Sunday, November 23, 2008

and home again

Another train, in the dark, heading North. Bjork on the earbuds and a feeling of a job well( ish) done. Two events with mixed age groups of children today - the little ones in the morning appeared to be half asleep, verging on comatose; the afternoon group was sparkier and waaaay more fun in terms of audience participation. Go figure. At times like this morning I wonder, as I stand up there drawing and drawing and talking non-stop to fill up the endless yawning silences, I wonder what the hell am I doing up here?

Is it me? Or is it them? Or is it just that the us isn't working? So, for my partners in non-creativity this morning, I have this to say - it didn't work out, did it? It may have been me, it may have been all of you ; but no, there were small pockets of resistance, some of you smiled shyly, but the rest of you looked as if you were hoping it would all be over soon so that you could get back to whatever it was you were doing before your thoughtless parents dragged you out of bed/away from the tv/the playstation and forced you into a car/bus/train to make sure you participated in a free but ticketed event at a book festival that is stunningly, brilliantly, wildly enthusiastically run by a team of unpaid volunteers. 

The key word in that last sentence was 'participated'. Dear children, for the majority of you this morning, your sum total contribution to this event was... to look bored. Bored, bored and beyond bored. I'm sorry that you felt that way. Certainly makes me wonder what I was doing wrong, or even if there is anything I can do to wake children up out of that kind of depressing torpor because whatever it takes, I sure didn't have it. Not this a.m. 

However, there were pockets of resistance. Not all of you looked like the flesh and blood embodiment of that well-worn teen look of 'yeah, whatever'. Not all of you made me wish I'd chosen a more rewarding occupation like manual sewage operative. Not every single one of you looked dead from the neck up. the little boy and girl who made a big effort to make up for the embarassing shortfall in the audience involvement of this morning, a thousand thankyous. For smiling. For making an effort to join in. For connecting. Thankyou. 


Friday, November 21, 2008

natcherl born traveller, me

Bizzarely, I'm at my happiest writing-wise when I'm on a moving train. There's something about being rocked by the motion and locked in my own little applemac bubble. Works for me, every time. Which does rather nake me think that should I get another suicidal urge to write another beast of a novel, I'll probably have to acquire a railcard and spend a year travelling on the great iron road. Which is all very well if you're Paul Theroux with little in the way of family committments, but totally impossible if you're moi.

The only way it could work for me would be if I shuttled backwards and forwards between Dunbar and Edinburgh in the hours when I'm not having to do the school run. I think one of the true joys of travel is the fact of being surrounded by one's fellow citizens without any of them having any earthly idea of who you are. Sure, you can do some covert detective work and assess your fellow passengers by virtue of what they carry, but other than that, anonymity rules.

So - a combination of close physical proximity and the alone-ness of being utterly unknown. Seems to free up some synaptic pathways and allow the words to flow. And flow they must because I'm off to another book festival - this time the Northern Children's gala day in Newcastle whic is always good for meeting my colleagues and having a good moan. Writers can moan and moan and moan, but they tend to do it in flowery language, and even their most vitriolic outbursts are couched in wonderful prose, so tonight should be a blast. and it's always helpful to know that we're all in it, all of us wallowing round in the post-Potter aftermath. 

The wordyhurricane came, it flattened our little world and we're now picking ourselves up out of the wreckage. And, oh, the stories we could tell....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

scary biscuits

Well, I've gone and done it. As of ten minutes ago, I've gone and committed myself to ten weeks of training with a purpose. This is a better idea than the other training plan I've rigorously followed which involved a bit of concentrated lying in bed, a few short intervals of pillow management, and an extended period of devising endless excuses for why I can't possibly spare the time to go out for a quick run when there are such interesting things happening behind my eyelids.

The Great Winter Run beckons. So what if its beckoning finger bears more resemblance to a whip? What care I for the aching muscles, the inhalations of partially burnt hydrocarbons and the freezing cold rainy mornings where I'm sprayed with grit from passing cars as I pound the tarmac intent on upping my cardiovascular virtue quotient? Fie upon my slugabed self. A pox on my pathetic Inner Duvet Hog. A plague upon my perfectly human desire to burrow deeper under the feathery quilt and squinch my eyes shut against the first rosy fingers of dawn and mentally consign all members of the dawn chorus to a swift neck-wring, pluck and into the pot.

