Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Surprising poetry win!

A couple of weekends ago someone flagged up a flash poetry contest on Facebook. There were some prompts to follow and one of them spoke to me so I powered up the laptop and wrote a little something. Before I could change my mind and come over all 'imposter syndrome' I emailed it off and forgot all about it. Then I got a message to tell me that I had won second prize! How thrilling and most unlike me - the last time I won anything it was a Brew XI bumper party pack at my school raffle and I was too young to drink it (Dad to the rescue!).

Now I have finally got round to popping a blog post up and sharing my poem with you. The prompt was 'The Camera Never Lies' so guess what my title is?



The Camera Never Lies

Black and white, board mounted, 40 years ago,
A face I recognise laughs out at me, a face that was mine, is mine.
Carefree, relaxed, happy, a young girl with her life ahead of her.
I remember that sweater, blue and white flecks, slightly itchy,
A polo neck that I would never dare today, foreshortening my already short neck.
Her eyes sparkle and her laugh is easy, open, filled with joy.

I remember when it was taken, late afternoon in the art studio at college,
A roll of film to use up, young friends messing around.
We posed and gurned for the camera, taking turns to shoot or model,
Unselfconscious as only the young can be.
Someone told me to smile, I did then I grinned and a belly laugh erupted
Caught forever on film.

Cameras scare me now; I hide in the background, make my excuses, run away.
The face I see in pictures now is not a face I like, a face I want to own.
The years sit lightly on me, that much is true, yet I still hate the picture I see.
The face is too faded and grey, too much like my mother; I see her everywhere
In my face these days.

My eyes are ringed with shadows as hers were,
My face is too round and soft as hers was,
My hair frames my face in the same way hers did.
The first hint of downturned wrinkles drip from my mouth,
Again I see her mirrored in my face.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse in the mirror and my breath
Flies from my body as I see my mother frowning back at me.

Where is that youthful laughter? Why is my face so frowny and sad?
If the camera never lies then I will avoid it, shun it, hide from it
Until it does. Until it shows me myself and not my mother’s shade.
Or I can forget the uncomplicated relationship I once had with my face.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Thinking about cancer

I'm going off-piste with this post as it is not to do with my writing. However it's a piece I've been musing about for a few days now so I'll go ahead anyway and see what happens.

On May 18th I was given news which I was not expecting. After a few rounds of tests and biopsies I was told I had cancer. Luckily it was Grade 1 so not aggressive but nevertheless had to be treated urgently by way of a hysterectomy. I hardly had time to process this information before I had a date for surgery and had the procedure on June 6th. I was lucky that I didn't need any chemo or radiotherapy and have been told that there was no sign of the cancer spreading so it has all gone, subject to an appointment with the oncologist later in the year.

My problem is that I feel a bit of a fraud. I hear harrowing stories of people's battle against cancer. I watch medical programmes where people have a difficult time dealing with a cancer diagnosis. And I feel a fraud because my experience was not like theirs. Most of the time I forget that I had the surgery - until I overdo things and then I remember when the ache sets in - and the whole 'cancer' thing seems to have passed me by somewhat.

I mentioned this to my OH the other day and said that I don't feel like I had cancer. His response hit home in a big way. He said 'But you did have cancer.' And it hit me that it was true. Cancer had invaded my body and I had been a cancer sufferer for a brief time. I was lucky, it was caught early and could be treated easily with surgery. But for a time I had indeed had cancer.

I'm not trying to trivialise what I went through. There were some dark thoughts and a few secret tears but for the most part I just 'got on with it'. But I still struggle to think of myself as someone who had cancer. I don't feel like I went through enough to link myself with all those people who fight and struggle and suffer. I feel like a fraud.

All this is rather baffling and complex. I don't know why I feel the need to write about it but I do. I'm also trying not to be too 'romantic' about the whole 'cancer survivor' thing. I curse myself when I start noticing things and rejoicing in them - the smell of a rose, a beetle's iridescent body, a scampering squirrel - but a little part of me thinks that the story could have had a different ending and I need to remind myself every now and then that life is good and there is joy and beauty all around.

So I'll try not to beat myself up too much and to be thankful that things turned out the way they did. But I don't think I'll ever completely lose the feeling of being a fraud when it comes to cancer.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Sometimes this writing lark is bad for my health...

The other day I spent some time plotting out the final parts of my WIP. I congratulated myself on working out how everyone would behave, what actions would move the plot towards its conclusion and how I would round everything off in a way that satisfied me. Major progress and I felt really pleased with myself.

And then I went to bed ...

Would my characters leave me alone to rest? Not a chance! They bothered me and prodded me, unhappy with my plans for them and suggesting ways that I could give them a much better outcome. I struggled to get to sleep and lay in a frustrated heap beneath my duvet cursing my stroppy characters.

I suppose it's my own fault. If I hadn't created such feisty characters then I could have got a full nights sleep. But there was no chance of that once the brain started racing. I spent too much time trying to get these characters to behave themselves but they are determined to do what they want. Some people have said how lucky I am that my characters are driving the narrative. And I do agree, that is making the process of writing this novel so much easier than others I've attempted to write. But I do wish they'd learn to behave when it's bedtime!

And wouldn't you know it, when I sat down to write yesterday they all went AWOL! Nobody to be seen and I struggled to write 500 words. Perhaps they were tired after keeping me awake all night... Who knows? But today I'm going to show them who's boss and we'll get some more plot written. I'm going to give some attention to the characters who were behaving in the wee small hours and let the rest of them have a lie in...

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Woman - a poem

Woman

The tapestry of my life is stitched with many colours.
Bright and vibrant when I was happy,
Muted and muddy when I was sad,
Cool and fresh when I was young,
Deeper and warmer as I grew old.
Sometimes the stitches are small, precise, careful;
These are the times I was learning abut the world
Or about myself.
Sometimes the stitches are wild, chaotic, haphazard;
These are the times I was living life to the full,
No time for finesse or care.

The tapestry of my life is stitched with many relationships.
Daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, writer
All add to the design and are threaded through with love and care.
Some relationships left a pattern that survives,
Stitched with love, laughter, life or loss.
Some relationships left a shadow
As the stitches were unpicked when the relationship ended.
Everyone I ever loved, everyone I ever lost
Has left a pattern on my tapestry,
A reminder of our times together and how they shaped me.

The tapestry of my life is stitched with many emotions.
The happy times when I soared and sang and danced;
The quiet times when I thought and planned and dreamed;
The sad times when I wept and mourned and hurt.
There is a pattern here that shows that time when I was fierce and proud,
Another there when I was angry and distressed,
A third when I was overwhelmed and doubting.

The tapestry of my life has changed and I am still adjusting.
Now there are new stitches, sewn in fear and sadness.
Stitches spelling out cancer. Stitches I hoped never to sew.
Sewn onto my tapestry with a bent and rusty needle,
Thread moistened by the tears I shed.
Soon I will stitch the part of the tapestry with hope following cancer,
The pattern of surviving, of moving through, of being strong.
But now I stare at those new stitches and feel hollow.


Most of this poem came to me in the early hours of this morning during that slow period between sleep and waking. I hope it speaks to some of you.