The wind calls for you

The recent windy weather has awakened memories of childhood. Looking out of my window at the raging gale tossing the trees and pulling at the hedge, I am transported to my old room. I am a girl, hiding under the bed covers, terrified of the wind’s mournful cries. Fueled by bible stories at school, and my own interest in Greek and Norse mythology, I was convinced some incensed God was metering out punishment for a sin committed. Although a fairly well-behaved child, I often felt guilty; any mischief or misdemeanour would burden my mind for days. I still have a tendency to overthink things.

 

 

Today the wind howls

from the heavens,

thumping roofs,

bending branches groundward,

sending clouds scuttling

across an insipid sky.

And I am lying in bed;

a child again,

fearful, enshrouded in nylon

sheets prickling static.

Ears strained for parental voices; a

muffled reassurance below.

Am I alone listening to the

wail and roar? Blustering

divine judgement crashes

around me. A

monstrous anger gathers

as I await retribution.

 

 

What sends you back to your childhood?

 

 

We must speak out

Nearly every day, a new story of sexual harassment or assault comes to light. In politics, in the media and in the film industry, people are coming forward to claim they have been abused by those holding positions of power. These brave individuals, willing to tell their very personal stories, are changing an unacceptable situation that has gone on for too long in our society. Women, and men, will finally feel they can speak out without fear of reprisal. The culture of shutting up and putting up; the idea that this is just something that happens or is to be expected, especially if you are a woman, will no longer be tolerated. New mechanisms will be put in place in the highest establishments to ensure complaints are taken seriously and action taken. This will filter down into all walks of life. There have been complaints of witch hunts and unfair accusations, and indeed all claims must be investigated, but highlighting this issue will ensure disgraceful behaviour of this kind will not be ignored in future.

I welcome these stories. I want my daughter, and son, to live in a world where they can feel safe in the workplace, or on public transport, or in the street. I want them to know they can speak out with confidence if an incident occurs; that it will not mean the loss of their job or reputation and that they will be listened to. I want the perpetrators of such abuse to understand they cannot get away with it. The issue is out in the open. People are talking and sharing experiences. These stories have given me courage. We must always speak out about such behaviour.

 

Unexpectedly,

his hands are

on my shoulders; I

tense as his fingers

probe bone and

skin. An

unwanted intimacy,

discomfort spreading, he

casually says, “You’re

knotted up.” He has

tied them tight; they

cannot be undone.

Inside I scream,

“Don’t touch me.”

My flesh crawls and creeps,

awkwardness seeps

from my pores, as

his thumbs press and squeeze; I

suffer silently,

ashamed that

no words pass my lips.

Some absurd sense of

politeness prevents me;

indignant in

mute humiliation when the

shame is all his.

An unexpected sight

Summer is at an end. September has arrived in watery bluster and the holidays are over. Soon children will make the slow, sad trudge to school, tummies full of butterflies. My son will begin college and my daughter will be off to university; both looking for new, exciting adventures. My heart goes with them; wishing every happiness and success. I will be left alone at home, a little bereft, with plenty of empty time to fill with writing my novel. Well, that is the theory.

Today, in memory of summer, I post a final holiday poem from Ireland about some rather unexpected animals I met there living in the lush hills.

 

Emus in the Irish countryside

Walking cool

damp lanes,

quiet morning in

cleansing rain,

gleaming hedgerows

jewels of amethyst and

emerald, air

crisp with birdsong when,

alien in early

stillness,

booming of African drumming

vibrating, resonating,

deep throated thrumming.

Rhythmic pulsing,

nature’s heart

beating.

Life rising from the

Earth.

Holiday poems

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Holidays are a fertile time for writing. Away from normal routines, in peaceful, beautiful surroundings, there is opportunity and space to breathe; to allow time to think and to open our minds to creativity.

I recently made a trip to West Cork in Ireland and wrote some poetry whilst there. The landscape, wildlife and animals surrounding me provided wonderful inspiration.

Here is one of my poems:

 

Mountain view in Maughanaclea June 2017

Cloud on mountain

tops, misty fingertip

touch.

Shaded slopes sage

green, golden yellow hues

fold under sharp stone,

jagged crags of purple rock.

 

Sweet breath of fresh

silence, suddenly stirred;

jarred by strimmer

hum and moan,

slice and slash.

Vegetation smell,

sugary in nostrils,

catches thick in the

throat.

 

Poem for National Dog Day

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We can learn a lot from our dogs  – how to live in the moment, how to relax, how to have fun, how to accept ourselves, how to feel satisfied with what we have, how to be loyal, how to be dependable and how to love unconditionally.

If we were more like dogs, we would be better human beings.

Here is a poem I wrote about a dog I met on holiday in Ireland recently:

 

Ode to a corgi met in Ballyrisode

Sausage roll dog,

fluff ball of caramel pastry,

stumpy squat legs,

stub of tail,

bottom wag,

sat on the pebbly shore

staring from us to sea.

