Sunday, 27 April 2014

Week 21 ctd

I got so carried away with my writing that I forgot to read the book or do this week's exercise.  I have to write a passage on my lead character cutting her thumb.  Louise doubts that this will ever appear in a novel but I have a funny feeling it might be in mine.

Exercise 11

"Dammit".   I put down the piece of glass and cross over to the sink,  Turning on the cold tap, I hold my thumb under the running water.  I watch the blood washing down the plug hole before looking back at the glass.  I'd found it down the side of the washing machine and had instinctively picked it up.  I was probably lucky not to have cut my hand and the nail on my thumb seems to have stopped this being worse too.  With the bleeding stopping, I open a kitchen drawer to get the plasters out.  Winnie the Pooh or Buzz Lightyear, choices, choices.  I plump for Winnie the Pooh and, after putting on some antiseptic cream, wrap the bear over the cut.  Going back to the washing machine, I look down the side and see what is most of a wine bottle in several pieces.  Putting on the washing up gloves and using the broom handle I bring most of it out into the kitchen floor.  The stench of vinegar is quite sickening, it obviously wasn't empty when it broke.  I brush up the glass into the bin, can't be doing with recycling that lot.  

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Week 21

I managed it, my 2000 words, most of them were today mind.  It's been a good week.  I was able to work and look after my parents without too much clash.  Went to three new meetings, made some new friends.  I've read the Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer which was brilliantly written and covered off mental illness in a really honest and straightforward way.  It felt like my writing about alcoholism as did Big Brother by Lionel Shriver which I am halfway through.  Although about food addiction, it really tapped into my soul and inspired my writing.  I guess that's why I decided to share my writing with you.  Fortunately it's chapter one so I won't be giving too much away, will also stop me from going back and tampering with it for a while.  Am very nervous about posting it though which is why I'm doing it now, before I change my mind.  Apologies if the formatting doesn't work out on what you're reading it on, I did try to make it work.

Chapter 1 - the beginning.......

"A mouse took a walk through the deep, dark wood", the words grate against my teeth and my tongue, I have to work at not spitting them out.  I turn to look at my son and breathe out a deep sigh as I see he is finally asleep.  Thank God.  I pick up my wine glass and take a drink from it.  Putting it down, I stretch my neck back and look up to the ceiling.  Another long evening of book reading, I look at the pile of books that I've worked my way through as he's lain there, eyes wide open, staring up at me as if I held the answer to his pain.  Not me, my love.  I can't fix it, not this time.  I have another sip of wine before I get out of my bed to pick him up.  He's so heavy now and almost as long as I am tall, I'm not going to be able to carry him back to his bed for much longer.  I struggle through my doorway, along the landing, into his room and drop him onto his bed.  Pulling his duvet over him, I tuck him in and kissing his forehead, wipe the tears from his face.  "I'm sorry", I whisper in his ear, "it wasn't supposed to be like this, I don't like it either."

I walk slowly back to my room to collect my glass, stretching out my back and shoulders as I cross the landing.  Just before I get to it, I catch sight of my reflection in the mirror and stop.  My mouth has dried up, my stomach turned and I am transfixed by what I'm looking at.  I say 'what', because that's the only word I can think of.  I move towards the mirror and reach out to touch it.  The glass feels sticky beneath my fingertip and I wipe the surface in several places desperately hoping to find that its something else.  I raise my eyes to look at the face in the mirror and my breathing quickens as my heart begins to pound.  The face in front of me can't be mine, please tell me it can't be mine.  I close my eyes and take a deep breath.  I stay here, my eyes closed tightly, my breathing quickening.  I have to look, I have to know.  I open them and look again.  It is still there, this face that I don't recognise.  Her eyes look into mine, grey, pale and lifeless, not like mine, bright blue and sparkling, hers aren't blue and they definitely aren't sparkling.   How can that be me.  Tears are forming in her eyes, I watch one move down to her cheek and I reach up to brush it away.  My hand touches the mirror, and as I move my hand to my face I see hers doing the same.  I look at the rest of her face.  Her skin is pale and thin with a yellow tinge, hanging from her cheekbones, it seems to be falling off her.  She looks back at me, I can see the horror in her eyes as they move over my face.  Hair, no, what is that?  I see more grey, strands of it, matted together into a sort of ponytail hanging from her neck.  I reach to mine and wince, where there were soft curls is now a clump that feels thick and heavy.  I struggle to pull my fingers out of it and I see the tears are now falling from her face and onto the floor.  Down on the floor, I see her feet, black feet, deep black as if she's been walking in mud.  I look back up at her face.  What have you been doing to yourself?  What have you become?   Taking in the full picture, I see clothes I don't know, on a body I don't know, shapeless, washed out; my stomach lurches and I run to the bathroom.

