Take The Scenic Route

IMG_2301There are a lot of articles around these days about “Life Hacks’. Ways to do things quickly, so you can move on to the next thing and not waste any precious time. Some of them are actually pretty cool and useful, but at the same time I feel that, as the pace of life grows ever faster, we are losing our capacity to wait for things, to work for things, to enjoy the reward that comes after time spent moving towards something. You see it in queues, in shops and restaurants, people getting frustrated when they can’t have what they want straight away, instant gratification, constant moving between this screen and that screen, updating emails, Instagram, Facebook. Hack, hackity, hack.

I’ve studied martial arts for many years and one of the basic tenets is that ‘The journey is the reward.’ That the years you spend training, improving your technique, working with other students, mastering breathing and focus and control and becoming the best person you can be, is the real reward. At the end of it, sure, you get a belt. A signifier of the journey taken, a signpost in the road. But black belt is only the beginning. There are levels above it requiring even more study and dedication. You can’t hack this stuff. And I believe that to be true of creative endeavours as well. Of course there are always going to be prodigies, people in whom talent shines so bright it is oozing from their pores at an early age, their lives dedicated to that one thing that fills them. But for most of us creativity grows and changes as we do – the things we write or create or dream a product of our experiences, of the journey we’ve been on. And writing a book is a journey in itself. Resting your manuscript is essential, it really is. For a minimum of six weeks. You can’t ‘hack’ this, there’s no way around it, you need to leave it alone.

I sometimes think about ‘what might have been.’ I think most of us do. About what would have happened if I’d chosen a different path. Sacha Black wrote a post the other day asking us why we write, and I responded by saying I wrote stories where characters explore choice and consequences, how one act or decision can change everything. This was actually a bit of an eye-opener to me. While I knew this already on a sub-conscious level, it was interesting to acknowledge it and put it into words. I suppose when they say, ‘write what you know,’ perhaps they mean ‘write what you want to explore.’

So, when I chose not to do the Creative Writing degree I was offered at eighteen, I set myself on a different path. But I don’t think I’d be the writer I am today if I hadn’t had the life I’ve had. That all the years in jobs I really didn’t love, the time spent travelling, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced, have brought me to this point. I know that I’m fortunate to have had a lot of choice in life, and so I choose not to hack any of it. It’s far too much of a gift to fritter away.

I’ll end with a Douglas Adams quote I particularly enjoy: ‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.’

This is an updated version of a post first published in 2014, when my blog dwelt alone in a barren wasteland, and no-one ever came to visit. I’ve re-worked the first two paragraphs, but the rest is new.

 

Thursday Doors – All-Hallows-By-The-Tower, London

IMG_2474These two lovely doors are both from the church of All-Hallows-By-The-Tower, in London, England. IMG_2481The church was founded in 675AD, making it one of the oldest Christian churches in London, and parts of the original building are still visible inside. Standing outside, if you look one way you see the Tower of London;

IMG_2479And if you look the other way, you see the ‘Walkie-Talkie-, one of the newest buildings in the city.

IMG_2480If there was ever a building that could be said to encompass the history of a place, then All-Hallows-By-The-Tower is it. Built on the site of an earlier Roman building, you can go down into the original crypt and walk on tiles laid almost 2000 years ago. You can see a Saxon arch made using Roman roof tiles, and interior walls still blackened by a direct hit from the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, which reduced much of the building to a shell. Beheaded victims from the nearby Tower of London were sent to All Hallows for temporary burial, before heading to their final place of rest and the church tower, built in 1658, was the place where Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, watched London burn during the Great Fire of 1666, the church itself only narrowly escaping destruction in the flames. Truly it is a building that spans millennia – if only the walls could talk.

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This is my entry for Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors challenge – for more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s and click the link.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Whistler, BC

As it’s been so warm here these past few days, for my Wednesday Wander this week I wanted to go somewhere cold. I had a few options – the mountains of Australia or Andorra, inside a glacier in the Swiss Alps, or a view across a frozen Lake Ontario, taken from high above in the CN Tower. But in the end I decided to go with this photograph:

Me in WhistlerThis is me, back in the days when I used to go snowboarding, standing at almost the top of Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, BC. I’m wrapped to the gills because it is freezing up there, early January when the snows run deep. You can see the line of the valley below me, and the Cascade mountains stretching beyond towards the Rockies.

