June and new beginnings

May disappeared in a thick mist.  Sunny days came and went, and I preferred when it rained.  I love the sound of heavy droplets incessantly pattering against the tin roof of our building.  Lucky to be on the top floor.  I lit candles, different colours for different purposes, while I sat in my jammies and wrote profile after profile to bring in a little spending money for summer.

The city is still a mess.

bus stop

Now my work is finished, and yesterday I finally found my flow again when I spent the afternoon in Jackson, Mississippi; 4,000 words pouring out of me rekindling memories of guns and swamps and sleazy strip clubs.  Still, I feel weak and shy, a hermit recluse sensitive to the daylight.  But I must come out of my hiding place now.  A long holiday is coming up – a month with various family members – and it excites me as much as scares me.  Better start packing; we’re off tomorrow night.

Last weekend we went to visit our dear friends in Kidderminster.  We went on a steam train along the River Severn and life feels very different up there, among woods and wildflowers.  Perhaps we are beginning to plot our escape.

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Read a blog post today.  It was nice, it had the usual message of ‘let things fall apart, that’s how they come together again’ sort of message.  But there was a particular passage that tickled me and I wanted to keep here for a later day.

“I know mountains grow because of their fault lines. I know lakes turn that gorgeous shade of turquoise because of their silt. I know jewels are formed under pressure. I know trees can grow through rocks, and rivers can break canyons …

I know the earth smells fabulous after a hard rain, and I know she breathes. I know out of the destruction of forest fires, new and stronger ecosystems can emerge. I know there is life in the deepest depths of the ocean and her tides can soften stone.” (Jacquelyn Taylor)

It will be good to get away for a while.  I’ll go breathe in the German mountains and swim in the Swedish lakes and completely refresh myself.  I will nurture my relationship with my book, offering it its due time and respect.  I will regain my strength and stop being such a sorry-ass wimp.  Once I accept that I’m a wimp and that’s okay, maybe then I will finally stop being one.  Ain’t that always the way?

 

The order of things

The other day I escaped the DIY clean-up operations at home and met up with sweet Zoe again at our favourite hang, the Dial Arch. Since we last saw each other, it had been made clear that I had read and been influenced by male journalist travel writers only, and was obviously not being as honest and authentic in my writing as I should, so Zoe had put me on Eat, Pray, Love duty.  It was a bit of an eye opener, and I realised that I’m not a dry, witty, researching journalist type writer, but more of an emotional observer and analytical explorer. While I’ve been reading Liz Gilbert (not without shame – always making sure to hide the book cover when reading in public, and feeling extremely silly for doing so), the USA book has faded away to be revisited at a later time, because I think the tale of my first backpacking trip is eager to be born first. She will be the elder sibling, the laying down of the foundation. That was when I was all alone for five months and truly had to face myself and all the ugly stuff inside, as well as the beautiful treasures and surprising resources I found within me. I feel like if I figure out the arc of that first journey, then I will be able to see the shape of the second one. This might be how it wants to happen.

zoe and bella

Zoe and Bella at Dial Arch

 

Anyhow, Zoe got stuck in traffic so I ordered a black coffee and sat down to write. I opened the USA book and nothing came. I couldn’t even look at it. So I opened a blank document and began writing about the first trip, and before long my heart was pounding hard in my chest as the words positively poured out of me. I must have looked like a lunatic, staring intently at the screen and mouthing words as I wrote dialogue, my face contorting along with the emotions that arose with the words. When the barman came to pick up my coffee mug I was so buzzy I couldn’t speak to him.

“You done with your coffee?” he asked and began to clean up.

I surprised myself by shouting “Yes please!” and went on to stammer something about how I would order another coffee but will wait for friend because sorry just really into this!

I wrote 2,000 words in the hour it took Zoe to get there, and by the time she arrived I was out of breath and trembling. I’ve been very pleased with certain parts of the USA book, but never has the process of writing felt like that – it has more been like carefully assembling an IKEA corner desk, whereas this was more like a child let loose with oil paints.

I pounded out 3,000 more words that afternoon, and I think it’s actually quite good – but the verdict will come at the Greenwich Writers’ meetup next week. My stomach turns thinking about it.

