Just in case you found Wednesday’s writing exercises a good distraction to read; here are some more, culled from the same source book for inspiration. If I am given a good title or a subject, I can waffle on in some way about almost anything. But sit me in front of a blank page/screen…tsk tsk tsk. Hence these writing exercise books are most helpful to get me going!
Public Places, Private Memories – Flashback Triggers
Certain films and novels have the place totally bound up with the plot and character. Wuthering Heights; I was Happy Here etc. Places have the power to elicit feeling. In real life, a US entrepreneur soaked up the nostalgia often provoked by place, by borrowing a million to set up a real Rick’s Bar, in Casablanca, Morocco. Meticulously recreated from the film footage.
Some authors find place and atmosphere of place before character e.g. P.D. James.
Place is also significant is something very good or bad happens – the ‘where were you when Kennedy/Diana died?’ syndrome. It sticks, memories get frozen. Psychologically, this is called ‘flashbulb memory’.
Make a list of places for flashbulb memory for myself, as a start:
A place where I was happy
On the beach, when just about teen, listening to Suzanne Vega on the walkman headphones, while reading. Lying on my stomach, on a pastel coloured lilo. Dad and mum next to me in deckchairs. I can’t really see them, except for dad’s leg. Conscious of the sun being very hot, and the sea coming in very close, and that I should probably move. But filled with contentment and peacefulness. The smell of the sea, and of dad’s Mellow Virginia rollup, wafting every time there is a breeze.
Wandering through the school halls at St Marylebone, as a teenager, trying to simultaneously keep my head high, and not make eye contact with anyone, as I am singled out for being a bookish freak, who cannot stand up for herself. The thoughts that keep running through my head are all the same, as I pass through the cold corridors stinking of overcooked veg and toilets – ‘One day I will get out of here’. Conscious the whole way through school, of just having to wait for it to be over. That one day I would be free of the way things were done there: the stupid pecking order, the derision with which being interested in anything to do with learning is greeted, the force wins all mentality of the girls – sportiness a pre-requisite (me always last picked). To this day I don’t play well with others, as I will never again expose myself to pack mentality.
At Oversley House, indoors on one of the landings. Where I had stomped out of the house, after I had been mugged and waited ages at the police station but Troubadour never came because he was out flirting with Alias Catwoman from America. I had come home with my mother. Catwoman with the slim tall figure and the green catlike eyes. How jealous of her I was. How badly behaved she was, crawling across the floor like a cat to Troubadour, and he lapping it up as if this was all normal; and Morrie there to see. Even Alias Laughing Girl said it was clear he had fallen in love with her a little. I lost my temper that night and left the house, and told him she had to go. I remember to this day the blood feeling like ice in my veins as I lost it. The way I felt filled and overtaken by anger energy. I felt I could have killed him with my eyes. And he was stupid enough to think this was not so.
(What a long time ago that was.)
Had my first kiss
Somewhere outside, memories of Davenports Magic School, and going on the Jubilee Line to Stanmore on a Saturday afternoon, because that was where Alias Julian Bananahead (my first boyfriend, immortalized forever), wanted to live as a grown up. He was a very good stage magician, I remember. Smaller than me, much finer boned. Dressed like a grown up in very bad ill-fitting polyester suits – a boy being a man. There was no badness in him; he was a good guy – just extremely dull and pedestrian. And an excruciatingly bad kisser. My first kiss was one man single-handedly trying to excavate my stomach through my throat. With a tongue amazing in its length and agility – and complete lack of skill. A cleaning machine, exploring all my mouth. A spit fest. Quite good really – the standard for all to come was judged by this one spectacular bad kiss. He was a really sweet person though. I remember him fondly.
(My first good kiss: A boy, very ugly, but very lithe, a DJ and club promoter, a nearly rasta but not quite – very sure of himself. The sweetest kiss of skill and rhythm and promise, and oh so that’s what tongues are supposed to do…he lead and I followed, and I should have slept with him – why on earth I didn’t I will never know! But if the kiss was anything to go by, the sex would have been amazing! This was in his house – I forget entirely where this was, during secondary school, somewhere near Stoke Newington.)
I found exciting
Dartmoor, in the middle of the most amazing rainstorm I’ve ever been in. Got out of the coach for a breather – school trip – and within a couple of seconds, was completely soaked to the bone with rain. Couldn’t see an inch in front of my face, only grey haze of downward pelting rain, in spears. All I could hear was the noise of rain hitting sodden earth, anywhere – and the squeals of other people getting as instantly soaked as me. Amazing and beautiful flashbulb memory of the power of nature to cow us all. Thrilling.
Where I felt safe
On the sofa, in Vernon Road, under Stanley’s wing, falling gently asleep on his chest while ostensibly watching whatever – usually old and classic Dr Who, on TV. Just that perfect feeling of being safe and loved and not expected to do anything. Being totally comfortable and with my own little pack.
Where I felt frightened
Whenever a tube gets stuck in a tunnel, and the power appears to go off, I feel very frightened. Instantly my heart starts beating too fast and I get a sort of chemical rush feeling to the chest area. I can feel myself start to get shaky and pay extra attention to my book, so that I don’t have to think about being far under the earth with loads of people.
Anywhere, can happen anywhere, there’s no particular location for this, as with me, loneliness is a mood. It’s usually brought on by people, rather than an absence of people. It’s when you realize you are on a different wavelength to people and that they don’t really understand you, no matter how much time you may spend trying to understand and communicate with them. The sudden feeling of isolation, and it having happened again and again so many times. It’s cumulative. Each time it happens it becomes a link to all the other times. Being alone is different to be lonely. I have been lonely when alone, but I can always find someone somewhere to talk to or text or email. But when you’re with people and realize you are truly alone, that’s much worse.
