Extract from “Escape From Winter”

I’ve spent most of this last month back in cold, rainy England. Even though it happens every year, I’m constantly surprised at how August really is nothing special in England. In my memory it was always great, but I suppose that that was probably an assorted collection of days from June, July and September. Ho hum.

Anyway, in all that time, I have done no writing, except a journal with my twin brother, as we travelled around Wales, England and Scotland. Perhaps I could find an amusing extract from that and post it here at some point.

In the mean time, here is a little manuscript researching I’ve been doing. Yes, oooooooh. You see, my grandmother came round to visit my parents, and brought with her a whole host of materials and photos she inherited from her father. His name was W.M. Ridgwell, and is the inspiration for my pen name. (At the time, I didn’t know the name was without a central “e”, and I’ve been constantly debating since then whether or not to change my pen name, the problem being, it’s part of the web address and I can’t work out how to change that.) He wrote two published books – one I think a vanity publishing (if that’s the term) of his autobiography, and the other “The Forgotten Tribes of Guyana”, from his time as Organisational Adviser to the United Force of Guyana. My grandmother brought with her a third, unfinished book. Its name is “Escape from Winter”, and it is part autobiography, part guide book for the Canary Islands, composed in a Franco-ruled, pre-mass tourism time, and designed to encourage those elderly Brits who suffered from the cold to migrate. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m really enjoying it, partly for an insight into a relative, partly to see how times and writing styles have changed, and partly from a Spanish-speaking, historical perspective. It’s great to find myself bonding with a relative who died when I was 7, and seeing what we had in common and what set us apart.

Continue reading “Extract from “Escape From Winter””

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Happy New Year – Orange and Ferlinghetti

Happy New Year!

And with the new year, my new old life, as I’m calling it. New computer, old city, old friends (but not that old), and new home. New plans, old advice. I could, put probably shouldn’t, go on.

As I mentioned in my last post, this all centres on my return to Barcelona.I lived here from September 2007 to March 2010, and now I’m back. Just briefly, some weird things:

I keep saying (or starting to say) the Japanese expressions for “good morning”, “excuse me”, “just a second”, “thank you” “please” “and”, “but” and “ummm….” (the last one is “e-to”, and I even funnier looks for that one than the rest.)

I walk out of a metro exit and feel so confident in my knowledge of the streets and slopes of Barcelona that I walk the wrong way for a street or two.

I see beggars in the street. Not THAT weird, but then, I only saw two in 7 months in Japan. I give them money, and then remember that I don’t have a job or a permanent house and am living on the goodwill of friends… so I should probably save my cash!

Here’s a little haiku for you:

Slouching by a bin
I peer for pips by streetlight
and tear at orange flesh

I’ve got some short fiction brewing, but rather than rush it so I can post it, I thought instead I would post a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’m living just outside the city right now, and catching the train in, so I have plenty of time for reading this book my friend Raoul lent me. I’ve yet to read a poem in his collection “A Coney Island of the Mind” that I haven’t gotten something out of. Some of his poetry is designed with jazz in mind, and all of it is cleverly formatted across the page. Usually he’s more light-hearted than this poem that I’m reprinting (without copyright permission – sorry! But it’s advertising, right?). And I apologise; usually a new year poem is more cheery than this.

In a surrealist year
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof sandwichmen and sunbathers
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadead sunflowers and live telephones
aaaaahouse-broken politicos with party whips
aaaaaperformed as usual
aaaaain the rings of their sawdust circuses
aaaaawhere tumblers and human cannonballs
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafilled the air like cries
aaaaaaaaaaaawhen some cool clown
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapressed an inedible mushroom button
aaand an inaudible Sunday bomb
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafell down
catching the president at his prayers
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaon the 19th green

aaaaaOh it was a spring
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof fur leaves and cobalt flowers
aawhen cadillacs fell thru the trees like rain
aaaaaaaaaaadowning the meadows with madness
while out of every imitation cloud
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadropped myriad wingless crowds
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof nutless nagasaki survivors
aaaaaAnd lost teacups
aaaaafull of our ashes
aaaaafloated by

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I chose it because it reminded me of the museum I visited in Hiroshima. Which I suppose I can give a positive spin by saying that I’m moving forward with my new old life, learning from the lessons and experiences of the last year.

‘Til next time!

Forward Planning

The writer in the new decade

I can’t believe I’ve only been back in Barcelona for a week. I’ve already done so much! I think the milder weather has got me energized; in no particular order, I’ve celebrated Old New Year (it’s a Macedonian Orthodox thing), I’ve been to see my gorgeous godson Eloy (now 1 month 20 days old – my new camera has a Baby Mode), I’ve taught my classes really well, I’ve GOT A JOB IN JAPAN, I’ve been out drinking at a Stammtisch, I’ve played cards with my flatmates, caught up with Lily, and had meetings and a Spanish class.