I'm sitting on the bathroom floor hugging my knees to my chest, burying my face in the darkness.  I can't stop the tears, two damp patches forming on my trousers, my heart pounding.  I sit up and lean back against the radiator feeling the warmth begin to flow through me.  A bath, that's what I'll do, I'll have a bath.  Turning on the taps, I lean over to wash my face and wipe my mouth before putting in the plug.  Bubbles, need bubbles, there by the taps, I open the bottle and pour some in.  I drop my clothes onto the floor and step into the water.  I lower myself into it, grateful for being small enough to lie flat; warm and safe.  Coming up, I reach to my hair and wrestle the band out of it, hearing it breaking as I finally get it free.  I close my eyes and return to the depths, wondering how long I can stay here.  Not long it seems as I come back up.  The questions are rushing through my head, what have I done, how has this happened and many more that I can't make out.  I settle on what do I do now.  What do I do now?  A sensible voice chimes in with how about getting clean, that would be a good place to start.  Yes, wouldn't it.  The tears come back and this time I fight them off, washing them away.  Let's start at the top, hair first.  Squeezing shampoo out of the bottle, I wonder if this is even possible.  Oh well, here we go.  My fingertips work themselves very slowly from the edges of my hairline towards the top of my scalp, it's extremely painful, each hair holding tightly onto another, my fingers forcing them apart.   As I sink back into the bath, I remember that is the easy bit.  The next bit will be worse, getting conditioner through the rest of it.  Still, one step at a time, isn't that how it goes.  I pile the cream onto my hand, rub it between my palms and lather it over my hair.  My hair, not her hair, mine.  Working my fingers through my hair, I see her again, staring back at me from the mirror.  I lie back, leaving the conditioner to attempt to work miracles and close my eyes.

My fingers won't break up the clump of hair at the back of my neck.  I can get through a lot of it which is a miracle in itself but the knotted mass refuses to budge.  The question is can I bring myself to cut it off.  Do I have a choice.  I don't think so.  I need to be clean and I need it now, not later, not tomorrow, now.  With a deep sigh, I pull myself up out of the bath and wrapping a towel around me step onto the floor.  This time, I see my feet and take a sharp intake of breath.  They're not black but a dirty shade of grey, streaky and grimy.  I walk down the stairs into the kitchen to collect the scissors.  I've had long hair since forever.  It's one of my better features, if not my only good one.  Long dark brown curly hair, the last time I had it short was before my O'levels, a long time ago.  Still, this will be another one of those changes I didn't see coming, part of life's rich tapestry.  Bollocks to life's rich tapestry, it can go fuck itself.  Another mirror, another deep breath.  She doesn't look so bad now, now that she's started to wash.  I pick through my hair, trying to find a small a part as possible to cut out.  Oh what the hell, here goes nothing.  One cut and I'm holding it in my hand, quickly I put it in the bin, trying not to look at it.  I look back at the face in the mirror, she looks lost, don't touch your hair, please don't touch your hair.  Getting back into the bath I pick up the scrubbing brush and the soap.  Time for the rest of you.  Left arm first, scrubbing at it till the skin turns red then the right one, my back, front, legs, feet.  Much more soap for my feet until they finally start to look red too.  The soles of my feet disgust me and I sit on the edge of the bath to finish them off.  I dry my hair, put on some gel and sit on the side of the bath, exhausted but clean.  Better get dressed I suppose, I finish drying myself, hang up my towel on the back of the door and walk back across the landing without looking at the mirror.  I definitely don't want to see her like this, without clothes, I'm not ready for that.  My pyjamas aren't on my bed so I get a pair out of the drawer.  That's strange, my drawers aren't normally that tidy, everything in neat piles, how did that happen; no matter, I get dressed.

Walking down the stairs, I notice how quiet the house is, unusually so.  This house used to be filled with music, there was always something on or someone playing.  I turn the handle to the living room and go in.  It feels very still, there's no-one at the piano or the drums, the guitar sits alone in its stand.  Moving to the stereo I wonder what it would be like to hear some.  I can't remember music, I haven't had any on, how can that be.  Taking another deep breath, I turn on the stereo and press play.  Strings, keyboard, as the drums come in I can see Mac and Finlay, dancing, laughing, here in this room.  Finn's in his dad's arms, a toddler, he's holding his head back, hysterical with laughter as Mac jumps about the room.  Mac sings along with the song as he always does.

