Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for June, 2011

Perfect Point of View

I received a review recently stating that my characters and their lifestyle appeared too perfect and therefore unbelievable. I beg to differ!

My sister, whose family is the inspiration in part behind my characters in my novel Memories, probably would not call herself or her lifestyle too perfect.  That is not to say that the story I have created bears much resemblance to their lives.

My characters of Aisling and Max are a happy married couple – maybe unbelievable, after many years of marriage but actually both my sisters and most of my close friends, along with myself all still fall into that category. This is not to say, none of my friends have gone through bitter divorces; they have and some are even coming out of their second marriages battle scarred and disillusioned.

Max works for an Investment Bank, away all week but home at the weekends; a fact straight from my sister’s life. Both Max and the brother-in-law worked and played hard in Hong Kong before returning to London in pursuit of their career.

My story begins as the family take a holiday in Turkey.  At a villa similar to one owned by another sibling but never visited by my sister or her family.   This is where the initial action plays out visiting places that do exist.   My characters all have elements of fact about them, as do the settings and the backgrounds.  The story is however fictional, shaped from my creative, some might say deluded, mind.

How do you define perfect anyway?  My idea of perfect is to have my family healthy, to feel secure in my relationships and to have enough money at the end of the month left over to support a couple of families in Africa/India.  A feat we did achieve until I was made redundant and took to part-time work while the children are at school.

A friend’s idea of perfect; is his gorgeous wife’s botox and breast enhancement, in order to show her off at all the latest events; Henley, Ascot and Wimbledon to name but a few.    Enough money in the bank to buy that little cute cottage as a trinket weekend pad outright or gamble enough on a high risk investment to make a killing but not notice if it fails. Altruism is not a word he comes across too often.

I for one do not think my sister’s life or that of my character Aisling’s life is perfect.   We once tried to live apart during the week while Sexy Sporty Dad’s job moved; I stayed with three young children in our newly extended home and secure bubble life.    It didn’t work.   After 9 months we let the house and moved up to join him.

I have friends who work away during the week and I know in these difficult times I count myself lucky that I have a husband on hand most of the time, as some have no choice.   Their weekends are taken up dividing their time between the partner who needs adult conversation and games, whilst the children all demand constant attention, transporting and support for which ever sport they enjoy often in differing directions with more than one child.  Monday comes round all too quickly and they are away again.  Is this perfect?

I have what I would call a perfect balance at the current time where I work for pocket money and to supplement the family income a little.  I have the right to spend on what I think we need and I put away enough to contribute to the annual holiday and to give me the choice not to camp on the floor.  I also have time to pursue my own career as a writer albeit non financially viable at the moment, a state I hope will improve soon.

To the reviewer who thinks my characters are too perfect, join the real world.  It is made up of all sorts of people and the facade you see may not be the real them.   Most of my reviews have been positive, with many reviewers identifying strongly with the family.

I hope that if and when I have the courage to send it to a publisher they too will identify strongly and want to publish the book.

If you wish to read the first chapters of the story – comment and see what you think go to

http://www.youwriteon.com/

on the left hand menu – go to “search the site”

check the box – book titles

and put in search box   Memories

scroll down for Memories   (currently number 11) by Tiggy Hayes

view more

read sample chapters.

None of this is as difficult as it might first seem.  You are unable to review the chapters on line; however please feel free to comment via this blog.

Tiggy

Dwindling Congregations

Goddaughter was confirmed with all the pomp and ceremony they could muster and I was her sponsor.   Torn with emotion at leaving No 1 Son behind to do his own thing; but delighted that Goddaughter was making the commitment and that I am still part of her spiritual life we embarked on the weekend.

It should not have been that long a journey but having stopped to buy trainers and the frequent “I need a wee” stops. We at last reached the A27, the home straight. I began calculating in minutes the time until we arrived.  I could almost smell the fragrant honeysuckle climbing the pub wall where we were meeting everyone.  Then we joined the queue; an accident, the traffic slowed and we were in the middle of it.