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Changes in the skyline

These days are pigeon feeding and weekly planning, health board activities and dodged gym sessions, hoarding then decluttering, filling in holes and drilling new ones and painting over them.  In between, I sit down to try and find the centre of myself, because if I want to be a great writer I must.  There are so many copycats and so few genuine voices.  All my life, I’ve let everyone else’s voice scream so loud in my head that my own is all but silenced.  How can I identify it through the noise?  It changes, too.  Like the seasons or the tides, it’s never consistent, and its fluidity makes it hard to grasp and channel.  Each new impression or suggestion brings a new flow and inevitably changes the direction.

The London skyline has changed so much since I moved here ten years ago.  I remember when the Gherkin (“the dildo” as we knew it back then) was the most prominent building in the City, rising proud and round from a low-rise, unassuming city.  Now it’s been swallowed up by a forest of skinny skyscrapers, and overshadowed by the aggressive Shard which sits on top of the vaults where we once danced from dusk till dawn and caught the bus home in the scarlet light of morning, against the backdrop of Tower Bridge casting its reflection in the choppy waters of the Thames.

But now the vaults are closed and life is something else.  I suppose ten years is a long time.  Ten years ago I was an entirely different person, so it would make sense if the city, too, has changed.  Hopefully when the old makes way for the new we don’t lose too much of who we were.

It’s still cold and grey and I stay in with my DIY and podcasts, and hold out for springtime and new adventures.  “April, come she will…”

kajsa-city

A London love story

Time has slowed down since I left work.  I can’t believe it has only been two weeks.  I am eternally grateful for this existence, and this incredible opportunity.  I spend my days in pubs and cafes slowly hammering away at my book.  Like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, it is slowly being born, little by little every day.  I have met up with the Greenwich Writers and made a writing buddy, and today we sat in the Dial Arch for six hours tapping away at our keyboards.

Mike’s mum came for a visit and my eyes were opened once again to the beauty of this city, and this part of the city in particular.  The south-east is littered with magical green spaces from where you can admire the silent, glittering lights of Canary Wharf and the City.  From every angle there is something new, something surprising, and as they say, variety is the spice of life.  I love being surprised, I love not knowing what’s around the corner, and I love finally having enough time and zest to go seek it out.
London skyline

 

A new life begins

IMG_1812rsWork is over and I am once again a drifter – except this time with some structure and scheduling to ensure that my book will get done and not run the risk of being forgotten amidst aimless ambles through wooded estates and along quiet backstreets (come spring, at least), and spontaneous creative ventures that will pull me along but never bear fruit.

I have dragged the kitchen table over to the heater, where I have set up my workstation cheek by jowl with the radiator and the coffee machine, and here I can tap away without end, overlooking the river and the woods of the east.  Now I just need to stay focused.

The life of yesterday already feels distant and meaningless.  This marks a new beginning.  I have made new friends and taken many photographs and celebrated my birthday on a glinting rooftop, and Fleur feels much closer now.IMG_1832rsIMG_1825rs

 

Countdown

waterloo east station

waterloo east

time

Another week gone, the days arduously ticked off like items on a to-do list, the endless countdown to each Friday night, only to leave us with one glorious Saturday and one anxiety-ridden, dread-full Sunday before we’re back in the machine. That ain’t no way to live.

So I’m outta there. One more week, and on my birthday I will go out with a bang, a pile of cakes, and two bottles of Kava Brut. I am temping for a reason – I’m a free spirit, a drifting creative, a non-committer, a quitter. I refuse to devote my life to the service of others – especially when those ‘others’ are petty lawyers, earning their daily bread by feeding the rapacious beast of bureaucracy which is holding us all in its swelling grip.

waterloo east

still life

waterloo east

On the long, gently bobbing train rides to and from work I read, swallowing words like a hungry child, noting them down in my journal, savouring their meanings and origins; adding them to my ever-expanding bank for future use and abuse. Certain sentences and passages grab my attention and I am compelled to read them over and over before highlighting and leaving for a later re-read, and I long for careless days when I can spend seamless hours tapping away at my keyboard, nailing words to stories, pouring the contents of my brain into cookie moulds and watch them rise in the heat.

Inevitably, one part of me is wondering, will I ever be able to make a living off my writing? But the other part of me is saying, I can do anything I set my mind to, and a new mantra has emerged: I have something to prove.

kajsa palsson