a spot behind the refuse carts to sleep. Other nights, she would huddle up under an external staircase. On very rare occasions, she’d manage a few hours in the back yard of a shop before she was found and moved on. The bakery was her favourite. Not only did it smell wonderful but she often found leftover scraps of cake and bread in their bins.

Tonight she could find no place to rest. All the usual spots were taken or guarded. She hobbled down the dark alleyway behind the shops. She was accustomed to the pain in her feet and the chill in her bones but tonight it hurt to breathe and she had a dull pain in her arm. She desperately wanted to sleep, to abandon herself to dreams of friendly faces and birthday cake. She leant a gloved hand against the alley wall and thought, I’ll just stop for a moment to get my breath and think where I can go. Just for a moment.  She rested her head on her arm and closed her eyes. One breath. Two breaths.

A flare lit up pink through the skin of her eyelids. Aggie covered her face with her free hand. A second light, bright blue, whizzed past her face and she sunk to her knees, crouching against the wall. She waited for more fireworks - she assumed that was what they were – but when none came she dropped her hands and opened her eyes.

Along the alleyway, almost within reach, stood a figure outlined in a blue flickering light that jumped and jerked like lightning. Gradually the tendrils of light diminished and the figure took a step into the almost darkness of the alleyway. A path of light from a window above cast its reach across the figure’s face.
Aggie crept back against the wall, drawing her hands to her. This woman, for Aggie could now see that the figure was female, was slight with immense, beautiful eyes and yet there was a strangeness about her that frightened the old woman. Best to go unnoticed, she thought. Stay unseen.

“Do not worry, little mother,” said the woman, her eyes flicking to Aggie’s face. “I will not harm you.”

“I don’t have anything to steal.” Aggie could feel her heart staggering in her chest and the pain in her arm was sharper now. “Please don’t hurt me.”

The woman knelt in front of her and for a second the two women stared into each other eyes. So beautiful, thought Aggie, so blue they’re almost purple. She flinched as the woman shot out a hand and laid it gently on the old woman’s cheek. Her touch was cool but not unpleasant.

“You are in pain, little mother.”

Aggie nodded. “My arm.”

“Your heart too,” said the woman.

“Do you know who I am?” asked Aggie.

“You are mother, grandmother, sister and wife, Aggie Endersleigh. Have you forgotten?”

“I only see them in my dreams,” said Aggie. “I forget when I wake.”

“We will get you somewhere warm.”

“Are you an angel?” The words were out of Aggie’s mouth before her mind had had time to register them. “The light.”

The woman sat back on her heels. She shrugged. “I am many things.”

“Please,” said Aggie, reaching for her. “I just want to dream. It’s warm there and I’m not alone. There’s cake and singing and.” She paused then whispered, “I’m loved.”

The woman pressed her lips into a smile and nodded. “You are loved, little mother. Come.” She took the old woman in her embrace, holding her to her for a moment.

Aggie Endersleigh did not feel her neck snap or the life slip from her. In her mind, she was already back at the party.

***
Copyright belongs to the writer, Fi Phillips

Saturday, 28 January 2012

January Photo Inspiration

Nature is waking up and we're starting our new life in a new home so I thought I'd make this post about beginnings.







Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Burns Night

It's here again, the night when Scots (and many more people) celebrate the birthday of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. When non Scots think of Scotland, Burns is someone that easily comes to mind. He's certainly earned his place as a personification of his country. My father, a Scot himself, always thought so. To me, Burns is only one face of Scotland though. Here's my list of other, great Scots.

Deborah Kerr (1921 - 2007), Glasgow born actress who starred in The King and I, Casino Royale and From Here to Eternity, to name but a few.

The epitome of grace, sophistication and intelligent wit.





Billy Connolly (born 1942 in Glasgow), another great wit. One of the few comedians who could reduce both my mother and father to tears of laughter.







J M Barrie (1860 - 1937), author and dramatist, the man who brought us the well-loved, eternal child, Peter Pan.














Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930), physician and writer. A prolific creator who brought us Sherlock Holmes and The Lost World.










And then there's the music.

Travis - Why does it always rain on me?

Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams

Texas - Say what you want

Deacon Blue - Real Gone Kid

Happy Burns Night.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Hoppity hop hop



The Blog Entourage


It's a while since I've done a blog hop but as it's always good to meet new fellow bloggers, I thought I'd jump into the Blog Entourage Crazed Fan and Weekend Warrior Blog Hop (phew, that's quite a mouthful).

Even if you don't fancy joining in with the blog hop, the Blog Entourage is a great site to visit to not only list your own blog but also to meet some fellow bloggers in your own industry or area of interest.

Hello and welcome to any fellow blog hoppers who drop in. Please feel free to have a look at my past posts. Happy hopping.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tumbling small stones

I told you about the River of Stones writing challenge on the first day of 2012 and you'll have noticed that I've included a handful of them on this blog. Aside from one weekend, I've been writing a small stone each day and you can find all of them on my Tumblr blog, What I see, what I hear, what I am.

Have you been writing small stones this month?