We missed the pub.  Finally tea and cake made the journey seem nearly worthwhile. Goddaughter and siblings excited about it all and delighted that we had finally arrived. In-laws and out-laws had arrived and the party was in full swing.

Goddaughter showed me her dress, a flatteringly beautiful sea green dress to be worn with a neat little black shrug.  Then she produced her shoes!   Three inch black stiletto heels, elegant, sophisticated definitely; but at 14 she already stood several inches above me in bare feet.  Who was sponsoring who?

The following morning breakfast and lunch ran nearly into each other in order to get everyone fed, showered and dressed in their finery ready to be at the church by 3pm.

Arundel boasts a beautiful Cathedral dominating the ancient and historic city.  A fitting venue for a special occasion. We arrived in torrential rain, kindly dropped at the door to save our skimpy dresses and inappropriate footwear.  Inside, we were ushered, by ancient guardians of the Cathedral, to our seats in ceremonial style.  Confusion set in when they discovered we had more than the allocated 8 people in our party.  A lot of conferring and shaking of heads went on while they discussed the matter, looking on in disbelief at the embodiment of a large catholic family!

Leaving the ancients to confer I led extra members of the family to a side chapel where not only did they have a better view than us, they had a door to a hallway and conveniences which apparently were used repeatedly during the long service.  I being an important part of proceedings had to return to my allotted seat.

The pomp was well done, the choir resplendent in voice together with the magnificently restored organ and passionate organist.  The ceremony stage managed in true high Catholic style adding in all the extras to make this day a most unforgettable experience.  Incense burned and diffused into the congregation causing many a coughing fit; as the modern catholic reacts to the allergens in the strong smelling oils.

I protest at the length of ceremony.  Remembering the late start and that people had travelled to get there, not in the least ourselves.   Two hours of religious service was a long time for the many younger members of the congregation to behave, not to mention the elder members who by rights should have been taking their afternoon naps just about then. Of course many of them might have been and I mistook it for piety.  What of the candidates themselves; Goddaughter I know was showing increasing nerves as time went on; I am sure she was not the only one.

With dwindling churchgoers, the opportunity to encourage people back in should be a priority at such an opportunity.  Don’t do away with the pomp and ceremony, build on it; include a few favourite hymns the congregation may have heard.   Siblings could be invited to the alter with the candidates to involve them.  Maybe I am missing the point and keeping the strict rigidity of the ceremony is how the church hopes to encourage people back.

My role as sponsor was relatively easy. Goddaughter handed me a sheet of instructions to follow and as long as I remembered the confirmation card and put the right hand on the right shoulder I would be fine. I hope my usefulness extended to calming her nerves and keeping her focused on the ceremony.  A look of horror crossed her face as we advanced up the side aisle to stand in front of the bishop; when she realised she would have to walk up two steps in her heels and worse walk back down again in front of everyone.   An achievement she accomplished with unexpected aplomb.

A far more worrying feat for me was when I discovered that the sponsors stand on the step below.   Goddaughter will never know the effort I put in to reach up and rest my hand lightly, barely touching. The rest of the congregation were subjected to my whole body reaching and stretching a practice I usually leave to my Pilates class.

We made it through and it was still raining as we emerged spiritually refilled to look across the hills of Sussex.    The hour later than planned we made our excuses and departed for a journey which again should not have taken that long but sat nav (that’s another story altogether) led us through tiny villages and hamlets on a slow and picturesque tour of southern Britain.

Tiggy

 

 

Severing (or gnawing) the Apron Strings

No 1 Son has been on his first (and at the moment; last) Duke of Edinburgh expedition; a trial run for assessment in September, while we were away for the weekend.   Torn with emotion at having to leave No 1 Son in the capable hands of organisers; none of whom I had met I had to travel from the area.

If I take you back just a week when we were holidaying in the Lake District.  Imagine if you can a high street of any town or city, take it further and picture any town in the Lakes.  Every other shop selling outdoor walking gear, camping equipment, trekking paraphernalia of every description size and usage.   The day after we return home No 1 Son brings out a letter explaining what is required for his weekend!

