Monthly Archives December 2013

IGNORING GRAVITY #17

Rose At Sunday lunch, Rose had to try hard not to think about her mother. Not when she sat at the table next to her mother’s empty chair, not when Lily grilled only three lamb chops not four, nor when she add a sprig of rosemary to the roasting potatoes as her mother had always done. After their mother died, Lily suggested they cook a proper Sunday lunch every week for their Dad so it wouldn’t matter if he ate fish and chips the other six days.  And so that’s what they did. “Right, if we’re going to sort out Mum’s cupboards we’d better make a start.” Rose had been dreading this, invading her mother’s privacy. She hated the idea of anyone searching through her own things. “Come on,” she said to Lily. They were searching the kitchen cupboards for bin bags when their Dad John popped his head around the door. “Just popping to the allotment. I promised Ron I’d help paint his shed. It’s a messy job and it’ll dry nicely on a fine afternoon like this. You’ll get on quicker without me here. Here you are Pumpkin.” He pushed a piece of paper towards Rose. “This is
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

I agree with… Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier “For me, a good painting arrests you and demands something from you. It draws you in, but does not answer your questions. It’s as if this painting is stuck on the penultimate chord of a song, and it’s up to you to figure out how the song will end. In the process of trying to work a piece out, I get lost in it and forget myself, which is when inspiration comes. Some people achieve this state of mind by walking in nature, or listening to music. But for me it’s by looking between the brush strokes.” [Tracy Chevalier, excerpt from ‘Tate Unveiled’ in The Sunday Times Magazine November 10, 2013] Chevalier is describing her connection with ‘Coming from Evening Church’ by Samuel Palmer [below], at Tate Britain. Anyone who has read Chevalier’s best-known book, Girl with a Pearl Earring, or seen the film, will understand where she is coming from here. It underlines again the links between art and writing, and the common strands of inspiration which link all forms of creativity together. Chevalier says she doesn’t walk around art galleries actively seeking inspiration, rather she waits for something to spring out at her. I know what she
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #16

Lily Lily planned to wake before William on Saturday morning, stroke him gently till his eyes opened in that crinkly way she loved, then make love to him the way he liked best but which she hated. She hated it because she couldn’t see his face. But afterwards, when he was relaxed and loving her for her unselfishness, she would introduce the subject of babies. Instead, she awoke to the sound of William swearing in the en-suite because brown water was coming out of the taps and he couldn’t have a shower before setting off for the rugby game. The alarm clock hadn’t gone off and somehow it was her fault. It wasn’t a good start. Following him into the kitchen, she hovered as he stood in front of the fridge. He turned round and bumped straight into her. “Jesus, Lily. Don’t creep up on me.” “I’m not.” She flicked the switch of the kettle and danced around him to the mug tree. “Want one darling? And some toast?” She kept her voice light, determined not to let his grumpiness drag her down. She loved him dearly but he was a bear in the morning. She sank into the rocking
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: The Hen who Dreamed she could Fly

This is definitely a book that you will want to buy spare copies of to give to your friends. A South Korean fable by Sun-Mi Hwang, it tells the story of Sprout, a hen whose sole purpose in life is to lay eggs. She is an egg machine. From her coop she watches the hens and ducks in the yard with their babies, and longs for a chick of her own, to cuddle it and take care of it, sleeping safely in the warm barn at night. Then one day she realises she will never have her own chick because the farmer takes all her eggs. Her motivation to eat disappears, she becomes eggless, scrawny and weak and so is culled from the coop. I loved Sprout, she is a brave female heroine who shows the bullies that they cannot beat her. Like all fables, there is a message. This story warns against watching what others have and thinking they have it better than you do. Sprout longs for the greener grass, but when she finds herself living in that green grass she learns the realities. It is about being brave, about being proactive, about getting out there and making
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY #15

Rose didn’t know the disciplinary routine, had never been in trouble, and was mortified at Sam’s assumption that she had been. How exactly would Sam phrase her insult on the disciplinary form? ‘She used foul language and questioned my ability to satisfy my wife.’  ‘She challenged my authority and ridiculed me in front of my entire editorial team.’ ‘She insulted my capability as a man.’  ‘She said… penis.’ But I didn’t, she almost said aloud. No, she’d just have to wait to read the form to find out. And that’s when she realised this would be on her personnel file forever. Inappropriate language. Insulting her manager. Things you shouldn’t do, things Rose never imagined she would do. People who didn’t know her might read this and think this was the type of person she was, they might make judgements based on these accusations. She felt ashamed and yes, frightened, frightened she might lose her job. No matter how foul Sam was, no matter how much she was tempted to, she must never insult him again. Even if it meant lying to his face. “What are you still standing here for? Get out.” Rose got out. “And case studies, Rosemary,” Sam shouted
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Flash Fiction: Redbreast/After

