Category Archives: weather

New Fiction: Blame it on Derek

InstagramCapture  snowy sky

Today’s new fiction is the product of my recent writers’ retreat.  I wanted to do something funny, and began playing around with the usual fanfiction cliches to find something that fitted.  Given the series of major Atlantic storms that have hit the UK in recent weeks, it seemed the perfect thing to write about.  So now I present to you two men having to share a bed as a result of being trapped on the road by inclement weather.  Here’s a taste:

  “James bounced on the bed.

            ‘God, could it get any more clichéd? Handsome, virile inspector forced to spent the night in the same bed as his innocent bagman by once-in-a-decade storm.’

            ‘Oh, give over,’ Lewis grumbled. He took the toothbrush out of the packet and examined it. It was cheap, but he was just grateful that Mrs Snape had a couple of spares tucked away that she could donate.

            ‘Just promise you’ll be gentle with me,’ James mugged, plaintively.”

You can read Blame it on Derek here at AO3, or here at FF.net.

Happy Creating!

EF

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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

 

 

The Power of Acceptance

Lilac Phone Box found in the garden of a pub in Dersingham, Norfolk.  Doesn't that warm your heart?

Lilac Phone Box found in the garden of a pub in Dersingham, Norfolk. Doesn’t that warm your heart?

Life is, at the moment, a constant exercise in the power of acceptance.

Right now, its hot.

I’m not very good at extremes of weather, and heat just makes me want to sleep continually.  Plus my eyes are bleary and swollen as a result of hayfever, such that my sight is affected.  Frankly, I might as well have a pair of apples glued to the front of my head – I’d probably see better!  Because of the hot nights, I’m nto sleeping either, which makes the eyes and the heat all the more difficult to handle.

So I am not.

(Handling it, I mean.)

I am hiding away from the heat in my cool Victorian brick home, which retains the cold of the night all day, thank goodness, meaning it is miserable to heat in winter, but bliss in summer.

I am accepting that I can’t cope with the heat like I used to.  No more lying on beaches in the Greek Islands, sweltering in 38 degrees for me, thank you very much.

I am accepting that my capacity for doing anything much is greatly reduced.

I am accepting that my body needs to be nurtured through this extreme weather, so I am giving it lots of water, and light but nourishing foods.  A raw vegan diet is easy to eat in this weather because I just don’t want to eat much anyway.

I am sitting in front of my electric fan with my feet up, and honestly, I am loving it.  Its so nice not to have to feel I SHOULD be productive.

And as a result, I have written two stories this week.

Yes, two.

Taking the SHOULDS out of the equation is a recipe for creative freedom.  Moral of the story is:

Stop trying to force it.

Let it flow.

Be who you are.

What can you do to help yourself practise the art of acceptance this week?

Happy creating,

EF

Tales from my Weekend

Capture the moment.

Capture the moment.

Dear friends,

I’m sorry you didn’t get a post from me yesterday.   I was doing my elder-care weekend.  Once a month, or sometimes twice a month, depending on circumstances, we trek across the country to care for Husband’s mother and aunt (who live together). This time I made a few notes in my writers notebook, thinking they might be useful starters for writing exercises:

  • A weekend of fabulous sunsets and endlessly varied cloudscapes.
  • A red kite swooped down into the garden to scavenge the chicken bones left over from Sunday dinner, as I perched on the back step a few feet away, reading the newspaper.
  • Learning to manoevre a wheelchair –  its a lot more difficult than you think, especially inside supposedly  ‘disabled’ toilets.  And garden centres.  Note to self – the aisles are always narrower than you think.  Especially round the orchids.  Perhaps they just want to capture you there, so you’ll spend more money, I don’t know.
  • I lost my mother-in-law in Sainsburys.  She walked off.  She has dementia.  Now I can imagine  just how terrifying it is to lose a child in a supermarket. (We found her again in the end.)  Note to self: find a way to attach mother-in-law to aunt-in-law’s wheelchair at all times.
  • A wheelchair is a heavy thing:  discuss.
  • A kind lady came up to us and said hello.  Just because.  People can be friendly just for the sake of it.  The world is not such a scary place as we think.
  • Old ladies want to feel pretty too.  Aunt-in-law asked me to spray her with scent from an old bottle of Guy LaRoche that she had tucked away, so she would feel confident when she saw the doctor.
  • A friend’s dog escaped and she snapped her achilles tendon whilst chasing after it.  Just before her impending annual holiday and her daughter’s graduation.
  • My niece’s husband teaches Wittgenstein to his year 12 students.  I think he is brave.
  • Coming home, the sky was full of a just-past-full moon, an orange disc slashed with shards of inky night cloud.
  • Bacon.  No, you don’t need to know anymore.  Bacon is all you need to think about.
  • Hugs.  Hugs make everything better.  Even if you’ve heard the story about the man walking into the plate glass window 18 times in the last ten minutes, hugs always help.