Everything on the list we could have bought time and again in the Lakes but back home in our sleepy town there is not a single shop of use.    Sexy Sporty Dad rummaged in long forgotten storage boxes and found an old pair of walking boots from his trekking past.   There is not a lot of difference in shoe size between them these days, and these were, as the letter said broken in – it said nothing about by whom.  I benefitted by being treated to lunch and an afternoon’s shopping in the nearest city to boast a camping shop.  We bought him everything he will ever need, whether trekking 10 miles across local fields or setting off for the Mississippi jungles!

I was careful and clever to buy tins checking they all had the ring pulls.  I bought plenty of treats to keep him going, biscuits, packets of hot chocolate to make up and fruit.    He would not go hungry. He had a large water bottle to keep with him, little box drinks and milky cartons; he would not go thirsty!

Saturday morning laden with his rucksack; it took both of us to lift into the boot of my car, I took him to the rendezvous.   I needed to tell them I was away for the weekend, and they needed to know who I was.

“I will be away for the weekend”

“So what do you want us to do?”

“Well if you needed us you have to use our mobile number”

“Fine.”   She didn’t check her list to make sure she had my mobile number.

“On Sunday when you get back we won’t be here to pick him up”

“So”

“He is fine to walk home or he has permission to be given a lift by a parent of one of his friends from the trek”

“OK” and she looked at me as if I was not from the real world and waited for my next gem of over protective parenting.

No 1 Son tugged at my shirt sleeve suggesting it was time I left him with his friends and went home before too many people arrived.  He refused to kiss or hug me and barely managed a bye.

I drove away slowly going round the block to check; I am not sure what; but to check.

The following evening, I waited four hours after I expected the call, rain pouring down in torrents, I not knowing where he was; he was not answering the home phone. In motherly desperation I called a neighbour.    She ran over and knocked loudly on the door.  Finding it unlocked we assumed he had at least arrived home.   A few minutes later a gruff angry voice rang my mobile.

“Hello, I’m home.  I had a shower an shut my eyes for just 10 minutes four hours ago and now I just got woke up.”

At least he was safe.

We returned home to listen to the painful step by step account of his traumatic never to be repeated weekend.   His rucksack was heavier than anyone else’s; nobody else had tins which weighed him down.  He had to help carry the trangia as well as his luggage.  Apparently someone took pity on him and carried the tent.    It rained the whole weekend and all his clothes were wet, his feet were cold and wet and his sleeping bag dripped as he unloaded.

Despite four hours sleep followed by a good night’s sleep Monday arrived with the argument that he was too tired still to go to school; and it would not be worthwhile  as he wouldn’t be able to learn anything.  Wicked, evil mother that I am ignored the barrage of excuses.  I did relent by driving him to school, consequently making myself late for work.  He returned that night complaining that his friend who had also been on expedition had taken the day off because he was tired.

He does not plan to continue with the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme at the moment; although next time the sun might shine and we have already learnt a lot about travelling light, not to mention bought at vast expense the accoutrements to last him a lifetime.  I have plans for him to continue.

The apron strings are still attached but becoming taught and frayed.  When does a boy become independent enough to make his own arrangements and a mother stop worrying about him? At what stage do I sleep through the night without waking and wondering where he is, how he is and who he is with?  When do I no longer need to give him permission and he just does?

Tiggy

Balancing Act

he was right the views were spectacular

(Thank God for Wine and Tea)

Having nearly reached the end of the holiday; the scales of sanity are being helped with copious cups of tea and gargantuan glasses of wine.   It is a fine line we tread to keep the troops occupied, fed, watered and ultimately happy.

A bare minimum of 16; a maximum of 26 individuals with needs and opinions of their own and we are still speaking.   Speaking may be a slight exaggeration as communication is not the strongest forte we display.  In a modern existence where every one of us is connected by mobile device of some description it is unbelievable how much of the day is spent chasing round after people.

