Saturday, 31 January 2015

Beautiful Funeral

I’m not great at funerals. Who is? But I lack that stiff upper thing that most Brits have. I dissolve at children singing, I sob at marching bands, I even cry at adverts. So when her writing friends were asked to read Jacqui’s poems I had to refuse. Several obliged and it was wonderful and heartbreakingly sad hearing her words again.

I met Jacqui at creative writing evening classes. Later down the line a few of us formed a breakaway writing group and we even self-published an anthology, Sturgess is Missing. We all went to Glastonbury together and stayed in an ashram. We went to Burley and pretended to be witches.
She was one of the few writers I know who can transport me with both her poetry and prose. Ambi-creative. Her prose is haunting and lyrical; her poetry is profound and sumptuous. I’ve kept a lot of her work and I don’t often do that, I only keep the pieces that touch me and it’s interesting looking through how much of it is Jacqui’s.

Jacqui introduced me to Haruki Murakami, which makes sense now I think about how otherworldly and foody she was. Kafka on the Shore, the book she lent me remains one of my favourite books.
The story Jacqui wrote that I remember best was about a woman who turned into a dolphin and swam away. The imagery from this story often reoccurs in my mind, that transformation, that freeing.

Our monthly meetings dwindled and an annual Sturgess reunion has been the extent of my connection with Jacqui in the last few years. I knew she was battling cancer, I knew she was very ill; it doesn’t make her death easier.
The funeral opened with heartfelt talk from her youngest daughter. The coffin was wicker. Grandchildren ran around. People wore jeans. At Jacqui’s request they played Three Little Birds. I only knew one facet of Jacqui and learnt what an incredibly dynamic person she was in other aspects of her life. I only knew her intelligence, gentle eccentricity and beautiful writing.

We walked through woods to her plot. Three bell ringers played and a robin sang to accompany them. Goodbye Jacqui, you lived your life well.


Friday, 30 January 2015

I'm Coming Out!

After using the Fingledeek alias for so long I’ve bitten the cyber bullet and outted myself. My current MA module is a Publishing Project and I’m being forced to recognise the importance of having a professional online presence. I’ve even joined Twitter! I can’t yet face Facebook, it seems the root of so many evils and hurt. Give me a break, this is tough for an unreconstructed 20th century girl! For me it’s the issue of Real versus Virtual. I like real people in front of me. I don’t even like speaking on the phone, let alone emails, texts and now all my friends are using What’s App. What’s up with that? Give me someone I can touch, smell and laugh with.

I know this is irrational, emotional; I know I should be able to cope with the virtual. Stories aren’t real, they only exist in people’s heads so I really ought to embrace electronica; it’s tonnes more tangible than my passion.
The other horror is being out there, being named. Possibly my posts may change shape now I’ve waived anonymity. I know this is narcissistic, a million billion people are out there, I’m not special, I’m certainly not stalkee material so I will try and lighten up. Have fun with it. Also, before I changed to my name I reviewed everything I’d written and only censored one post. Plus isn’t exposing yourself part of being an artist? Neil Gaiman said ‘The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.’
Okay Neil, I’m taking the plunge!


Sunday, 25 January 2015

What I'm Most Afraid Of

I hate toilets. I get palpitations when I go to a new one. I despise the pipes, I am terrified of the cistern, with all its inner workings. Ballcock should be a comic word but it’s not, its horrorfull. The flush is a vortex into hell. Anything slightly different, deviant is despicable. French toilets are the worst. I thought travelling would cure me but it just meant I had miniature nervous breakdowns every time I needed the loo. Possibly that’s also why much of my away was spent trekking. It wasn’t just to see the amazing landscapes, plants and animals, it was so I could toilet alfresco. So much more civilised to go behind a bush.
Toilets are the only time I am jealous of a man’s anatomy. They don’t have to physically connect with what they’re pissing into. I never thought I’d suffer from penis envy! Mind you, there’s a lot to be said for hovering and it’s good for your gluts too. And poor men; they have to use urinals, which are another level of disgustingness.