Monday, 16 January 2012

A trip to imagination

In today's I newspaper, I found an article listing the results of a poll of British children aged between 3 and 8 years old, that asked them what their ideal holiday location was. Here's what they said:

  1. The Moon
  2. Disney World
  3. Narnia
  4. Hogsmeade
  5. Lapland
  6. Hundred Acre Wood
  7. Hogwarts
  8. Pride Rock
  9. Australia
  10. Bikini Bottom
The results made me smile. An adult mind would have picked completely real-life destinations (mine would have included San Francisco, Venice and Hong Kong). Our children are more comfortable with crossing the divide between reality and fantasy. Maybe there's a lesson for us grown-up's here.

Fi's Ideal Holiday Locations
  1. Atlantis
  2. Ankh Morpork
  3. Camelot
  4. The Weasley's house
  5. The Magic Cottage in James Herbert's novel of the same name
  6. A flying holiday with Richard Bach
  7. Avalon
  8. The forest in Midsummer Night's Dream
  9. Centre Earth
  10. Diagon Alley
Tell me about yours.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Keeping Christmas all year round

Last night, we took down our Christmas tree and packed all the festive decorations away. It's a task that always makes me sad because it marks the end of the holiday. The child in me loves the glitter and pretty lights but my adult self realises that we need the space and normality. My husband has returned to work, the children are back at school and the Christmas tree is in the attic.

This time of year, when the decorations are down, the weather is grey and our purses are empty, life can appear drab and a chore. Many of us will have put on a few pounds over the festive break. Without the decorations, our homes may seem rather plain. It can all feel as if there's nothing within reach to look forward to, which is exactly the time when a bit of imagination can work wonders.

The first thing you need to do is work out what it is you miss about the Christmas holiday. Is it the colour and sparkle? Is it the chance to dress up? Do you love the opportunity to see absent friends and family? Perhaps you enjoy writing all those cards and making contact.

When you've decided what your favourite part of the season is, you can use your imagination to devise ways to work those elements into your year. Here's what I'll be doing to keep the festive spirit alive all year round.

Colour

Just because the tree and decorations are packed away doesn't mean that you have to relinquish colour in your home until the next Christmas. Whether you treat yourself to cut flowers, buy a new throw or paint a feature wall in one of your rooms, there's always a way to introduce colour into your home. It doesn't always have to involve spending money. Take a fresh look at colourful accessories, bedding and soft furnishings you've stored away. Get creative and make a suncatcher or display your children's creativity by hanging their artwork in your home.

Staying in touch

In our ever mobile society, most of us have friends and family who live away from our area, maybe even in a different country. Why leave off contacting them until next Christmas? You sent them a card a couple of weeks ago so carry that communication on throughout the year. It doesn't have to be a letter or phone call; an email could serve the purpose just as well. The key is to stay in touch, be that every other week or every couple of months.

Giving

We all have our own idea of what this word means. It isn't just to do with Christmas presents. It can also mean donating to charity (money, old clothes, time) or dropping in on someone who needs to be cheered up. It's about going that one step further to make a difference to someone's life.

Receiving

I know, you've just finished putting away all the lovely goodies you opened on Christmas Day. What more could you want? Isn't expecting more just plain selfish? What I mean by 'receiving' is this - over the year, when you're head down in your daily routine, juggling family and work, give yourself permission to receive something back too. Let your mum take you to that new tea house she wants to try out. Accept the smile of that stranger in the street. Don't push away your children's hugs in the rush to get them to school. Accept these little gems throughout the year.

How will you be keeping Christmas alive throughout this year?

Here's my small stone for today.

Twelfth Night

Like a cherished child, we swaddled our tree in it's wrappings and settled it in the box. We tucked it in with the lights, and gently packed away the baubles in their own bed of tissue.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

An award from a fellow blogger

Today I received an award from the talented writer, Kelly Hashway.


The rules of this award are that I should mention the blogger who gave the award, tell you seven things that you don't know about me and pass on the award to five other bloggers.

What you might not know about me
  1. I took singing lessons from an opera singer. I love singing.
  2. For years, I was involved in amateur dramatics but haven't done any acting for about eight years. I miss spending time on stage.
  3. The older I get, the more I see my father in me.
  4. When I was eight years old, I was knocked down by a car and spent six weeks in hospital - Christmas, New Year and my birthday. Those six weeks changed my outlook on life, opening my eyes to the diversity in people's lives.
  5. When I lived in a bedsit in Surrey, many years ago, I once answered the door to an old lady who asked if this house was the keycutter. I said no and unfortunately had no idea if there was a keycutter in the area. As she turned to go, I noticed that her sleeves and the back of her coat and hair were covered in thick cobwebs. 
  6. When I was living at the same house, I turned over in bed one night and my hand landed on a man's arm, thick set and hairy. When I turned on the light, there was nobody there, in my room or in the house.
  7. I would love to return to Venice, Italy one day, maybe for a romantic, adult holiday with my husband.
My five awardees

Night Storm

Bold in it's persuasiveness, the storm battered our home with its unrelenting will, shaking branches, rattling bins, shouting 'wake up, wake up, come dance with me' while we burrowed into our beds like frightened mice.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Returning to a new normal

Yesterday, my husband went back to work but it wasn't until today, when my children started the new school term, that I began to feel that life had returned to normal. Of course, it's a new normal for us all. We moved home just before Christmas and although we now have a working house, we're still unpacking boxes and bags with the resulting "That's where that went to" or "I'd forgotten about that".

