You gotta have a dream

This winter has been difficult for all sorts of reasons: the editing process on my book grinding to an inexplicable halt just before it was completed, a child getting cold feet about university at the last minute and deciding to take it easy at home instead, the usual idleness of some of her siblings, a nasty bout of flu, a sprained back muscle, the spring that refused to spring. Add to that the perennial cash shortage, the daily grind that gets more grinding, the list of house repair jobs that gets longer, the prospect of yet another year without a holiday, and you’re looking at a depression in the making.

But the weather is changing, the buds are opening despite the overcast skies and the air is really quite warm. It’s time to take stock. My grandmother would have called it counting my blessings. I prefer to call it dreams achieved.

My dreams started small. When I was little it was to have a cat. The farm next door was crawling with cats and kittens. By dint of encouraging them into our yard, two kittens were forever on the doorstep, looking in through the kitchen door. It wasn’t long before my mother’s heart softened and they were both officially adopted.

When I was twenty, my future husband and I talked about how we imagined our life as a couple. We took our first holiday together in Paris and decided that was where we would live. Our first apartment together was slap bang in the shadow of the Pompidou Centre.
While we were fixing on Paris, we also planned how many children we would have. We decided then that we would have five. My husband is a great one for organisation, making lists and crossing items off as they get done. We had four children crossed off the to do list when I was diagnosed with something funny. The doctors weren’t sure what it was, but I was told I must absolutely not have any more children, as they had no idea how my system would react to a pregnancy. We honestly did our best to follow medical advice, but child number five managed to sneak in anyway. The pregnancy was fine and despite a panic at the end, she was fine too.

Although Paris had been the first dream destination, I hankered after a warmer climate, so we moved south.

Next thing to hanker after was a dog. Not just any dog. I had always wanted a Lurcher, but the tradition of hunting with Lurchers doesn’t exist here. Then I read about the atrocious way Galgos are treated just over the border in Spain, and I knew I wanted to adopt one of them. It became an obsession, maybe because I had resigned myself, after a miscarriage, to the sad reality that the baby-raising era was over. I needed to baby something else that needed a lot of affection to get over a rough start in life. So we got Finbar.

With the affective problem sorted out, I began to think tentatively about my old dream of really becoming a writer. I started to write on a regular basis, rather than in the fits and starts that had been the only way to fit it in over the years of bringing up children. Last summer my first book was accepted by a publisher. I have plenty more in the pipeline, so I have started to think of myself as a writer, not a wannabe writer.

Apart from going to live in Moomin Valley in a house like Moomintroll’s, with stabling for a talking horse, I can’t think of many dreams that haven’t come true. In terms of economic success, I’m afraid we are a couple of losers. There are lots of things that many people would consider necessities that we haven’t got, but I suppose they were never on the dream list. We never dreamed in terms of how much cash we would have, how many bathrooms, or what we would do with the five children if they refused to ever grow up and leave home.
There is at least one dream left. It would be too sad of there weren’t. We would both love to have a small stone house in the countryside, with an orchard and plenty of space for big dogs to play in. By the time we are in a position to realise that particular dream, we will both be so decrepit that we might well decide that it would be more sensible to stay in town close to the shops and the hospitals! But the important thing is that the dream is there.

In the words of the song, you gotta have a dream, or how you gonna have a dream come true?

Author portraits

A question that has been bothering me for a while is whether it is indispensible to have a mug shot on my author pages.

It isn’t that I am particularly shy, or particularly ugly, but I don’t like having my picture taken. I am horribly self-conscious and take terrible photos. I usually have my eyes closed if it’s a flash, or I’m grimacing against the sun if it’s an outdoor shot. If the aim is to attract readers, unless it works on the same principle as drumming up trade for a freak show, I’m not sure my face will be especially good for business.

I have read the advice, to wear nice clothes, pick a venue that will convey a suitable image to the readers, smile, and let them see (the whites of) your eyes. The last photos I took I thought weren’t too bad, until the children said: “But look at what you’re wearing! Why do you wear such weird clothes?” They said I looked as though I was wearing camouflage to hide in a mossy forest. Except for the red jeans. I’m going through my wardrobe now to find myself an image.