I’d like to return to
My childhood, in many ways. When my major worries were having peed on the carpet when Hart to Hart was on, when I was small. Or that I had to go back to school, while sadly watching Flambards on Sundays. Coming home from school for lunch to watch the Cedar Tree with my parents. Lying in bed reading, till all hours. It was safe and I was taken care of, in that way of parents that messes you up, but is good enough all the same. Having the luxury of TIME that I had then.
Cornwall – with mum, years ago, went to Tintagel, and Jamaica Inn. All these places I vaguely remember – reading Jamaica Inn in Jamaica Inn; eating huge Cornish pasties at the very edge of the sheer drop on Tintagel.
Yorkshire, all those years ago with mum, when we walked up to Top Withens in a day in April or May, and it was balmy and wonderful, and I got prickly heat for the first time. The sheep looked ferocious and malevolent and baa-ed at us in a scary and meaningful way, which gave rise to the everlasting joke between me and Fry about the zombie flesh eating sheep, which someone obviously overheard us say somewhere, because suddenly it became a film – and who on earth else would have thought of that, by themselves?
Where I made friends
At my last work, Chloride Group, now Emerson Power. Weird, but I’ve never made proper friends in a work environment that I would happily see out of work too – but there, several people…Alias Indie I met there, and Magda the Cat (who waits patiently for a blog entry about her good self).
Where I made enemies
Secondary School – yes, apparently I was too different. Also, at various Open University tutorials – notably the one where I said I’d had bad luck with tutors, and a rather bitter faced middle aged woman, who clearly didn’t like me from her body language and beady eyed expression, said: ‘have you ever thought its something wrong with you?’ Charming! A risk when you speak up and are yourself, is that people will not like you. I will have to learn to handle it, the older I get. (So far, it does not get any easier. I don’t have the shrug off ability that my good friend Alias Laughing Girl has had since the age of 30. I’m a decade behind!)
Where I was ill
On a writing trip, many years ago, to Dorset. We had to eat in a very Red Room – hideously bright red, with an open fireplace crackling away. It was horrendously hot. I completely lost all sense of me, and felt overwhelmed by the room, like it was sucking me in. I had to be sent to bed, and lay there, in a darkened dormitory, feverishly listening to strange knocking noises going around the walls. Was awful and strangely psychedelic. To this day I have no idea what was wrong with me, something as prosaic as a little bug; or as definitive as a weird vibe in the house that haunted me, that I picked up on? (With more experience of old houses now, at least I realise that the knocking on the walls was almost certainly old central heating perking up – our house here does it.)
Where I was shocked
My bedroom at Grosvenor Hill, when I found a supposed friend giving my first ever lover a blowjob on my bed. That was rather shocking – I should have been more upset than I remember being though – I was definitely more shocked than anything. And her saying she “was not aware we had a monogamous agreement”! (She was going through a Marxist phase. To this day, that expression makes me laugh when I think of it; such sophistry!)
That inspired me
St Katherine’s Retreat, in the East End of London – for a place in the City it’s the loveliest I’ve been to in ages. The courtyard, the mellow rooms, the library. It’s a heavenly place of tranquillity – the lovely wooden dining room. A place worthy of the word haven.
Where I lost something important
In the back of a taxi once, lost my favourite perfume – which felt very important at the time, given me as it was, by my prospective sugar daddy (oh the weird days of my youth), an older man named Mario, whose last name I never knew, and who took me for lunch near Green Park, and to the casino next door for gambling, so I could see what happened in casinos. Annoyingly, I have zero memories of seeing any gambling…or of what happened once I got in there at all; though nothing dire, as I was definitely a virgin later in life…it was Hermes perfume, the one shaped like a ring with a cap on top – and I used to think it was the very essence of wealth, that smell. And so alluring for that. (See what happens when you watch Dynasty at an impressionable age?!) Mario never saw me again, after he suggested one day when I sheepishly met him, that we could get my teeth fixed before we ‘went any further’.
I’d like to live if I could
In a lovely house overlooking the sea, with forest and meadows on the other sides of me. Wild horses of white, running about. Where magic felt possible, and where healing and rest and calm thinking can and do occur. Where there’s a small neighbourhood pub, with tourists as well as quiet locals, where I felt at ease. Where there was a village fair. The house would be on the edges of the village, so I didn’t have to mix too much if I didn’t want to. It would be a peaceful haven I would always want to be at. With patio doors opening out onto a large garden, chiffon curtains billowing gently in a breeze. An image of peace. Secluded and not overlooked; but felt safe and not lonely. I have no idea if this place exists, but if it doesn’t – I wish it so and continue to, till I find it.
Failing that – the country, somewhere real – with seclusion and greenery.
Or Charleston, the house of the Bloomsbury set in Sussex that I visited with mum; or Kipling’s House also in Sussex somewhere – that had a beautiful peaceful vibe, it was lovely, a happy place.
Remember from a favourite book
Don’t remember which book, but it was a romance book, and it was about a woman working in a café bookshop, which she owned and also lived above. It just seemed a lovely lifestyle. Another book also, by Leanne Banks, I think (?) but not sure, where a character was quite adrift with her life, and was taken in by a couple – it was something about an orange orchard, and she worked in the gift shop. Again – a mellow and pleasing place to be, to spend your days. Light and life, but quietly, and gently. I loved both locations.
(I’m sure there are more than this, but I honestly don’t remember.)
Remember from a favourite film
Any of the country houses I see, or secluded dwellings – just incidental – like the end of ‘From Hell’, where the Heather Graham character ends up in a windy swirly place in Ireland with her baby – and god, it looks idyllic! Films do idyllic rural locations very well.