Here's a question - have you ever wanted not to be a writer? I remember a time when my 'day job' was running the gallery in Chelsea and every exhibition, every Private View I went to viewed with professional eyes. When we decided to sell up and let the (then) head-hunter become a pilot, we spent several months travelling around the world. All the way through the Far East and most of America, I looked at every gallery with professional eyes, not able to stop myself checking how the curating could have been done better, how people could have enjoyed the work more. I'm sure I've said before I can't watch or read (let alone write) horror, but ironically one of the best books I've ever read about writing is Stephen King's 'On Writing'. To paraphrase him, he said: 'The object of fiction is to make the reader welcome and tell a story. Make him/her forget. Writing is seduction.'
I've relaxed a bit with exhibitions now but with writing there's no let up is there, no end to where the day job and you begin? Who knew. Everyday is your work. All I know is I just want to write stories that people - lots of people want to read. I just want to tell a great story and give people a break from their lives - that simple. How about you?
I don't know about your part of the world, but Boxing Day in England for me used to be all about shooting. Not me personally, but everyone I knew growing up was either out shooting small creatures or on horseback chasing them. Things have changed a bit in the last thirty years, but as I carried out armfuls of wrapping paper to the recycling bins I heard hounds baying in the distance from the village this afternoon. I loved riding - still love horses and (not to sound too Holly Golightly) dream of space to have a few for the children (well, and me if I'm being honest). However I never wanted to hunt - never envied the pale faced girls who recounted on the Monday school bus how they had been 'blooded' that weekend - their faces wiped with blood from the fox's tail. I think after all the hoo-haa over hunting in the last few years the hunts aren't allowed to hunt to kill anymore but they were definitely out for fun today.
For years, my father either took part in or part owned pheasant shoots - I grew up with these beautiful birds hanging in outhouses, and consequentially I can neither stand killing things or eating game. Same with fishing - he once designed a whole fishery so we could catch as many trout as we wanted. I am (improbably) really good at fly fishing through many weekends spent out on the lakes but I could never bear to kill the fish once I'd caught them. Killing is a big thing in the country. Eat or be eaten? Everyone I knew didn't get their fish or fowl at the supermarkets - or their venison for that matter. When I was renting a flat in Clifton with a friend while I was at secretarial college I once knocked myself out returning home in the dark after a party because our landlady (her boyfriend's grandmother) had hung a pheasant in the dark corridor leading to our flat. What is it they say - you don't realise your life or family isn't normal until you move away?
Our dogs were gun dogs - beautifully behaved labradors and spaniels, devoted and perfectly trained. One of them (a hugely expensive mistake) was grandson of Sandringham Sidney - the Queen's Labrador. He turned out to be the black sheep of the family and earned the moniker 'The Stoodleigh Rapist' because he sired so many puppies in our Devon village. My own hound is snoring on the suede couch in front of the fire while I'm busy editing down in the basement. I look back fondly on the huge gatherings of friends and family, beaters and followers, dogs and children - the massive tables and meals, people laughing and drinking late into the night, but it was never something I wanted to stay with. However - that sense of making people welcome, taking care of them has stayed with me.
Our own hunt today involved a dwarf hamster gone awol (the six year old's Christmas present - members of Burning Lines will appreciate the irony). Moments ago we cornered the beast behind a bookshelf, tempted her out with a fresh carrot and now everyone is sleeping pleasantly. The pilot has been away for much of Christmas, and is now on his way to Africa until New Year so this is - again - not like Christmases I remember. How's yours going? Thank you for all the emails you've sent over the break - I am so grateful for all of you who are reading '(All) The Lovely Ruined Things' and curious about the synchronicity we are experiencing! I thought Pseudo's comment the other night about what it takes out of us all to write was incredibly touching. Right now - facing another stretch as 'single parent in a marriage' as my sister-in-law put it on Facebook, I don't quite know how we do it - but we do. Writer - nature or nurture, there's your thought for the night. Do you write because you are - or because of what's happened to you?
TODAY'S PROMPT: Gut instinct. Do you go by it? Hunters, shooters do all the time - should writers? I should trust mine more. I was thinking of Christmases past. The image at the head of this post is a Vivienne Westwood corset (with a Boucher illustration on the main panel). Which in turn made me think of one of my favourite videos and the Killers - which is aligned with today's 'hunting' theme. I remember seeing this in Sogo on Piccadilly about ten years ago, just as the pilot announced he wanted to be a pilot. At that precise moment (I can still picture it in it's glass box, Eros glimmering through the plate glass doors behind it), I really wanted it. In a brief 'to hell with it' moment I thought about blowing my whole paycheque on it. It's now in the V&A. And Sogo went years ago, so did Tower Records, so have many stores around there it seems. I didn't buy it, did the sensible thing, figured we were in for a long haul. I remember thinking 'what if this is as good as it gets?'. Boxing Day, the no-mans land to New Year is a tough time to navigate. Tonight I really wish I wasn't a writer and didn't read everything into a few words - or could go upstairs and extract my Westwood corset for a brief waltz with times past. My gut instinct is ringing alarm bells over a few words. Well, Proust had his madeleines, I wish I'd got my corset. What are your regrets as we turn to new resolutions?
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