There are two preoccupations in my household this week.
Spiders and jam. And both have something to say about the way I think. And live.
You do not need me to remind you that this is the season
for spiders. You will have your own method for coping. For myself, I am not so very bothered by them but the second son is not at all keen and tends to call in reinforcements ( me) so my life just now involves a lot of bashing about with shoes and kitchen towel.
And the link with my writing life?
You will know by now that I link anything and EVERYTHING to writing. Just the way my mind works. And all
this spider-watching and spider- chasing has made me notice that, horrid as they are – they do represent rather precisely the way I write.
Moments of freeze frame, when I am thinking/plotting/planning/agonising. And then sudden bursts of activity when speed is the thing and I can hardly type fast enough. Catch me if you can.
I find myself wondering if other writers have a steadier, calmer approach? No idea. Slow. Slow. Very quick, quick, slow. That’s definitely me.
As for the jam ? You do not need to be Freud. My elder son has just gone off to university. He is
thankfully having a ball already and I could not be happier for him. But if I go anywhere near his room, I get this hot stabbing right behind the eyes.
So I have taken up jam- making. A distraction? Moi?
Truth be told, I was always rather afraid of jam in the past. All those reference to “rolling boils”? It was bound to end in tears if not sugar burns,surely ?
And then, while travelling home from dropping my son at uni ( he picked one six hours way – inevitably) I stayed overnight with an old school pal and she gave me a big bag of windfall apples.
So – no choice, really. I hate waste so I googled a recipe for autumn apple jam and the rest, as they say…
It follows that jam- making will inevitably turn up in one of my short stories very soon ( watch this space – I have just sold another little tale to Woman’s Weekly; just might, ahem, feature empty nesting as a theme and should
be out soon) . But I have also, deep breath, made a good start on the new novel.
Regular readers will know it has been a very sad time for me these past few weeks, so it feels good to have found the rhythm to get back to work properly.
I have also just bought a batch of plums. Going cheap.
Did I mention that I rarely do anything by halves?
Writing. Jam-making. Spider-chasing.
All or nothing. Slow...slow... QUICK QUICK QUICK QUICK
But that’s just me.
Here’s hoping I have the cupboard space…
There is never a good time to come back to a blog when you are full up of sadness. Someone said that grief is like walking through puddles in the rain – one minute your feet are dry and the next they are not.
It feels just like that for me - in that very tricky early phase of grief for my lovely Dad who died last week. He had been ill for a while and I made the mistake of kidding myself that, deep down, I had prepared myself.
But it turns out I had not.
I lost my mother when I was just 17 so it feels especially huge to lose Dad too. I keep looking at a chair and thinking of him sitting in it. Or looking at the front door and realising that I am never again going to open it to him.
It’s difficult as a writer as, on the one hand, you want so desperately to write about it…and on the other you
don’t. Not at all.
I guess I have finally sat down to face the blank screen because of that opening line. It didn't feel like the right time yesterday; it doesn't today and it won't tomorrow or next week. So it may as well be today.
I need also to say a big thank you to those who have helped my family this past week or so and from here to promise to take things very slowly. One day at a time – just as we did when we lost my mother all those years ago.
In fact I was reminded of how this all goes by a little moment in the garden just the day before Dad’s funeral. I was in the midst of the mundane task of hanging out washing when I noticed the most beautiful sight across the lawn. An array of wallflowers in the corner was suddenly covered in butterflies – a mixture of Red Admirals and Cabbage Whites. I have planted our little walled garden to deliberately attract butterflies so this should be no surprise. We are often blessed with their visits but I have genuinely never seen this many in one place before. Dozens and dozens. Wings all a-flutter in the sunshine. Just stunning. So overwhelmed was I by the spectacle that I forgot everything else and rushed to call my son to come and see. And then after he had gone upstairs, I felt it on my face.
A really, broad smile.
And I realised it was the first proper, full-on smile since I sat with my father in the hospice. For just a second then, I felt guilty. And I remembered that it was just the same when I lost mum. Strange moments of guilt when you take pleasure in things as you adjust to the loss. And so I made myself a cup of strong coffee and I took a very deep breath. For yes – this is how it goes. Sometimes overwhelmingly sad. Sometimes not. It is good and natural and all of those we have loved and lost would want it so.
Dad would be pleased to see us smiling at butterflies.
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.