I have to get to know toilets, make their acquaintance. The first visit is always the scariest. After this I always try to use the same cubicle on return visits. As Kylie said, ‘better the devil you know’.

I dream about toilets a lot. They are often nightmarishly distorted; very big, very small, very full or put in the wrong places, like living rooms and conservatories. I hate wild, unplumbed ones, in streets, in skips and most disturbingly in sculptures. Who puts a lavatory in their art installation? What evil is that?
My phobia has crept into my fiction from time to time. I once set a ghost story in a school loos and was very pleased with the eerie atmosphere with its ‘intricacies of pipes’. I got feedback this wasn’t frightening and I had to remind myself that my loathing wasn’t universal.
It’s not as weird as buttons, it’s not as understandable as clowns, it’s a pain in the arse, literally sometimes. But what would we be without our weirdnesses? I can’t think of anything more mundane than a perfectly adjusted person.
Scariest Film Scene I've ever Seen

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Harry Versus Who

Every couple of years I read the Harry Potter series. I love them, I know them inside out, my guilty pleasure is rereading and these books are submersive. I usually do it when I’m down. They are a healthy form of escape. Well, healthier than hard drugs or liquor.
I’m not doing it at the moment. At the moment I’m half way through a Doctor Who box set. I’m not low, I’m not running away but I confess I’m addicted. Defeating monsters, saving the universe, running around with a guy who can change his face…what more could one want?

Is TV worse than books? TV is more passive. And as much as I despise computer games they are more intellectually engaging than both books and TV. My Dad never really read (except Sherlock Holmes, which I think took him my entire childhood) and used to say it was a waste of real life. My Mum, on the other hand reads prolifically and took us to the library every week. It was more important that we read than we ate. I was forgiven for being a fussy eater but to not read would have been intolerable.

We watched telly too. I remember watching the original Doctor Who via the metallic teapot as I was too scared to look at the screen. I loved Tom Baker’s Doctor so much that years later in the 90s Who Hiatus I went as him, long scarfed and curly wigged, to a ‘Come as Who You’d Like to Be’ party.

I think it’s both TV and books that have urged me to write. Often when I think of what influences my writing it is films and TV more than books. But books gave me that innate understanding of grammar, of spelling, of story.

The problem with my addictions is that when I am in the midst of them, when I come up for air, reality is grey. I don’t want emails and washing up and Mondays. I want magic and wonder and happy endings.

Can you think of anything more exciting, more wonderful than hearing that wheeze of the Tardis? The possibilities, the adventures? The only thing better would be a letter in green ink from Hogwarts.

PS Five pounds shredded. Oh yes!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Time and Punishment

I know it’s a bit late but I’m taking today as my New Year. This means diet and exercise. I knew I couldn’t do it on actual new year as I saw my old college friends on the 2nd and that is always maximus debaucherous. I could barely move the next day, let alone start a new regime.

I’ve been gradually widening for the last couple of years, and clothes are now tightening to the point of not doing up. I’m also getting that awful double-boob with my bras which, unless you are a four-breasted space alien, is revolting. So I actually braved the scales today. And I ate healthily. When I say ‘diet’ I do not mean ‘diet’; I’m just going to cut a few things out. Like puddings. And garlic bread. And the second glass of wine.

When I say ‘exercise’ I require something that I can fit in. Nia dancing is great fun but only once a week and obviously not enough for me to be comfortable in my skin. And my skirts. But I do not have time, money or inclination to go to the gym, it looks like a torture chamber and it smells like BO. I may be surrounded by fitness freaks but alas, it has not rubbed off.

What then? Well, a friend has recommended a DVD to me; Jillian Michaels' ‘30 Day Shred’. Initially I said I couldn’t, wouldn’t commit. My old DVD was an hour and fifteen minutes of agony. This one though is only 20 minutes. 20 minutes! Can’t really make an excuse. I can carve out 20 minutes in most days. Even if it does mean I miss a bit of TV, that’s got to be a good thing. I did it and its doable. Painful but doable. And oh for those Abs. Go on, join me: