Sunday, 30 November 2008

Being there

Really odd today.

I went for a walk through my novel.

By that I mean I visited the actual place where it is set - the North York Moors around Farndale and Rosedale. It’s been a long time since I had a good wander around up there, although it was a major part of my growing up. I have been writing it into my novel this year purely from memory and from similar (but not really) scenery in my now local South Pennines.

As we drove across the moors this morning I began to have second thoughts. Was this really such a good idea? Would my fiction crumble to dust when confronted with the reality? Would my plot become a geographical impossibility? Would I have to relocate it to Devon?

When we arrived I was overwhelmed, partly by how much I had accurately remembered (including the location of roads and markers) but also by how much I had forgotten. The place in heavy fog is even more atmospheric than I recalled and is completely fitting for the magical realism elements of my novel. I spent a long time in the freezing fog scribbling in my notebook and touching the real things - such as the waymark stones - that have been fiction for me for twelve months. In the shifting mist and silence (broken only by the maniacal cackling of the grouse) I lost track of what was real and what was fiction and I just knew that I had chosen the right location.

One of the central elements of my story (yes this super secretive writer is actually going to give something away here!) is the waymark stone known as Fat Betty.

I have this picture of it pinned above my desk and I have strong memories of visiting it as a teenager but actually being there was fantastic. I even got hubby to re-enact one of the scenes there - with partial success. (Interestingly the stone is about half as tall as I remembered it - chest height on a man not head height (maybe my boyfriends were smaller then :o)).

So definitely a successful reconnaissance and we rounded it off with lunch in one of my favourite pubs- The Red Lion at Blakey Ridge. It doesn’t feature properly in the novel, but its car park does and amazingly it was just as I’ve described it (amazingly as my memories are based around teenage trips up there on Friday nights with a designated driver while the rest of us drank cider.)

Very glad I took the plunge and did some proper research. Can’t wait to get on with the edit tomorrow.

Friday, 14 November 2008


I’ve been bitten by a bug - of the drama variety. As part of Children in Need parents were invited to attended my daughter’s Friday drama class tonight. The improvisation was about cowboys and of course we all were encouraged to come in costume. As usual we left it until the last minute but managed to scrabble together something vaguely appropriate. As I looked at myself in the mirror in my jeans tucked into boots + checked shirt + tassly neckerchief/scarf combo I had a major flashback and realised that this was how I dressed for most of the ‘80s.

When we arrived at the drama class it was like a sixth form disco circa 1986. Lots of mums revisiting their wardrobes and quite liking what they found (majority of dads had made their excuses, hubby had an optician’s appointment for exactly the same time as the class. Funnily enough)

As we got started (yes we had to join in the class not just sit on the side) I found myself wishing I’d had an early evening drinky. I felt horribly self conscious as we were asked to play out being a pilot in a plane that suddenly experienced engine problems (this was a warm up before the cowboy stuff got going). It wasn’t the zooming around I couldn’t cope with, I’m OK at a bit of mime, it was the dialogue that was supposed to accompany it. “No screaming,”we were told, as we hit emergency buttons and wrestled with joy sticks, “I want to hear big fat sentences” While the children articulated the fear, panic and capability of pilots in a mid air crisis, the parents jostled around mumbling ‘oh dear, oh dear.” What made it even more embarrassing was the mum and dad who had turned up without a costume between them but with a video camera. Mortifying. Desperately hoping they haven’t heard of YouTube.

But, as the session progressed I really got into it, and well, ended up getting a bit carried away. If there was an award for overacting I think I would have won it for my fainting fit at the point in the saloon bar scene (yes we’re onto the cowboy bit now) when a cowhand was gored by a bull (or ‘bored by a gull’ as one of the parent-actors enunciated)

I did however get three stickers (Creative Work, Good Movement and Beautiful Voice if you’re interested) and ooh how I wore then with pride (still wearing them actually)

It was a really good fun event and raised lots of money (especially from sticky bun sale and raffle (prize - a free term of classes (worth gazillions).)

So now I’m dreaming of greasepaint and bright lights and have been googling the local am dram group. Hubby has been muttering darkly that if I take up acting “something will have to go” and I don’t think he means the cat. Still, having giving up knitting for the sake of me health I’m sure I can squeeze in a bit of board treading. I will be there next week with my stickers and my red sparkly cowboy hat - how can they not let me in?

Friday, 7 November 2008


I have been taught how to knit lots of times - by my mum, my Gran and a couple of years ago even did a course on knitting with wire and plastic bags at Art College. I've never really taken to it though. I have a problem with wool. The thought of wet wool -yeesh, it just makes my teeth go all fizzy. (And knitting with wire was really tough)

But when a couple of friends said they wished they had more time for knitting I suggested we start a knitting club. So now ten or so of us meet every Monday morning in a cafĂ© with squishy sofas and - we knit. Actually the knitting bit isn’t compulsory, some people just turn up for a chat. But four weeks in I have made the obligatory scarf (thin wool on ginormously fat needles so it's sort of lacy (and you can’t see the unintentional holes)) and a bag.

(My bag being modelled by someone who is not me)

Very chuffed with myself and manage to grit teeth whenever thought of damp wool enters my head. Hurrah I am a born again knitter, there will be cardigans and hats and scary clowns…

Except, last week, I was suddenly struck down by agonising pain in my back and cramps in my arm. The doctor prescribed super strength pain killers and sent me to see a physio.

“Done anything different in the last few weeks?” physio asked.
“No,” I said thinking hard. “Same old, same old.”
Just as I was leaving she commented on my bag.
“I made it myself,” I said proudly.
“Recently?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said still proud, “Just finished it, and you know what, I’ve never knitted before.”

Her diagnosis was swift and decisive - ‘tis the knitting what’s done it. After 30+ years of avoiding wool based craft activities my month of ribbing and gartering has done for me. I may never knit again!

Will have to start new club - paper maché anyone?