Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Birthdays, and getting older

It's my birthday next month and I've just rediscovered this 17th-century nun's prayer:

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody: helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.
I'm not about to be as old as this may make it sound as if I am ... but then age isn't the point at all, is it? And aren't her words wonderful?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Need cheering up?

I have just been to The Big Green Blookshop blog - which I found on Fidra's blog. I've been MATing all morning and I really MUST get down to some writing, but if you need cheering up (I don't this morning, but it happened anyway, if you see what I mean) read this post by one of the owners' sons. It's heaven.

The Big Green Bookshop blog has also got a wonderful song called 'Keep on Smiling' on it which bursts from the blog when you log on ... or soon after, and it really does make you smile. So I defy anyone out there with the blues today not to have them changed to whatever the opposite of the blues are. The reds? The rainbows?

And may the Big Green Bookshop open soon. If they can run a blog like this at a time like the one they're going through, then we can all find something to smile about when we're blue.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Camas Chil Mhalieu, Loch Linnhe

I am going here: Which is in northwest Scotland. Image © Copyright Donald MacDonald and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

I'm going in search of the cottage that my great-grandmother used to go to get away from it all. I want to breathe the air, see what she saw and hear what she heard in the days and weeks, months and years when she never once spoke about her experience aboard RMS Titanic despite, or perhaps because of her courage on that dreadful night nearly 100 years ago.

I don't suppose the place will have changed that much, and when I am standing where she would have stood, looking at and listening to the things she would have seen and heard, I fancy I might sense how best to write about her.

And if any of you reading this have the Gaelic, perhaps you could translate Camas Chil Mhalieu into this language for me ... in a comment.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Builders and fishermen, a MAT with a purpose

I am MATing, but there is a point. (Well, I would say that wouldn't I?)

Last night the boyf and I were talking about writing and I said I felt as if I was assembling, not writing at the moment. I'm just collecting the already-written pieces of my third (sorry, second) novel and putting them into a different order now that I've decided to write the story in the third person. I said I didn't feel really connected to what I was doing the way I do when I am struck by an idea that I think will work, or when I have managed to make the language sing. I was just assembling.

But the boyf said, wisely, that we have to be builders as well as interior decorators when we write and that all the foundation-laying and brick-assembling, let alone the plastering, plumbing, wiring and insulation, have to be done before we can do the bit that makes the heart sing.

He told me that in the days when he was in the building trade, the plasterers and bricklayers, the plumbers and electricians would ask to come back to a job when it was finished - just so's they could see how it looked when the walls were painted, the carpets laid and the curtains hung. They wanted to see the beautiful results of their invisible work, results that couldn't exist without all that they had done, even though all that they had done wasn't visible.

In his Memoirs Pablo Neruda wrote:

The work of writers has much in common with the work of ... Arctic fishermen. The writer has to look for the river and if he finds it frozen over he has to drill a hole in the ice. He must have a good deal of patience, weather the cold ... look for the deep water, cast the proper hook, and after all that work, he pulls out a tiny little fish. So he must fish again ... eventually landing a bigger fish. And another and another.

A moment ago I didn't know I was going to go from assembling to fishing ... but that's what happens.

At the moment I'm building: assembling, bricklaying, plumbing and wiring. When that's done I will put on my cold weather gear and go fishing. And when I finally make it back with my catch ... towards the middle of this year with any luck ... I will begin eating, decorating (and singing).

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

New Leaves

Leaves from my small plot for the new year.

And as for turning them over, or at least paying attention to them, I shall divide 2008 between writing my third novel, a modern Beauty and the Beast (it's really my second second novel, because the first second novel turned into a short story) and preparing and researching the stories of some of the survivors of the Titanic. This latter because my great-grandmother was a Titanic survivor and - at least in publishing terms - 2012 approaches fast.

Other leaves include sharpening my critical faculties when I'm working, and bluntening them when I'm with those I love. Somebody once said something like this:

Friendship welcomes the loved qualities and lets the wind take the rest.

I agree.