Monday, 24 May 2010

Sparrows and Parrots!

Everyone has a story to tell. Each one as unique and individual as the person telling it. Some of the most fascinating stories are of events which have happened between childhood and old age. Real stories. Memories, experiences, life-lessons and circumstances which leave lasting impressions, all add to the personal compendium of individual lifetimes.
My first memory was of sitting on my father's shoulders, hanging on to the railing of Buckingham Palace. I remember peering throught the metal bars at soldiers in bright red uniforms. I also remember that he used to cut my toast in to the shape of a house, therefore making it more appealing for a fussy toddler to eat!
In later life, after I'd met and married my husband Paul, a darker experience shaped our lives. It left such an impression on me, that I wrote a sub-plot for Lies and Linguine around the theme. Paul hadn't been feeling well for weeks and so decided to make an appointment with his doctor. Without any specific symptoms to speak of, the doctor told Paul that there were more sparrows in the sky than parrots. This flippant remark obviously meant that Paul probably wasn't suffering with anything exotic, and to get on with his life. Which he did!
About a fortnight after hearing his doctor make this remark, Paul shouted for me to hurry into the kitchen. He was pointing at something sitting on our garden fence.
An exotic parrot!
Now we live in Nottingham, not exactly a tropical rain forest! It'd obviously escaped from its cage, but nonetheless, it made the goose bumps tingle. For the next few weeks, Paul hadn't felt any better. It came to a head one cold, dark November morning, before anyone was awake. A strange, terrifying noise woke me from a deep sleep. It sounded like an animal in pain. NEXT TO ME!
I switched on the bed-side lamp to see my husband, unconscious on the bed. His face was grey, his lips were blue and a trickle of blood dribbled from his mouth, from where he'd bitten his tongue. The children came running in to the bedroom because of the loud noise their daddy was making. After calming the children and calling for an ambulance, things happened quickly. Paul was assessed and allowed home, with an appointment to go to radiology for a brain scan.
Arriving in radiology, at the QMC, we were once again shocked into silence, on seeing a poster behind the receptionist's desk. A heading proudly boasted, 'Parrots of the World.' Suddenly there seemed to be a lot more parrots than sparrows in our lives.
Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which was miraculously operated on successfully. Paul's recovery and absence from his company, led to the folding of his own advertising agency. It also instigated a house move, as Paul wasn't allowed to drive. But, ten years on, Paul is well and we look back on that episode in our lives, as a lesson learnt.
Life is short. Make the most of it. Don't get hung up on trivial arguments or irritations.
You don't know what's round the corner.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Joys of Blackberry Picking.

I think Peter Pan had the right idea. It's no fun growing up!
Why do we have to leave the heady excitement of childhood behind, just because we grow out of our childhood bodies? I miss the carefree spontaneity of yelling goodbye, slamming the front door and disappearing off to explore parks, play two-ball against brick walls and jump over elastic stretched between two play-mates knees. I don't think my knees are up to it now, but it's the giddying euphoria I miss. The simple pleasures which buoyed the soul.
As Wordsworth wrote of childhood, "The heavens laugh with you, in your jubilee: I feel - I feel it all." Why then as we grow older does he write, "Shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the growing boy."
I've tried to capture that love of simple pleasures in Lies and Linguine. My heroine, Tess, finds pleasure in picking blackberries, not using her Blackberry. She loves nature, visiting the fair, daydreaming, eating 99's and noticing the changing seasons.
I come to a letter I received from an agent returning three chapters of Lies and Linguine. She'd scribbled in a corner of my returned submission letter, that my writing was "really rather good," but that the plot seemed a little implausible. Life does seem implausible sometimes! Just read the papers and a past blog of mine about life being stranger than fiction.
My plot includes a deceitful boyfriend lying for his own gains, a hero with mild OCD brought on by past tragedies, his sister who is battling breast cancer and a heroine who - although she loves another - stays with her boyfriend for longer than she should, through misplaced loyalty. Jealousy, manipulative people, crime, betrayal and fear all have a part to play in my novel. But friendship, support and simple pleasures all go a long way in helping to heal all concerned, despite a few hiccoughs and twists along the way.
Such is life! It's the agent's perogative not to like my storyline. But implausible?
I call it life's challenges.