Her breasts float in the bath, the left is as it was yesterday. The right is fragile. Between the three black lines it is red from the squishing of the white metal frame of the scanner. The faint indigo blush of a bruise spreads outwards like a bottle of ink spilt on a carpet, as if absorbed from the blue light which x-rayed her tissue. She watches as the black marks of the radiographer’s pen dissolve in the bubbles. She will not get of the bath until the lines have gone, she decides, until the experience is washed away. They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. Just as they did yesterday. They still look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. And usual has been restored. Almost. She takes the mug of tea her husband has made her, he closes the door behind him quietly as if she is mourning. Since walking out of the door of the assessment clinic with the ‘all clear’ ringing in their ears, they have lurched from tight hugs of euphoria, tighter than they have hugged since the
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

IGNORING GRAVITY #14

“Ms Haldane. My office. Now.” Sam didn’t look at her. Frank shrugged at her sympathetically as everyone else trailed behind Sam out of the meeting room. Rose hesitated, alone amongst a sea of scattered chairs, paper snowballs and abandoned coffee cups. She glanced towards the ceiling and was thankful her mother was not around to hear her language. She would have been appalled, then she would have asked Rose why she was still working at the Herald if she hated it so much. On the way back to her desk she heard raised voices in Sam’s office. May was face-to-face with him, looking down from her superior height, he was shuffling backwards as if he dare not turn his back. You’d have thought it was May’s office, not his. When he spun around he saw Rose standing outside the door, his face was blazing as if doused in shiraz. “Rosie, I said now and I meant now. Get your arse in here.” Rose put her hands in her pockets, dug her nails into her palms, and walked towards him, trying not to gag on the stench of stale cigarette smoke from his misshapen green tweed jacket. She passed May on
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Flash Fiction: Redbreast/Before

Ever since the letter arrived, every day has lasted a year. Eight days since the screening. Nine sleeps to go until the re-tests, except sleep won’t come. So Shirley sits in the bath and tries not to look. Tries to look anywhere else but… there. She averages two baths a day, with relaxing aromatherapy oil. She swishes her legs from side to side, watching the bubbles hide the dimples on her knees. She flexes her legs, admiring her muscle tone. She studies her red toes, painted yesterday while her husband watched the Sunday afternoon football. She’s never before noticed the relationship between footballs and breasts. Everything she looks at now is related to breasts, even though she’s stopped looking at her own. Balls of any description, hills, clouds, apples in the fruit bowl, the cold pile of mashed potato on her dinner plate. Eight sleeps to go, seven, six… They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. They look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. Except usual has been suspended. She hooks herself into her bra every morning with efficiency, briskly, avoiding the
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

IGNORING GRAVITY #13

Next morning the door to the empty downstairs flat was propped open by a pile of packing cases which listed severely to the right. A bicycle was propped against the wall with a child seat on the back, beside it a toy fire engine with three wheels. As Rose squeezed past the handlebars there was a loud bang from inside the flat of ceramic hitting laminated floor, followed by a child’s cry. Well at least he wouldn’t listen to Iron Maiden at 2am. * At 9am the Herald’s features team gathered in Ivy, the fifth floor meeting room with the blue and yellow swimming pool Hockney print ‘A Bigger Splash’. Rose usually passed the time in Sam’s meetings by considering Hockney’s fascination with water. Her usual policy in editorial meetings was to keep quiet until spoken to, but today was the day she was going to be noticed. Having done the Maddox interview, she wanted to do more and needed a pay rise to afford a bigger flat. Avoiding Sam was not going to achieve that so, to raised eyebrows from the rest of the team, she suggested three feature ideas. Sam, tapping his pen on the desk as if
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Famous writers, writing… John Updike

“A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.” I came late to Updike, in the late 70s I read my first, Couples, while at university. After that I got into the Rabbit books. I came across this quote recently though and, as a novelist, liked it.   ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ by John Updike [UK: Penguin Modern Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Jerry Lewis Ernest Hemingway Iris Murdoch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author John Updike via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yf
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.