Category Archives: The Sea

Reflections on a Weekend

The harbour and yacht marina at Warsash, on the Hamble River, Hampshire, near where I grew up.

The harbour and yacht marina at Warsash, on the Hamble River, Hampshire, near where I grew up.

I’m in a time of endings.

I spent the weekend with my mother.  She’s 84 years old, and not very well.   She’s always been so robust, ploughing through life like an entire panzer division, armoured and indestructable.  And now she’s frail and shaky on her feet.  Still going, don’t get me wrong, but undoubtedly fading.  The little child inside of me is frightened and confused, terrified at the prospect that the day is now not far off when Mummy won’t be there anymore.

The weekend was characterised by extreme weather, wild winds and a huge storm blowing in from the Atlantic on Friday night.  I lay in bed, listening to the gale roaring in the pines and the waves crashing on the beach up the road.  A tarpaulin was flapping mournfully on the house next door, which is being renovated.  Out in the Solent, a few miles away and easily seen from the shore, the massive Hoegh Osaka container ship was heeled over precariously on her side while tugs battled to keep her afloat overnight.

My writing life feels just as precariously balanced and embattled as that metal leviathon marooned in the major shipping lane.  The squalls that pulsed through during the weekend in close succession, and even my mother’s ill health, all feel symbolic of my life right now.  My writer’s group seems to be petering out after more than a decade, and the retreat we will go on together at the end of this month seems likely to be the last.

It is a time of endings.

Yet, in the terracotta tubs outside my mother’s front door, green shoots are appearing, the tops of bulbs – hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, even tulips.  Dotted through almost every garden in the street, spectacular orange-pink camelias are in full bloom.  The maritime climate suits them.  They show bright faces of gorgeous colour even in the depths of winter.  Fresh shoots of hope.

Without endings, we cannot have new beginnings.

Just as the dying off of exhausted foliage in autumn and the long winter months of dormancy and recuperation make way for the voluptuous gush of spring, so the phases of our lives must pass away, so that new joys, opprtunities and inspirations can take their place.

Today, I don’t know what I’m doing with my writing.  But I continue to write.  I feel hopeful.  And while I wait for the right story to pop its first green shoots through the earth, I will put what I have into this blog, into my diary, into notebooking, in preparation.  I will hope.  But I will also be ready when that green shoot comes.

Today I will honour the endings I know are coming.  Change is a part of life, and I will sit with the feelings of sadness that sometimes come with it.

But I will also plant up the amaryillis and paperwhite bulbs I bought the other day, and set them on the windowsill to remind me that out of compost, out of the remains of what is no longer living, comes indescribable beauty.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

 

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Inspiration (Wednesday): Patterns

Gathering Storm off the Suffolk coast.

Gathering Storm off the Suffolk coast.

Early this summer, I discovered Instagram.

Wow.

I love it.  I can make pictures now that look  how I want them to look.  Moody and intense.  Landscapes and architecture, life’s little details and self portraits. I’m an addict.

I get my interest in photography from my father, who was a passionate photographer.  In the fifties, he developed his own pictures in the bathroom of the flat he shared with my mother near Trent Bridge in Nottingham.  His little snaps of my siblings as babies, taken in black and white, developed into a fascination with seacapes that filled the weekends later in his life, when I tramped along the beach with him and his camera, looking for shots.

Southwold Harbour

Southwold Harbour

When I began my Art ‘A’ level after his death, my mother bought me a basic 35mm SLR camera, and I took lots of shots with black and white film, learning to develop them in the college dark room.  That was how I grew to share my father’s addiction for monochrome images.

He would have loved Instagram!

Sunset over Cambridge

Sunset over Cambridge

Looking back through the shots I have taken this summer, I’ve noticed a pattern developing:  a penchant for skies.

I love clouds.  The pictures I have been taking have brought this habit of staring at the sky to my own concrete notice.  I’m amazed to discover just how often I do it!

Sometimes, you have to look back at the backlog of work you have created in order to see the things you are interested in, the subjects that keep popping up in your work.

To a certain extent, lots of pictures of clouds are not really a surprise.  I live in Norfolk, known in the UK for it’s ‘Big Skies’.  The landscape here is fairly flat (although not as flat as Noel Coward would have had us believe), so there are plenty of chances to witness panoramic cloudscapes.  Living out in the countryside helps too.

Instagram has proved a great tool for me, not least because it has helped me see this interest in clouds as a new creative avenue.  I want to be taking lots more interesting skies in the future, and I’m saving up for a new camera, something a little more sophisticated than my trusty Samsung camera phone (love it though I do).

Gathering Storm at Sunset, Overstrand.

Gathering Storm at Sunset, Overstrand.

