Oof. It’s National Novel Writing Month, a month which fills me with excitement and terror simultaneously – like Halloween, my third favourite night of the year. I want to take part in it (Nanowrimo I mean, as it is known by Those in the Know). I think about it all day, I flex my fingers, I close my eyes to tease out the thoughts sparkling in my imagination, and I shut down. Find something else to do, something else to distract me.
I’m frightened I won’t be able to do it anymore.
When I was younger, I thought that my life would be complete if only I could backflip. The popular girls at school could backflip. It seemed the Be All and End All. I worked for months – well, years, to be honest – to accomplish it. Finally, aged 15 (and already far too old), on one spring-smeling sun-splashed early evening, I sprang from my heels, flung my arms back over my head and landed on my feet having executed the perfect backflip. My gym teacher, knowing I was able to do it but hadn’t got the guts, simply put out her hands to support me, and then took them away. She trusted my skills far more than I did.
I could turn strings of cartwheels. I loved walking on my hands. Going forwards I was fearless – flipping, walkovers, somersaults – but going backwards something just “stuck”. After that day I never did another backflip, and stupid as it is it makes me really sad that I never again had the courage to do something I’d always wanted to do. Nanomowri is the same really. I want to do it and I know I probably can, but I might land on my head, and the fear is crippling. (As is landing on your head, obviously.)
The backflip is just one element in a long gymnastic sequence. Like the Arab Spring, you use it to gain momentum and speed so that you can spring into a twisting double-back somersault rather than because it’s impressive in its own right. The backflip is just the beginning. But if you don’t even have the courage to do that, then you won’t ever somersault.
Bit deep, sorry.
What have I been doing. Moving house, nesting. Buying little odds and sods to make the place more ‘mine’. Throws from Matalan (in your FACE £60 Laura Ashley rubbish!), geckos nailed to every door (metal ones obviously), a beautiful dark wood dining table from a charity shop complete with little brass feet. I have had peeks into How The Other Two Thirds Live by collecting sofas thanks to Freecycle and made myself faint by replacing seventeen spotlight bulbs in the ceiling. It’s coming together, but I am so happy I am frightened I’m going to be kicked out for some spurious reason or another. I find it hard to believe that I am lucky enough to live here and that it’s not all going to be pulled away from me.
I did a massive ghost story/book post last Halloween, so if you want to get some ideas on how to share the evening with the spirits check that out. I will say that one could not start ones spooky season better than a night watching M R James stories read aloud by Robert Lloyd Parry . The show was absolutely flawless, beautifully presented and very creepy. M R James is one of the greatest writers of creepy tales ever to live and Lloyd Parry brings him to life. I felt the skin on my spine shrivel when he said how the figure in “The Mezzotint” was ‘crawling towards the house’. It really put me in the mood. Please don’t stop doing the M R James stories around Halloween, Mr LP, they are a real joy! I encourage anyone in the area to go and see him.
I’ve been forcing myself to go to bed a little earlier to catch up on my reading which has been in danger of being neglected. This evening I want to settle down with The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories but I need to finish The Fault in Our Stars first. I’m not going to say a single word about it until I’ve read the last page. In the meantime, here is what else has been occupying me:
After The Fire, a Small Still Voice – Evie Wyld. Sparsely written, with good characterisation, but ultimately missing something. I wasn’t sure what. It didn’t stop me enjoying the book, I just thought it could have worked that bit harder for my attention.
Dear Life – Alice Monro. Another (and apparently her last) collection of short stories. By turns amusing, heart-breaking and disturbing.
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway. Something I’ve always meant to read. It was quite good, but I don’t think I focused on it enough to enjoy it as much as I should. I do feel like I’m missing something by not thinkiung it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.
The Missing – Andrew O’Hagan. I wasn’t sure what this book was, though knowing it was by O’Hagan was a draw. Part-autobiography, part-journalistic research into people who disappeared and never came home. I googled some of the cases he writes about, and one of the cases was reopened as recently as August 2013.
Levels of Life– Julian Barnes. A study of bereavement, written after the death of his wife. Poignant and heartbreaking while always gentle and dignified.
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons. I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as everyone else who’s ever read it. Oh dear, that’s two books everyone else gets and I don’t, I fear my intellect is atrophying.
And The Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini (The Kite Runner). As always superbly written, but excruciatingly painful to read in parts.
I really ought to go and limber up. Perhaps see if I can just bend backwards until my fingertips brush the floor. I don’t need to do anything more tonight. Just that. Let’s just give it a go.