Friday, 25 October 2013

Alternative Sundays - Will you take the challenge?

After a childhood of Sundays spent at church then having a huge roast dinner followed by playing out or an MGM matinee, I decided to spend them differently during my late teens and early twenties.

It began one rainy Sunday morning when my friend and I were bored to tears with routines and I opened a newspaper. There was a Psychic Fayre advertised and so we decided to go as it wasn't far and it was something to do to kill time. I then spent the afternoon in a state of surprise, amusement, intrigue and there was a bar, which helped proceedings enormously.

After that, I scoured the papers each week and we found that there was always something to attend on a Sunday afternoon. The UFO abductees support group (we said we were interested in what they had to say and it was an eye-opener plus there was a bar open); making an alternative Sunday dinner in a hari krishna kitchen; learning Buddhist meditation; singing with gospel choir; sitting in a spiritualist church while someone spoke with the dead - all alternative ways of spending a day of worship. We became almost addicted to seeing what we could be part of next and met some weird but wonderful people.

Nowadays, Sundays are about ironing, catching up on housework or if I'm lucky, visiting a garden centre or mill outlet and of course, that huge roast dinner. I realised last weekend that I'd forgotten about all the wonderful things I used to do and also how to be spontaneous.

So, my challenge this week is to find something 'different' to do and take myself out of my comfort zone. It is a challenge I'll also throw open to you.

What do you usually do on a Sunday and do you fancy going on an adventure into somebody idea of Sunday? Just open a newspaper and find something, anything, even if it is something you would never consider in a thousand years. Let me know what you get up to and if you meet any interesting people.
Alternative Sundays


Friday, 18 October 2013

Life from a Window Ledge

My earliest recollection of solitary reading is of sitting across a window ledge in front of a plain frosted window in a pantry. I couldn't see out but if you looked in, you would see a young child's outline with her book balanced on her knees. It was 'Mrs Pepperpot' and I couldn't get enough of her tales.

My next, is of trying desperately to read Henry Treece's Viking Sagas through over-tired eyes while tucked up in bed. When I had to finally put the books away I could still see their stories enacted on my bedroom ceiling.

Much later, it was 'Far from the Madding Crowd' hastily picked up at a train station kiosk because I couldn't face hours of staring out of a train window. I hadn't read for years because I told myself I simply didn't have the time.

Since then, there's lying on a Balearic beach; my copy of Van Der Post's books still have sun oil patches. Pondering Pirsig's deep meaning while lazing on a garden swing bench. So many places, so many books but each with a time and place in my heart. It's much the same when writing except I recall snacks that kept me going, my food for thought: moist carrot cake in a Hebden Bridge cafe, hot spicy Caribbean toasties bought from a vendor and eaten on a park bench, tall cool glasses of rum and coke sipped through a twisty straw while sat in a cozy pub corner. 

Reading is a holistic experience affected by weather, mood, lateness of hour and perception of time. It's a luxury anyone can afford when all that is required is to spend time but it is a solitary experience. The imagination is given room to fly with or without extra food for thought. Each page I now read is a single step in a journey of discovery and even though I am still creating new memories of times and places, none are so comforting and safe as that pantry window ledge surrounded by aromas of strawberries and spice. 

To touch a reader with perfectly phrased words, even if only for a few seconds, was instilled in me from that first childish Mrs Pepperpot book. To master the art of allowing words to dance across a page unhindered, take a bow once done but know that a spotlight maynot come until much later. The joy of being able to pen words to make another human think, laugh, weep or just call to mind a memory once lost to them, is the greatest honour. So, the next time you read something that stirs you, write a review and allow your own experience to be heard, otherwise the writer may never realise what they achieved.
Reading is a holistic experience

Friday, 4 October 2013

Sword or Tongue? Which is sharper?

In one of the town's where I grew up, local kids both feared but teased a huge brick wall of a man wearing the overalls of a council street sweeper. "Zorro" had earned his name because he often did battle with leaves after they were blown into the air. Then, he would sprint down the street after them, brandishing his brush like a sword while roaring like a lion. Kids would hide his dustcart or deliberately kick up leaves to get him started.  His face was terrible, not helped by thick bottle-bottom glasses.

There was also "Sir Walter Raleigh" who walked around carrying a Raleigh bicycle over his head. You could often see him walking around the town centre and causing havoc. He never once rode his bike but had huge arm muscles.

Or, "Hi Ya" who only knew one greeting but followed people around until they acknowledged him, sometimes following them home to their front doors and then shouting it through their letter box. I never heard him say anything else.

What happened to them? What I remember of Zorro and any of these strange characters is that you never knew what was going on inside their heads and it was very unsettling. They challenged normality but I must admit that after listening to some of the so-called sensible people of everyday life, I often wonder who is stranger?

Zorro had his brush and could terrify anyone but was never a real danger. It is not the likes of Zorro I think of when writing one of my stranger characters. People too interested in what others are doing or loudly voicing blinkered opinions over garden fences are the real definition of "strange."

The most dangerous part of the human anatomy is the tongue and often people use it as their Zorro's sword chasing fictitious leaves of their own creation; Walter Mittys with a flare for trying to create an interesting life out of a mundane existence.

As a writer, I create leaves of a book and to do so often look at various swords being wielded but I can decide who brandishes them and how. The pen is after all, mightier than the sword.

Other times, I look at the leaves people are chasing and can instantly see what makes them tick. Whether they are slicing the air with tongues, carrying around a burden and not thinking to place it down or using loud voices to gain acknowledgement, what would their lives be like if they stopped doing it?

Sword or tongue - which is sharper?