Stop the clock

I’ve been reading a lot lately, working my way through a selection of books bought for research purposes from the 3-for-2 table in Waterstones. These are six books I’d ordinarily not have chosen and so settling down with them isn’t quite the same as when approaching a new desired choice.

Having just finished one I found truly awful – I shan’t name it… it’s my opinion only – and feeling I’d wasted a few days persisting with that read, I reluctantly picked up the next on my list. It was Family Album by Penelope Lively – an author I’d not read before, having always assumed her to be writing for the kind of female who devours Woman’s Own magazine and things of such ilk.

So I was surprised to find it not only a wonderful story, and my sort of story, but a beautifully written one too. I enjoyed every carefully constructed sentence, loved the themes (which echoed my own favourites of perception, memory and its recall) and adored the old house in which the story was set. This crumbling Edwardian pile was as much – if not more – of a character as the people in the novel.

Using an inanimate object in this way is a powerful tool. In this instance, using an old house created both a strong, evocative setting and also served as a symbol of so much more. There were some glorious observations about what the house had ‘seen’ over the years – the memories and secrets imbued in its fabric, the effect it had on those who had lived there, its flaws and familiarities triggering happy and sad recollections wanted or not.

Having finished the book and not yet ready to start on the next, I was instead today inspired to write a short poem which reflects the echoes left in my mind from that last satisfying read – about time, place, memory and the desire, yet often inevitable inability, to escape the past.


Stop the clock

Turn off the lamp as you leave

Stop the clock

Sweep aside the whispers

And echoes of this game

Pack them up

Put them away

Stop the clock

Let dust settle on thoughts past

Leave faults to creak unheard

Unchecked

Drip

Drip

That which cannot be fixed

Shall remain broken

Stop the clock

Close the door

Walk away

~ Sandie M Zand, 25/10/10

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Endings & Beginnings

There are days I wake and thank whichever god is currently in favour for the fact that I’m an Optimist. I’ve long been a devotee, but this month has seen a severe testing of that Faith.

Life usually balances fairly evenly on pillars of Domestic, Social, Work and Writing. Should one weaken or wobble, the others take the strain. And even if several start to crumble – leaving me precariously perched and in mortar-applying frenzy – there’s never a point at which all four would collapse simultaneously.

Or so I thought.

This month they did, and things going wrong induced much musing about endings and beginnings.

As part of this thinking I’ve considered my options with The Sky is Not Blue. I had a professional slating recently wherein I was told I don’t write well enough for the book to be a lit fic offering and yet whilst the writing is ‘good, better than many published books I could name‘ the storyline isn’t strong enough to suit the commercial end of debut fiction.

It hurt, but it’s true. Initially I thought about abandoning the book, starting something new, but I’ve decided to work on it for a little longer – weaving in more story – and have come up with some ideas worth pursuing. It means writing another 20-30k words and merging these with the existing story, but the end result ought to be a Better Book.

I’ve also agreed to help my dad with six non-fiction manuscripts, representing 40 years’ of his research. It took me a few weeks to mull over this request because it’s a huge project and a whole new area of study for me. But it’s fascinating. The main thrust of his work concerns Solomon’s Temple – beyond that I can’t say… it’s controversial, interesting and now I’ve agreed to help I’m quite excited.

The little film with this blog (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5Mn8MVeZUE) illustrates the limbo in which I currently reside – as we wait for a date for our house move, as I adjust to various other changes both wanted and unwanted, as I gear myself up for yet another re-write of Sky, and also as I make some fairly significant work-related decisions…

Endings and Beginnings.

But do they exist as individual entities? Or are they points along the same line, overlapping as one context blends and transforms into another? I believe it’s the latter. They are one, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Few have discussed this better than T S Eliot:

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

Optimism is the finest of mortars, is it not?