Nope. The New Me shall embrace the day, lace the trainers, squeeze into the rather alarmingly tight running kit ( must have shrunk in the wash, surely) and take to the streets.

Oh what the heck have I done?

The sudden panic engendered by having registered for my first 5k race is offset by a deep, unspoken until now, fear over the possibility that the good people of America could be so shortsighted as to elect a candidate with his very own defibrillator and circling fascist vulture-lady. They couldn't. They wouldn't.

Would they?

Tomorrow we'll all find out. I still have my copy of the Guardian the morning we woke to discover America had re-elected Bush. The cover was entirely black with just the words Oh. My. God. printed in a bold white font. Let's hope history does not repeat itself.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

swathed in dustsheets

Sorry about this - the carpets are rolled up, the furniture is swaddled in cambric, supper will be cold cuts and fridge leftovers and if you want entertaining, grab a paintbrush. I'm renovating. Don't know about you, but I've been bored witless with the way this page has looked for over a year, and for heaven's sake, I am supposed to be an illustrator, so surely I ought to be able to produce a more visually exciting blog?

Sadly, illustrator I may well be, but html code decipherer I am not. Dweebs are sooooo not us. So the title bar with attendant illustration may well be as far as my renovations go. I'd love to be able to lay out my blogpage in a more adventurous fashion but I need to be shown how because, well..perhaps I'm just terminally dim, but I don't understand how to tweak the Blogger layout and make my page my own. Also, time is somewhat precious, money is scarce, and spending hours plittering about with pixels is not going to put broccoli on the table.

The good news of this week is that eldest son is off to rehab after going through three weeks of rapid detox. He has done very well to overcome the chemical addiction, but his thoughts, dreams, desires and general life patterning will take longer to detoxify. That's where rehab comes in. Unlearning what he learned from the unreliable pedagogy of the poppy. Changing all his habits. Untying the knots that bound him to a half-life spent oscillating between the dealer and the Deeps.

I'm doing a fair bit of oscillation myself between a range of emotions that I wish I could harness for the purpose of energy creation. I'm a one-woman alternative energy generator, me. My feelings can blow up into gales which could set the blades spinning in a wind farm. My stormy highs and lows are like a form of emotional wavepower. Intense bursts of rage and grief flare like solar power... I could go on. I'm sure you'd rather I didn't. However, it should come as no surprise that I can hardly get my head off the pillow in the morning ; the whole upheaval and upset and digging up of the past consumes so much time and energy that I feel wiped out by it all.

Next week, with my son safely tucked up in rehab a long way from wintry Edinburgh, we have to go to his lair and gather up the salvaged bits of pieces of his life that he would like us to keep for when he rejoins the human race. His home of the past three years is a lair ; there is no better word to describe the flat he has inhabited through the dark years of addiction. I would rather never go there again as long as I live, but this mother's hardwired guilt will drive me up and down the entire height of an Edinburgh high-rise, over and over again to retrieve the detritus of my son's long love affair with narcotics.

It has been a long love-affair, and there is a heck of a lot of detritus. He has an entire room full of disembowelled bikes. He has another room full of disembowelled computers. In the middle of this incredible chaos, two sleek, well-fed and beautiful black cats prowl, stalking through the circuitboards and derailleurs as if rooms full of urban trash were as homely as their ancestors' palaces of Ancient Egypt. The ashtrays are full of cigarettes rolled from the ends of other cigarettes which, in turn, have been made from the cannibalized remains of other cigarettes ; the whole ashy history stretching back in time to the days of a tar-drenched nicotine quest fuelled by poverty and need. The kitchen houses a vast collection of brown medicine bottles and burgeoning spider plants spilling out of their pots over the top of the fridge. He began to strip the wallpaper in the hall, then gave up on the job. The scraps of discarded wallpaper have littered the bare floorboards ever since. There is an unsurprisingly bad smell; strong enough to make me mouth breathe on every occasion I have visited.

I hope that the next time we go there is the last time. Groundhog Day is all very well and good if you spend it someplace pleasant. Otherwise, you have the feeling that you're on the Hamster-wheel of Hell.