I’ve got that noted, somewhere.

Despite the fact that the temperature has fallen back several degrees again, and a sharp wind cuts across the front of the house, spring has finally arrived.  I can say this with certainty, because I’m now finding it hard to ignore the dusty cobwebs in the corner of the window, and because my friends too, are suddenly busy taking down curtains or pressure washing their patios.

Detail from 'The Courtesan Nakagawa of the Matsuba-ya (circa 1796)

Detail from ‘The Courtesan Nakagawa of the Matsuba-ya’ (circa 1796)

It’s the ‘spring-instinct’, driving me towards displacement activities.  All winter I’ve been able to ignore the messy garden and the accumulating muddles around my desk, but a couple of hours of sunshine and they take on an insidious importance.  Time for a list, I decide.  I’m fond of making lists.  Check out my coat pockets and you’re bound to find one or two.

A list is such an individual affair, from the paper it’s written on to the content. They seem so perishable, and yet they survive, often for years, in unexpected places.  I tend to use mine as page-marks during research, then forget to take them out again.  I’m not alone.

One of the reasons I like second-hand books is for their detritus.  Usually, that means notes written in the margins, or between the lines.  I like the idea that something incensed a reader to the point where they had to reply, or contradict; isn’t that a shadow of the oral tradition persisting?

Occasionally though, there is a receipt, or ticket which can be just as telling.  What for instance, do I make of the yellowed shoe repair ticket in the middle of The Magus?  Did the owner of the brown boots in need of re-soling get bored with the story and give up?  Why?  What didn’t they like?  Or did something interrupt them?

And, did they forget the boots, or just that they’d left the ticket in this book?  As for the foccacio, roses and anchovies they’d written on the back of it, I’ve so many possible answers to the Who, What, Why, When and How of that. I know nothing, and then everything about the previous reader of this novel.

I suppose, with all our worries about identity theft, and the rising use of electronic memory systems, fragments of shopping information will be obsolete soon; unless, of course, we can access the databases of supermarkets and on-line shops.  With access to that, I could work out what the contents of ‘Brown Boots’ owner’s larder are, which would mean a much more educated guess at the meal being planned.  I could probably go further, and by looking at their history of purchases, figure out the who, what, why and when questions of their life.  If only I could hack.

Then again, how much more interesting it has been to sift through the possibilities, discarding and refining, building a picture from the brown boots, a novel and a ticket, making my own creation up.  I think I’ll continue to risk losing scraps of list in library books, and if you should happen to find one, good luck with your imaginings too.

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The Hiatus

I don’t know if you’d noticed, but I’ve been away from the blog for the last two weeks.  All the wise women of my family are standing behind my right shoulder at this moment, murmering about pride, and falls.  I can’t duck it, the truth is, I boldly wittered on about managing deadlines on here, a month or so ago, and then succumbed to a rising workload.

The Wisdom of Fools, by Ann Gover.

The Wisdom of Fools,
by Ann Gover.

My instinct is to make excuses.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to.  Because actually, once I’d missed the first deadline, and that was hard, it felt good to let go of the second one too.  Sometimes, I admitted to myself, I do take too much on.

For the last few days though, as my time for blogging grew closer, and with that backlog of reading and research completed, I’ve been wondering how I could set these posts into gear again.  Perhaps, I thought, I’d just launch in on a new subject, ignoring the gap.  With no explanation, it might seem that the missing entries existed somewhere, but had been mislaid.  However, since the feasible solution to that scenario is that I would be more likely to have accidentally deleted them than the nice, competent people at WordPress had lost them, I rejected that.

So, perhaps I could create content and pre-date it, I thought.  Then it would appear that the posts had been there all the time.  Silly readers, did you really miss my words of wisdom for two weeks?  Well, not to worry, I’ll let you off this time.

Smoke and mirrors, I thought.  Just like the worst crime fiction.  The author includes an obscure poison delivered by a character we’ve never heard mention of until the moment when the solution to the crime is revealed.  Surely I’ve more respect for my readers than that.

Time passes in fiction.  Sometimes it moves minute by minute, sometimes there is a break in the action.  We don’t need to see every cup of tea consumed or slice of toast buttered.  The action is implied in the writing at the ending of one paragraph and/or the beginning of the next.  Things that have no relevence to the dramatic arc might also happen.  The story steps round them and carries on.

So, ‘two weeks later, she returned to her routine, refreshed, after her short break.  She took out a new sheet of paper and began to make another list.  Perhaps this time, she might find time to spring-clean the office.’

Happy Easter

Happy easterThere was some disappointment in the household this year, what with the adults opting for a sensible approach to the commercial hype, and spending the equivalent money on bars instead of eggs.  It seemed logical that older teenagers would be less impressed with the packaging and therefore, grateful to get a larger supply of chocolate than usual.

It’s all too easy to forget where the magic lies, that’s the trouble.  The responsibilities of budgeting and planning tend to outweigh our abilities to pause, and remember, as my other half did, when I handed him a white chocolate toblerone.

‘Oh, no egg?’

‘But this is your favourite.’

‘Not for Easter,’ he said.

We handed out eggs to the littlest in the house to a chorus of amazed joy. Small fingers tore at the gaudy cardboard, plastic and foil to expose the chocolate shells.  They were clutched, displayed, compared and loved.  The older ones crowded closer, clearing up the wrappings.

‘Go on, crack it.’

‘Shall I help you?’

‘No.’

Each child grasped their egg tightly.  One nibbled at the narrow end, another squeezed until it cracked.  Within a few minutes, the table was littered with fragments.

‘Can I have a bit?  Just this little bit here?’

‘I’ll swop you a kitkat for a piece of egg.’

With a bit of banter, the deals were struck.  A piece of egg was found for everyone.  It was just a thin piece of ordinary milk chocolate, and then, as I looked at the etched design on the outer side, it wasn’t.

I remembered that feeling of excitement as the foil came off and there was the egg, so perfect, yet with that odd seam, like a scar.  The way it felt solid, and yet light, and sometimes, oh the joy, it rattled.  Those were the best ones. Even when I knew that it only contained a few chocolate buttons, the egg retained a sense of mystery.  An egg, with something inside it.  What did I wish for?  A chicken of course, a young fluffy yellow chick like the ones we had held for just a moment or two on some school visit.

There was a feature in our paper the other day by a journalist who headlined, ‘Easter is my Favourite Holiday.’  I didn’t take much notice at the time, I think I may have been heading out to buy the goodies.  I’m beginning to understand now.