Amongst friends: music, camping, laughter and faux fur

There’s been little writing since my last blog and I make no excuses for it. Here’s why.

Lossiemouth: Picture endless sea and disappearing horizons and the flirtatious laugh of your best friend. Imagine stepping out of your campervan into a weekend community of shared smiles and cuppas, charity shops, fish suppers and home-made ginger bread – the lingering taste of salt on your lips, your fingers sugar-sticky. Feel the warmth of a faux fur coat given with a rib-squeezing hug; guitars and harmonies, fiddles, borrowed hot showers, the dance of rain and the barbequed smell of summer.

Ullapool: Picture a midge-riddled road-side stopover – reservoir sunset and the neck-tingling early morning sighting of a sea eagle, the moment where time paused in the shadow of a 7ft wingspan. Imagine parking on the edge of the sea; morning dog walkers, wagging tails and reflections of moored boats settling in the wake of the inbound ferry. Taste the home-grown berries for sale by the roadside, money deposited in a ‘trust box’, the coolness of ice-cream against your tongue.

Perth: Picture birthday cards from loved ones, bacon rolls in the garden, lavender and a contented cat lolling in the sunshine. Imagine your lover on stage, your friends cheering, a small girl blindly steering her pushchair back and forth, guitars and hats and motorbikes, coleslaw and over-cooked sausages. See the lightening split the sky, momentarily dividing the old bricked flats from the newly glassed shop, causing the old man on the bench to run for cover.

Dumfries & Galloway: Picture ancient burial chambers, guarded by standing stones – stoic sentries casting long shadows in the early evening sun, a starless night in the Dark Skies National Park! Imagine discussing your Longer Piece of Writing with a published and respected author while trying to contain the pleasure her words of praise and encouragement bring. Smell the freshly baked scones, bronzed crusts splitting with ease, a slick of melted butter coating your plate; the musty smell of yellowed paper in the second hand book shop, the incense burning amongst the Buddhas, kaftans and turquoise of the neighbouring nook-like store.

Glasgow: Picture two people arriving at the gates of Kelvingrove Park, tired and dishevelled and ten minutes too late to hear the daily bandstand music in celebration of the Commonwealth Games. Imagine the splash of colour and laughter of children in the play park, the queues and barriers blocking access to the museum, aching feet and anoraks. Hear the sigh of the water in the fountain as a penny breaks its surface, the bustle of the leaves and creak of the bark, branch bending under the couple’s combined weight.

Edinburgh: Picture the smile that splits the face of old and much-missed friends after a time too long – the heart-felt, arms thrown hugs that remind you of darkened pubs and cheap beer, dancing, air guitar and hungover happiness. Imagine street-side cafes and Fringe shows and fliers and the sensory overload of a capital city high on creative energy. Gossip and fizz. Talk of hearts and hair and handbags; laughter and a sense of belonging.

And now? Back to the writing.

The Celebratory Living Room Dance

It was Friday night, I’d just returned from an impromptu overnight stay in Glasgow at the Golden Jubilee Hospital (only the best establishments for me) and I was worn out and generally feeling defeated by life. After crumpling into my favourite armchair, I opened up my email inbox, glanced down the messages with little enthusiasm, and paused. And held my breath. And felt the goose-bumps rise on the back of my neck. I did it! My application to the Wo-Mentoring Project had been successful and I was being welcomed by my new mentor Karen Campbell.

Celebratory Living Room DanceI don’t know if it was the news alone, or the fact that I’d received 3 pints of blood (rocket fuel as referred to by the nurses) but I was on my feet, grin plastered across my face and arms thrown to the sky; otherwise known as doing the Celebratory Living Room Dance. Mr D cheered me on and sang an upbeat version of a song – the tune familiar but the words unlikely.

There it was. The first milestone on my writing journey. The first tick on my writing to-do list.

This Is Where I AmFor those of you who don’t know Karen’s work, I highly recommend it. Her last novel, This Is Where I Am, looks at the realities of life as a refugee in Glasgow, alongside the loneliness and quiet despair of a Glaswegian widow and the friendship that develops when they’re brought together via a mentoring programme.

My hope is that Karen will be able to help me work on a longer piece of writing (notice how I tiptoed around the ‘n’ word) based on my recent experience ‘on the list’ for a heart transplant; a write-what-you-know approach for my first attempt.

The writing journey is often a solitary one, which for me, makes it even more important to grab opportunities to work with other writers. I’m already privileged in that I completed my MLitt at the University of Stirling with a group of extraordinary and talented people (heretofore known as the Write-n-Rant Collective) with whom I’ve remained in touch. Under the tutelage of author Paula Morris our group blossomed from students into fledgling writers and since graduation we’ve celebrated our successes and commiserated our near-misses. When you’re walking a long road, there’s nothing better than having a support group to cheer you on, and pick you up when you fall.

In the meantime, I’m recuperating from my latest bout of hospital food by sitting at the keyboard, working up the sketch of the first two chapters of my LPoW for discussion at the first meeting with my mentor. Watch these fingers fly!