A plan comes together and we prepare the lunch, the towels etc only to discover they have gone on ahead and not waited for us.   We don’t arrive and they are puzzled as to why we didn’t realise they were there, going there and would not be back till whenever!   We should have rung!  We did but they did not have their phone with them/switched on/charged.

We have managed an early morning discussion to plan the evening meal which is no mean feat.  Even together with all the different forms of accommodation; we lack pots large enough or forks to go round and we have resorted to shift meals.

I have been to the Lake District in the past, in the knowledge that for these geographical lakes to survive the area is prone to heavy precipitation.  In fact I, like many visitors, can recall rain soaked weekends and damp caravans and know that one does not come here for the weather.  If you want sun go to Greece!

Again this morning I have woken to beautiful clear blue skies; not a cloud to be seen across the horizon.   There is a feint breeze that will keep the sailors happy as we make use of the boat for the final day.    There have been many excursions across the lake aboard the boat; with each visitor being taken along the wide expanse of Windermere, mooring up where possible for a spot of lunch and enjoying the spectacular views not often seen through the rain.

I believed Sexy Sporty Dad when he suggested a walk;   it’s not far, slightly up but the views are spectacular.  He was right about that.   The not far bit may have had some essence of truth had I been a crow!   The slightly I would dispute at length.  From the time we had driven round and round to find a parking space (a feeling of foreboding in my limbs) to just the start of the walk was up!  A little incline I admit and one I felt happy to endure.  Then the walk; another fact I dispute, the climb went on and on.

Every step hurt, every step was up!   Some poor soul at some point in history had created a form of path for the hundreds of visitors who actually wish to do this sort of thing for fun.  There were steps made out of rough broken stones, some large some just rubble and easy to slip on.  Some were very wobbly and there were parts hewn out of the cliff which stretched the leg muscles in new demanding feats of unnatural challenge.

The sun beat down upon us as we discarded our coats then jumpers.  The exertion watered down by the bottles of squash we had taken with us.  Waterfalls and streams running parallel to the path providing ample cold water as we dipped our feet and hands with unreserved relief.

We made it as far as the small plateau of level ground, for lunch.  Yes he was right, the views were spectacular.  A view which probably few visitors will actually ever see, due to the normally, low visibility known to imbue the Lakes.

Then came the shock realisation; having climbed all that way which was tortuous enough; now we had to climb all the way down.   Going down is not a lot easier than going up.  Each step still hurt and each step required balance, determination and grit to see through the aches and pains of impending ancientness.  There was a large pot of tea with my name firmly imprinted waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain.  That is the only thing that kept my feet one after the other, pain after pain and heat wave following heat wave, going down.

Am I glad I did it?    Well I know I will not do it again.  The fact that my hips have seized up, my neck and back feel like they have done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.  Dehydration is saturated in tea and the hallucinations of a large spa bath and massage are fading into a distant dream.  The achievement is enormous and I am sure after a good night’s sleep the pain along with the memory of the pain will disappear and I am left without the burn but the Grecian tan, along with the imprint of those incredible views and the elation at having triumphed through the agony.

We assembled for a meal together again, although gathering the clans is not an easy task.  Each family brings their own idiosyncratic foibles to the preparation and service of the meal.  It is a precarious balancing act, keeping those who claim to be starving hanging on, with our “just about ready to serve” and finding those who can forgo any formal recognition of meal times to come and join us.  Keeping the food hot for everyone and all the different component parts cooked and ready at the correct time has proved a challenge of extraordinary ingenuity.

We are early risers and hence reasonably early to eat then to bed.  Others are late risers missing large amounts of the day and cannot understand why we wish to see our beds this side of midnight.   As the evenings turn to night and the children keep going others begin to turn in not able to keep the candle burning brightly at both ends of the day.

Thank God for the many bottles of wine consumed this week and the liqueurs that followed.   Without these, emotions may well have reached fever pitch and the battles that ensued would be hard to recover from.

Tiggy

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