I met my husband in Whistler. He was an Aussie on his big world trip; I’d just finished university and had headed west, wondering what to do next in the face of a major recession and dwindling job market. A friend decided she was going to Whistler to work for a season, then invited me up as well, to meet her new roommate. One thing led to another and within weeks he and I were sharing a small room in a house (how small? Let’s just say the bed was half in the wardrobe, as it was the only way it would fit in the room). It was destiny, obviously😉

So, as I sit here in sticky heat, the sun setting golden outside my window, I can remember fresh cold air, the sun glinting off frost, the crisp bite of snow squeaking under the edge of my board. And for a moment, I’m a bit cooler.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

 

#writephoto – Mine

Sue's Mine photo

Sue’s chosen another great shot for her #writephoto challenge this week, and here’s my take on ‘Mine’:

‘Funny place for three holes. D’you think that’s where they hung the prisoners?’ His voice echoed up through the topless tower as though we were at the bottom of a well. I tilted my head, wanting to show him how much I knew about this stuff. Still not quite at ease with him, our relationship something new.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘the big hole – there could have been something there. Like a display of weapons, or something. The two smaller holes, I don’t know-‘

I felt his hand push hard on my shoulder, then he was up on the old wooden platform, the timber creaking alarmingly under his weight as he made his way, sure-footed, to the holes. He turned, winking at me, whisky brown eyes crinkling.

‘Only one way to find out,’ he said. Then he placed both hands inside the smaller holes, putting his face up against the larger one.

Then he jerked, screaming. I screamed too, the sound sending pigeons flying up, flap of wings against ancient stone. I scrambled to get on the platform, my hiking boot catching on the edge, banging my knee in my haste to get to him.

Then he started laughing.

‘Ass!’ I laughed, too, though more out of relief than anything else, sitting back and rubbing my knee. He jumped down, still chuckling.

‘Come on.’ He held out his hand. I took it, feeling that connection, the electricity I got from him and no-one else. He pulled me to my feet, then into his arms.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.’ Then he kissed me, and I knew.

He was mine.

For more entries, or to add one of your own, head on over to Sue’s blog:-)

Old Meets New (With Bonus Orb)

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The infamous ‘walkie-talkie’ building

I was in London this past Saturday, catching up with one of my oldest friends. She’s lived in London for many years, so whenever we get together we like to explore places she’s never been to before. This trip was especially poignant, as she is moving back to her native Canada shortly, so will likely be our last adventure for a little while.

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A glimpse of The Shard

So where did we go? We ended up taking a detour from our planned route to visit a building that encompasses the history of London almost in its entirety, from the Roman tiles underground to the modern ceiling, put in after an almost direct hit during the Blitz rendered it a shell. So that was kind of cool (and will be the subject of a post later this week). But one thing we both remarked on, as we wandered around, was the interesting juxtaposition you get in London of very modern buildings against very old (we both took the same History Of Design and Architecture class at university, so have a long history of wandering around together looking at buildings). And I think these photos, which have not been digitally altered, seem to convey that point quite well.

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Oh, and just to add a little icing on the cake, I also managed to capture this weird orb thing at St Paul’s. As you can see, it’s in one shot but not the next, and if you zoom in seems to have depth and its own little halo around it. So that’s weird, right? In case you’re wondering why I took those shots, it was because the sky had become quite dramatic, and I liked the way it looked against the famous dome. I took some shots around the other side as well:

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Then, in counterpoint to all this architecture, we came across a group of fur-clad individuals about to wander the streets. They are the Londonfurs, and are a private group, so I won’t post more information about them – google them if you’re interested. But really, they were fab.

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I love London, I really do:-)

It’s A Hot One

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Well, it’s not exactly England… but it could be

It’s hot.

It’s wonderfully, sunnily, bees-buzzing-mightily, hot. Get-your-sunglasses, tie-a-hankie-on-your-head, hot.

This is an unusual thing for the UK, in case you’re wondering. It’s an opportunity to be grabbed by both hands and enjoyed, as it may be taken from us without warning, not to return until July, or even August, of next year. There is plenty of joking about it, that this week is all the summer we are going to have, even though certain of the papers, as they do every year, are predicting a six-week ‘heatwave.’  Who knows? This time next week I could be back in my winter coat, as I was three weeks ago. The vagaries of weather on this small green island have made us a nation hopeful and resolute: ‘It’ll clear later,’ ‘blue sky over there,’ ‘mustn’t grumble‘.

So on days like this, when the scent of rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle fill the air, when bare arms and legs are kissed with Riviera-like heat, we enjoy. When it’s warm enough to walk up to school in the morning without a jacket, to sit outside for an evening meal, to keep the blinds closed in an effort to keep the heat out, we revel.

And a few months from now when the nights draw in, cold with frost, we’ll remember. And we’ll hope once more, looking forward to when summer comes again.

Another Day…

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Sometimes I struggle to make sense of this world. Lately, this seems to be happening more and more often. As a writer, it’s part of my job to get inside people’s heads, to figure out their motivations and tell their story. Yet I cannot for the life of me imagine the depth of pain and disconnection required to seek out your fellow humans and kill them, indiscriminately, and en masse. To deliberately target places where people meet, play, holiday, learn, work, dance and celebrate, and destroy them.

It goes beyond any ideology I’ve ever heard of, to a place of utter nihilism. It is neither confined nor defined by any particular religion, because it happens everywhere and to all people. And it’s just about the saddest thing, in a world full of miracles, that it continues to happen.

Seriously, 2016. We can be better than this, surely.

#orlando #baghdad #paris #nice #telaviv #istanbul