 

Do you want us to

throw a ball in the

still ocean, so

splashing and dripping you

retrieve it?

 

Do you want us to

launch a boat on the

wide water, so

dashing and yipping you

sail away?

 

Eager eyes, patient

panting friend,

sadly, I feel we have

disappointed you.

He’ll break her

As a writer, I’m interested in relationships and how they can impact positively or negatively on people. A mutually beneficial relationship is a partnership involving equality and communication; each partner is free to follow their own interests without fear of jealousy. Unfortunately, not all relationships benefit both partners. There may be one partner who is dominant or even abusive, which results in a loss of confidence and independence for the other partner. This poem explores this theme.

 

He’ll break her

She shall bend to him

Like field grass in Autumn wind

Her spirit is his

The distractions of poetry

Sometimes when I sit down to work on my novel, my mind wanders and is unable to focus. I am stuck or uncertain where to go with the story; I feel frustrated, empty of ideas, completely hopeless.

Sometimes I find myself working on a poem instead; my novel left untouched. I’m not sure if it’s a distraction or a kind of procrastination. I hope it’s a continuation of the creative process.

Poetry opens my imagination. I can express thoughts and ideas. I can experiment. I can develop my skills as a writer; use description, imagery, play with words. I must not worry. The more I write, the better I will get. The important thing is to write. Write anything, write everything and write as often as I can.

So this morning, when I sat down to think about my novel, a conversation with my husband popped into my head. At the moment, the weather is particularly unseasonable. This is an interaction we have on many nights, it’s almost a poem:

 

Get your hands

off me, they’re

freezing.

Cold hands,

warm heart. Your

heart must be a

fiery furnace.

Get your feet

off me, they’re

ice blocks.

Cold feet,

poor circulation. Your

toes will

fall off one day.

You’re an

iceberg. I’m not your

personal heater.

Yes, you are. A husband is

your very own

hot water bottle.

 

 

Only connect

White supremacist marches in Trump’s US, racist hate crimes in post-Brexit UK, wars in the Middle East, resentment of refugees, the threat of another war starting with North Korea. These recent news stories, and plenty of others like them, make me feel sad and hopeless at times. The rise of fear, hatred and nationalism is a worrying trend.

As human beings, we create boundaries where we should be encouraging acceptance. Race, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation should be celebrated not feared. Yes, we have differences but we have similarities too. We are all people. We all have similar thoughts, feelings, desires, fears. If we can look beyond the differences, we can surely find recognition. As E.M. Forster said, ‘Only connect.’

Now is the time for us to believe in this more than ever.

 

If we could open ourselves for exploration,

to read and decipher like a map,

a foreign country to discover.

Then you might place your feet on fresh soil

and I might walk new pathways.

For a while, travel a road together,

reach a place we recognize.

 

 

 

 

Write about what you know

When I first started to think about writing my novel, I decided it might be useful to enrol on an online course on FutureLearn, Start Writing Fiction. I signed up with the worrying feeling I was about to make a fool of myself, but it turned out to be a genuinely useful experience.

Considering it is free, the course is excellent and I recommend it as a warm-up to beginning writing again. There are lots of helpful tips on writing rituals, keeping a notebook, developing plots, inventing characters and generally getting going. The best thing about it for me though, was the fact I had to share my work for peer review. I hadn’t shown any of my writing to anybody for years. Everything I wrote had been screwed up and dumped in the bin. Sometimes, I’d gone further and burnt it.

The first time I clicked the mouse to share a piece of my work, I felt physically sick. My hands were shaking and butterflies were beating frantically at the walls of my stomach. It sounds pathetic now but I was terrified. I thought if someone tells me my work is worthless then my dream of getting this novel written is finished before I even begin. As it turned out, I received some positive comments which gave my confidence the boost it needed. There were one or two less positive remarks too. I agreed with some of them but not all. Those comments helped me to improve my writing and also realize that you can never please everyone. Getting the chance to review what other people had written was useful too. We should always be learning from other writers.

One of the first lessons on the course was writing about what you know. This is the advice given to all new writers. It had me in an immediate panic because my mind was yelling at me, your life is ordinary and uneventful, what do you know? What can you write about? Of course, no writer actually writes about their life exactly as it is. We are story tellers, after all. Writing about what you know means using your experiences, observing the detail in the environment and the people around you. Everyone’s life is a novel. We all have stories to tell. I knew I had a story brewing inside me. It had been there a long time. I’d begun writing it once before but it had ended up, you’ve guessed it, in the bin.

So to begin with, that lesson about writing what you know had me in a state. I wrote this poem about my feelings:

 

Write about what you

know.

But what if you know

nothing?

Empty head; a vacuum, vault, void.

Memories, dreams, sensations

slipping; sieving out of

time.

Imagination once projected colour

cinema in the brain.

Thoughts now pile in corners; collect

dust.

Grasping at the whispered straws of an

idea.