This morning, without husband or children, my home is peaceful. I'm indulging myself with a coffee and my laptop. Soon I'll get on with more unpacking and tidying away but for twenty minutes or so, I'm going to own this moment.

If you're finding it difficult to get back into your creative stride, have a look at my post - 7 ways to get back into your writing routine.

Return

Expectant faces raised to the light of a new term, my children skipped into school with no backward glance or wave. I released the breath that had dragged me from my bed and kept me moving. readying us all for this return to a new normal.

Love and War

When I looked into my garden on this January morning, I saw four birds. Two muted grey doves sat on the fence, staring in while a pair of magpies, bold, brash, bounded across the grass before taking fright at some unseen threat. The doves looked on as the magpies fled, then settled in their place.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Fitting in (or not)

In December, my nine year old daughter told me that she no longer likes the colour pink. The word 'hate' was even used.

"So what colours do you like then?" I asked, trying to calculate how much money I'd need to spend to replace the majority of her clothes and bedding.

"I don't mind," she said. "Just not pink or purple."

When it came to buying her a new school coat, I was faced with a dilemma. Without spending a fortune on a coat that would be dragged around and probably stood on numerous times each day, I was left with a smaller selection of shops to choose a waterproof, hooded, warm winter coat from. The only stipulation I had from my daughter was "not pink" but that is just what I found in the shops for her age group. Pink coats, pink and black, pink and grey, pink love hearts, pink roses, anything pink you could ever imagine and more. In the last shop I visited, I finally found a plain black coat which she thankfully gave her seal of approval to.

The message this seems to imply is that only those who can afford expensive clothes are allowed to be individuals. The rest of us are expected to tow the line. Isn't that wrong? What happened to valuing the differences in us? Not all little girls like pink. Not all little boys give up cuddly toys when they reach seven. Not all writers want to fit into a specific genre.

I've been taking a fresh look at my work in progress and the more I poke at it, the more it refuses to settle in a specific genre. I have robots and yet it's not a sci fi novel because my story also features magic. Fantasy appears to fit and yet there's also an element of romance involved. I have comical figures but there is a serious message in the social situation my characters find themselves in too. The popular genres and topics (murder mystery, vampires and werewolves, chick lit) don't really apply. I find myself with a literary beastie that refuses to sit on a labelled shelf and how does this make me feel? Disappointed? Disillusioned? Defeated?

No. What I actually feel is justified. My work in progress has it's own quirks, it's own mish mash of traits, and I love it. My beastie and I are individuals which is just the way it should be.

Frog

Eyes blinking through the water, frog leaps above the blushing lilies, green hide brighter than them all.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Birthday

Another year, another birthday. Today I have reached the grand age of forty six years. I am now officially nearer fifty than forty. Do I feel old? Mature? Wise and cultured? Er, no. I feel like, well, like me. That's the one thing that I've always carried with me - me. If I have to put a finger on the age I seem to relate to, then I suppose it's somewhere in my early thirties. Having said that, what exactly does it feel like to be in your early thirties? I didn't know then and I don't know now how I'm supposed to feel or behave at this age.

A twenty-something Dorothy
My mother's generation always seemed to know how to act at different stages in their lives. In her twenties, my mother was a dutiful daughter, the youngest child staying at home to help her parents. In my twenties, I was opinionated to the point of thinking I knew better than my parents and I dressed like Margaret Thatcher (they called it 'power dressing'). My mother's third decade saw her meet my father and become a dutiful wife while I spent the first half of my thirties clubbing, acting on the amateur stage and wearing increasingly short skirts. One thing I always admired about her was her ability to fit in, making friends wherever my father's career took them. In comparison, I always felt like an outsider in any social situation, putting on a confident mask.

Somewhere between then and today, I came to a conclusion. It wasn't any startling epiphany. It didn't just drop into my lap one day. It crept up on me gradually, one experience at a time. This is it. There are no rules that say what you have to be at any age. It's ok to be 'me', however young I am.

Birthday

One more year to denote who I'm supposed to be.
One more label to tuck into my collar.
One more reason to be just me.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A River of Stones

Today I'm starting the new year with a writing challenge, well, actually more of a writing treat. I've previously told you about the writing practice of small stones and the Writing Our Way Home website. To quote one of the site's creators, Fiona Robyn,

"A small stone is a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment".

The WOWH peeps (Fiona and Kaspa) are holding the River throughout January 2012. In essence, the challenge is to write a small stone each day of the month. You can share your small stones on the WOWH site or on your own blogs.

If you'd like to find out more about the challenge and join in, you can read about it here.

Inside

Inside, we wrap our hearts in this warm silence, savouring the time together before the return to normal, outside.