The heart is a bloom                                   They see me and reach out to me.
Shoots up through the stony ground               I reach my hands out to them and I join in.
There's no room                                           I am smiling, laughing,
No space to rent in this town                       as they take me into their arms
You're out of luck                                        We dance together,
And the reason that you had to care all singing.
The traffic is stuck                                      Finn mouthing anything,
And you're not movin' anywhere                   nothing in particular
You thought you'd found a friend                  We bounce in a circle
To take you out of this place                         moving around
Someone you could lend a hand                   laughing
In return for grace                                      at each other

It's a beautiful day Mac catches my eye
Sky falls, you feel like I love you
It's a beautiful day I love you too
Don't let it get away "Me too" screams Finlay

You're on the road We return to singing the song,
But you've got no destination Finn's blond curls bouncing
You're in the mud "Mud" he screams,
In the maze of her imagination we laugh.
You love this town Finn blows a kiss,
Even if that doesn't ring true I blow one back,
You've been all over I let go of their hands
And it's been all over you and dance

It's a beautiful day   It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day It's a beautiful day

Touch me Touch me,
Take me to that other place take me to that other place,
Teach me teach me,
I know I'm not a hopeless case I know I'm not a hopeless case, I smile at Mac

See the world in green and blue I'm back in today,
See China right in front of you standing still,
See the canyons broken by cloud staring at the space
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out in front of me
See the Bedouin fires at night The boys are still dancing,
See the oil fields at first light calling to me to join in,
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth reaching out to me,
After the flood all the colours came out            I shake my head, "I can't" I whisper.

It was a beautiful day   It really was,
Don't let it get away a wonderful moment,
Beautiful day family time, together.

Touch me                                                        Mac, why did you go
Take me to that other place why did you leave me,
Reach me                                                       how could you do that,
I know I'm not a hopeless case I miss you, really miss you

What you don't have you don't need it now Stop singing,
What you don't know you can feel it somehow please stop singing.
What you don't have you don't need it now Please.
Don't need it now Please.
It was a beautiful day                                      I close my eyes.

I turn the stereo off and walk out of the door and up the stairs.

I remember now, why this has happened, why she looks like that.  I go to the mirror and look back at the reflection.  He left you, didn't he, he left.  She looks back at me, I reach up to the mirror and our hands touch each other.  You are me and I look like you because Mac left.  But I can't look like that, I have to be a mother, Finlay needs me, I'm all he has.  I can't stay looking like you because he needs me.  I have to get better, I just have to.  I walk away from her and climb into my bed.  As I get in, I see the glass of wine, waiting for me.  I realise that this is the first time since Mac left, 10 months and 23 days ago, that I have actually been aware of getting into my bed.  The glass of wine has been one of many, far too many.   As I lie down, I feel my head on my pillow and I close my eyes.  I know what I have to do.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Week 20

Week 20 sees the beginning of Phase 2.  I had no awareness there was a Phase 1, which makes it  disappointing not to have known that I was coming to the end and completion of something before  finding myself at a beginning.  Phase 1 was the warming up, phase 2 is the start of significant effort and the writing of the novel starts.  I have been instructed to clear the decks for the next ten weeks, cancelling all non-essential appointments and pull in favours for any essential ones.  I need to set myself targets (assuming in nos of words) and write as much of my novel as I am carrying about.  No worrying about structure, any random bits of any random chapters, just direction to go and get on with it.  Looking at my calendar, this is a good week to start.  I am about to stay with my parents for a week as my mother is just out of hospital after a heart op and I am on week 2 care duty, my sister having done week 1 and coming back for week 3.  Whilst I also have some writing from work to do, I hope that I can get some time in between to get a head start.  2000 words a week seems a good go, that would make 20,000 over the ten weeks. How many in an average novel, no idea.  I'll start with 2,000 and see how it goes.  I am both excited and terrified, this seems to be a repeating pattern, which also seems to be working well so far!  Off we go.......

