Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Journey's End

Day 23 - our heroine returns


I'm home! It's a little over three weeks since my adventure began. I've had a wonderful time visiting different places and meeting so many wonderful people. I've travelled 1,500 miles. But I am ready now to return to normality. 

Which begs the question: what is normal? Over the next few weeks I am going to discover the answer to that conundrum as I work out a new rhythm to my life, hopefully with a greater focus on my writing.

I was chuffed to see that Mslexia had picked up my suggestions for two new words, submitted whilst I was in Hay and published today in their Littlems newsletter. There's no money for the publication, just the glory (ha!) of having my name connected to such an august magazine, but I'm very happy to see Beatrice Charles in print again. I shall take it as a promise of things to come.

"MSLEXICON

...when only a new word will do

partache (n.) the sorrow experienced when an actor fails to portray a character in the manner you had imagined when reading the novel

direlogue (n.) badly written conversation

Thanks to Beatrice Charles for the first two contributions"

Inspired by firelight

Day 22 - our heroine sits by a campfire

You know how this particular trope goes. As the day is ending, a weary band of travellers stop. Too tired to travel any further they pitch camp. Soon a campfire is burning, the flickering flames holding back the darkness. Warm and well fed, the travellers relax. The glow of the fire and their shared repast work to promote a feeling of intimacy and unity amongst those who before had been only acquaintances.

Soon secrets are declared. Tales are told about where they have travelled and the sights they have witnessed. Plans and hopes for the future are shared, vulnerabilities laid bare, precious confidences entrusted to their new friends. 

Sometimes there will be music played round the campfire: a banjo, a fiddle. Voices combine in song: songs of adventure; songs of sorrow. The camp falls silent. The travellers sleep. Tomorrow they will journey onwards to their separate destinations.

A campfire is a useful device. It can be inserted into the text as a breather after a particularly fast-paced scene. Conversations around the campfire can show character development and disclosure. It can allow two previously hostile parties to reconcile.

Tonight I sat with friends and family in my niece’s garden, warming ourselves from the flames of a fire bowl. I told them of my journey and they in turn told me of their travels. Tomorrow we go our separate ways.


And as for me, I too shall return home tomorrow. And I shall write.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Hope

Day 21 - our heroine experiences hope 

Babies are the ultimate display of confidence. A declaration that whatever we may face, life must and will go on.

Here is my family’s latest expression of hope for the future. She is pictured here with her great-grandmothers. They face each other across three generations - born nine decades apart but united by love.


The baby was christened yesterday and has been showered with gifts. And so much love. Delicate pottery, a song composed especially for her, wooden toys, a book trough. The gifts are many and varied and generous. And above all there are books, so many books, a wish for her to grow knowing the beauty of the written word.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ghostly gathering

Day 20 - our heroine gathers with her kith and kin

It has been a long slow drive today to get from Fishguard in the west to Suffolk in the east. It took me 9 hours to travel across country. That time does include several stops along the way, so it wasn't solid driving, but throw in a few holdups on motorways, heavy rain and some dodgy satnav directions and you will understand why I am shattered tonight.

It was worth it though to be able to attend the family gathering for my great-niece's christening. Staying at Fishguard until Saturday morning meant that I missed the ceremony itself, but it was still good to join everyone for the after-party. And I got to meet and cuddle my great-niece for the first time. 

The Tudor barn where we met was impressive. I saw a strange something in there which I'm sure I can weave into a ghost story. It looked like a bubble floating horizontally across the shields and swords. It was nowhere near the kitchen and none of the children were playing with soap wands. I have no explanation. But I'm sure I can invent one.


Friday, 28 July 2017

Farewell to Wales

Day 19 - our heroine bids farewell 

It's my last day in Fishguard. I have had such a good time both in the wonderful people I have met and the new friends I have made, but also the courses I have taken and what I have gained from them. I feel inspired to write. I have so many ideas buzzing inside my head. All I need to do is get them down, get them sent and get them sold.

My first Writers’ Holiday here in Fishguard will sadly be my last. The couple who organise the event have decided after 31 years that the time has come for them to end the July meetings. For those who have been regular attendees, tonight has been an emotional farewell and a few tears have been shed. 

The week ended in a performance this evening by the Cwmbach Male Voice Choir accompanied by a harpist and soprano. It was a fitting end to a wonderful holiday here in the Land of My Fathers, the land of song.


Tomorrow I journey on.

Everyman and Everywoman

Day 18 - our heroine reflects on the man who is no hero

To prove I have been working hard at my Writers' Holiday, today's post is about books and writing.

One of my favourite radio plays, later rewritten as a book trilogy in 5 parts, and then later again turned into a film, is ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams. I have brought the original 1975 BBC recordings away with me to keep me amused while driving.

The main character in the story is Arthur Dent, an ordinary man who finds himself caught up in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Bulldozers turn up one morning without warning to demolish his house ready for a new bypass. While he is still coming to terms with this apparent bureaucratic incompetence, the Earth is itself destroyed to make way for an intergalactic space highway. Arthur is rescued and finds himself at the centre of an improbable (and very funny) series of space travelling adventures.

It is essential to the story that Arthur be unremarkable. He is ‘Everyman’, the representation of the average person with whom the reader can relate. In time Arthur bumbles his way to achieve hero status, the reader cheering him on all the way.

And that is what I want the characters in my stories to be - identifiable women and men who when faced by challenges find a way to win through. I hope my time here at Fishguard will provide inspiration for the better crafting of my fictional stories.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Defender of the Realm

Day 17 - our heroine takes inspiration from local heroine Jemima

I was surprised to learn that in 1797, the last invasion of Britain took place near where I am staying in Pembrokeshire. The event is commemorated in the impressive ‘Last Invasion Embroidered Tapestry’, designed by Elizabeth Cramp and embroidered over a 4 year period by 77 local women and men.

Some 220 years ago Britain was at war with France. The military was on high alert along the east coast and the English Channel ready to repulse Napoleon’s troops should they decide to attack. It was therefore with some surprise that the invasion when it came was not where expected, but rather in west Wales. 1,400 French troops came ashore near Fishguard. The few British soldiers stationed nearby had to send for reinforcements before attempting to fight off the invaders. 

But the local women had other plans.
The French invaders had spread out along the coast, pillaging as they went. Some of them interrupted preparations for a wedding feast at Trehowel Farm. Tempted by the copious amounts of wine which the locals had ‘rescued’ from a recent shipwreck, they also helped themselves to the food which was still in the process of being prepared. Unfortunately they were too soon and ate undercooked chicken. 

Twelve of the drunken and by now somewhat queasy soldiers were captured by local woman Jemima Nicholas. Armed only with a pitchfork she singlehandedly marched them off to Fishguard where they were locked up.

Then, while the local British troops still waited for military support, the formidable Jemima continued with her plans. She led a group of women in a continuous walk around the Bigney Hill. From afar, the French soldiers mistook the ongoing  stream of local womenfolk, wearing their traditional outfits of red cloaks and black bonnets, for red-coated British soldiers. Assuming they were outnumbered, the French promptly surrendered.

Maybe the story has become a little embellished by local folklore, but I rather like the tale of Jemima - a woman not to be messed with!