Me and my godson

You may have noticed one stands out on that list. Finally, the company I want to work for has contacted me and I’m going to Japan at the end of April. Expect this blog to change with it. I am SOOO excited. Japan is an adventure to me, and one that I’ve considered going on for years – if I’d taken a Gap Year, I would’ve gone there. And now I’ll be living there! Albeit for only three months, but maybe I’ll get the bug and stay.

It’s a huge relief, too, because it’s the first time since… last April… that I’ve known what I’ll be doing in 3 months time. Going from impulse to impulse is fun, but it’s nice to have some kind of forward planning for a change. It’s almost like my life has direction or something mad like that.

Despite all this craziness, you’ll be pleased to hear that my creative brain has finally kicked back in – just after New Year, too, and without any resolutions in that direction. My little notebook is starting to gather nuggets of ideas and poems that’ll hopefully be up on here in no time.

Today’s offering, though, is taken from 100 Love Sonnets, by Pablo Neruda, and translated from the Spanish by Stephen Tapscott…. my Spanish wouldn’t do half as good a job. It’s unnamed, but numbered LXXXIX:

a

When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea’s aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.

I want what I love to continue to live,
and you whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to nourish, full-flowered:

so that you can reach everything my love directs you to.
so that my shadow can travel along in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.

Clarity and My Own Voice

Today, I am sorry to say, I have no new work for you. But that’s okay, because I feel like I’ve learned a few things about writing this week anyway, and that’s kind of the point of this blog.

blue-carpet

My Voice

This week, I’ve been working on an old poem of mine, confusingly called “Shark”, about my Grandmother’s ocean-blue carpeted staircase. I’ve been updating it, taking that old poem and putting a twist on the end – that we are getting a stairlift put in after her stroke.

While this is progressing quite well, I came up with this image for the final lines –

“….. in the construction of your slow, tedious ascent.”

This is causing me problems, because I like the image, and think it’s powerful, but with the heavenly connotations of “ascent”, calling it “tedious” in respect to my own grandmother’s health is callous and not what I truly feel.

So what do I do? Do I sacrifice an image because it’s not my voice, or keep it for its strength and feel bad about the sentiment it portrays?

I’ve decided, for now, to keep it. Hopefully the controversial interpretation will shock people into a positive reaction from this poem, and learn from it. But your input is appreciated. I’m still wrestling with this one.

Clarity

Gathering dust on my computer is a novel that I started to write years and years ago, that I really need to settle down and GET DONE, just so I can go back through it and fix it. I don’t want to tinker and tinker with an unfinished work – it needs the plot, on the page, so it can get messed with. Every now and again, I get little ideas connected with it. This lesson is actualy one my mother tried to teach me years ago, and I partially disregarded it because I thought “she just doesn’t get Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

A key ingredient of Fantasy, and to a lesser degree Sci-Fi, is escapism You are reading to enter another world, not your own. A key ingrediant of Sci-Fi, and to a lesser degree Fantasy, is to reflect our world, by providing a different one and making a point about our world through it.

Here is an extract from the start of a chapter of “Matter”, by Iain M. Banks, a gift from my brother. It’s four chapters in, but it-s a total swtich in scene, and style from everything to this point

“Utaltifuhl, the Grand Zamerin of Sursamen-Nariscene, in charge of all Nariscene interests on the planet and its accompanying solar systerm and therefore – by the terms of the mandate the Nariscene held under the auspices of the Galactic General Council – as close as one might get to overall ruler of both, was just beginning the long journey to the 3044th Great Spawning of the Everlasting Queen on the far-distant home planet of his kind when he met the director general of the Morthanveld Strategic Mission to the Tertiary Hulian Spine – paying a courtesy call to the modest but of course influential Morthanveld embassy on Sursamen – in the Third Equatorial Transit Facility high above Sursamen-s dark, green-blue pocked Surface.”

Holy moley, that’s one sentence. At this point of the story, none of these words meant anything to me. This is the kind of passage that would put off someone new to Modern Science Fiction – like me (I read H.G Wells and Jules Verne and utterly devour them). The whole chapter was a blur, but for those who are interested, let me explain:planet-plum

Sursamen – planet of the story (didn’t know it’s name before this)

Nariscene and Morthanveld – two freaky-deaky alien races that don’t much care about the planet, but are in charge.

I’m many chapters further into the story now, and that’s all the relevant information in that terrifying first sentence.

My mother’s lesson was this – “don’t overload on the names”. Names are thought to be the lifeblood of Sci-Fi and Fantasy and THAT IS TOTALLY WRONG. Sure, you might want it to sound official, but there’s no real need to. It almost made me put this book down, and Iain M. Banks is internationally recognised as an excellent storyteller with masses of well-known books. So why the total alienation of the reader?

So when I do go back to my story, I’m going to keep it simple. Sure, there’ll be titles and place names, but too many places and you’re lost (maps can almost fix this), too many names and you’re confused, and too much politican-speak, and the reader will lose interest.

If you want to see lots of names and places done well, I recommend you look at Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide”.

And that’s all from me for this Mid-Week post.