Thursday, 17 April 2014

17th April 2014

When I went to my 1st AA meeting, it was from a place of despair.  Finally, I had been forced to look at my drinking and accept that this was not reasonable behaviour.  That my lack of consideration of the consequences and complete disregard for the lives of those around me was not what I wanted for my future.  I had no idea what I was letting myself in for and what would become of me, all I knew was that I couldn't carry on.  Because of AA I have found that I can become a better human being, that I can change from everything that I thought I was, that deep within me is somebody worth loving and capable of loving others.  I know this, because other people have shown me how, other people have shared their lives with me so that I can find mine.  Five years ago I had my last alcoholic drink and let the hands of AA take mine and lead me forward.  Today I have peace, serenity and hope in my life.  I have found that life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.
I will be forever grateful to all of you who have been,and continue to be, part of my journey.  May God bless you and keep you safe, with all my love, xxx

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Week 19

Exercise 10 Write the CV of your main character or one of them, usual stuff, name, date of birth etc.....

Amazing how attached I have become to these people in my head and almost don't want to let them out.  There's feelings of possession, ownership, secrecy, exclusivity, nothing positive it has to be said.  Oh well, better out than in so they say, let's see how specific I can be......

Her name is Frankie (Francesca Allen) she works in a bookshop in Bristol, early 20s, graduated with a degree in English Literature, wants to be a writer, doesn't like giving away her birthday.   Parents living in London, Dad a dentist, Mother a nurse.  Frankie dreams of a life in the country with views of the sea, a desk at a window, her books on the shelf.  She loves to feel the sand between her toes, the wind in her hair and the sound of the sea.  She quite likes the idea of falling in love and finding her soulmate and yet she relishes isolation, solitude, her own company.  Not that keen on marriage, she doesn't see herself as mother material.  She attends the occasional aerobic class but doesn't really enjoy it and isn't much into competitive sports.  Her ideal evening is a good meal, quiet drink and dancing to a decent band at a small club she goes to.

His name is Mac (James MacDonald), just graduated from vet school in Cardiff, also early 20s and if she's not giving her birthday then neither is he.  Parents living just outside Edinburgh and yes, definitely a Scot.  Dad a university lecturer, Mum a GP.  Mac has always been considered very bright and, although he would say he was lucky, enjoys hard work and does well in exams.  Originally, he was undecided between veterinary science and medicine but, with a desire to do his own thing rather than follow the family route of many doctors, vet school won out.  While he works hard, he also plays hard, both in a sporting and musical capacity.  In the university rugby team from day one and forming a band with course mates, he's never been short of a social life.  He doesn't really think about the future but takes things as they come, a day at a time.

Not quite a CV but definitely building up a picture, maybe I'll evolve into favourite ice cream flavours, tea or coffee, last film, first single.  Maybe, I'll provide answers for all requests.....

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Week 18

It was really satisfying getting to a good place with the outline of my novel.  The chapter this week suggested building up on this and taking it further, not necessarily including it in the summary but helping it take form.  It's quite challenging for me to write it down as its been whistling around in my head for so long, five years to be precise.  I wrote the basis of the first chapter nine years ago as a short story not knowing that there was more of it to come.  Intriguingly, about a woman who, on realising what her life had become, decided that she had to stop drinking.  It seems that I wasn't ready at the time to see the mirror and look at my own life but, fortunately, five years later I took those steps and the rest of the story appeared.  It was quite a shock at first, I'd not expected there to be anymore, I certainly hadn't expected to be writing a fictional story of recovery.    Looking back now, it's a bit like my own, I spent a while denying that I needed to work the programme and that, as long as I went to meetings and was honest, it would be enough.  I learnt, like many, that the programme is there for a reason and when people say 'AA works if you work it' then that's actually the case.  On finding a sponsor and getting on with the 12 steps it definitely became a lot easier and was frustrating, although completely logical, that I hadn't done that from the beginning.  Likewise with my story, I looked to many places for the outline of the next day and the path for her life to get back on track until I realised that it would be an alignment to the 12 steps.  Not a specific alignment but following the same structure on an approximate hour by hour basis.  The idea of a day where a life can be transformed feels really exciting and I so hope it works as a story.  I suppose we will see..........

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Week 17

Exercise 9 - Finish the following 'my novel is about......

.........a woman who, on catching sight of her reflection in a mirror one evening, sees what she has become since her husband left and realises that she can't go on like this.  The novel follows her through the next day as she comes to terms with the changes she needs to make and meets the people who will help her.  A second story intertwines as the novel takes the reader back to the day she first met her husband and tells the story of their life together up to the day that he left.  The two stories come together as she starts to talk to her son about his father and shares with him how their life together is going to get better.

This was really difficult to put together, how much to share that gives some of the plot but not all of it.  How much to describe and how much to keep behind.  I'll be eternally grateful to the friend who suggested keeping one part of the story to the end and I will be doing my best not to give that away during this blog.  I am not brilliant at keeping secrets so this will be a very good test for me!