Since the aim is to project a particular image, every aspect of the picture takes on a sinister importance. What will people read into my taste in woolly jumpers (it was cold the day of the camouflage moss), that I wear bright coloured jeans, that my front teeth aren’t quite straight? Then there’s the fear of looking completely inappropriate for my target readership. Like the gay cowboy and BDSM writer who looks like somebody’s gran, or the just-out-of-high-school Barbie doll who writes about the final days of patients in a terminal cancer ward. What are you supposed to look like if you want draw YA readers? Their best friend, their gym teacher? Will it put them off if you look like the Pope or a police inspector?

And where do I pose? For the authorly look: in the bureau peering over the top of the laptop? For the natural look: in the garden, squinting into the sun, with the crumbling garden shed in the background? Me, alone is not natural anyway. I am surrounded by people and animals all day, every day. In fact it would be more natural to be snapped staggering to the table carrying a cauldron of steaming pasta.

But does anybody take much notice of author pics anyway? Personally, I only notice the ones that make me bristle, like the pretentiously intellectual ones, or the haughty, glamorous ones. I tend not to remember the cheery, relaxed photos of people who could be my Aunty Molly or Uncle Jim.

Much as I would like to look like my profile pic, I do not in fact look like Sophia Loren. I don’t look like something that lives under the sink either. So, do I take the plunge and expose my real face to the world? Have you? And did it hurt much?

The thing under the sink
The thing under the sink

Pic courtesy of atomicShed/Foter/CCBY-NC-ND

Migraine and worse

Today has been a migraine day. One of those days when I wake up with a crashing headache and what feels like morning sickness. Vision is fuzzy, ‘things’ flit about in front of my eyes, and my head feels as if somebody is pounding my skull, just over the left eye with a mallet, possibly to find out if my head really is stuffed with old newspaper, or Kapok.

Migraine sufferers will know what I mean.

The only thing to do is to take one of mother’s special pills and go back to bed. Not to sleep—sleep is impossible with the disjointed images, snatches of music, conversation, passages from the book I was reading the night before—simply because I am of no earthly use to anyone in an upright, or even seated position.
The worst aspect of a migraine for me is the nightmarish world it pitches me into. Everything seems hopeless, ‘change and decay in all around I see’. I find myself unable to stop the thoughts of suffering, held at bay when I am absorbed in work, that surface when my defences crumble. The images that flood the internet, rapidly glossed over with a grimace, are still there, recorded on the retina, tidied away, until the physical pain and the scattering of mental resistance lets them out.

Tomorrow the pill will have worked and the pictures will have gone back in their box. But the box is still there, and what it hides is the awful reality for all the helpless victim of man’s violence and unthinking cruelty.
Today an anniversary service was held in Toulouse for the children and the young father who were murdered, shot dead at their school by a stupid, deluded, ignorant young man with a chip on his shoulder. He was shot too, the angel of death, and frankly, who cares? He doesn’t have to see the eyes of the woman whose husband and two young children were butchered, so casually, random victims because one Jew is a good as another. Their lives have been snuffed out, but the mother is left, and the murderer does not have to see the emptiness in her eyes. We see them though, the eyes of all the victims of violence, looking into the camera with a depth of suffering most of us will never know.

Tomorrow the pill will have worked, but today, with no defences, the eyes watch me and all I can do is weep.

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_Hell

About me

 

This was my first post and I obviously fluffed it, misplaced it, cast it adrift in cyberspace and never clapped eyes on it again. This is a second attempt.

 

I am, among other things, a writer. Many writers say they have always written; they were scribbling in the womb some of them. I was very slow to learn to read, and communicated in hieroglyphics for several years, but once I got the hang of using a recognised alphabet and constructing words other people, namely my teacher, could read, I’ve always been at it.


My Golden Age of productivity was primary school, between writing and illustrating a Life of King Hedwood the First, to winning an Honourable Mention in a national story writing contest. After that life got in the way, serious school, university then earning a living. I worked in the wine trade for years and dragged five children into the world. Now I don’t earn a living, the children fend for themselves, mostly, and I write.

This blog is about what I do with my time: the things I see while I’m out walking the dog, profound thoughts that occur to me while I’m brushing my teeth, and what I’m writing.