Happy New Year!

Here’s a festive extract from So the Doves for you….

 

You walked side by side through the still unblemished snow, the only people out and about. Coloured lights flashed in the windows of the houses, and one or two had gone over board and had flashing reindeer and snowmen on their front lawns and giant plastic Santa’s balancing on their roof.

The two of you reached the main road that cut through town and led out to London just before dusk, your breath and voices hung in wisps of vapour before cooling and binding with the air. The chalk cliff – created when they cut through the old hill to build the new High Street and flyover – merged with the snow; the white, soft bones of sea creatures, not yet stone, still damp from being buried under fathoms of the heaving abundant sea and the pale temporary solid water that lay on it now.

The sky was grey and heavy with more snow; the roofs and cars were covered, giving no colourful relief from the soft whiteness. Only the two of you were out on the streets; trudging along, leaving your coupled footprints trailing behind as if the world belonged only to you. The town was placid and still. Even the pubs were shut for a few hours.

You got to Georgie’s not long after four o’clock. The lift wasn’t working – which Mel said was a blessing as it stank of piss and the lights didn’t always work – so by the time you knocked on her 5th floor door you were sweaty and red-faced despite the cold.

‘You’re here!!! Come in, come in.’ Georgie grabbed you both, pulling you close for a hug. ‘I’m so glad to see you! I’ve got presents and a tree and everything!’ You followed her down the hall after shrugging off your coats and boots, past the bathroom into her living room, where a small green plastic tree wound with red and gold tinsel and flashing white lights took pride of place by the TV. A single bed was pushed up under the large window that looked out over the town and the river behind running khaki and devious like an enemy combatant lying low. A row of patchwork cushions lined the bed converting it to a sort-of sofa. A breakfast bar separated the living area from the small kitchen area. The whole place was spotless and smelt of fresh paint and air freshener.

‘Jesus, George this place looks amazing,’ Mel said, pulling out a couple of presents and tucking them under the tree and then handing the bag to Georgie. ‘There’s some chocolates and a bottle of Bacardi from me mum in there for you.’

‘Oh bless her, say thanks for me. D’you really like it? I’m saving up to get carpet, so I’ve just got this for now,’ Georgie wrinkled a round yellow rug with her pointed foot. ‘But I painted all the walls meself, and got the bed linen and everything, and…’ She turned and walked into the kitchen area. ‘See, I’ve got a fridge and a cooker and a washing machine! The social sorted that out and me bed. All brand new an’ all.’ She put the bag on the counter and started opening the kitchen cupboards as if she were a dolly bird displaying prizes on one of those old-fashioned Saturday night TV shows. ‘A fitted kitchen too.’

‘It’s brilliant,’ Mel said and you nodded, unsure what to say.

‘I’ve even got some stools so we can sit and eat proper too.’

‘Perfect.’

Apples…

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Still harvesting the apples in our back garden reminded me of this….

Scrumping

Climbing autumn fences

Barbed and berried

Looking out for the farmer

And the cool snout

Of his shotgun. Spitting pellets of old metal that catch a goodun

In your slow arse

Creep over to the trees

The orchard a neat system of lines

Regimental one by one

We pick as many as we can carry, thick-skinned apples

Hammocked in our jumpers

Inside out bellies

Running the mile back to the estate,

Past the infant school, the offie, the corner shop

The gavvers in their car,

Dad in the pub

Over the train tracks, electric braces

Rigid current all the way to France

You live in the Garden of England

They tell us

Dickens the Romans Thomas a Becket William the Conquerer Anne Boleyn Churchill Darwin

All that history, them books

We keep running.

Switching Up Point of View

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As so often seems to be the case, just recently I encountered the whole life imitating art and vice versa cliché. I was stuck, in both my personal life and with my work, the wheels were spinning but I had no purchase – I was burning hot and running out of juice. So, I flipped my perspective in both areas.

I had a wake up call of sorts that shook me up and reminded me that I have much to be grateful for, that I needed to clear the complacent gunk out of my eyes and re-see my life for all its joys and richness. I needed, in short, to see what I had from an outsider’s viewpoint to appreciate what I have.

This lesson carried into work too – my current project, a novel, has been stagnating, getting more overwrought and overworked as I tried to ‘fix’ it. So I changed perspective, literally, rewriting key scenes from another character’s point of view… And it worked, at least it’s worked in so far as there’s life and space in the text again. The first draft is finished and I’m editing and redrafting.

So there’s the lesson – in life and writing – flip your perspective and see the world from another POV. It works.

August’s Apples

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Extract from Wounding

An apple tree grows at the end of the lawn; its branches thick and fertile, as she approaches it throws black shadows across her face, bars of cool shade in the bright sunlight. Apples hang from the branches, a hundred red-green orbs studding the bark, visible through the thick leaves. It seems magical, producing, fruiting without their aid or husbandry, cajoled by bees and wandering insects, silently maternal in the garden. Under the tree the grass is pocked with rotten fallen fruit, the apple’s flesh softened and melting into the soil like soap, the harvest squandered. Fodder for wasps, which then sting her children. The sticky sweet waste appalls her. She has always bought their apples, neat and green, wrapped in cellophane, unsullied by nature, almost as if manufactured not grown. When here, if she made the effort, if she could trust them, were more apples than they could eat. She feels sick, her stomach rising towards her mouth, sick at the waste, and sick at the sight of the brown mush, the bright optimism of the apples corrupted by dirt and rot.

So the Doves sneak peek of inspiration board….

Here.

An award-winning journalist returns to his hometown to report on the discovery of a body at the site of the government’s latest high-speed rail scheme. Little does he suspect that he will be implicated in a 20 year-old murder, he’ll be accused of corruption or that his long lost best friend, Melanie, isn’t lost at all.