My thanks to Phoebe and Sam Grassby, Mike and Debbie Bracken, Betsy, Maria, Dr Finnegan and the unknown lady who came up to us in Sainsburys, Kidlington, for making the world a better place.

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: Weather

I live in the UK.  We have lots of weather here.  Bucketloads of it!  It comes from having a maritime climate, caught between the cold North Sea and the Atlantic Gulf stream.  It characterizes our nation and our culture.  We are famous for it.

Since I came to live here in Norfolk, I’ve been fascinated by clouds.  Norfolk is famous for ‘Big Skies’.  It impossible to explain that until you have been here and seen the wide open spaces.  Norfolk is not as flat as everyone seems to think – Noel Coward has a lot to answer for, in my opinion – but what it does have is open vistas and large expanses of farm land reclaimed from sea.  The result is fantastic cloudscapes every day.  It colours the way people here live, and the way they view their lives. (If you are interested in how the landscape affects the people here, I can’t recommend highly enough the novel Salt by Jeremy Page.)

Weather gives atmosphere to writing and painting, as well as to life itself.  Just look at this image by painter John Aitkinson Grimshaw, who specialised in moonlit landscapes.

Boar-Lane-Leeds-1881This one shows a wet day, and the slick cobbles and leaden sky are so evocative.  What secret stories might be happening on those wet pavements, or behind those glowing shop windows?

Compare these two images of the same building, the National Trust’s property at Ickworth in Suffolk.

Ickworth sunny Ickworth weather

Granted, the angle is slightly different, but look at the sky – one with glowering cloud, the other with sunshine.  The atmosphere is significantly different in each, a sense of forboding in the right-hand image that simply isn’t there on the left.

You can use weather to prompt your creative work, as Grimshaw did, or you can use it to enhance it.  You can see this is the paintings of John Constable, and the writings of Emily Bronte.

Writing Exercise:

Andrew Cowan, in his brilliant book on Creative Writing, suggests keeping a notebook solely on the weather, noting adjectives and descriptions every day for a year in order to inform your stories.  It is hard to write credibly about a snowy day in a heatwave, for example, or vice versa, so a record of what weather feels, looks and smells like can be incredibly useful!

You might not want to go quite as far as recording the weather every day for a year, but try a writing exercise where you look out of the window – or even better, go outside and experience the weather first hand.  What is the temperature like?  Are there clouds, and if so, what kind?  Is the air moist, crisp, cold, humid?  What does it smell like?  Are there ice crystals on the vegitation, or are the flowers in full and sumptuous bloom?

Record what you see, and then go a step further.  How does this weather make you feel?  What kind of events and interractions might happen on a day like this?  Is it a foggy day for furtive meetings, a dark, moonless night for dastardly deeds, or a hot and sultry afternoon suggestive of languid adultery?

You could use weather to enhance the atmosphere of a scene, or you could contrast it to add clarity to the action.  Imagine a meeting of high ranking spies in a sweltering noon, brows beaded with sweat and shirts stained dark under the arms, whilst all the time, the great business of state is being negotiated.  Spend some time in your notebook playing with weather.  Try out a scene in one kind of weather, then set it in the opposite.  What kinds of problems and interesting ideas does this raise?

Happy Creating!