This week, why not take time to look back over your recent creative endeavours, and see if you can pick out any patterns or themes in your work.  Are you writing songs in a particular key?  Are you finding yourself drawn to crochet in fluffy alpaca wool instead of ordinary DK?  Are your paintings going through a ‘Blue’ period, like Picasso’s did?

And if you can pick out some new themes, how can you pursue and expand them?

(Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more of my photographic adventures!)

Happy Creating,

EF

 

Fanfiction: Opal

Old fishing boat on the shingle in the mist.

Old fishing boat on the shingle in the mist, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

I wish I had something fresh to offer you today, but I’m in the middle of a ‘perfect storm’ of illness, and I’m impressed I’m actually able to be this coherent!  Still, thank goodness for the back catalogue, eh?

Today you can read the last part of The Plato Series, freshly transferred to AO3, and slightly rewritten for clarity.

A little taste:

“John twisted to look at the bedside clock. ‘Oh, fuck.’

           It was half past six on Sunday morning and they were supposed to be having a lie-in. He’d arranged for breakfast in bed at 9, and everything. He’d been determined. And now this.

            ‘I get it,’ Sherlock whispered, breaking his train of thought.

            ‘Get what?’

            ‘The light. That’s why it’s so beautiful here. It’s the light.’ Sherlock seemed almost breathless. He reached out his skinny hand and pulled John across the bed to join him. ‘Can you see it?’”

You can read ‘Opal’ here on AO3.

Alternatively, you can read the entire series from the start, here.

And hopefully, I will be a little less catatonic by Friday!

Happy Creating,

EF

 

Fanfiction: Sherlock – The Plato Series

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Today I’ve transferred another episode of the Plato Series onto AO3.

In ‘Diamond’, John takes a very reluctant Sherlock for a romantic weekend away, and things don’t end up going quite the way either of them expected.

A quick taster:

“Sherlock was sulking. And it wasn’t one of his run-of-the-mill sulks. It was an epic sulk. Complete with a lower lip jutting out so far he could barely walk without tripping over it. Okay, perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration, but John had just about had enough of the whole thing.

            ‘I’m taking you away for the weekend,’ he snapped, gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles went white. ‘I mean, most people, most decent people, would be grateful. Some people might even say thank you.’”

You can read the series from the beginning here.

The last story in the cycle, ‘Opal’ will go up on Wednesday this week.

Happy reading,

EF

Landing

Yes, there really is a place called 'Rest and Be Thankful', and here's the proof!

Yes, there really is a place called ‘Rest and Be Thankful’, and here’s the proof!

We arrived back from Scotland on Monday after two days of driving, and I am still in the process of mentally ‘coming in to land’.  It was such a wonderful, liberating holiday in so many ways, challenging in others, and there is so much to process, emotionally and creatively.  I’ve come back with a notebook full of ideas and a To Do list the length of my arm.  Amazing how one place can change so much about the way you see the world.  Islay is like that, though.  Clean air, empty beaches, sumptuous seafood, rolling mountains, and kind, friendly people.

Port Ellen, Islay.

Port Ellen, Islay.

I made a conscious choice before I went away to see this holiday as a kind of ‘cleansing’.  I only packed two books, which is unheard-of for me, and made sure both of them could not on any level be seen as ‘work’ – Ben Aaronovitch’s latest novel, ‘Broken Homes‘, which was funny and clever and shocking, and a real comfort book, Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf, which I find emormously inspiring.  Frankly, though, I had very little time to read because there was too much to do, and in between, so much wonderful time sitting staring into space and absorbing the fantastic scenery.   We watched no TV at all, barely caught the news (concentrating on weather forecasts instead), and only checked email occasionally by phone.  I took my laptop but hardly opened it (although I did gobble up this wonderful ‘Lewis’ fanfic.)

Husband and I also took the chance on the journey home to spend an evening sitting in a pub, kicking around ideas for new stories and non-fiction books we might tackle.  I love talking about ideas with him, hammering out plot twists and measuring the mileage in a story.  Sometimes there is nothng better than brainstorming with a fellow writer.

I’ve a million photos to sort through now I’m home too.  This holiday has really got me back in touch with my camera, and made me want to save my pennies for a decent DSLR instead of the temperamental compact digital camera I have now.  Its lovely to just ‘point and press’ sometimes, but other times, only a decent lens can capture and communicate the sheep epic landscape that surrounds you.  I promise to share more pictures with you as soon as I have organised them all.

Happy Creating,

EF

Scottish Sunshine

If you are wondering why things have been quiet here at Evenlodesfriend lately, its because I am soaking up the sun in Scotland while attending the Islay Whisky Festival.  Now, I don’t drink, but Husband’s ‘on the side’ business is in whisky, so its a bit of a work ‘jolly’.

