Sunday, October 08, 2006

I'm lucky. Sometimes I spend all day just talking to people about their writing, ways to kick start it, why do it. We sit together and write. This is part of a leadership programme. We write about people and places, play with ideas. That's all there is to write about. It's what we are. I've been remembering all sorts of people I thought I'd forgotten.

Writing with Fiona.
We try out similes and metaphors. Anxiety is like a rope bridge over a stream, handwritten letter marked Personal, the glass on the edge of a table. Anxiety is the pause at the top of a wild mouse, moment before the plunge, being unable to drive, anxiety is pale as veal.

Writing with Isabel.
My ancestor, the one who apparently drove a coach and horses into the sea - who told me about this? Was it Frances, my grandfather or my father? He's Cornish. The place of unhappiness for the Welsh. The place where an illusion is broken.
How do you drive horses off a cliff?
So it's night and he knows the cliff. He's paced it, done his research. There would be a track, maybe gates, some light - a nearly full moon, maybe. He's drunk beer, fed the horses well. Perhaps there's something he can feed them that makes them half-drunk too. He's reciting the old testament. A doctor, he's told his wife he's expected at the old man's house in the other village, the one with pneumonia.
He's cold, there's dew. What's in his mind? It isn't money. Delusions. This coach and horses is driven all the way down the lines of this family, the doctor at the reins, horses frothing by now, sweating, his black top hat shaking, his doctor's bag beside him on the seat containing scalpels, tweezers, bone saws and tranquilisers.

Writing with Frank
Veve is a friend of the fire-eater. He's chubby and the most important thing about Veve is he has an old 2 CV. He's around the campus but I only really notice him when we are about to go off to Brittany for the summer to find work. The fire-eater, who I'd met through Helen and Denis, and I think Denis met him in a launderette, desperately needed work. But I wondered even then, if he was actually capable of it. He had a thing about rubber bands. Every time he saw one, he'd pick it up and then there'd be an elaborate explanation, paranoid story about the coincidences and meanings behind each sighting.
Veve's a chauffeur who drops us at the farm in Brittany and then takes the fire-eater off to another farm where they'll be working. I'm left alone with a guy who's due to cycle down south. Who lives there. And I'd give anything for that moment again.

Writing with Diane
Aunty Jean wears rubber gloves all the time. I'm in her kitchen and they're dripping washing up water, or she's talking over the fence with mum. She doesn't have children. I don't know how old she is. She's just rubber gloves to me. Her fingers not flesh but a yellow, textured, unbreathing coat. Her hands are always facing down, into the sink, pointing at the garden or the path. The garden that's next to ours, but ours has a cherry tree that gives boxes full of fruit, dark red and sweet, when the birds don't get it. Mum climbs the ladder, rigging black cotton between the branches. Or does she? This is the garden I sit in at lunchtime, home from school, refusing to drink milk. Mum's insisting. I won't go back to school until I drink it. I'm gagging on it. I loathe milk.

Writing with Erica
I am dunes near an estuary where water mixes, where there are uncertain currents. I change shape constantly and in hollows are the remains of fires where people gather at night to hear the sea, to talk, to love and admire the sky. I am the border between the beach and fields.

These are the things we write about. And more. I am rushing through notebooks, my lovely books from Sukie, lining up on my desk. Memory is fascinating. You can write your way back into these hiding places and unearth the most amazing detail. You are your own interrogator, your own private detective I suppose.

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