Nevertheless, here I am on this beautiful island with a bunch of friends and a toddler, staying in a little house on the beach.  The weather is distinctly Un-Scottish.  In other words, 22 degrees most days, and lots of sun (and resulting sunburn).  The midges love it, but so do I.

Drawing in progess - the ruins of the summer castle of the Lords of the Isles, Lagavulin Bay.

Drawing in progess – the ruins of the summer castle of the Lords of the Isles, Lagavulin Bay.

One of the things that strikes me about being on holiday is the tendency to carry on the drive to stay busy that we bring with us.  I’ve been feeling a bit ‘If its Tuesday, it must be Caol Ila’, if you know what I mean.  We have been filling up the time with rushing around, doing the sights, and whilst this is to expected with a different distillery putting on events every day, there comes a point when you have to say:

I am on holiday and I want to stay still.

Even if its just for one day.

With a two-year-old in tow, its hard to make time to be still, but nap times help.  While she’s asleep, we can journal, draw, write, read, stare into space, go for a quick walk along the strand, or just doze.  Even so its easy to get sucked into the OUGHTS and SHOULDS when you only have a week to get around and see all the wonderful sights this island has to offer.

I have been rediscovering drawing and photography.  There is lots to take pictures of here, from the rock formations on the beach to the bleak mountains.

But today, I am staying still.  I am sitting on the bed with my laptop, staring out over the bay through the window.  From here I can see across Loch Indaal to Bowmore, where the distillery makes a solid white edge to the water, its name painted in huge black letters on the whitewashed sea wall of the bonded warehouse.  The sky is bright, the cloud high, and cows are ambling along the water’s edge.  I find it hard to write when I am away from home, but of all the places I could be, this seems pretty good right now.  And after all, I am on holiday…

If you are interested in knowing more about our whisky adventures, you can read about it all here.

(I’d upload dozens of fabulous photos of Islay here, but the broadband is iffy so I shall save that for another post.)

Happy Creating,

EF

Inspiration Monday: A Day Out

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Warning:  This post has lots of pictures!

Its a lesson my mother taught me.  After my father died when I was 13, she used to take me away.  Just for the day.  Somewhere.  She would ring the school and say I was sick and we would run away somewhere.  Salisbury.  Portsmouth.  Winchester.  Even the Isle of Wight.  Somewhere that was within a day’s drive.  Anywhere that was not home, not full of memories and sadness.  It recharged our batteries, gave us the time to talk about what we had lost, and grow closer.  I have very fond memories of those stolen days.

Running away is a lesson that I have brought into my adult life.  Now, when things get a bit much, when we need to recharge, escape, or just rememebr who we are, Husband and I run away.  This weekend, we ran away to Aldeburgh in Suffolk, which is about an hour’s drive from home.  It is the town famous for its links with composer Benjamin Britten, and the music festival he set up.  It is also the seat of a number of literary festivals, and the setting for MR James’s haunting ghost story, ‘A Warning to the Curious’.  Fishing vessels work from the shingle shore, and you can buy fish straight from the boats, as well as smoked from the new smokehouse. (I recommend their smoked prawns with garlic dip, eaten straight from the packet on the beach, yum!)

Fisherman's shack where you can buy excellent fish caught fresh that morning, or crab, lobster and various local shellfish in season.

Fisherman’s shack where you can buy excellent fish caught fresh that morning, or crab, lobster and various local shellfish in season.

Since I am trying to get back into the swing of taking photographs again, I took my camera, and here are some of the results.  I hope they get your creative juices flowing.

And if you are lacking in Inspiration this week, why not plan a day to run away and just be.

Fishing boats hauled up ont he shingle shore.

Fishing boats hauled up on the shingle shore.  Is that the figure of Willam Ager running along the strand?

DSCI3684

Dead seedheads by the coastal path.

Old fishing boat on the shingle in the mist.

Old fishing boat on the shingle in the mist.

The Scallop by Maggie Hambling, a local Suffolk-based artist.

The Scallop by Maggie Hambling, a local Suffolk-based artist.

The Scallop is a memorial to composer Benjamin Britten, who lived in Aldeburgh.  The words are from his opera, Peter Grimes.

The Scallop is a memorial to composer Benjamin Britten, who lived in Aldeburgh. The words are from his opera, Peter Grimes:  ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned.’  (Are these also the voices of creativity, calling us?)

Approached from the Thorpeness (north) side, the Scallop is said to look like a knight riding a charger.

Approached from the Thorpeness side, the Scallop is said to look like a knight riding a charger.

Utterly mad cow wallpaper found in The Crown Inn, Framlongham on the way home!

Utterly mad cow wallpaper found in The Crown Inn, Framlingham on the way home!

Happy Creating!   EF